Making my first trip to Africa in July

Submitted by Dawn on 4/15/05 at 9:44 AM. ( )

Just over 2 and a half months and I will be in South Africa for two weeks (wish I could afford to stay longer). I have found many people in the taxidermy industry such as the great Bill Haynes who has shared his great wealth of knowledge about Africa with me.

But I would love to hear from others who have been there. Any helpful advice would be appreciated. Your actual experience there or ideas on gift/tokens for the camp staff etc. I have never been through customs and was wondering what experiences you have had or any helpful advice to get through there peacefully (lol)

Being that I am going to be in a Malaria Free Zone (and July is winter there) we have elected not to take the malaria pills. From what I read there are no mandatory shots required either for my area. This is not a yellow fever area either. Do you have to take immunization records with your passport?

Like I said - any advice you can give me I would appreciate it. I have researched everything I can think of but everytime I talk with people who have been there I get so much information that you cannot get from a website.

Thanks for the help.

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This response submitted by Mark Wilson on 4/15/05 at 10:38 AM. ( Mark@AfricanHunting.Info )

The only problem with Africa is it is addictive. Once you go you will have to keep going back! My wife, boys and I just recently returned from a 6 week trip to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

If you are taking firearms make sure that you take those firearms to a U.S. customs office and get the appropriate U.S. documentation paperwork prior to departing the U.S. and a letter from your local police or sheriffs department, on their letterhead, identifying you as the ownner of the firearms and vouching for your upstanding character is also a good idea that will make things smoother. Check with your outfitter and have him provide you with the latest updated South African firearms importation information. If it is an option, I would suggest that you consider using the outfitters firearms. This will make your trip easier and it allows you to bring back more curios such as wood carvings. Usually a rifle 30 cal. or larger and a 24-25 cal. rifle will handle everything that you run into. The 375 H&H is a favorite among PH's and me too, however a 30-06 to a 300 mag will also do the job just fine. The smaller 24-25 cal. rifle will do great on the smaller stuff. Ammunition is the most important thing, stick with core bonded partition type bullets such as A-Frames, Bear Claws. These work the best over there.

Flu and tetnus shots are advisable, and a good anti-biotic such as a bottle of penacillen are also a good idea to take with you just in case.

As far as tips for staff, it is always advisable to consult with your outfitter about what is typical. Do not buy gifts, cash or rand is always best.

You will usually do best to exchage your, pocket money, dollars into Rand at the airport exchange in South Africa. If you run short of rand your PH can probably help out or take you to a bank although the bank will charge you a fee for this.

Make several copies of your passport, airline tickets and other important items and leave a set at home with a relative and take a set of copies with you that you keep in a safe but different place from the real actual items. This is a just in case, but will make things much easier if the originals are lost.

No visa is required for U.S. citizens going to South Africa. However countries such as Zimbabwe and Mozambique do require visas.

Take a camera with a good zoom lens and also a good macro lens for reference photograps along with your calipers and tape measure. If you have film hand it to the TSA security at the airport and have them hand inspect it to prevent x-ray damage. Take good measurements! Watch the skinners, most do a good job but make sure that cuts are made in the right places. Briskets are the most common screw up. If they do a good job let them do all the shinning and turning. You can go also over it at the end and inspect. I always take up a few $5 to $10 good but cheap small skinning knives and give them to the skinners as gifts as soon as I shoot my first animal. This ensures that they have a good knife to skin my animals. Also take your awl and hide punch and code you own hides, that way later you will know that they are yours.

Your PH / Outfitter will be your best source of information I have found them all to be very professional. Also check out the PHASA web site for additional information.

My wife prefers to carry our items in a pouch that she straps around her waist. This is also what our PH carries his money and information in. It is much more secure than a purse. As all guns are required to be kept in a safe in South Africa your outfitter will have a safe available to him to store your documents and cash, however I have never had any problems.

My biggest piece of advice is to make yourself sleep on the flight over and back. You will be exhaused if you do not! Take a small dose of a sleeping perscription like Ambion and you will be able to sleep and arrive feeling like a human. Do not give into the temptation and excitement and stay awake for the whole flight! Trust me on that one, been there and done that! It cost me a day of planned sight seeing in Cape Town, to recover.

You are going to have the time of your life. I just got back in January and wish that I could go again tomorrow!

If you have any additional questions e-mail me directly and I will be glad to respond. Depending upon where you will be I can make some great side excursion suggestions.

I am excited for you!


Mark Wilson

Forgot to mention

This response submitted by Mark Wilson on 4/15/05 at 10:49 AM. ( Mark@AfricanHunting.Info )

Buy or borrow the best pair of 8 to 10 power binoculars that you can afford!
My wife would have never encourage me to spend a lot of money on binoculars before she hunted in Africa. Now she knows the difference!
Now we each own our own individual Swarovski EL binoculars.
High quality optics are worth every penny that you will pay for them. If you can not buy them, borrow them from a friend for this trip.
A good rangefinder is also a good idea.
Hope this helps.

