By Peter Ruddle
If you agree there’s no such thing as a stupid question, you’ve got to like our “1000 Questions to Ask before Booking a Hunt in Africa” series. Part 1 covered general questions of safari booking, Part 2 dealt with rifles, clothes, and other gear you might need, and Part 3 discussed various hunting-related issues. Part 4 here answers questions about health, medicine, and insurance policies, money and payments, and various odds and ends related to camp and lodge life. Those are actual questions asked by real hunters, and if the question you’d like to ask isn’t there, feel free to ask it in the comments!
Due to ever-changing health and travel, regulations make sure that you have the latest and up to date Information. If vaccinations are required, it is best to get the shots at home. Covid regulations are constantly changing, so make sure you comply otherwise you could be turned away from your flight at the airport. If on any form of chronic medication, make sure you have enough and even some in reserve, to last the duration of your safari. Ensure that your PH is aware of any medical issues you may have and what meds you may require during the onset of a sudden medical attack.
61. What vaccinations and other medical precautions do I need?
Most first time hunters will hunt in South Africa or Namibia and both countries do not require any special medical precautions to be taken prior to your safari. If you hunt in east, central (the jungle) and northern east Africa you need numerous inoculations, some of which are compulsory. Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and also Mozambique, do not require any special vaccinations or precautionary medicines other than malaria prophylaxis depending which parts of the country you are visiting. Most of Namibia and South Africa are malaria free areas. However, it is advised that you consult your doctor, centre for tropical diseases, or medical advisory agencies. In most instances the recommendations are over the top and not necessary. Very few outfitters are medically qualified but they can give some sound advice. Taking malaria prophylaxis tablets like MMs as recommended in some cases can make you so sick that it ruins your safari. Yellow cards (vaccination passports) are required in countries that require specific vaccinations. It may be a good idea to consider getting a Tetanus jab if yours has expired as this can always come in handy for an outdoorsman.
62. What about Covid?
Regulations around Covid precautions, travel bans, quarantines and vaccinations are forever changing. You need to contact your outfitter regarding the latest Covid requirements to enter and exit the African country where you will be hunting for the most recent updates. Currently vaccinated travellers still need to test prior to entering and on leaving the country.
63. Is rabies a problem?
Rabies outbreaks are experienced from time to time throughout Africa. However, there is no need to take precautions against the disease unless you come into direct contact with a diseased animal. Avoid patting strange dogs and pets and avoid any strangely behaving wild animal.
64. Do I need to bring a first aid kit?
In most cases this is not necessary, because almost all outfitters are well equipped with first aid l kits in their hunting vehicles and at base camp.
65. What can I take for jetlag?
There are a number of homeopathic products available on the market. Some people take a sleeping pill on the plane. As most prescriptions say, avoid alcohol whilst using this drug. The first two days in camp are the toughest. Most hunters wake up at 2 am in the morning and struggle to fall asleep again until just before 6 when it is time to go hunt. To me the most effective way to overcome jetlag is to stay awake as long as possible on your first night and take a mild sleeping pill. Repeat on night two and then you should be on track.
66. Are there hospitals and doctors nearby?
When hunting in Namibia and South Africa there are medical facilities and doctors available in the cities and bigger towns. As you go more and more rural, like the big hunting concessions in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, Mozambique and Tanzania you will be a long way from any help. When hunting in these areas and when hunting dangerous game it is recommended that you have medical insurance.
67. What insurance policies do you recommend?
Medical and Travel Insurance are highly recommended. Accidents can happen anywhere and it is always reassuring to know that you have medical insurance should you need to be airlifted. BookYourHunt.com’s partner Ripcord, for example, offers a comprehensive scheme purposefully designed for hunters.
Prior to buying such a temporary cover, you may want to check your own insurance scheme. Some insurance companies may cover your journey abroad or be able to recommend a good deal. Make sure that whatever policy you purchase, the paperwork is always at hand, so you won’t have to look frantically for it or figure out a way to have it sent from your home to the hospital in Windhoek in the event of hospitalisation due to illness or an accident.
With the ever changing Covid travel regulations it is advisable to take out cancellation insurance in the event of your flight being cancelled. Many outfitters honoured and returned deposits for hunts made prior to the Covid outbreak, but we know now that anything can happen and a sudden change of a situation can cost you a considerable sum.
CAMP LIFE AND FOOD
On arrival in camp, you will be introduced to the key staff members. Familiarise yourself with their names (or give them a nickname if you cannot pronounce it) and the roles for which they are responsible in camp. If staff do not sleep on site at night, make sure you know how to contact them, in the event of someone falling ill or in an emergency.
Food varies immensely due to location and the availability of grocery stores or shortages being experienced during your stay. Most people inevitably end up going home a little heavier than when they arrived. Whether the camp cook/lodge chef has to make do with what they have, they will always make a plan. These meals often incorporate local traditional dishes and desserts. Make sure your hosts are aware of any food allergies or diet preferences so meals can be pre-planned.
68. What kind of food can we expect?
Most lodges and hunting camps in South Africa and Namibia have access to a variety of fresh food, fruit and vegetables. They provide a light breakfast, consisting of tea and coffee with rusks (similar to biscotti), a South African favourite. Cereal and toast with an assortment of cheese and jam (jelly) is also available. Most days you will return to camp for a traditional brunch of bacon, eggs, freshly baked bread and meats dishes like homemade burgers, venison pies, boerewors (traditional farmer’s sausage) and venison schnitzels. If you remain out in the field for the day, a scrumptious picnic hamper will be arranged along with a cooler/fridge with cold water, soft drinks and few cold beers for later in the day. Dinner starts with snacks around the fire. The camp favourite is dry wors (dry sausage) and biltong (similar to jerky) pieces. Most camps serve a three-course meals consisting of assorted soups, a main course and dessert. There is always enough food to go round and usually served with garden fresh salads. The catering staff at the camp are always out to impress their clients and food wise you will not be disappointed.
