by Peter Ruddle
“I know that I know nothing” – even though Socrates probably never said precisely that, all Western civilization is based on the simple truth that you can’t find wisdom if you don’t first admit your ignorance. This also applies to hunters who are considering their first African safari. Some of your questions and concerns may sound dumb, others obvious, but do not feel shy to ask those questions.
We’re continuing our “1001 Questions to Ask Before Booking a Hunt in Africa” (click here for Part 1). Each question comes with an answer where we can give it, or with tips re: why you should ask it, what information to look for, and where to get it. This part deals with what you should bring, including the essential – your weapons.
20. Should I bring my own rifle or lease a rifle from the outfitter?
It is perfectly understandable when hunters want to get their African trophies with their favorite, trusted weapon. However, bringing in your firearm for the safari is complicated. This refers both to travelling with weapons and to numerous import and other regulations that need to be adhered to. Unless you are particularly fond of your rifle, you may be better off if you just hire one and save yourself the stress. Having once experienced Africa, you can plan to bring your own rifle for your next hunt. If you are left handed, see if you outfitter has a suitable rifle for you to use.
21. What are the rules for coming with a rifle, and what paperwork I would need to fill?
The requirements and paperwork varies from country to country. It is important to comply and follow each country’s temporary firearm importation regulations. Your outfitter will provide you with the required paperwork applications and make the necessary arrangements so that there are no glitches on your arrival. Make sure that your paperwork is done well in advance so that the permits are at your port of entry on your arrival. Some countries charge a service fee, while in South Africa and Namibia temporary importation permits are free. When visiting South Africa we strongly advise you pay a service provider’s service fee to ensure the paperwork is complete prior to your arrival. After such a long flight, you will not have a sense of humor, or be able to withstand more paperwork delays. This could be the best $150 you ever spend.
22. How much ammunition can I bring into the country?
This varies from country to country and the general rule of thumb is that only ammunition that can be used in the specific calibre firearms you are importing may be brought into the country.
23. Which is the best airline to use when flying with firearms?
Always try to book the most direct flight with a gun friendly airline. Not all airlines accept firearms so make sure that the airline of your choice is hunter friendly.
24. What are the regulations when flying with firearms?
Each airline has their own rules. Make sure you read the airline firearm regulations and comply with their instructions. In particular, most airlines require pre-boarding notification that you will be flying with firearms, that you will need to make a few days in advance of your flight. You should also arrive at the airport a bit earlier than usual, to allow for at least half an hour for handling gun-related paperwork.
The majority require you to lock your ammunition in a lockable container to be placed in your check in luggage. Bolt-action rifles must have the bolt removed and locked in your rifle case with your firearm(s). Make sure you have a copy of all the paperwork on hand as the authorities are likely to check the paperwork a number of times during the course of your travel. Keep the keys for the gun case locks in an easily accessible safe place.
25. Can I bring a handgun for self-defence?
Most countries do not permit the temporary importation of handguns. A couple of countries like South Africa do allow hunting handguns into the country. Some countries like Namibia have also banned crossbows. Semi-automatic, automatic and military style rifles are banned throughout Africa.
26. Can I bring a knife?
A small knife may be brought into the country in your checked baggage. No knives are allowed in your hand luggage when travelling on the plane.
27. Do I need to buy any special hunting clothes?
Buying clothes for your trip is part of the fun of planning for your safari, but in reality everything you need you can probably find in your wardrobe. You can hunt simply in jeans and a T-shirt, which in fact is the preferred outfit for some PHs, and many clients alike. Save yourself some money and rather shoot an additional animal.
28. What clothes am I going to need?
Clothing requirements change with the season, altitude and location. Desert hunting can be extremely cold (below freezing) in the morning and at night in the middle of winter (June – August), especially with the wind chill sitting on the back of a pickup. At such time, gloves and balaclava (knit cap) can be very comforting. Dress in layers as you may experience extreme temperatures, freezing cold mornings, hot days and afternoon temperatures dropping really fast after sunset. Summers (October – December) can be extremely hot in places like Zambia and Mozambique. Then you may want to hunt in shorts. Your outfitter will most likely send you a kit list as a guideline of what to bring.
29. What kind of camouflage patterns are most appropriate for an African hunt?
Camo, especially military camo is strictly forbidden in many countries. In some African countries, however, it is worn as casual clothing. Check with your outfitter what is permissible in the country you choose to hunt.
30. How many clothes should I bring?
All laundry is washed and ironed on a daily basis. So, it is not necessary to bring a huge duffle bag/suitcase full of clothes. Keep in mind that if you are taking a charter flight to camp there will be luggage weight limits.
31. Do some lodges not launder underwear?
Most lodges wash all clothing unless a speciality item that requires professional dry cleaning care.
32. Do I need a rain jacket or waterproof jacket?
This depends upon where and when you are hunting. The majority of the hunts take place in winter, which is the driest time of the year for most of the continent. Some countries and areas like the African jungle; rain can be expected on any given day. If required, this item will be listed on the outfitters kit list. During the winter months a windproof jacket is more useful than a waterproof jacket. Best is to ensure that the materials can breathe otherwise you may sweat profusely whilst wearing these garments.
33. What shoes should I wear?
Comfortable well worn-in boots with a pliable rubber sole are best. Do not wear new boots that have not been broken in. If you get blisters this could affect your safari if it requires a lot of walking and stalking. Use a comfortable pair of shoes to travel in, that you can use around camp.
34. Should I bring ankle gaiters?
Ankle gators can be very handy in some areas where the grass seeds stick to your socks and end up spiking you while you walk. We even have a species of grass called ’Spear Grass’ that speaks for itself.
35. What other gear should I bring?
Wide brimmed hats or baseball caps are popular to protect you from the sun. Sun block and sun tan lotions are necessary. Sunglasses are also a good idea and offer you eye protection from thorns and even bugs when traveling on the back of the pickup. If you intend to hunt is shorts, you need to be aware that in some places you may get scratched. Take a lead from your PH and ask him what he is wearing for the day. Multipurpose tools like a Gerber or a Leatherman may come in handy, but remember these must be packed in your checked baggage otherwise they will be confiscated by airport security.
36. Should I wear dark or neutral colours?
These are the best colours when hunting in most areas. Khaki may have been your colour of choice for an African safari but in reality, you can stick out like a sore thumb unless hunting in dry winter grasslands. Olive or dark green would probably be the outfitters choice on what colour to wear.
37. Do dark colours attract tsetse flies and mosquitoes?
According to science, this statement may be correct but for tsetse flies movement is probably the greatest attraction and carbon dioxide exhaled when breathing the biggest attraction for mosquitoes. If they are around, they are going to find you. Tsetse flies occur mainly in the countries to the north and east of Namibia, South Africa and Botswana. Tsetse flies may be a pest in parts of Africa. Where the flies thrive, you do not find domestic livestock and can be seen as a trade off as keeping these areas for wildlife. Where mosquitoes may be a problem, the outfitters normally provide repellents and mosquito nets over the beds.
38. Do I need a soft gun case?
The general rule of thumb throughout Africa is when travelling on public roads your rifle should be unloaded (no rounds in the magazine) and cased. If not in your rifle case, the firearm should be transported in a soft gun case. All firearms must be declared if entering a national park.
39. Should I bring a walking stick?
This should not be necessary and if you need one we will make you one.
40. Should I bring shooting sticks?
We have shooting sticks available but what I would recommend is that you practise shooting off some shooting sticks before coming on safari. Most of your shots will be taken from the shooting sticks.
… to be continued.
Check out these blogs for more information about planning and booking your safari: