How to go about Planning an African Safari
If I've never done it before, how do I plan to?
Africa. Just hearing the name can bring goose bumps on real hunters. Those who harbor a deep desire to visit the Darkest Continent, be it for a first time or a repeat visit.
To plan a successful hunting trip to Africa requires a lot of work, or luck, or a combination of luck and lots of money to compensate for planning mistakes! You don't have that, so be sure to read carefully this planning guide. To assist would-be African safari goers I have attempted to record some required planning steps on the pages indexed below this one.
How do you plan an African Safari?
In three distinct phases:
1. The preliminary phase: Steps 1 to 7. In these steps you learn about yourself and what you want.
2. The critical decision making: Steps 8 to 17. Learn about what is offered and decide what you want.
3. The execution phase - steps 19 to 21. Get the proverbial ball rolling towards an experience of a lifetime.
Without making it into a formal planning step, I believe that the potential client for Anyname Safaris should know what type of client this website was really written for.
This whole web site is written to help and assist dedicated hunters who want to hunt in Africa. Andrew McLaren Safaris hopes to get some more clients through this web site. But, without trying to be pompous, I don't want just any old client. I want to select my clients to suit my ideal client profile as far as possible. I am after all not in the Hunting Outfitting business to make money, but to enjoy my semi retirement.
I don't want to sell you accommodation and dead animals!
I want to present to you an unforgettable yet affordable African safari adventure!
When I say that my services are reserved for a certain category of client only, this must not be construed as arrogance or lack of awareness of the principles of customer service excellence. On the contrary, within the specialized niche of tailoring a safari itinerary to specific client needs, it makes sense to define the profile of my “ideal client”, in pursuit of better service levels - thus a better chance on satisfying the client.
The alternative would be to take on any type of client on any type of hunt to kill any type of animal in any way he likes, as long as the client pays. This strategy runs the risk of , no more than that, is almost guaranteed to, failing to meet expectations. The result would be a loose-loose situation and two unhappy parties.
For many years I was in the fortunate position to be guiding hunters part time only, with no financial dependence on an income from hunting. My full time day job allowed me only enough vacation days to guide few safaris per year, which is adequate for someone who does it for fun. I have found that choosing the right clients resulted in enjoyable experiences with people who doubled also as fellow hunters and companions. Now that I'm semi-retired I still not all that dependent on income from Hunting Outfitting, and I want to continue to select my clients carefully.
So here is the profile of my “ideal hunting client”:
My ideal client loves the great outdoors. He/she [and for simplicity I will for the rest refer to 'he' only - female huntresses are just as welcome as clients of AMS as their male counterparts] is both hunter and conservationist - a “prefect of the veldt”. He is however a realist too, not hypocritically obsessed with the highly debatable ethics issues of hunting. He understands that for all of these noble intentions there has to be a balance and a compromise.
My ideal client is direct, open and honest in the up-front negotiations phase. He asks frank questions and expects frank answers. It is always better for any supplier of services to exceed expectation, than to raise hopes which can easily be perceived as promises, ending up in disappointment. If, during the safari, some issues are not fully meeting the client's expectations, he will inform me immediately so that we can make right.
My ideal client has probably never been to Africa before. Alternatively he might have hunted here once or twice, but has unlikely taken the "big five" or other elitist game. His has a limited budget, and is therefore quite prepared to jointly plan with me in detail how we can pursue optimal overall value for money. He is keen to explore the vast variety of affordable African game. He will not travel all the way to Africa primarily for gourmet dinners and lavish accommodation. He wants to experience an eventful, but safe, African safari and take back memories of a lifetime.
My ideal client’s name probably does not frequently appear in the Top Ten SCI and other record books of the world. He does prefer a nice trophy over a mediocre specimen, but he does not consider himself a “trophy collector” that chases inches at all cost. In stead, he is content with a variety of affordable species of plains game, of “average to fine” trophy sizes that can be described as “mature animals, good representative specimens of the species”.
My ideal client is not madly obsessed with instant results. If we spent the whole day going after that kudu bull and return empty handed, he will look forward to finding it tomorrow. He understands that elusive animals cannot be guaranteed (unless canned). Having said that, he still expects fair results too. He is prepared to hunt hard and risk failure on certain species, but would be duly disappointed if the accumulative trophy results of the entire safari are below his expectations. Having traveled all the way to Africa, he expects to achieve most of his wish list.
My ideal client might probably also enjoy going out some nights to call small predators. At little or no extra cost or loss of hunting time, he would appreciate taking some of the smaller African animals such as jackal, caracal, squirrel, rock hyrax, rabbit, monkey, baboon and game birds - even fishing. Time and cost permitting, he might consider visiting some game parks and popular tourist attractions.
I realize that the above is somewhat utopian, but the closer my prospective client meets these wishes, the better for both parties.
Let us now consider the three phases.
The first seven steps in planning any type of South African adventure safari.
Planning your Safari
So, you are busy planning an African hunting safari? Congratulations on making such a lifestyle-changing decision. Please browse this Planning section of my web site and be guided on the how and why of the planning, and the basics of what you may expect on such a safari.
Any planning have seven steps that are common to all types of vacation planning. These steps are sometimes intuitively followed, but are described in some detail in below. Once your interest has been properly aroused as a first step, to the point where as the second step you admit a real desire to go the third step, which involves making a firm commitment to go. Then it is a simple procedure, as the fourth step, to get dates and finally get to the fifth step which involves deciding on how you intend to plan the trip, with the help of a booking agent, or by the do it yourself method. As a sixth step you should decide how you want to go about the actual planning. Then, finally, in the seventh step you will decide about the ethics of how you want to hunt.
Step 1: Interested? Andrew McLaren Safaris Offer to Help You Plan Your Own South African Hunting or Touring Safari.
The document is primarily intended to assist those who have an interest or desire to hunt or tour in Africa for a first time. It is also intended to assist Andrew McLaren Safaris to attract and book a certain type of client; those that have a hunting ethic and life value systems more or less like mine.
What type of hunting or adventure is offered by Andrew McLaren Safaris?
The short answer to this is: “That which I can arrange very well”.
To do anything well you need experience, and I prefer to only offer those activities for which I have the required experience myself. Arranging affordable ethical hunting by individuals or groups for plains game and wing shooting for groups of like-minded hunters is what I claim to be able to do very well. Varmint shooting, plains game culling and dangerous game hunting as well as sightseeing and game viewing tours can be done very well also. In special cases, and only for special clients, and only if I know that a trustworthy friend with the required experience will be available at the time of the safari to assist; some other safari or adventure will also be arranged.
This document may be studied by anyone who wants to go on a safari to Africa, and specifically to South Africa. I believe that there is a wealth of information and useful suggestions stored on these pages, even for hunters who have been here before.
To make this web easy to use we have tried to reflect the content in each document in the name thereof. The sequence in which the interested web visitor reads these files are an own choice, but the document names have been so chosen to reflect at least some logical sequence in which the documents could be read.
I can and do offer to arrange any:Plains game hunting safari for groups or individuals using your choice of weapon.Wing shooting excursions for terrestrial game birds and water fowl. Varmint shooting and participation in plains game culling operations.Dangerous game hunting safaris. Salt and freshwater fly fishing expeditions and deep-sea spear fishing and scuba diving adventures. Guided tours through National Parks, like the Kruger National Park and others. Any combination of the abovementioned.
In addition to this I will also arrange almost any other tour or activity on request.
Accept my invitation to explore the next document in this planning guide to assist you to plan a successful South African adventure. Please also ask any question by sending an e-mail message to mailto:email@example.com
Now write on your "My Safari Planning" sheet, or copy and edit if you wish the following text: "Step 1. I am interested enough to follow the instructions and see where it brings me!"
Step 2: Admitting: The Second Step of Planning a Successful Hunting Safari Adventure is Admitting the Desire to Go.
Africa, just thinking or hearing the name can bring goose bumps on real hunters, those who harbor a deep desire to visit the Dark Continent, be it for a first time or a repeat visit. The thought of traveling to Africa on safari is an exciting one, but all first-time hunters experience some degree of anxiety about making the trip. Thoughts of long and expensive flights, bunches of vaccination shots, having to deal with corrupt officials, overcoming equipment problems out in the bush, dealing with possible lost baggage, bureaucratic snafus, not knowing the extent of possible tainted food and water, being unsure of how to deal with disease-bearing insects are some immediate problems. Then thoughts of the possibility of running into armed bandits or getting caught up in military insurrections or tribal conflicts or landing up in a war zone in a strange country far from the influence of your own embassy my bother you. Lastly thoughts of big and nasty creatures with teeth and claws or big stomping feet and pounding horn bosses enter the mind of the neophyte African hunter. Then snakes and scorpions come to mind! And then some other nasty beasts like disease causing ticks and mosquitoes! But, if you are one of those for whom these negative thoughts fade into insignificance when compared to the adventure of hunting in Africa, this document is meant for you.
There are only a few countries in Africa that are open to sport hunting. For the first time visiting hunter, the sensible choices are South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana for "plains game" and leopard; and Zimbabwe and Tanzania for "dangerous game". While each destination is a little different, this document will provide you with some generic facts and tips that should set your mind at rest and prepare you for one of the most rewarding experiences of your life
To plan a good hunting trip to Africa requires a lot of work, or luck, or a combination of luck and lots of money! In a few short pages I hope to guide all of those rather cash strapped hunters and huntresses aspiring to actually go on a hunting trip to the dark continent how to plan their trip to ensure maximum enjoyment at minimum cost. I personally have little experience, and that was mostly bad, about hunting in any African country other than in South Africa, so the guidance is restricted to this country only. A lot of the general procedures will however be basically the same, be it for a trip to South Africa or any other hunting destination in an African country.
Now write on your "My Safari Planning" sheet, or copy and edit if you wish, the following text: "Step 2. I do admit that I'm really interested in a South African hunting safari."
Once you have admitted to yourself that you are really interested in hunting in Africa, please read on to learn how to plan your trip.
Step 3: Committing: Make a Commitment to Hunt in Africa.
I cannot imagine any hunter or huntress who has not read at least some records of hunting in Africa, or seen some documentary on African animal behavior, who has not seriously wondered about hunting in this Dark Continent. “But can I afford it?” is one of the first questions most working people will ask. In partial reply to this I want to quote from the foreword of a little book on African hunting written by Alex van der Post, a noted South African author and formerly famous professional hunter. It says:
“African hunting is within the reach of any person who really wants it. Don’t just dream about it.
Make it become a burning desire within you. When this desire is really hot it will motivate you and when you’re fully motivated, you will find a way to make your lifetime dream come true.
Make it your goal. It is a worthwhile goal not only for you but for conservation as well”
If you really want to go, you can afford it, or you will make sure that you can afford it! A good South African hunting adventure cost about the same as a mid-range four-wheeler or a good single species guided trophy hunt in North America. The important issue is that you must decide that not only do you want to go, but that you are willing to make the sacrifices required and undertake the tasks required to actually get you there. With careful planning and customizing your safari to exactly what you want, as opposed to just doing what others have done, you can get a wonderful experience for a very limited budget. Make a note now of how much, or how little, money you are regarding as your budget. This has to include all costs, travel in your own country to international airport, overseas airfare, accommodation costs for the duration of your stay, trophy costs, incidental costs and at least the deposit for your taxidermy, but preferably the full taxidermy costs as well as shipping costs.
Once you have decided you want to go, there are going to be a lot of questions, besides the obvious one about cost, that may keep you from making a final commitment of: “No matter what, I want to go, and will go!” Once you have made up your mind so far (even if it is only “provisionally”) the next steps in the planning process follows logically.
Commit yourself to going by telling someone, a spouse, parent, child or hunting buddies/ Better still, write down your intention to go and then read it aloud to yourself, make the full commitment to go on a South African safari. Now write on your "My Safari Planning" sheet, or copy and edit if you wish, the following text: "Step 3. As from now I'm committed to do everything required to go on a South African hunting safari as soon as practically possible!"
Congratulations on making the commitment to actually plan to go hunting in Africa. You should now decide about possible dates for your intended safari.
Step 4. Deciding on the dates when you want to go.
You may decide that you wish to do an Africa hunt in a few years’ time, or the bug had bitten you so bad that you want to go as soon as possible. How soon this could be will depend on the amount of time you feel you need to plan to make your dream come true! It should be quite possible to plan a good hunt to start from within a month, and certainly two months from starting your planning. Is there any real reason why you cannot go and hunt in South Africa next year? Then change the plans and arrangements so that you would be able to go!
Once you have decided on the year, next is the month or period. If you have been thinking about it for some time you will have some perspective of the good months from the hunting point of view. At most of the concessions that you are likely to hunt on hunting will be allowed throughout the year. Generally May through August is the good months to be trophy hunting in South Africa. But you should also consider personal commitments, weddings, graduations and the like, and ignore them all, decline invitations, set new dates and do whatever is required, if they don’t fit in with your hunting planning! Hunting in South Africa should get a higher priority than mere social events!
More serious for the budget restricted nimrod is to consider flight cost seasons, as airfare is a major cost item for a safari, and leaving the USA one day later or earlier may result in very significantly different airfare being charged. Seasons change, but considering the latest information available you should try to leave the USA before 31 May for a “low season” fare. For best airfare costs it is also advisable to have all your dates fixed some time before actually purchasing a ticked, many airlines give much better prices for tickets bought 21 days and more before the flight commences.
For a number of reasons you are advised to plan to stay for at least 14 days, and a minimum of 6 full hunting days at any hunting destination is recommended.
To help you plan the dates I have published an Excel spreadsheet calendar in my calendar page in which the flight cost seasons for South African Airways are shown.
Select your most favored two weeks, then the next choice of two weeks and even a third choice. Write down and mark on a calendar your choice two week periods.
At this stage of your planning very little consideration should be given to selecting a hunting outfitter to use. This decision is only made much later in the planning process.
Now write on your "My Safari Planning" sheet, or copy and edit if you wish, the following, or similar, text: "Step 4. My first choice for the safari date is: The two weeks starting on Friday 28 April 2005 (my last work day) and ending Sunday 14 May - so that I can be back at work on Monday 15 May 2005. My second choice for the safari date is: The two weeks starting on Friday 12 May 2005 (my last work day) and ending Sunday 28 May - so that I can be back at work on Monday 29 May 2005."