69. What about venison?
In most cases the chef will try to alternate between an assortment of meats including venison. The venison cannot be exported due to veterinary regulations and many clients prefer to have the game they harvest on the table. You will hardly be disappointed, even in the unlikely even that you will eat nothing but game all during your stay: African venison is superb!
70. Should I be concerned about food hygiene?
This is important to us as it is to you. Precautions are taken during food preparation to minimise any food borne illness.
71. Can I drink the water?
Bottled water is available on most safaris. The majority of the camps make use a borehole (well) water. In many camps the water is also filtered and if necessary boiled and made available for human consumption.
72. What kind of alcohol is available in camp?
Hunting camps in Southern Africa normally supply local beers, wine and in some instances regular branded spirits. In most cases spirits can be purchased on your behalf if requested or you can buy duty free on the plane or when you arrive in South Africa. Imported beers are available at the bigger liquor outlets but the locally brewed beers are popular and in greater demand. Namibia, true to its German colonial heritage, brews some of the finest local beers in Africa. However, in each country there’s a favourite local beer grand. South Africa is world renowned for its wines and all house wines normally originate from the Cape.
73. What is meant by lapa, boma and braai?
These are traditional words to describe a typical safari scenario and way of life in Africa.
Boma: This is a livestock enclosure like a corral also used to protect villages from marauding predators at night. This concept has been adapted for safari camps and is used to describe a screened area, often built from wooden poles around a fire pit where everyone gathers to have drinks or supper under the stars.
Lapa: This word means home but is in effect describes a roofed (gazebo – often built from thatch) detached entertainment area. This structure may even be incorporated into a boma.
Braai: The name for Africa’s favourite pastime, a barbeque.
To the best of my knowledge, all African countries have a closed monetary systems. Unlike many western countries you cannot just received or send money to anyone without declaring the payment. Foreign currency must be declared coming into your account or going out of your account. In some countries, like Zimbabwe your trophies cannot be exported unless you can prove that the hunt was paid for in foreign currency.
74. What payment options are available?
Payment options vary from outfitter to outfitter. The majority require a deposit to confirm a hunt, others want the balance of payment to be made before the hunt and the rest require full payment prior to the client’s departure from camp. Each outfitter will notify you of their payment instructions. Hunting deposits and the balance of payment prior to any safari are normally paid by electronic transfer into the outfitters banking account. Some outfitters are now using credit card facilities. The most popular accepted cards are Visa and Mastercard. These cards can be used throughout most of Southern Africa but as you go further north, cash is king. It is important to notify your bank that you will be using your card whilst in Africa otherwise you card payment may be rejected as a precaution to prevent credit card fraud. Dinners, American Express and Discover cards are not accepted in numerous restaurants and shops. Cryptocurrency is not accepted form of payment. Many outfitter specify how final payment must be made at the end of the safari. These payments may include travellers cheques (travelers checks) or cash. Most outfitters no longer accept conventional bank checks. Some outfitters state in their terms and conditions that the hunter must cover the cost of all banking costs and in some instances a 5% levy is charged on credit card transactions.
75. What is a swift code?
When making a foreign currency or banking transaction from the USA the bank will request a routing code. This is called a swift code by the banks in Africa.
76. Can I draw money from the ATM?
ATMs are now readily available and you will be able to draw money on your debit or credit cards. The transaction amount may however be limited to protect you from fraud and you need to inform your bank before travelling to Africa that you intend using your cards as a payment option.
77. What about tips?
The accepted norm is about 10% at restaurants and varies for other services. ips are important for staff but should only be paid for satisfactory service. As a guideline, PHs can be tipped in foreign currency and the rest of the staff in the local currency as they may have difficulties explaining where they got this foreign currency. The bank charges could also be more expensive than the value of the gratuity. This is always a sensitive subject so ask your outfitter for advice in this regard. Some outfitters prefer you to pay the tip directly to the staff, others will add it to your bill and spread it between the staff so that even the gardener is not forgotten in the process.
Here are some more random questions of interest.
78. Can I use a mobile phone to communicate with my family?
Many of the hunting areas near the cities and towns are connected to the mobile network. Make sure you buy data and a SIM card to be able to connect to the local network. Many hunting camps are also connected to the Wifi internet network so you can use Wifi calling – Skype, WhatsApp, Botim, etc. When there are no other options, outfitters use satellite phones. Arrangements can also be made with outfitters to use other online devices or phones to send a message to your family as long as the costs are covered.
79. May I take and post photos on my cell phone?
Many phones take brilliant photos making them the easiest cameras to carry in your daypack. You outfitter or host when on an excursion will notify you when you may not take photos in certain areas. Many African countries do not allow photos of government buildings and infrastructure, such as bridges for example. Some tribes people like the Maasai in East Africa believe that you are stealing their soul if you take a photo of them. It is only polite to ask permission to take a photo of people and in some cases there may be a fee. Some private rhino owners also ask that photos taken of their animals should not be shared on social media where poachers can use geo-locating techniques to track the location of a rhino.
80. Do you provide a US military (or any other) discount?
This is a matter of choice on behalf of the outfitter. Some offer discounts to vets, disabled clients and numerous outfitters offer discounted or donated hunts to a variety of different causes, ranging from Safari Club International fundraising events to supporting other international and local charitable causes close to their own hearts.