“Whether taking someone to hunt a buffalo or writing a story, to me it is about chasing the core, blood buzzing at the fingertips with acuteness.”
I am a professional hunter guide in Tanzania, since almost a quarter of a century. I offer hunting safaris in some of the absolute top areas here. The vastness of these remote, completely wild and unfenced areas, are the key to a spectacular adventure. We only target carefully selected old males, which makes for a fair and sustainable chase.
We walk and track a lot. While the midday sun cools we eat our lunch and rest under a tree or by a river. By nightfall we are back in camp for a hot shower, drinks and dinner.
The hunting company
For many years I have had a working relationship with Robin Hurt safaris (Tanzania) and exclusively bring my hunting clients to their areas and old style canvassed camps. Camps of a style that has not changed much since the early 1900s. Here a smooth organisation, clear ethics, completely wild areas and warm staff blend into an ideal safari, for the intrepid hunter who loves nature and crave true adventures.
With me you can hunt plains game and buffalo. My own passion as a professional hunter in Tanzania is to take a hunting guest on to the tracks of an old and gnarled buffalo bull. Hunting for buffalo in our western miombo forested areas means walking whilst following tracks. And when it comes to hunting buffalos in the northern Tanzanian mountains, you will need to get your walking shoes on, for here we cannot access anything but base camp with a vehicle.
I also offer tailor made hunting safaris entirely on foot. This in the same areas, but fly camping and much in the simple and fancy-free style of the early explorers.
The hunting season in Tanzania is from 1st July to the end of December. My recommended top time for hunting buffalo is between the end of July and mid November.
“Nowhere else does one sleep better at night than in a tent in the middle of the bush, with a belly full of adventure and feet tired from tracking a buffalo.”
Hunting in a country like Tanzania, when done selectively and conscientiously, is a conservation effort. By giving some of the most important wilderness outside national parks an economic value, the idea of hunting one to protect ten becomes a sustainable way to give these areas a future.
In 2012, however, I realised that I had to personally take even greater steps - to protect the African elephant in particular. The sudden and massive wave of elephant poaching for ivory, devastating the bush in Africa, had reached such proportions that it made me and one other realise that we had to take action. Thus we formed the foundation Ivory Black.
I am a hunter by nature and an author and conservationist by soul. To a hunting conservationist the aim is balance and sustainability. The driving force is adventure as much as it is respect, protection and love for nature. It is to be the eyes and ears of the forest or the bush. It is about being part of nature, part of the food chain. It is about being someone who takes personal responsibility for the nature you live in and off.
“I write because I feel I was born without eyelids. To relieve forced consumption.”
As translated from main daily newspaper in Denmark:
"A sensitive and mature book from the young, passionate hunter, Natasha Illum Berg. It is especially the fine descriptions of the reality, the routines and the emotions of hunting that makes "Floder af rød jord" such a gripping book."- About “Rivers of Red Earth", Marie Tetzlaff, Politiken.
Collection of auto-biographical short stories.
Original title: “Floder af rød jord.”
First published: 1999.
Published in: Danish, Swedish, German, Italian, Dutch, Czech.
“You say that you love nature, but you are a woman. The woman is the creator of life. How can you make yourself kill?”. I was grateful that someone chose to actually say something. For the last hour, I had felt a silent but clear consensus of who the sinner of the dinner-party was. I looked across the table, at the woman who had spoken and smiled, relieved. I was at the dinner-party of one of my old friends in London and it was his new girlfriend, Emily, who had asked me the question. She was about thirty, with beautiful hands and long legs. “Delicious calf’s liver,” I answered and took a bite. That could have been answer enough, though of course I wasn't trying to get away that cheaply.” Once, for an entire month, I lived of zebra meat and zebra innards, that I had shot in an area I was culling in, I swear my skin started smelling of zebra.”
- Excerpt from “Rivers of Red Earth”. Translated from Danish.
"In more than one way a fascinating and beautiful book… She can write and she does so with purpose, with heart. It is to the effect that you almost feel that you are right there with her in the African bush, enjoying nature and the solitude there."
- Holge Ruppert, BT (Denmark).
Main paper in the UK:
"The bravest of the brave, the most generous of the generous. It takes real courage both to love as deeply and write as well as Natasha Illum Berg. Her memoir of a love that died before it could be born already deserves to be called a classic."- About “Tea on the Blue Sofa”, Fiametta Rocco, Economist.
Auto-biographical love letter.
First published: 2003.
Published in: English, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, French.
"My mother once met a dead tiger. In Margali, India. Four years before I was born. She walked up to its still warm body with timid steps, wary of cutting its camouflaging stripes out of the shades and shadows-seeing it clearly on its own. Aware, that only its death will let you cut a tiger out of the jungle, she was overcome by sadness. In an attempt to find a way to carry with her some of the strength lost in the death of a tiger, she and my father cut out the heart and ate it. Bearing in mind the stories my grandfather told him about his times in India, my father knew that they were not the first to do such a thing. If there is strength in anything, it must be in a tiger’s heart."