With a basic set of possible safari dates noted on your planning sheet please read on. Your next crucial decision to be made is planning step five, in which you must decide if you are going to plan everything yourself, or are you going to make use of a booking agent?
Step 5: Planning? Use a Booking Agent or ‘Do It Yourself’?
It is not the intention here to list the pros and cons of the two basic approaches. Both have their disasters and their wonderful successes! You will, or should, know very well what your real capabilities for planning, e-mail communication and deciding for yourself are. So you will know deep within if you need to go through a booking agent, and risk getting what they offer as “standard”, as opposed to planning a safari for what you really want.
The decision on which hunting outfitter to use is the single most important success or failure step in the whole process of planning an African hunting safari. The bigger and better booking agents will in all likelihood represent a number of hunting outfitters, from which they get different %’s as a booking commission. Other booking agents may represent only one or a very small number of hunting outfitters to the extent that you have to decide on which hunting outfitter to use, and then be forced to use the booking agent who represents the particular booking agent. In the final analysis you will have to choose one, and only one, hunting outfitter to work through at the recommendation of your chosen booking agent. So deciding to use a booking agent is really critical step in the planning process.
Can you imagine where the loyalty of a booking agent lies? Yes, you are quite right: It is all about money! Their recommendation is likely to be influenced by knowing where they get the biggest fee in the form of booking commission earned from you actually making a booking with XYZ-outfitters versus their fee by you booking trough ZYX-outfitters! They are in the business for their benefit, not for yours! But at least the booking agent should have checked out both XYZ and ZYX operations thoroughly and have eliminated the real bad sharks from the list from which you have to choose. There are certain advantages when you work through a booking agent, but also some disadvantages, but I do not intend on discussing these in any detail.
For what it is worth, here are the contact details of a true gentleman, a friend and former client , a very satisfied client, who is quite capable of and approved to acting as a booking agent for Andrew McLaren Safaris: Mr. Dave Mansfield, telephone in Baton Rouge LA: 225 261 8371 firstname.lastname@example.org
But how do you contact a good hunting outfitter? Go to some Internet search engine and enter “Booking Agent African Hunting Opportunities” or "Hunting Outfitter African Hunting" or almost any similar search words, and start from there. You will be totally overwhelmed by the number of responses. Some of the top listed agents or hunting outfitters are listed there as they have professionals employed, or are just very good at SEO themselves, to increase the search ability of their web sites. That is why they rank tops, not because they are good hunting outfitters. You will now be faced with the very pleasant task of reading the offers from any number of hunting outfitters or booking agents and based on what you read and your gut feel you can decide which one to use.
An alternative would be to ask some trusted friends, who have actually been there and done that, for advice! One is likely to say ZZ-outfitters or booking agent and another will swear by YY-outfitters or booking agent, and so in reverse through XX-outfitters or booking agent and, if you ask enough people, the rest of the alphabet to AA-outfitters. or booking agent. You are most likely to get totally and horribly confused by the number of offers and the way in which these offers are presented!
Please do not be tempted to simply accept the advice or recommendation of the friend that you like or know best. Remember, is your money that is to be spent, and your time to be wasted and your dream trip to possibly be ruined! You simply have to do very much better than make a “gut-feel” decision on whom to listen to! Decide for yourself! But, before deciding, gather the required information so that your decision is an informed one, and not based on gut-feel!
I would like to advise to start doing your own safari planning yourself. If at some stage you start feeling really insecure and unsure, then you are always free to contact a booking agent for help and assistance. At least then you will know a bit about why you are paying for their services. If you decide not to work through a booking agent and go the DIY route and do the safari planning yourself, there are a vast number of alternative ways to find a suitable hunting outfitter. I advise to refrain from even beginning to decide on which hunting outfitter to use until you have done quite a bit more planning homework.
In the next sections I will attempt to help you decide what you really want in a hunting outfitter by explaining a bit about the offers you are likely to be confronted by. First and foremost you have to decide about your desire to hunt in our “bush veldt savannah” or the major alternative of hunting in “open grass veldt”, as the two types can simply not be directly compared. Secondly you must decide on how “true to real life” the experience you will have must be, as some outfitters will offer some or other form of “canned hunting” dressed as the real McCoy, and you should know if you are prepared to accept such a “staged hunt” as your South African experience. Lastly you should also know what type of offer is being made, as it is unwise to try to compare a “package deal” with an offer of a “custom safari”.
I advise against “looking for a suitable hunting outfitter” until you have made a lot of self study and have written down some of your wishes. Do not be led to making your wishes from the glossy brochures or web page material displayed by many hunting outfitters.
