In Facing Down Fear, professional hunter John Sharp takes us along on his journey through Sub Saharan Africa, sharing beautiful landscapes, meeting wonderful characters and having close encounters with deadly predators.
I think it’s important that I begin by admitting to my own ethical reservations and misgivings about the practice of trophy hunting on the African continent. While I understand that there is a difference between the illegal animal trade and the legal hunting industry, the practice of trophy hunting seems to me, solely about the entertainment of rich Europeans at the expense of our precious and volatile wildlife.
I believe that we cannot hope to live sustainably on this planet if we continue to exploit our environment for its natural resources
Once I was able to look past my reservations, I found that Facing Down Fear is the perfect antidote to the cabin fever that we all must have experienced during Covid-19 lockdown. I would go as far as saying that it awoke my inner predatory hunting instincts. The author shares with us his adventures and detailed journal entries during his eventful hunts all across Sub-Saharan Africa.
If you ask me, one of the characteristics of good literature is the ability to bridge cultural divides and invite readers along to the experiences they might have never had before.
The book reads like a hunting journal and it is detailed and surprisingly well- written. On more than one occasion I felt deeply immersed, caught in the suspense of a hunt, slowly turning pages following the blood trail of a wounded animal and celebrating a successful hunt.
The book is aptly named Facing Down Fear, as it recounts Sharp’s outrageously close encounters with of some of the most dangerous predators on the African Continent. A life-threatening puff adder bite in Zimbabwe, a close shave with a killer hippo at the Ngoro Ngoro Crater in Tanzania, and one chilling encounter with the king of the jungle, while relieving himself in the bush.
The seasoned Hunter even offers a comical word of advice to anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves face to face with a charging lion, “If you ever end up in the same situation, swear a lot, stand tall and carry a big stick. Whatever you do, don’t run….”. I for one would not recommend any of it.
In between those heart wrenching fearful encounters, there are times when the battle-hardened hunter stops to acknowledge the beauty of the African continent.
This journal takes the reader on a journey to the enchanting sunsets on the expansive African Safari, the wild beaches of Mozambique and the dense forests of the Congo.
We also meet an eccentric collection of associates that range from his right-hand man and tracker Isaac, to none other than world-renowned writer Wilbur Smith.
I still carry reservations about the ethics behind trophy hunting and of the trade in Africa wildlife but while reading Facing Down Fear, it became apparent that there is more to the legal hunting trade than what meets the eye.
Professional Hunters like John are at the sharp end of the fight against illegal poaching, they protect endangered species and by hunting legally, they control the population of species that could harm the environment.
In an ironic twist of fate, the thriving trophy hunting industry is actually a material aspect of the African wildlife conservation effort. It provides jobs to many locals in remote communities and provides the bulk of the resources that are used to fund efforts on the ground to fight the scourge of illegal poaching, and care for protected wildlife.
It would not be the first time that I judged a book too hastily and was aptly disappointed. In the end, it is probably John Sharp’s love for the African continent and reverence for wild animals which lead me to believe that legal hunting may actually be part of the solution.