We can blame Hemmingway and Ruark for the popularity of the African safari. Shortly after World War II, these men hunted there and told their stories. Deer hunters in the East and elk hunters in the West read of their adventures and dreamed about the Dark Continent. And, dreams were about all it amounted to. This was primarily because in those days an African safari was very expensive. That notion carries on and most hunters think Africa is beyond their reach.RELATED VIDEO: AMERICAN HUNTING TACTICS IN AFRICA
I was no different. When I began planning my first safari in 2005 I was shocked to learn how affordable it really was. I spent about $ 4,000 and shot four animals. I’ll be returning for my seventh safari in 10 years this summer. I’m a gun writer and contrary to popular belief, I do not make a lot of money. So don’t think I’m preaching from some castle in the sky. If you plan accordingly and spend your money wisely, Africa is doable.
Cost is the primary hurdle most have to jump when it comes to Africa, so let’s sort that out. Admittedly, if you want to hunt the Big Five—elephant, Buffalo, lion, rhino and leopard—prepare to take out a mortgage on your home or win the lottery; those hunts are expensive. But Africa is not all about the Big Five. There is an abundance of plains game that is challenging to hunt and much less expensive.
You probably cannot afford to hunt elephant, but at a place like Nambiti Hills you can see them in their natural environment.
How Much Does It Cost?
Fort Richmond Safaris, located near Kimberly, South Africa, offers a 7-day, four-animal safari for a couple. The cost is $6,700. I’ve hunted there twice and it’s where I will hunt this year. It is a fabulous destination and you can add additional animals for a few dollars more.
Airfare and incidental expenses will up the cost by about $ 4,500 ($2,250 per person), so that brings your total cost to about $11,000. I’d suggest you spend another grand, rent a car, add in a cross-country drive to the five-star Nambiti Hills Game Reserve, just outside of Ladysmith in the Natal province, and spend a day watching elephants and lions.
Time at the fire ring in Africa is one aspect of a safari you will enjoy sharing with friends and family.
This works out to about $500 per day per person. When you consider that the average summer vacation is only about half that long and costs about $1,600 per person, you’ll need to save for about 3 years to afford Africa. In truth, if you also pinch pennies in other areas, such as cutting back on trips to Starbucks and stop spending money on Candy Crush and other stupid games, you should be able to do it in 2 years.
Comparatively speaking, when you look at a trophy elk hunt, the cost is about the same. Those hunts come in at about $8,000 and are for only one person. And, a trophy elk hunt is a gambling proposition; you might or might not get your elk—and if you do, you’ve spent all that money for one shot.
Deer rifles work just fine for African plains game.
I’ve hunted elk and at least for me, the plains game of Africa are just as grand and I’d much rather hunt four animals over the span of 7 days than one. Success rates for African plains game are much higher, too.
Rifles And Shooting
Saving your money and getting there is not all there is to an African safari. You need to be able to shoot. In Africa, if you draw blood you pay for the animal—whether it is found or not. If you do save up for that once-in-a-lifetime trip, make sure you prepare accordingly by practicing with your rifle beforehand. If you cannot hit a 6-inch target, at 100 yards from shooting sticks in about 7 seconds, you’re not ready.
Few things can compare to a father and son African safari.
Another mistake many make is thinking they need some sort of special rifle for African plains game. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your deer rifle will do just fine; anything in the .308 Win. class is perfect for African plains game. Last year my wife used a $300 Mossberg bolt-action in .243 Win. and took three animals with as many shots.
Sharing The Experience
If there is a downside to an African safari its that its addictive. Before you leave you’ll be trying to figure out how soon you can come back again and which friend of family member you should carry with you. It’s not just the hunting; it’s the total package. You will eat like a king, stay in fine accommodations and you’ll be treated like you spent $12,000 to be there. An elk camp where you live in a tent, sleep in a bag and eat bologna sandwiches pales in comparison.
Lion hunts can cost as much as $ 25,000, but you can experience them up close and personal at a game reserve for about $100 per day.
This summer, when I go to Africa, I’ll be hunting with my son on his second safari. It’s all he’s talked about all year. I’ll also be hunting with a border patrol agent from Texas who is taking his daughter to Africa for her graduation present. Africa is an experience and it’s an experience to be shared. I suggest you do it before you’re too old to cut the mustard and while your wife and/or kids still like to be around you.
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