There are many more hunting outfitters than possibly required in South Africa. This means that there is an oversupply of arrangers of hunting opportunities for foreign hunters. As even arranging hunting is none other than a service, the market laws of supply and demand determine that the cost for such a service is low. The current cost for a foreign hunter to have his hunt arranged by a hunting outfitter can be considered as remarkably low. It is a hunters market now, so climb in and benefit!
As there is fierce competition amongst the oversupplied number of hunting outfitters, to a great extent those firms who employ the best advertising methods gets more new clients than those with less appropriate advertising. Let the would-be visiting hunter be aware that the firms with the best advertising are not necessarily the best firms! The really good firms do not need to advertise at all, word of mouth from satisfied clients is usually sufficient to fill their hunting calendars.
Now write on your "My Safari Planning" sheet, or copy and edit if you wish, the following, or similar, text: "Step 5. I will first go through the planning steps to see if I can plan my safari myself, before even thinking of getting help from a booking agent!"
So if you intend planning your first (or second or ?) safari to Africa yourself without a booking agent. Good. The rest of this web based document is there to guide you. Even if you do intend using a booking agent to plan your safari, you may still benefit from knowing a bit more about what you want in such a safari.
The hunter planning a plains game safari must now first and foremost decide how true to real life he/she wants the experience to be. The rationale is described in the Authenticity section. Once you have decided that you only want to hunt real wild game in their natural environment the next step is the choice in which type of terrain you want to hunt. The alternatives are explained in Step 7 in the Biome section.
Step 6: Authenticicty? Fake or Real South African Hunting Experience. How Authentic do you want your Safari to be?
If you are prepared to accept a “fake” African experience, the cheapest African experience may be to go and hunt a gemsbok in Texas! If you are happy with a “fake” experience, but insist that it must be in South Africa, there are literally scores of hunting outfitters that will let you hunt game that have been artificially introduced into an unnatural environment. These may actually breed and even prosper there, but to hunt a blesbok in Zimbabwe where it has been introduced into an unnatural environment, is in my opinion just as “fake” as hunting it in Texas! Here is a link to a recent web forum discussion of this aspect: http://www.huntandlodge.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=8;t=000134
I believe that it is essential and the right thing to do is that you should decide to only hunt animals that are in a natural environment. Not only animals that are in a typical habitat, where they do well, as do gemsbok in Texas, but in the area in which they historically occurred.
Then there is the fake of actually “hunting” an animal that was artificially recently released into a relatively small “cage” in which the so-called hunter can easily get a trophy, which is really just a brag-about-object. The animal canned for hunting may be in a natural environment, like a bush veldt species in a small area of pristine good quality bush veldt habitat. Or it may be totally artificial, like a kudu in a small Free State grass veldt enclosure. Perhaps the best publicized of this type of hunting is the so-called “canned lion” hunting offered in many provinces. This type of “put-and-take” hunting is quite common amongst the well heeled and is usually quite costly. If you are into such canned hunting, there are many hunting outfitters who would gladly take your money. I won’t. But I would like to convert you to brighter insights.
In South Africa there are very few hunting concessions where you can still get the true feeling of ”wilderness” and “undisturbed by man”. Fences are but one of the reasons, and destruction or alteration of the natural habitat by past farming practices is another. The bush encroachment in large areas of the savannah habitat is one unfortunate legacy of past ranching practices. There are many places where a hunting outfitter can offer you the hunting of truly wild game in their natural, even if somewhat altered, habitat. These areas may be fenced, yes, but in an enclosure of such size that the animals’ natural, and particularly escape, behavior is totally unaffected by the fences. Fences are a fact of South African hunting and you will always hunt on a fenced area in this country. In some rare instances the area will be so vast that you will only see the fence on entering and when you leave. The majority of hunting concession areas are of such size that you will often see an about 6 feet high perimeter fence which keeps game in and helps keep poachers out. What you need to look out for is a little enclosure of just a few acres in which a "canned" animal is offered for hunting!
Here is a link to a discussion on this aspect: http://www.accuratereloading.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php?Cat=&Number=686099&page=&view=&sb=5&o=&fpart=all&vc=1
To complete the sixth step of the planning process you should now write on your "My Safari Planning" sheet, or copy and edit if you wish, the following, or similar, text: "Step 6. I have noted that in South Africa some outfitters will try too sell me a fake hunting experience, and will not even consider using the services of any outfitter that attempts to do this. I will insist that any animal that I'm offered to hunt must be fully wild, not recently delivered from some other place where it was bred, and I want to only hunt animals that naturally occurred in the area where they are offered to me."
Step 7: Ethics? Define Your Own Hunting Ethics.
