Planning Your African Safari

You’ve scrimped and saved for years to be able to afford the hunting trip of a lifetime. You are finally ready to book your first African safari. Once you get past the, “Wow! I am going to Africa!” stage, comes the planning and preparation. Just what do you need to think about to ensure that your hunting trip will be all that you hoped it would be? Here are a few questions to consider before you get too far into the planning stage.

Who Will Go?

It’s a given that you will have a great time on your safari. But being able to enjoy it with a member of your family or a close friend will make the experience even more special. See if you can coordinate your trip with an existing hunting buddy so you won’t be all alone on the other side of the world. Also, the daily rate will be affected by the number of hunters to each PH on the safari. This allows you an opportunity to save money by having one PH guide you and another hunter.

In addition to hunting, Southern Africa is also a great place to take your spouse or kids with you for a family vacation. You should be able to negotiate a good daily rate for non-hunting family members to accompany you in your camp. Your kids will love the experience, and it will probably end up costing less than taking them to Disney World. Non-hunting spouses may enjoy the camp as well. Ask your guide about any other activities that family members might enjoy.

They really take good care of hunters and non-hunters in Africa, so your spouse will not have to worry about roughing it too much. Even in areas that have higher crime rates, the African safari hunting camps are safe and secure, so you don’t need to worry about members of your family. 

Choosing the Right Outfitter

You probably have chosen your outfitter or PH (professional hunter) based upon recommendations from friends and associates who have used them in the past. You may choose a guide from a trade show like SCI in Vegas, but it is better to go with a taxidermist’s recommendation, or a friend’s first hand account. If you want to check up on an outfitter’s reputation, a good source is The Hunting Report newsletter at This is also a great resource for staying informed on what’s new and opening up in international hunting scene.

You will generally pay a daily rate plus a trophy fee for each animal you take. There may also be a lower daily rate for your arrival and departure days. The higher the trophy value, the higher the trophy fee. Plains game animals will be less expensive than dangerous or exotic game. The location of the hunt will also be a factor. For instance a Tanzania plains game hunt will probably cost more than the same species hunted in Zimbabwe. Most outfitters have websites with the daily rates and prices for each species listed.

An all-inclusive package deal which includes specific animals may be the most economical choice. Often, you can purchase a package deal during an auction at a local SCI chapter meeting or an NTA convention which will be an incredible value, so you may want to look into this if your travel plans are flexible.

When booking a hunt, always ask about the incidentals. You don’t want surprises on the final day. At the end of the hunt you will sit down with the head man to sort out the details and sign all the final papers. Nothing can ruin a trip home and the memory of the hunt of a lifetime than a considerably larger bill than was expected.

Ask if the following are included. If not, find out how much beforehand. Some of these items may be negotiable. 

  • Transfers: Airport to the camp, back to the airport, to additional other camps, and sightseeing.
  • Beer and alcohol
  • Gun rental and ammo
  • Are taxes included in the price quoted?
  • The cost of additional permits
  • Cost for non hunting days

Always ask, “Exactly how many days will I be hunting?” so you will know what to expect. In some cases the hunter will be charged the daily rate from the time they are picked up at the airport until they are dropped off.

Use a Travel Agency

Do yourself a favor and use a travel agency that specializes in hunting travel. An agency can be a tremendous help with sorting out gun permits, making connections and handling unexpected flight changes. You may have to overnight in a different country along the way and the experienced travel agency can find the best place to stay and arrange any needed transportation.

Gracy Travel, in San Antonio, Texas, sends more American hunters to Africa than anyone else. They specialize in safaris and other international hunting expeditions. They understand laws involving traveling with guns and ammo. They can give you advice on what is required, what time of year the hunting seasons are open, where to go, how to best get there, how to arrange transfers, and can solve problems that you aren’t even aware of. They are good people to work with, and it is definitely worth using them to make your travel plans go as smooth as possible.

You may want to get travel insurance. In the past, I felt that travel insurance was a bad bet, but lately with the enormous change fees now charged by the airlines, it may be time to hedge that bet.

Malaria Medications

The only vaccine required by International Health Regulations is yellow fever vaccination for travel to certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America. Not required, but recommended for your own safety is malaria medication. You can find out from the people you are hunting with if you even need malaria medication. In some areas of Africa, you may not need anything. If you are hunting during the dry season in a dry area, it will not be a big problem. Namibia is a malaria free zone, but Tanzania and Mozambique may not be. You can find information on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website for each country’s risks on the following pages:

Yellow Fever & Malaria Information, by Country



Find a Clinic Specializing in Pre-Travel Advice:

Look into the different malaria medications very carefully. Taking the wrong medication can ruin your hunt. There are travel clinics that specialize in international travel and they can be a big help. If you need to see a travel medical clinic, you should set up an appointment 4 to 6 weeks before your trip. Most vaccines take time to become effective in your body and some vaccines must be given in a series over a period of days or sometimes weeks.

