Planning a safari can be an overwhelming task. There is more information available today than there has been in the entire history of the African hunting industry, yet if you are not familiar with the ins and outs of this business, it can be extremely confusing.
If you are a first-timer looking to plan your dream safari, a seasoned African veteran planning to finish your Big Five hunt, or an avid collector looking for the rarest and most unique African hunt the following information will be helpful in considering what you want to achieve in terms of your safari goals.
The Most Common Types of African Hunting Safaris
There are hundreds of different safari hunting options available in Africa today. Below we list the most popular different hunts available.
- Plains Game Safaris – these are often the first trip most clients will take to Africa. The usual duration is 7 to 10 days and the hunts focus primarily on antelope like Kudu, Gemsbok, Impala, Waterbuck, Eland, Springbok, Wartog, Zebra and many other species of non-dangerous game. The most popular destinations for these hunting safaris are South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. These are generally the least expensive hunting safaris on the continent.
- Dangerous Game and Plains Game Combination Safaris – these trips usually range in duration from 10 days to as long as a month and focus primarily on one of or a combination of dangerous game like lion, leopard, elephant, cape buffalo, hippo, or crocodile. The most common of these hunts is the leopard/plains game and leopard/buffalo/plains game safari. On almost all of these longer duration hunting safaris there is an abundance of plains game available to hunt. The most popular destinations for these safaris are Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa.
- Specialized Dangerous Game Safaris – these trips will vary in duration from 12 to 28 days depending on the specific trophy animal sought. These hunts are for clients wanting to focus primarily on one or two specific dangerous game species who are seeking the biggest trophies available in Africa.
- Full Bag Safaris – these trips are usually 24 to 28 days in duration and allow clients to take three or four species dangerous game species and several plains game species. These are the classic style safaris in huge tracts of remote wild country. The best destinations for these hunting safaris are Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana and Tanzania.
- Specialized Antelope or Collectors Safaris – these trips usually focus on the rarest and most elusive African species like Bongo, Lord Derby or Giant Eland, Mountain Nyala, Sitatunga, etc. These trips vary in duration from 2 to 3 weeks and are commonly conducted in counties like the Central African Republic, Cameroon and Ethiopia. There are other countries like Benin and Burkino Faso that offer some of the more uncommon species like Dwarf or Forest Buffalo, Duikers, etc. on shorter duration safaris of 7 to 10 days.
- Family or Group Safaris – these trips are usually planned with the main goal in mind of providing a great vacation first, and hunting opportunities as a secondary concern. The trips usually last 7 to 14 days and the time is split between hunting and photographic/sightseeing safari activities.
The more information we know about you and what you want to accomplish on your hunting safari, the easier it is for us to custom tailor an African hunting safari that will meet and hopefully exceed your expectations. There are few main questions that need to be answered to start the process.
- What trophy animals do you want to hunt? The list of available safari hunting opportunities in Africa is almost infinite, so we need your input to narrow down the best destination that will provide you with the ultimate opportunity to hunt the game you seek.
- When can you go, and how long can you be gone? Different countries in Africa have different hunting seasons dictated primarily by the climate first and by their respective governments second, but there are opportunities to hunt the African continent year round.
- What is your budget? This is often one of the most difficult questions to answer. The game sought, length of the safari, country, professional hunter, etc. are all factors that influence the cost of a safari. Our job is to find the best African hunt for your budget, but we need to know what that is to help you accomplish your goals.
- Is there a country or region in specific that you would like to hunt? Most of our clients inform us of the main specie or species that they want to hunt, and then we inform them of the best opportunities available in the different African countries. But sometimes a prospective clients first request is that they want to hunt a specific areas in a certain country. We our vast network of professional hunters we can almost always accommodate such a request.
Booking Your Hunt
While we have the ability to plan an African hunt on relatively short notice, we generally advise our prospective clients to begin planning 12 to 18 months in advance. Once we have answered the main questions concerning what animals you want to hunt, how long you can be gone, what your safari budget is and if there is any particular area or region you want to hunt, we can then start the actual booking process. The common events in this stage include the following.
- Depending on the answers to the above we will send you detailed information on the professional hunter and safari outfitter (or a few different possibilities) that we think will provide you with the best safari.
- Decide which safari hunt best suits your interests and speak with references who have done this hunt.
