"Africa," "The Dark Continent." Both are names that conjure up visions of giant elephants, lions, thatch huts, comfortable tents camps, and all of the dangers and excitements that go along with them. For some, those visions are more than just passing images; they are a fantasy or a burning desire to experience all that Africa has to offer in the form of an African Safari. Unfortunately, many hunters don't get to experience what Africa has to offer- not because it is financially out of reach, but because they THINK it's financially out of reach.
There was a time in my life when I didn't have much of a desire to hunt Africa with all the game animals that we have in this country, but the more I saw and read about the Dark Continent, the more it burned into my mind, body and soul to experience this magical place. I had been able to hunt many places throughout the country in search of whitetail, mule deer, bear and elk just to name a few and although some hunts were a success and some were failures, the cost remained the same and some with a total lack of service or professionalism on behalf of the outfitter.
Over the years I have experienced poor hunting areas, lousy stand locations, drunk guides and cooks, guides that didn't come back at the end of the day for pickup and a myriad of other bad experiences, stemming from outfitters only interested in making money while providing as little service as possible. As with anything the saying goes, "you get what you pay for," but that isn't always true especially when it comes to guided hunts. However, I've found that nearly all the time in Africa, you get more than you paid for.
Most of the Canadian hunts, deer and elk hunts in the lower 48 states, as well as most Alaskan hunts are becoming extremely pricey, costing several thousand dollars with the hopes of harvesting a single animal and no guarantees of doing so. Now don't get me wrong, I love hunting - A LOT and I don't see hunting as just the harvesting of an animal, but when it comes to spending thousands of my hard earned dollars, I would like to at least see animals and at the very least, take home a quality experience with the aid of a professional service and plenty of food to eat at the end of a hard day's hunt.
I have heard the same comments from everyone that has hunted Africa in the past, "If you go once - you'll want to go again" and nothing could be more correct. It is my opinion that to be an outfitter in the United States that the prospective outfitter should be required to hunt in Africa first. I feel that this will give that person a good idea on how an outfit should be operated, as most of the outfitters in Africa run nothing short of a first class operation.
The great thing about Africa is that with their cost of living and their need for American money you can have a longer trip, harvest more animals, and have a superior experience to most hunts anywhere else for the same or less than many big game hunts in North America. Many places in Africa offer package deals which include the harvesting of several animals for as little as $3000-$4000 dollars and if planned properly and showing a little restraint, it's possible to do it for less. The most reasonable African country to hunt is South Africa and also offers the most government stability and safety on the continent.
Impala is a true representation of Africa and not quite so expensive either.
Of course many of the African hunts you see on television are of the infamous Cape buffalo, leopard or other dangerous game and are often in countries like Zimbabwe, Namibia, or Tanzania and these locations and species drive the costs substantially up. The costs of the locations aren't the killer part, as it is the added airfares it takes to get to them. To keep an African hunt cost down, hunt in South Africa and go after plains game species.
While there is a trade off for hunting South Africa due to the fact that it is not as wild and undeveloped as the other locations mentioned. Chances are you are not going to experience things that Peter Capstick did during his days in the African wilds, since much of South Africa has working ranches on them and much of South Africa's lion populations has been extirpated from most areas due to ranching operations.
Although extirpated from more populated areas, adult lions
like this can be found in many areas of Africa.
South Africa can give you a great experience that is unmatched anywhere and if you just want to say you hunted Africa and yet take away an African experience you can do so by only hunting a few days, taking a couple of the smaller, less expensive animals and then spend the rest of your time sightseeing which can help reduce your costs as non-hunting days are usually around half that of hunting days. However, if you're going to go that far to get the African experience you might as well just save an extra year and shoot at least one of the larger African animals.
Kudu, one of Africa's harder plains game species to harvest is a true challenge.
Just like in North America, you can get a bow hunt for less than a rifle hunt, but if you decide to hunt with the bow I would advise you to hunt a minimum of 10 days instead of 5 or 7, as some species are extremely difficult to harvest such as Kudu, which will then push the cost back up a little with hunting more days.
If you are thinking about booking such a hunt, just like anywhere else, don't save your money for two years and then decide you want to go. Book your hunt now and lock your hunt in at that rate before the price goes up again. Each and every year, prices go up and with the cost of fuel prices these days, that trend isn't going to stop.