If it is less than 4 weeks before you leave, you should still see your doctor. You might still benefit from shots or medications and other information about how to protect yourself from illness and injury while traveling.

Special travel medical insurance isn’t a bad Idea. It’s not too expensive and it is nice to know you are covered in case of an emergency.

Plan Ahead for Importing Your Trophies

Using a taxidermist in the US will offer some advantages over leaving your trophies overseas. With a US taxidermists, you can check on the progress of the work and meet face-to-face if necessary. You will have more control over the final look of your mounts and can incorporate artistic bases and displays into the trophy. Having a US taxidermist will also allow for delivery, installation, and on-site maintenance.

Before you go to Africa, have a plan in place for getting your trophies back to the US. Talk to your tannery, importer or taxidermist before you go so you know the addresses of where to have trophies shipped. Hire a qualified import broker to do the import and paperwork. Importing your trophies is not the place to get tight with the money. You want to use a professional who knows the entire system so you won’t end up with your trophies in limbo.

Don’t assume you can handle it yourself if you have no experience with importing. Read this article on Importing Wildlife and the Law to see how complicated the procedure is. You would be better off to contact a company that does this every day like Coppersmith, Inc. and Flora and Fauna. They are familiar with the entire importing procedure and can navigate through the process fairly easily, taking care of all of the details for you.

Nothing can happen to your trophies until they ship, and there are lots of local issues that can hold things up. For instance, almost everything shuts down in South Africa in December. The entire county seems to take the month off, so nothing gets done. If your trophies are in South Africa in December, they probably won’t ship until the following January.

If planning to shoot a CITES 1 animal, like a leopard or elephant, you should go ahead and apply for the US Import permits before you go so you will get your trophies back much quicker. If you wait until after the hunt to apply for the permits, expect delays.

Since the PH gets a commission from all of the labor downstream, like the pack & dip service, and African taxidermists, they will strongly recommend you leave your trophies with an African taxidermist. They will try to sell you on their local taxidermists’ superior knowledge of the specimens, that they are the best in the world at what they do, and that they have seen everything regarding the special art of African taxidermy. If you want to ship your trophies to a US taxidermist, just stick to your guns, be firm, and give them the address of where you want it sent to. There should not be any problem.

Don’t Overpack

Don’t take too much stuff. Most hunting camps have a daily laundry service. Three days worth of hunting clothing is usually plenty, no matter how long you are staying.

Wherever you go in Africa, it can be very cold early in the morning and late in the evening. It is usually very hot during the day. Take warm and cool clothes in layers that you can remove. You will need at least two hats, a hat for the cold and a hat for the sun. 

When packing for travel, the following joke illustrates a good rule of thumb: Lay out all the clothes you think you will need in a pile on your bed. Then lay out all the money you think you will need in another pile. Once you have done this, take half the clothes and twice the money.

Leave Your Guns At Home

Unless it is personally important to you that you use a special gun on your safari, you should consider renting or borrowing guns from the safari outfitter. If you make a bad shot it rarely has anything to do with the gun, and most people don’t have a 375 in the back of their closet.

Traveling with guns is not impossible, but you will end up waiting in more lines and going through more delays, as well as hauling around all the extra baggage. You may be able to make a deal with your outfitter to just pay for the ammo, or a small rental fee. You will have to weigh this against the hassle of traveling with firearms and ammunition.

Bow hunting is different. If you are bow hunting, you will probably want to bring your own bow.

Take Lots of Pictures

Take your camera, or buy a new camera to document your adventure. If you are lucky enough to hunt in the dark continent, the memories will last a lifetime. Just like your first child, your first safari will generate the most photos. Take a pocket camera with extra batteries and an extra memory card to take snapshots and short movies, as well as reference close-ups of your downed specimens. If you want to get good reference photos of live animals, you will need an expensive SLR and a long telephoto lens.

Get in Shape

No, not really. If you are healthy enough to walk around you can probably handle an African safari. It’s not like a sheep hunt where you have to climb mountains. African safaris are relatively low-impact, and you have helpers who will carry everything for you. 

African safaris are not cheap, but hunters who go on them usually love it so much that they will do anything to return again. Africa is a very special place on this planet and spending time there is an experience unlike any other. Special thanks to Roger Martin who is going on his 10th African safari later this year.

Part 2 of this article can be found here: African Safari: During the Hunt.
Coming soon: African Safari Part 3: Your Trophy Room.

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