Ethical considerations is always a very personal ‘thing’. Do not fall for the saying of: “When you are in Rome, do as the Romans do.” If you know beforehand that the Romans are going to expect you to do things that absolutely go against your grain, well, don’t go to Rome! As a single visitor in Rome you have no hope of changing their ways. So, be pragmatic and simply just stay away! Find out what people do in Alaxandria, or anywhere else, and if you can live happily with what they do there, you go there instead!
In the final analysis hunting ethics boils down to the requirement that before the hunter adds that last bit of pressure to the trigger, or releases the arrow, or whatever, that hunter must have a sure expectation that his action will result in a perfectly legal in all respects, quick and humane kill of only the one animal that he is aiming at! All the actions, like method of search, before the start of the aiming and shooting are secondary to the hunter being very, very, VERY sure that his action will result in a quick kill.
The fact that I say the method of search and ambush is secondary to the confidence about the shot, must not be taken as my saying that these aspects are unimportant. On the contrary, for many people the method of searching for an animal to shoot IS ethics. The fact that some buffoon has slowly and painstakingly on foot stalked his trophy to within the distance at which an expert bow shot can make a clean kill may be enough for this complete bow hunting novice to attempt or risk an, in his view ethical, shot at the poor beast which is still far to far for him to make a sure clean kill. But I have described his warped ethics! Not mine!
At Andrew McLaren Safaris the basic point of departure is that you will walk in search for game, then stalk until you tell the guide or professional hunter that you are quite comfortable with the shot. In certain special cases, and for some animals other methods, like sitting in ambush at selected points may be used for some hunters. Driving around in search of animals to be shot from the vehicle is simply not the preferred way for us to hunt.
But as prospective visiting hunter, it is your duty to communicate your views on what may, for you, constitute ethical hunting in South Africa. Then you must demand that the hunting outfitter and professional hunter honor these requirements.
Now write on your "My Safari Planning" sheet, or copy and edit if you wish, the following, or similar, text: "Step 7. The only way that I will allow any guide to let me hunt is in an ethical and fair chase manner. I want to communicate this fact very clearly to the hunting outfitter and want no later misunderstandings about what I regard as ethical and fair chase."
A real hunter will know if a ‘new’ hunting method is compatible with their sense of ethics. Discuss hunting methods with every possible hunting outfitter long before you make the choice of which one to use for your hunt.
Congratulations! You have just gotten to know yourself better, and in the process formulated what you want others to know about your hunting desires. Now you are ready to learn what is offered in South Africa.
Step 8: Offers? Learn Something About the Types of Offers made by Hunting Outfitters.
You do not now need to make any choice of which type of offer most appeals to you. Simply be aware of the types of offer and know that it is very difficult to compare offers that are not basically of the same type.
1. Package deals – This is where the hunting outfitter offers a fixed number of days hunting for a number of specified animals at some all-inclusive total cost.
2. Daily rates plus trophy fees – In this type of offer the hunting outfitter states the cost per hunter per day, and then provides a list of trophies with the cost for each species of animal hunted or wounded.
3. True custom safaris – Here there is no fixed offer, but you and the hunting outfitter talk (mostly by e-mail) and negotiate about each and every aspect and price until you agree on a specific deal.
Each one of these have it’s pros and cons, and, as you may by now have guessed, there are specialist rip-off artists operating as hunting outfitters using each one, and combinations, of these methods.
The biggest advantage of package deals is that you know well in advance what it is going to cost you, and for how many days you will be hunting. The biggest disadvantage is that you are not guaranteed to get all of the animals listed! The first time South African hunter often has great difficulty planning a safari from daily rates plus trophy cost information. A true custom safari has a much higher chance of success than any other. This is so mainly because during the negotiating phase you will be getting feedback from the hunting outfitter on what are reasonable expectations. When a hunter has reasonable and realistic expectations at the start of a hunt, these are likely to be met or exceeded, and you end up with a happy hunter, a successful hunt and smiles all around!
It may be prudent to again warn the prospective client that whatever is offered in a postal or e-mail communication, or is contained in a web page or was said at a Safari Show, does not constitute a final offer. Only the facts and figures contained in the actual Remuneration Agreement should be regarded as an offer.
Be aware of the difficulty of comparing dissimilar offers. Now write on your "My Safari Planning" sheet, or copy and edit if you wish, the following, or similar, text: "Step 8. I had noted that there are three ways to pay for a safari. Whichever chosen, I demand the best value for the money that I'm going to spend"
Step 9: Learn More about Package Deal Offers.
Package deals seem to be designed to make life difficult for would be hunters planning to hunt South Africa on a tight budget! How, for example, is it possible for a neophyte South African hunter to compare the offer in one package that offers 10 trophies in 7 days’ hunting for a given total safari cost with another one that offers 7 species in 10 hunting days at similar cost? But package deals are a reality, and have a definite place in the hunting industry! Where the honest landowner is also the hunting outfitter, he knows what animals can be harvested every year and he may offer such package deals that may very well really be an offer at very good value for money.