- Excerpt from “Tea on the Blue Sofa”.
"Well written if at times painful to read...
painstakingly honest...an enigmatic writer."
- Daily Telegraph (UK).
"The evocation of her grief and sense of loss
is quite moving...it works well."
- Evening Standard (UK).
As translated from main daily newspaper in Denmark:
"...It is an exciting hunting story, yes, but it is also a presentation and a discussion about some basic existential questions… It is a great literary experience."- About “So Wanton a God”, Lars Ole Sauerberg, Jyllandsposten.
Original title: “Abens hjerte.”
First published: 2005.
Published in: Danish.
“I don’t know if it is true, but it is said that a baboon dying slowly from a bullet to the chest, will stick a finger into the hole, thinking it can get what is hurting its inside. There is a completely black nail on the sensitive finger it uses to dig in with, in the hope of finding and demolishing this evil thing that is pulling and sucking inside its torso. In the logic of a baboon, the perpetrator must be the thing that is moving in there, the swelling and shrinking object that is pushing against the finger in a quick, unsteady rhythm, as if cornered and afraid. But on trying to get it out, the baboon finds that it is stuck, it won’t budge. The baboon will then try to get two fingers inside, to enable it to get a better grip, but the hole is too small and the skin won’t stretch any further. The one black nail scratches desperately at the tip of the heart, until it stops beating. For one happy moment though, while the warm body was still optimistically waiting for the next heartbeat, not knowing it would never come, the baboon thought that the danger had passed and everything would be all right. For that evil thing, had finally stopped moving in there. No different is it when we, in an attempt to strangle the pain or the loneliness, wedge a finger in to the cracks of our own inner core and dig. Our understanding of what we find in there is muddled, as it would always be impossible to see or grasp the truth in our own destinies."
- Excerpt from “So Wanton a God”. Translated from Danish.
"Natasha Illum Bergs use of language is simply bewitching: She has an extremely well developed feeling for the apposite metaphor and the tiny but powerful observations which make a text sparkle...
She can write about Africa in a way that makes images emerge in the readers mind with sound, smells and the whole panoply.
The passion burns through the pages."
- Katinka Bruhn, Weekendavisen (Denmark).
"So Wanton a God" is only available in paper so far.
As translated from main daily newspaper in Denmark:
"It is always pure enjoyment to read Natasha Illum Berg, because her writing is clutter-free and beautiful...she possesses the insight to unmask the emptiness that really just is empty, as well as the emptiness that is there to cover up that which is tragic and lost. You are in really good hands with Natasha Illum Berg...Applause!"- About “Looking at Harry – and other stories”, Katinka Bruhn, Weekendavisen.
Short story collection.
Original title: “Med hensyn til Harry og andre fortællinger.”
First published: 2008.
Published in: Danish.
“It was about three o’clock when Clarence was yet again at the rock. He took the gun from Masudi, who gave it back to him without a word, and slipped down and away from the scene, as tracelessly as had he merely been a bad memory of himself. Once Masudi was gone, Clarence climbed up on the rock and got himself ready again. He was a bit worried that all the walking back and forth had disturbed the chances of the lion returning, but on the other hand he was aware that this was not a lion like other lions. Obviously it did not care much about human commotion. He noticed a small black cloud surrounding Harry, that had not been there before and realised that they were flies, therefore the onset of maggots. Harry had taught him that if you were in the middle of the bush and somehow got a big flesh-wound, maggots were not your enemy. Maggots only eat dead meat. But here they would just keep eating, he thought. And then he cried. Tears and snot, spit and a rasping grunt crowded to get out of his face like had somebody opened all the gates to a zoo of emotions. Tears got stuck in his stubble and he wiped them away with indignation, though he had kept them so very safe up until then. He was not Harry. He had never been Harry. He was not a man made to do this on his own. It should have been him down there, at least then the job would be done well and Clarence would have been buried with honour".
- Excerpt from "Looking af Harry". Translated from Danish.
"... there is something about Illum Bergs style of writing that make names like Somerset Maugham and Graham Greene spring to mind..."
- Lars Ole Sauerberg, Jyllands-Posten (Denmark).
As translated from main Swedish daily newspaper:
"...Natasha Illum Berg handles her characters and settings with great care, lingers by things that matter, and using her particular language she brings life to scenes, that stay in the mind of the reader. I dare say that this is so rare that her Swedish publishing house should publish all of her previous work, as soon as possible."- About “Bark of the Sundogs”, Per Planhammar, Göteborgsposten.
Original title: “Vildnis.”
First published: 2010.
Published in: Danish and Swedish.
"When they got the call from the pilot, to say that Daniel McFreigh had died, Beatrice was in the bath and hadn’t heard the conversation on the telephone. She was relieved that Thomas did not come into the bathroom, but told her from the passage. He stood outside the door and spoke to her in a low voice, as if it was an event from long ago. A past voice, one that history had already covered with muffling layers of time. A child with Daniel, she thought, would have been strong and beautiful. She looked at her own pale flesh under the surface of the water and wondered at how strange it was that she was waterproof and had probably just laid there, or laughed, or brushed her teeth, when he had died. They hadn’t planned to go back to Tanzania again. It wasn’t something they had discussed, but they had both known, Thomas had made it quite clear, when they left Kilimanjaro airport two years back, that it was the last time."
