The African Safari has been one the dream adventures for hunters for almost as long as sport hunting has existed. Presidents have gone on safari. Nearly every famous American hunter has taken to Africa, almost like a pilgrimage. Hunting books and magazines are filled with riveting stories of taking down cape buffalo and other large, exotic game. But, the African hunting trip has always seemed like a rare treat for the privileged few. However, it might not be as exclusive as we think…
The magazine article said, “You’d be surprised. A trip to Africa will cost less than some western elk hunts or Texas deer hunts.” And, I suppose it does cost less than some western elk hunts or Texas deer hunts, but from my information gathering it doesn’t cost less than any elk or deer hunt I would take. After having successfully harvested javelina and crossing them off my personal critter wish list I began investigating the costs and options for hunting the next one, elk, for 2011.
Now, I consider myself a person of modest means, but I have also seen hunters go to Colorado five or more times at a total cost of $12,000+plus on marginally outfitted or DIY hunts and never draw their bows back. Great experiences I’m sure, but if I just want to walk around where elk hang out I can go to Yellow Stone or move back to Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. I wasn’t raised up elk hunting, I dedicated the first 20 years of my adult life to Uncle Sam and I’m not getting any younger. So, I’m talking about putting myself in the best position to harvest a fair chase elk the first time out. By booking a high opportunity elk hunt through a high quality booking agent with excellent reputation and a first class outfitter with excellent reputation my costs would be close to $7,000 give or take, mostly give. While I mulled that around in my head I discussed the hunt with the outfitter who declared it a, “Fat boy hunt,” i.e., stay in a hotel, eat at a restaurant, ride an ATV to the hunting area and begin hunting. If the price tag didn’t shut the hunt down the description did.
Time to regroup. Other than a few inquiries for cow elk hunting as a “training wheel” course, elk hunting went on the back burner. Then my buddy Crazy Brew from Kansas called one day and talked about going to Africa. I still owe him a “butt kickin’” for mentioning it. The thought had crossed my mind before (also enticed by that “less than an elk/deer hunt” discussion). So, what does it cost? Never being one to let emotion overcome fact gathering (at least not initially) I researched and put together some numbers for us to ruminate over.
General notes: The following estimates are based on a 10 day hunt. The daily and trophy fees are from 8 operations with good to very good reputations (my opinion). These costs are associated with booking a plains game hunt through a reliable outfitter or booking agent and not with buying a hunt from an unknown, unheard-of outfitter at a banquet auction. There are no bargain basement operations. Often, even these outfitters have specials that provide a significant value to the hunter above and beyond that listed here (savings of up to $2000 or more). Four of the outfitters are sponsors of a very popular archery forum website. Three others are booked through a sponsor of that website. Six are in the Republic of South Africa. Two are in Namibia. Both are popular destinations for plains game hunting. Note that it isn’t always easy to compare apples to apples. For instance, there seems to be an additional transport charge and tax associated with the Namibia operations. Also, the low daily fee is not from the same outfitter as the low trophy fee. Basically, this is a ball park planning figure.
Daily fees – These typically encompass things like the services of a professional hunter (PH), trackers, food, drinks, lodging, vehicle usage, etc. They may or may not include pick up and return to the airport or arrival/departure day charges.
Low: $300/day = $3000 High: $495/day = $4950
Trophy fees – In Africa you typically pay a trophy fee for harvested or wounded animals. These fees are often on a sliding scale that goes up for the trophy quality and/or physical size of the animal. The following five animals are those plains game animals, besides zebra, that were discussed as “best representing” Africa on the previously mentioned website; kudu, gemsbok, wildebeest, warthog and blesbok. I suppose zebra probably represent Africa as well as or more so than any plains game, but I’m not interested in harvesting one.
Low: $3000 High: $5700
Yes, this still makes the African hunting trip a very expensive undertaking, but, with these numbers in mind you can start saving and maybe make your hunting fantasies a reality.