Mark Wilson

Optics - Best advice you'll EVER get

This response submitted by George on 4/15/05 at 11:22 AM. ( )

Dawn, you may already know that, but Mark truly nailed it with the optics advice. I get hunters every day lamenting that a scope failed or their binoculars clouded up. Here they spend $10,000 on a trip to Alaska and they go out and buy a BSA $100 scope to fit on a $700 rifle. Then they lament, "well, it had a lifetime warranty on it". Lot of good a "lifetime warranty" does in the bush of Africa. Buy the very best optics you can afford whether it's on your gun, your binoculars OR your camera. If I had just bought a single pair of Leica 7x42's in 1970 when I started serious hunting, I could have probably gone on 2 more hunts with the money I wasted on cheap optics that failed me under fire. And don't get scared off with name brands. Swarovski are renowned as are Leica, but Leupold, Nikon,and a few others sell quality mid-range optics that work exceptionally well under stress.

European Optics!

This response submitted by Ed on 4/15/05 at 11:49 AM. ( )

European optics is the best investment you'll ever make. Swarovski, Zeiss, Leica, Kahles etc. The best NIkon a second. BIG difference it makes.

So far I am in good shape

This response submitted by Dawn on 4/15/05 at 11:54 AM. ( )

We have a set of Swarovski bino's - I wouldn't trade them - though I could use a second set seeing we fight over them all the time. (lol) Optics (and a good taxidermists -lol) are definitely not the place to skimp. Keep the advice coming........

Anyone know of any good snake repellents (lol). The guide keeps telling me I won't see many snakes that time of year (one snake - venimous or not is too many for me).

Spring has finally arrived here in Michigan - and seen my first snake yesterday....At least he wasn't poisonous. (lol)

Now Ed, why'd you go and spoil it all?

This response submitted by George on 4/15/05 at 12:35 PM. ( )

I can't leave that unchallenged. Today, MOST lenses are ground in Japan (even for those fabled Euro names. After all Kahles is just "seconds" from Swarovski, isn't it?) Within a decade, the Japanese names will dominate the market. Remember when the best camera you could buy was a Leica? I do. Now the standard for journalists is....NIKON. Nikon is second to no one in cameras and with that background, I'm betting they'll soon be that in optics as well. I expect Canon and Olympus to enter this fray once worldwide ecotourism gains speed and quality optics is in higher demand. For someone on a budget, a $400 pair of Nikons and a Nikon scope ain't so bad you have to feel like a second class citizen.

Don't worry!

This response submitted by Mark Wilson on 4/15/05 at 12:44 PM. ( Mark@AfricanHunting.Info )

I would make a bet that your PH hates snakes more than you do!

You probably will not see any snakes, so rest easy.

On my last trip in hot, wet Summer conditions and in some very wild places like remote Mozambique I never saw a snake in six weeks.

Ticks, spiders and scorpions are another story however! (LOL)


Mark Wilson


This response submitted by tomdes on 4/15/05 at 1:32 PM. ( )

That's right George, I bought a $400 pair of Nikons in 1979, the optics were incredible and still are, best pair I own..

Sounds like so much fun..Think I'll go for the Weekend!

This response submitted by Vito on 4/15/05 at 4:40 PM. ( )

Africa, Tx
Reprint Courtesy of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

OUT OF AFRICA / Small East Texas community fears its heritage will be lost

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

AFRICA - Mist floats among the pine boughs on cloudy days in Africa , Texas, a poor, rural
unincorporated community tucked in the state's eastern Piney Woods. Even the town's history and name are foggy, and, like the mist, are likely to disappear.

"The young ones, they don't even call it Africa anymore," says Addie B. Clifton, 88, a woman born here and reared with nine siblings in a four-room house of not much more than 600 square feet.

"They are going to lose all memory of it. And that's so sad," Clifton says.

Africa - also known as Webb, after an early property owner, or St. John's, after Africa 's Baptist Church - is in deep East Texas by the Louisiana border, where the culture of the Deep South spreads across the state line like roots flourishing under the shade of the thick pine forests.

The town's history is largely unwritten, its tales untold. Freed slaves with a dream of a new home founded Africa 135 years ago. But their stories settled into the deep thickets and finally disappeared.

About 75 people live in Africa , which is not much more or less than the population has ever been, Clifton says.

They drive into the nearby town of Center, population 4,950, to socialize or to work at the Bruce Hardwood Floors plant or at Wal-Mart or one of the other retail outlets, supplementing the money they make cutting timber.

