It’s great to be an amateur hunter. Though some experienced hunters may look down on you and very often you get into awkward situations, but all of that pales in comparison with the many exciting discoveries you get every day. For more experienced hunters and professionals the excitement of many of these new discoveries of a beginner hunter are long in their past and they are deprived of the wonder of a first time adventure. An amateur always has one advantage – he always keeps his eyes open. Einstein once said, “if one wants to make a discovery, there is only one thing necessary – think of the problem and keep your eyes open.”
So what’s the first step for an amateur if he wants to go on a hunt in Africa? I will try to give you some useful advice from my personal experiences as an amateur hunter myself. Some of the first thoughts that might come to mind when thinking of an African safari are:
- It’s expensive.
- It’s dangerous.
- But regardless – it’s cool!
Let’s address these questions from the experience of an amateur, who has already come through all of them.
Is it really expensive or not?
The minimum budget you should expect for a weekend hunting trip is about $500. If you find yourself in Africa and want to spend 1-2 days for hunting plains game – that’s a real price for that hunt. You can find cheaper pricing for a 1-2 day safari but it will not be for a trophy hunt but instead a management hunt. If you are like me though you most likely want to bring some trophies home from your first safari and hang them on the wall after the completion of proper taxidermy.
The pricing for a 5-7 day plains game safari starts from a very affordable $1,800 and the the high end varies depending on the trophy list you desire to hunt. If you want to know the upper pricing border I will give you the rates for hunting the “Big four” in South Africa (elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard) as an example – these vary from $86.000 to $120.000 depending on the outfitter. Of course, pricing is different depending on the country and trophy quality but now you know what to expect. The upper price border can be sky high if you have the bad fortune to do business with dishonest and unfair booking agencies (and have a Russian passport as well. It so happened that pricing for Russian hunters often times is being multiplied twice, but I know some stories when it has been multiplied more than twice!). That’s why you always need to check pricing either by the time consuming method of checking each outfitter’s web-page or better yet check out our platform at BookYourHunt.com. BookYourHunt was created as a service to show customers fair pricing for hunts.
The total cost of a safari consists of 3 components:
- Daily rate
- Trophy fees
- Extra expenses
One more matter you should be aware of is there is no common approach in this industry. In other words it’s not like booking a room in a hotel where you can have the peace of rating the services provided depending on the number of stars.
You should be very careful when evaluating and comparing daily rates service: to determine what is included and what should be paid on top. Of course, it’s more convenient to book with operators that include maximum services into their daily rate. These can include such things as meet-and-greet at the airport, accommodation, meals, beverages, guiding service, transportation in the hunting area, field preparation of the trophies. I deliberately enumerated all the series included since there are some places where you are expected to pay for all of this on top of the daily rate. That’s why this is my main advice – make clear what is included in the daily rate.
Daily rate itself can vary greatly depending on the trophy you are hunting. Plains game daily rate is about $200-$300. Big Four daily rate varies from about $600 to $1.600. The obvious difference is the outfitter wants to include most of the risks into the price and the number of permits for the Big Four is quite small, thus the reason for the expensive daily rate. Also, take into consideration that some safaris have strict duration limits. For example, a hunt for Kudu can be 5-7 days, but an elephant safari should be at least 21 days. Keep in mind even if the trophy is harvested during the first day of hunting the hunter must pay the daily rate for 21 days in full. (In these hectic days since some hunters are always short of time some outfitters offer express tours, but the price is usually not cheaper and often higher than standard length hunt).
The second component of pricing is the trophy fee. The logic behind trophy fees is simple, if you are successful in taking your trophy you pay the trophy fee, if you didn’t get a trophy you don’t pay for it. Be very attentive while discussing the terms of shooting a trophy. First of all, if you are promised a certain size of trophy make sure it is written down in the contract. Secondly, make clear the terms of a missed shot, wounding and special regulations. There are some cases when the outfitter requires the hunter to pay in full after stalking a trophy three times but a client missed or refused to shoot. On the whole the devil hides in the details, so it is better to be educated and be prepared.
What is not included in daily rate is paid on top. This can be a sightseeing tour, family program or observer services, accommodation and meals before and after the hunt, a translator, domestic and international flights,etc. Taxidermy, trophy care and shipment are always paid on top.
If you know all these details in advance it’s easy to predict a preliminary cost of your hunt and prevent unexpected costs that can spoil all best memories and emotions from the hunt. For those who want to eliminate any surprises I can recommend package hunts. A package hunt is an offer where you can choose arrival and departure dates only, all the other services are already fixed. On the one side you are secured from any surprises, on the other side you are not able to change any conditions.
My main advice for amateur hunters is to always calculate the total cost of your safari and discuss all the services included. Don’t feel shy asking questions, we are amateur hunters and gathering as much knowledge as possible is a must.
Is it dangerous or not?
Africa is not that dangerous and very often the risks are very exaggerated. But one shouldn’t underestimate the risks. So what are the risks and how to reduce them?
– Country risks – these are the risks of being in unpleasant situation after arrival to a country. Africa is varied and the crime and political situation is different in each country on the black continent. The most reliable countries are Namibia and the Republic of South Africa. Almost 80% of visiting hunters come to these two countries and they are both a great destination to experience your first safari. One thing that is really pleasant in Namibia is there is no Visa or vaccinations required for coming to this country.
– Epidemiological risk – that’s a risk of contracting diseases. I think the most dangerous direction out of these is Central Equatorial Africa famous for Ebola. If you decided to go for the first safari to Congo or CAR, you are a brave soul but must be prepared. Ebola is not as scary as the mass media portrays it to be. In the last couple of years it has killed a lot of people but in 99.99% cases it was mostly locals with no access to basic first aid services. The mortality of people with access to medical services is almost zero but if you aren’t into taking such gambles the risk of getting Ebola in Namibia, SAR, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique is no bigger than in New York, Paris or London. There are other diseases of concern though. One shouldn’t forget about malaria and yellow fever. These are prevalent only near the northern borders of Namibia and the Republic of South Africa , but as for the other countries vaccination is obligatory. In the US you can check with The Center for Disease Control for what vaccinations are required. If you get vaccinated and took Malarone or Lariam you can feel safe then. Or at least partially safe. You are going for and should remember about the risk of hunting itself.
– Hunting risks. These are the risks from the animals you are hunting for. Here everything is very simple – if you hunt for plains game – there are not many risks at all. If you hunt for lion, elephant, leopard, hippo or crocodile there are of course risks and thus the reason they are called the “dangerous seven”. In this case you must choose your outfitter very carefully. This is not an easy task. A good resource of course is reviews and feedback from friends, but if you don’t have these resources you can adhere to the following pieces of advice:
- Choose the outfitters from the national associations of professional hunters only. These are very serious professional organizations that have requirements for their members and set rules in the industry.
- Look at the reviews from other hunters. It’s always better when these are independent reviews from hunters who hunted with a certain outfitter. In our experience BookYourHunt faced some outfitters who were cheaters and who submitted reviews about themselves written by themselves resulting in us deleting them from the system.
Here are my last bits of advice:
- Be very attentive for cheap offers. You can sometimes get an offer with a very big discount but these mostly happen in the middle or end of the season when quota is not sold in full or there is a cancellation. This is one of the features of BookYourHunt, you can quickly search our “Discounted Hunts” for such offers or receive notices on discounted hunts.
- Don’t be shy asking a lot of questions regarding the details of the tour. The more info you have, the easier it will be to decide on the best hunt for your desires and budget.
Once you finally decide to go on a safari be aware that your life won’t be the same as before. You will have better life experiences once you get that passion and your heart will be beating faster while thinking of Africa.