It can be hard for a beginner to calculate a budget for an African hunting adventure. Some of the prices seem too good to be true, others may sound prohibitively expensive. Most outfitters list only “daily rates” and “trophy fees”, sometimes a “package tour”. There’s a long list of things that are “not included” in these costs, and some that are not even mentioned there (like air fare). What are the “other costs” and how much can the total price of the trip come down to?
The answer to this question, of course, is highly individual, but we can help you by breaking down the total into various expense items. The source for the data is an extensive study that was recently conducted by the North-University of RSA, in cooperation with PHASA (The Professional Hunter Association of South Africa). The researchers asked about 350 hunters, mostly from the USA, to fill in a questionnaire about how much they spent on what. An earlier version of this story simply summed up the average figures from the report, but on careful consideration we found it meaningless and misleading. The statistics was swayed by people who travel first class and stay at 5-star accommodations; besides, most hunters that participated in the study had at least one companion. So let’s just break down the costs of an average South African safari so that you can do the math for yourself.
The budget of a safari is made up of:
- trophy fees
- daily rates
- travel to South Africa
- travel in South Africa
- hunting gear, except ammunition
- shipping costs and trophy handling
- licenses and permits
- additional tours and travel costs
Daily rates and trophy fees.
These are the two entries that are easiest to calculate, as they are the first thing that an outfitter advertises. In layman’s terms, “daily rate” is the money you pay to the outfitter just to hunt and stay with them, per day. It usually includes meals, sometimes drinks, the services of the PH, the gas for the trucks or ATVs, and other costs of operation. If you’re coming with a companion who doesn’t hunt, add in the “non-hunter” daily rates (normally half of the main rate). The average daily rate quoted in the report was $310. A dangerous game safari requires a bigger team and implies more responsibility, so the price may be a little higher; for a plains game hunt it could be significantly lower.
The trophy fee is the amount you pay for each animal you harvest. A lot depends on your perfectionism: some operations vary their trophy fees according to the size of the antlers, and a record-book trophy will carry a higher price on its head. Others, however, leave the matter to the hunter’s luck. Here are the average trophy fees for five most popular animals according to the study:
- Impala $240
- Warthog $190
- Springbuck $230
- Kudu $1350
- Blesbuck $315
The average price of air fare for two, return, to South Africa reported in the survey amounted to $5,000. This probably means for two, business class. Here’s what http://www.flights.google.com quotes as the cheapest flights to Capetown, one person, return, booking one month ahead, from a few large cities:
- New York, USA: $954
- Vancouver, Canada: $1299
- Moscow, Russia: $723
- Munich, Germany: $763
Flights to Johannesburg are priced about the same, to Durban a bit more expensive. Add some 10-15% to these prices if you want a reasonable compromise between price, speed, and convenient dates.
Another aspect of travel, which isn’t usually included in the price of the package tour, is the transfer to the lodge. Here, literally, sky’s the limit, as it covers everything from rental cars to chartered helicopters and jet planes. Most outfitters will arrange the transfer for you, starting from $200-$300, and it looks like a very good price: hunters who took part in the survey averaged $600 per hunter.
This delicate category was not mentioned in the survey, but we’re sure this cost was covered under some other headline, such as “aspects not in the daily rate” ($630) or “other” ($386) . Tips are a big part of the PH’s and staff’s compensation, but are voluntary and at your discretion. It is good to ask the outfitter about tips and tipping procedure, as well as number of your hunting party and staff, prior to your hunt.
Other hunting expenses
Some hunters reported having to buy things like ammunition ($70), clothes ($140), and “other hunting gear” ($230). This is another highly individual thing. On the one hand, you can avoid such expenses if you are sufficiently prepared. On the other hand, you can get a better deal on some hunting apparel in South Africa than anywhere else, and anyway the hunting boots or whatever you may buy is going to serve you for years to come, so these expenses should go under your general hunting budget. One thing you can’t avoid, though, are game licenses and permits. According to the survey, they averaged $512, but since the average includes some rare and highly sought-after species, you’ll probably pay much less.
Most hunters would like to preserve the skins and heads of the animals they’ve harvested as mementoes of their journey and experience. This is another highly individual expense item, as the total depends not only on the number of trophies, but also the type of mount you choose, and whether you decide to have your taxidermy handled by South African outfits, or “dip and ship” to your trusted expert near home. We won’t even try to confuse you with the average figure here (which could include full-size elephant mounts for all we know). Read this blog story for taxidermy options and tips.
Other than hunting
There’s much more to South Africa than hunting. Especially if you plan on making this a family vacation as well as a hunt. Visits to historic sites, wineries, etc. could be interesting in themselves, so most hunters allow an additional three days stay in SA. During these three days they spent, on the average, $150 on food, and $600 on non-hunting related tours and travel costs. Of course, if you’re on a budget and are mostly interested in hunting, you can skip this item.
All said and done
A South African safari may be the hunting career, and fuel you with memories and emotions for years to come. As in most best things in life, it ain’t free. However, it’s not as expensive as people usually think either. If you know what to expect, you’ll also know where to save. Our friend Ron Spomer is running a good series of articles on low-cost African adventures, and if you know how to pick the best deal, you can cut the price considerably. Stay tuned for our tips on how to make the wise choice for you, and don’t put off your personal discovery of Africa!
If you liked this story, you may also like:
- How to choose a hunting trip to Africa
- Three reasons to hunt in South Africa
- In the shadows of the ancients: Chasing eland in South Africa