- Excerpt from “Bark of the Sundogs”. Translated from Danish.
"...Does so called civilized man belong in nature any more at all? In that case is nature good or bad? Is there meaning behind it or is it empty? Does it offer comfort or is it frightening, beautiful or cruel...? These are themes worth listening to, worth opening yourself up to."
- Kristeligt Dagblad (Denmark).
"Urbanised man. The image of loneliness he presents, hiding there in the shadows of concrete landscapes, fearing life when he is living, fearing death when he is dying. Fearing not only his own mortality, but the flesh that his body craves, and the reality that this proves.”
I have just finished a book with the working title “All will be well.” It is the anti-thesis to my book “Tea on the Blue Sofa.” All will be well is a diary written to a person who, at the time of writing it, was not here yet. “Tea on the Blue Sofa” was a letter written to a person who is no longer here. I am in the finishing stages…
My own and mankind’s relationship with nature, is a recurring theme in my mind. The nature that wells out from us so called civilised creatures and the nature that has been such a dramatic, but also legible relationship in my life. Until the end of 2018 I will be working on a collection of personal essays around this theme.
I give talks
I give talks on subjects related to mans place in nature, hunting and conservation tales from Africa or being a woman in a male dominated field. I am also happy to do readings from any of my books. I am equally as happy to speak in English, Danish or Swedish.
Please contact me through this page, if you are interested in booking a talk.
I am making a small personal documentary with Kire Godal. “Skypaths”. We go back to some of the places around the world where my grandfather did his filming, writing and nature conservation, almost 100 years ago. It was first and foremost his fascination for birds that made him follow the cranes from Sweden to Africa and also brought him to anything from the heights of the Himalayas to the swamps of South Sudan.
Questions about man’s relationship with nature raised by a man in the 1920’ies, again raised by his granddaughter many, many years later. This documentary will be done by mid 2017.
I grew up on a hunting estate in Sweden and come from a background of several generations of hunting conservationists, explorers and naturalists.
When my father, Iens, took over the estate, he managed to make Eriksberg the gazetted wildlife conservation and hunting reserve it is today.
My paternal grandfather did a lot about the diminishing numbers of many different species of animals around the world. He saved the sea eagle, the golden eagle, the mute swan and the greylag goose from extinction in Sweden. He was also very much involved in Tiger and Rhino conservation in India. But now and again one of my grandparents would get their gun out to hunt a red deer at home, a cattle killer or a man eating tiger in India, a marauding elephant in the Sudan or something for a zoological museum, or indeed for the pot.
My father was cut from the same cloth and had two daughters. My sister spent her first year with my parents and two orphaned gorillas in West Africa, and my mother lives for books and anything that sprouts. Being an author and a hunting conservationist is business as usual in my family.
“My beloved grandmother, who in some ways was my role model, did not give me grandmotherly advice. Instead she spoke of her time in the jungle of India and the bush of Africa and her advice was to do with how to live strongly and that a leopard can hide behind a matchbox and is faster than lightning.”
Born to Danish mother Marianne Illum Berg and Danish / Swedish father Iens Illum Berg. One sister, Karina (1965).
Brought up on family hunting estate / wildlife and conservation reserve “Eriksberg” in Blekinge, Sweden.
Finishes school. Lundsbergs Skola.
Goes to South Africa to work as a helping hand on game farms.
Writes a collection of poems in Swedish and tries to publish for the first time.
Starts a forestry education in Denmark. Escapes back to Africa as soon as possible.
Moves to Tanzania and starts working as an apprentice professional hunter.
Starts working as a fully licensed professional hunter in Tanzania.
Writes and publishes “Rivers of Red Earth” (literally translated from “Floder af rød jord”). Autobiographical stories.
Writes and publishes “Tea on the Blue Sofa.” Autobiographical love letter.
Writes and publishes “So wanton a God” (“Abens hjerte”). Novel.
Publishes “Looking at Harry." Short story collection.
Becomes first woman member of the African Professional Hunters Association A.P.H.A. and the Tanzanian Professional Hunters Association T.P.H.A.
Writes and publishes “Bark of the Sundogs” (“Vildnis”). Novel.
Had the honour to head an expedition where she took ten severely physically disabled people on foot right across Namibia.
Filmed by Sweden’s national television, SVT.
Starts writing “All Will be Well”. Autobiographical stories.
2011, 8 November
Gives birth to her daughter Mink Fredrika.
When returning to hunt buffalo after one and a half years she is shocked and horrified to see the bush full of poached elephant carcasses and starts getting involved in elephant conservation.
“Ivory Black Foundation”.
The making of the documentary “Skypaths”.
Natasha continues to be an author and a hunter/conservationist.