Of course there are other expenses as well like airfare and the expediting of your trophies back to the states. This will add a couple more thousand on top of the cost of the hunt, but when you compare it to the cost of airfare to a remote Alaskan or Canadian region and the high cost of licensing in those states and provinces as well, those costs are very comparable.
When booking an African safari pay attention to whether or not the "dip and pack" is included or not. Most don't include this cost, but some do and this process, which is required by both involved governments deals with the elimination of possible diseases and other parasites before it enters our country. It usually runs around $50.00 per animal.
When you are shipping your trophies back to the states those costs average between five hundred to one thousand dollars. You can reduce your shipping costs by packing them in the same crate as others in your party or other hunters who may live in the same region of the country as you do. Keep in mind that if you shoot any warthogs, monkeys or baboons that the expediting charges will become substantially higher as they are required to be shipped in a separate container from other trophies. While the cost of those animals to shoot is rather inexpensive, they make up for it with the added crating, shipping and expediting costs.
Now I'm sure many of you are saying, "Oh my, that's still a lot of money" and sure it is, but when you compare what you are getting in return for your money and for the experience of a lifetime that you will also get, and then cherish for the rest of your life, it is extremely worth every dollar spent. In an African safari camp you can expect, laundered clothes delivered to your bedside, boots and shoes cleaned of mud, dirt and dust every day, excellent foods, incredibly abundant game, friendly campfires, unbelievable trackers and experiences that can't be matched anywhere.
When choosing a safari you must decide how many days you wish to go for, what animals you would like to harvest and how many animals you want to harvest. With all that there is to see and do in Africa, I would recommend not going for any less that 10 days. Most places offer 5 day and 7 day packages as well, but since it takes at least 28 hours of travel time to get from home to the camp, you don't want to repeat that trip too soon, and from my experience even 10 days just isn't enough. The shorter trips will reduce the costs however.
The amount and type of game you wish to harvest is entirely up to you and your budget, as anything over your package is extra. However, you may not complete an entire package if you're hunting with archery gear, but I can tell you with certainty that you will get something provided you shoot straight. Keep in mind that any wounded game gets counted against you, so if you wound an animal but don't recover it, you're still paying for it.
Another thing to consider is the idea of "splitting a package." Some African outfitters offer the option of two hunters splitting a hunting package. This means that each hunter takes a few animals while his partner harvests the rest. What they end up doing is reducing the amount of costs for an overall hunting package but then on the days when one of the hunters doesn't hunt, the other person only pays an observer rate. Over a 10 day period that can add up to over $1000 alone.
There is also something for everyone and if you choose to only shoot a couple animals, you can spend the rest of the time sightseeing, and photographing the many wonders of Africa with your traveling companions or new camp friends, at some of the wildlife sanctuaries such as Kruger Park, Zebra Park, Addo Elephant Park or the Serengeti to name a few.
"A living bus" best describes the size of the African
elephant which is the world's largest land dwelling mammal.
A few other key points to remember are to check for direct flights to South Africa. Depending on the region of the country you're from of course but the most reasonable flights to South Africa have been flying out of New York City or Washington DC. Sometimes South African airways run specials where flights for two people are extremely discounted. It is also important to remember NOT to have any connecting flight going through London if you are taking your own firearms. The government of England will not allow firearms to be forwarded and are either held by the government or ordered to be shipped back to the home country immediately. Making this mistake can cost you extra in shipping and gun rental once you get to Africa.
Also, be sure to register all your camera equipment, optics and firearms with customs as you could end up paying tax for equipment you already own when you re-enter your home country if you fail to do so. It also helps prove your ownership of the firearm when entering South Africa as well. If you are tired of paying high prices for big game hunts with inferior services and lack of game to be seen, be sure to check out the idea of hunting Africa. Seeing hundreds of animals per day is easily done and the chance of harvesting a record book animal is exceptional in most places in Africa. It is truly an experience of a lifetime and worth every penny.
C.D. Denmon, from Sweet Valley, Pennsylvania, is an award winning outdoor writer and wildlife photographer and currently writes for several publications throughout the country. He has been hunting for 24 years and has hunted throughout the United States, Canada and Africa and has been successful at taking many trophy class animals in the process.