The discussion around tipping is one we find ourselves in more often than not. Many of you are seasoned hunters having visited Africa numerous times so I encourage you all to share your views and add value to the discussion. For those of you who are first timers, or still seek the answers, I hope this gives you a clearer understanding of the topic. Having been a client myself, been present during tipping in other outfitters operations, as well as the outfitter and PH in charge of the safaris, I have compiled a baseline overview of the discussion which may help you during your upcoming safari.
Why we tip
Tipping the team who conduct your safari is a customary act in our industry, yet still remains discretionary as a reflection of your appreciation of the efforts of the team. For the most part, these men and women do not conform to typical 9-5 weekdays, but rather early mornings and late evenings on any given day of the week to ensure the best possible service in order to make sure your safari is a success. Although these teams are employed either on a full time basis or on a seasonal basis, many of them rely on gratuities to supplement their income to support their families back home.
When and how do we tip
This is always the tricky part as the procedure will inevitably vary between camps and outfits. Communicating with your outfitter before arrival or during the safari is always helpful in preparing your tips accordingly.
Traditionally gratuities are given at the end of the safari before departing home. In most cases, your outfitter or guide in charge will arrange for the staff to bid you farewell where you can hand the tips to the members individually. In some cases, many of the members may not be present upon your departure due to their duties in the field, so handing their tips in closed envelopes to the responsible person in charge will ensure the absentees get theirs too.
A handful of outfits require the staff tips be handed to the outfitter in envelopes for safe keeping. These are otherwise known as tip vouchers, which will then be handed to the staff onsite, at the end of the hunting season, or transferred to the staff members’ bank accounts. In this event, the outfitter would have the staff members sign and acknowledged amounts.
Typical team on safari
Core team (Most likely to be of direct service)
- Professional Hunter
- Cook assistant
Additional personnel (Who work behind the scenes or provide additional services)
- Driver of transfer company
- Tour guide
- Airport meet and greet
- Camp manager
- Anti poaching team
- Government game scouts in select areas
- Apprentice guides
How much do we tip
Gratuity amounts are again discretionary, a reflection of your appreciation. Your outfitter will gladly assist in providing recommendations and a list of staff members involved in your safari, so don’t be shy to ask. On the other hand you should be encouraged to you to use your own discretion considering the following:
- Price of the safari
- Type of safari (plains game, dangerous game, cat hunts etc)
- Length of safari
- Number of hunters and observers per guide
- Destination and country
Professional Hunters (Guides)
A rule of thumb indicator recommendation by outfitters would be to give your PH anything between 5% and 10% of the total cost of the hunt. This can also be gauged during the safari based on your overall satisfaction of the PH’s performance and efforts.
Staff on a plains game hunt (usually 5 – 10 days)
- Trackers and skinners between $5 and $10 per tracker per day
- Cook/s $5 and $10 per person per day
- Other camp staff between $2 and $5 per person per day
Staff on a big game hunt (usually 7 – 21 days)
- Trackers between $10 and $15 per tracker per day
- Skinners between $5 and $10 per person per day
- Driver and/or porter $5 per person per day
- Cook/s between $5 and $10 per person day
- Other camp staff $5 per day
Forms of tipping
Each African country has its own currency which the local staff do appreciate as they would not have to exchange money. Having said this, being able to acquire the currency as a client is not always easy to obtain before or upon arrival. In addition to this, many of your guides reside in other countries whereby the local currency would not be of any value. Hence tipping in US Dollars, which is accepted in all countries and can be easily exchanged locally, has become the most common currency of choice.
In addition to your end of safari tip, I have often found that gifting or tipping your ground team during the course of your stay, helps to motivate the above and beyond their expectations. Small yet useful gestures such as caps, batteries, skinning knives and even small notes after a successful hunt lights them up to produce further success during the safari.