The biggest advantage of package deals is that you know well in advance what it is going to cost you, and for how many days you will be hunting. The biggest disadvantage is that you are not guaranteed to get all of the animals listed! True, some decent operators will exchange animals and some will even refund you for animals not successfully hunted by the end of the hunt. But how will they refund you if you really put your heart on getting a decent representative of species No.1, and you don’t get one? The fact that species No.1 was on the list may have weighed heavy in your decision to take up the specific offer!
A ‘package deal’ is just what the name says it is: A ’deal’ to draw the attention of the buyer – in this case, you as the would-be safari hunter! Just like the fantastic deals offered by supermarkets, it gets you in the supermarket (hunting concession) to buy the cheap beer (animals in the package) – with the usual proviso of while stocks lasts. Once in the supermarket (hunting concession) you are also likely to get some other things like potato crisps, buns, meat and the like that go with the beer (animals not in the package but that are present in great abundance) at greatly inflated prices. Beware of very good package deals! Invariably you will not get all the animals mentioned in the list, often the most desired and most expensive one (the proverbial cheap beer) is the one for which the sales stock runs out soon after the opening of the store!
By and large you are likely to get exactly what many or even most South African hunting outfitters offers. But beware, there are also some very smart operators out there trying to get you into their nets!
Package deals have their place, but beware! At AMS we are not against package deals, in fact we do offer some very good value for money package deals. Click here to see AMS offer for May/June 2006.
The alternative to packed hunts is hunting at a daily rate and separate trophy fees.
Now write on your "My Safari Planning" sheet, or copy and edit if you wish, the following, or similar, text: "Step 9. I'm going to demand that the hunting outfitter that I use guarantee that I won't pay for any animal that I've not shot at".
Step 10: Learn More About Hunting at Daily Rates Plus Trophy Fees.
The first time South African hunter often has great difficulty planning a cost effective safari from daily rates plus trophy cost information. The poor hunter hardly knows anything about the South African trophies and often trophy selection is done along the following lines: “One relatively expensive one, two in the midrange price and two low cost animals seems like a good selection of trophies”. There may be in any one hunting outfitters’ trophy price list two animals each costing $ 800, but it is not apparent that they may be different in size by a significant margin, naturally occur in quite different parts of our country, and have vastly different scarcity value. Many hunting outfitters list twenty or more species on their trophy price lists. How can anyone who is contemplating a first South African safari make any meaningful selection from such a list?
My very seriously meant advice to the first time South African hunter is to restrict your initial trophy selection to the regularly hunted and very common plains game animals. This brings you to an important choice, which will both help you select a hunting outfitter, as some restrict their operations to a specific area and make a more meaningful species selection. You should early in the planning stage decide if you want to start by hunting in the bush veldt, or on the more open grass veldt as was discussed in Document No. 7 of this series. To not risk too much I would say restrict your choice to the following bush veldt species: Kudu, impala and warthog. Your grass veldt selection should be: Blesbok, black wildebeest and springbok. These are our South African “bread and butter” species in the respective habitats. They are the most commonly hunted animals, by both foreign and domestic hunters. So I suggest that if you want to compare prices of different hunting outfitters, then do it on the basis of these species.
In planning the number of days to allow for hunting your expectation or demand for trophy quality should be considered. If you would be happy with taking a “representative adult male” as a trophy two days per species should be sufficient. If you demand that all of your trophies should be record-book individuals about four hunting days should be planned for each species desired.
Now write on your "My Safari Planning" sheet, or copy and edit if you wish, the following, or similar, text: "Step 10. I can now see why it is difficult to plan a safari from a price list with a daily rate, and a list of trophy prices."
Before finally planning a safari based on trophy fees plus daily rates you should be very clear about the quality of trophy that you would expect or demand.
Step 11: Thoughts on Desired Trophy Quality.
This is very difficult to write about trophy quality expectations without guiding you to accept my view of what attitude to have about trophy quality expectations. Regulation 1 made under the Nature Conservation Ordinance 1983 of the former Transvaal Province of South Africa defines: “trophy” means any part of a wild animal hunted by a client which he retains as a token or memento of the hunt;
In many hunting circles it is an unwritten rule that only fully-grown and mature males of a species are considered worthwhile of taking as a sporting hunter’s quarry. In keeping with this rule it is then only the horns/teeth/tusks or whatever of the mature males is regarded as a suitable memento of a true sportsman’s hunt. Early attempts at defining what exactly is a full-grown male led to the concept of measurements of horn/tusks/teeth/skull and other to be used to classify an animal as worthy or not to be hunted. Today there are many lists which are used essentially as tools to classify the horns as belonging to a worthy mature animal or not. Examples are: SCI, Boone & Crockett, Roland Ward and some others.