- We will then check the availability of trophy animals on the quota to make sure the game you want is available. Most African hunting areas have strict quotas of game available on license, and booking early is the only way to insure the animals you want are available.
- When the quota has been confirmed we will schedule your hunt taking into consideration both the optimal time to for the primary species you seek and your schedule.
- Once dates and quota have been confirmed your safari can be reserved with a deposit which is usually around 50% of the total daily rate of the safari, or 25 to 30% of the entire cost of the safari.
- Confirmation of your hunt concludes the booking stage of your hunt.
A Word of Caution about Booking a Safari
As we mentioned earlier there is more information readily available today on hunting in Africa thanks to several factors, not the least of which is the internet, email, sporting publications, and maybe the most popular- numerous hunting shows and conventions.
All of these can be very useful when trying to plan a safari, but there are also many new risks that prospective hunters face as a result of these improvements in communications. We are going to list a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.
- Use a professional full-time booking agent. Of course we are biased because we are full-time booking agents, but it is a very risky endeavor to book an African hunt through other means. Our main objective as an agent is to make sure that a client is presented with only the best opportunities available. Trying to book direct with an outfitter or a PH may not present you with the same opportunities for several reasons. Keep in mind that we have your best interests in mind, whereas some outfitters and professional hunters may have their own best interests in mind, and your wishes and desires may be second to theirs.
- Watch out for the internet. It is easy to build a beautiful website. Any search of the internet will return dozens if not hundreds of companies claiming to be the best at this or that, but in reality there are only a handful of premiere companies offering their services via the web. A good professional hunter and safari outfitter does not have the time or resources to devote to a flashy website. If they are really good, they are in the field out hunting, not sitting behind their desk working on websites or emails. Good outfitters know the value of good agents, and they enlist our services knowing we are in a much better position to correspond with clients and prospective clients.
- Be careful at the conventions and hunting shows. This situation is very similar to #2. Just about anyone now can pay to exhibit at a hunting convention. And there are many good safari outfitters that attend the major hunting shows, but there are also several companies that attend and what you see may not be what you get. There is a huge difference between a good salesman, and a good safari operator. Keep in mind, all of the exhibitors at these hunting conventions and shows are there first and foremost to promote their interests. Your interests are secondary to that. Any good and reputable booking agent has your interests as their primary concern.
- Internet Hunting Forums. While these can be great sources for information and sharing your experiences with others, they can also be sources that can be misleading or confusing when trying to plan your trip. There are several part time agents that can’t make a living any other way than trolling these forums and taking advantage of people unfamiliar with the African hunting industry. You can do a simple test to prove this point. Put a basic question on the forum about who be the best professional hunter for a specific animal. You will get a dozen replies from part time agents pushing their one outfitter, and you will get another three or four dozen replies from guys who telling you the PH they went with on their first and only safari is the best hunter in Africa. These forums can be great tools, but are not the best way to book a hunt.
- Professional Hunters acting as booking agents. This might be the most difficult scenario for a hunting client to try and deal with, but let us give you some advice which will be very helpful. There are a few incredible professional hunters today who have the knowledge, experience and ability to conduct safaris in numerous countries. One of the major trends we see in Africa today is that most first time African hunters go to South Africa for a plains game hunt. On this trip they become very good friends with their professional hunter, and during or after the safari the client expresses an interest to return on another trip in the future. Some of these professional hunters will recommend names or areas to these clients- these are the true PHs who know and recognize the abilities of their peers. More often than not though, some of these PHs will tell the client that they can take them here or there, and get them a much better deal than if they were to go direct. If you ever hear this, change the subject immediately, or simply thank them for their time and move on.Africa is a huge continent, and to be a successful professional hunter you need to have intimate knowledge of certain areas and certain game. We have encountered very few PHs who can do it all.
Over the years we have seen the first time client return from Africa with an image of their PH as “the only one I would ever hunt with anywhere.” While we love the fact that clients are capable of forming such a strong relationship with the PHs, we are always a bit cautioned when we hear this. Limiting yourself to one PH is not the best way to insure you will have the best opportunities throughout the continent. It is also exponentially more expensive to hunt this way. When booking through a PH from one country, who wants to take you to hunt another country you are not only having to pay the regular price of that safari, but also having to pay for his time and his travel. This adds significantly to the trip.