On the way to Center, the folks from Africa will drive along Shelby County Road 2050 and onto Martin Luther King Drive, the road that used to be called Neuville Road. Some people still call it Neuville Road, even in phone book listings, because they were opposed to changing the name to MLK Drive.

"Some of the old (African-American) folks here just didn't want to change it," says Eddie Logan, 70, a deacon at St. John Baptist Church in Africa . "They just wanted things the same."

Change comes slowly

Change has been slow to come to Africa and its environs, which have long been neutral ground.

In 1806, the region was declared a no-man's land, where no one was supposed to live or lay claim to land until the United States and Spanish-ruled Texas could settle a border dispute. History books say most people passed through the area on their way to the open plains.

By 1819, the dispute was settled and the Sabine River was designated the boundary between Louisiana and Texas. Although it was legal again to live in the region, only a few planters were attracted to clear the forests.

When the Civil War ended in 1865, freed slaves established communities throughout the South. A few found their way to this place, started homes and farms, and named it Africa .

In Logan's possession is a ledger that lists long-ago members of the church in Africa . The first entry in the book of now-crumbling pages is dated 1894. The Texas State Historical Association says the once-thriving farming and poultry-raising community consisted of a two-story town hall, a gristmill, a syrup mill and three stores.

Clifton attended school in Africa . The school building is abandoned now, just the tip of its tin roof poking out of the pines. Years ago, much of the land was cleared. But the fast-growing pines have grown thick, covering up remnants of a life that used to be.

Clifton recently brought a visitor back to her now-abandoned childhood home. The floors of the two bedrooms sag with the weight of the years.

"Addie, how did 10 children all fit in here?" the visitor asks.

"And why wouldn't they?" Clifton says. "It's what we had."

The family grew just about everything they ate, Clifton said. They had no phones or televisions, just the church down the street. Her father ran a small store near the family home, mostly selling goods to children who attended the nearby school.

Clifton and her husband lived in Africa for many years, raising Black Angus cattle. She taught school and worked in a social-service program in Center.

Clifton eventually moved to Center, mostly because the region's rainfall averages 50 inches a year, turning Africa 's unpaved roads into impassable mud.

The remains of old vacant buildings still stand, scattered among the pines. A few houses are here and there, a few mobile homes have been moved in. But there isn't much else.

"They (the children reared here) just moved on to better things," says Clifton, whose siblings live in Houston, Beaumont and Dallas.

And that may be because life on the unpaved roads in Africa , Texas, is unglamorous enough that it's easiest just to forget it, to give it some new name, let the past erase itself.

Or perhaps it is easier to move far away to Dallas or Houston or any place where your parents didn't have to keep weeding out those pesky yellow pines sprouting up in land that needed to be cleared just to raise enough to eat.

But the "old home place," as Clifton calls the abandoned family home, is where the family still gathers once a summer for a reunion. About 200 people come back to Africa to celebrate. And then they leave the old house in the pines to sit there untouched for another year, a memorial to a time gone by.

Past lies buried

Clyde Lister, 68, lives in Africa , as he has for about 30 years, but works in a mortuary in Center on Martin Luther King Drive. In the 1960s, during the civil-rights movement, Lister and Logan say they admired the road's namesake, Martin Luther King Jr., and his work from a distance.

Logan recalls being asked by a friend to go to one of the protests and marches taking place in the South's larger towns and cities. So does Lister.

"We had jobs and families to watch out for, so we just didn't get involved," Lister says.

The two say that back then, they worried about a backlash from the white community or from members of the black community who didn't feel comfortable openly supporting King.

These days, though, they march.

"But the marches today are celebrations of King and his good work. They aren't protests," Logan said.

Although neither grew up in Africa , both married women who did.

Logan says it's sad that there isn't a written history of even the names of the people who first had a dream of Africa , Texas. Logan has the ledger from the church and some photographs, but he does not have the names of the first folks who came here. He doesn't know where they lived before the Civil War.

He does know that the Goodwin and Goodwyn families were early settlers. But the church and the tombstones dating back to the 1890s hold the only clues to the names of those who came before.

And the stories of slavery and pre-slavery? Stories of ancestors' memories of the real Africa ? Those are long buried.

One of the few reminders of Africa 's past is the bell in front of St. John Baptist Church. Long before the arrival of phones, its distinctive ring signaled a death in the community - first one pull, then a pause, then another pull.

Logan wants to gather enough history to put it on a plaque mounted near the bell. It could be a memorial to Africa's founders, he said. Maybe someday. Logan went to the bell in Africa on New Year's Eve and gave it a couple of slow rings.


This response submitted by Roger H. on 4/19/05 at 12:01 AM. ( )

Don't forget pepto-bismol just encase. The food was great in Aug. of 02 and drink only bottled water. As Mark said, Africa is addicting. I will go back too. Visit my web site and view my trophies Enjoy your hunt.


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