Fact is that in real life hunters “should” hunt mostly for the meat of the animal, and then, with proper herd management in mind, the young immature males and old females as well as old males which are well past breeding age are the natural “best” quarry to be hunted! Now I have great sympathy with a sport hunter who insists that he/she would only shoot old males that are well past the breeding age. Practical time considerations preclude a strict adherence to this approach at all times. Some dedicated trophy hunters may be prepared to spend the considerable time and effort to hunt only such ‘real’ trophies. Others are quite prepared to hunt much younger males, provided the horn length are more that some arbitrary minimum requirement! Many hunters are quite happy to, particularly for the first one of any species, take any fully-grown mature male with horns of length and shape at least that of a typical mature male of the species. For some species, like the gemsbok, the hunters may even be happy to take a female with good horns. Some hunters may want to take a male and a female of the species to show the difference between the two sexes.
Whatever the hunter decides, it must be realized that the higher the demand, the longer the hunting time allocated to obtaining a trophy must be. It is important from a planning perspective to be quite sure what your demands, expectations and hopes are.
My advice: Demand a typical mature males, expect at least some to be very nice and hope that at least one trophy on the hunt is really a very good one.
Now write on your "My Safari Planning" sheet, or copy and edit if you wish, the following, or similar, text: "Step 11. The quality of trophy that I expect to hunt can be described as: (a) Mixed from "Just Mature and representative" to some really nice record types. (b) All must be at least SCI Bronze Medal Qualifiers and hopefully some will be really nice record types (c) All must be at least Roland Ward size. (d) I do not really care what the trophy size is, but I would greatly prefer to hunt only really old and battle-scarred males past breeding age".
Step 12: Biome? Choose between “Bush Veldt” and “Grass Veldt” and “Karoo Scrubland” as Hunting Terrain for your Safari.
If you are to be a first time hunter in South Africa, one of the most important basic decisions that you will have to make is: In what type of terrain do I want to hunt in South Africa? As the terrain determines which animals occur there naturally the same question can also be phrased as: Do I want to hunt bush veldt species on the savannah areas or the grass veldt species in more open terrain?
South Africa has a number of major biome types and most of the country consists of the bush veldt savannah, grass veldt or Nama Karoo. Here is a map of the South African biomes. From a hunting point of view the bush veldt can be regarded as areas where, because of the bush, you will less often see animals, but shooting distance is shorter. The sad truth is that there is very little pristine bush veldt left, much of it has been adversely affected by bush encroachment, so that in general the bush veldt contains much more bush than it really should. The later-mentioned two biome types are from a hunting point of view very similar, in that vegetation is lower and herds will often be seen at a distance, and shooting distances will also be rather longer. Here is a typical grass veldt plain in the Free State. Not much different from prairie in the USA?
In nature there are few absolutes, but by and large any one hunting concession usually consists of only one basic type of terrain. The vast majority of South Africa’s area can be either classified as grass veldt, Nama Karoo or savannah bush veldt, and these each have it’s own typical animals adapted to thrive in that particular biome. There is a lot of overlap, but by and large the Livingstone eland, kudu, impala and warthog are typical bush veldt species and the Cape eland, black wildebeest and blesbok are typical grass veldt species. The springbok is the real Karoo antelope. Species like blue wildebeest, gemsbok and Burchells’ zebra are more or less equally at home in both bush veldt and grass veldt habitats, but not in the Karoo. The steenbok and duiker occur in all three of these habitat types. The mountain specialists like the grey or vaal rhebok, klipspringer and mountain reedbuck also occur in the mountainous areas of all thee these biomes.
Although it is realized that a few photos can never really convey the typical feeling of the different biomes, here is a link to show what these look like. http://www.mclarensafaris.com/photo_gallery/biomes.html.
It is a simple fact of life that, if you want to hunt animals in their natural habitat, you have to decide in which habitat you want to undertake a first safari. There are no concession areas in which species typical for all three the major biomes occur naturally, so, if you do not want to travel extensively, you must choose. You are of course quite welcome to simply choose the animals that you like to hunt first, but you must then understand that in reality you are choosing the biome in which you want to hunt, if you want an authentic hunting experience.
Do you like a long and difficult stalk, just to get into a position where a long range and very deliberate “take your time to get settled and aim” shot has to be taken? This scenario is much more likely to be in the Free State grass veldt! If you are one for quick action where you will see just some small part of the animal, very quickly evaluate the trophy value then crouch-walk a few yards to get a clear shot and shoot with very little time to think? This is more likely to happen in the bush veldt!
You do not need to finalize your choice of habitat now, but you must be aware of the fact that habitat determines which species occur there naturally. If you have decided that the authenticity of the hunting experience you wish to have is important, as you should have, the choice of animal groups and biomes is really the same. If you specifically want to hunt some generalists like blue wildebeest and zebra it is not so important.
You are advised to plan on taking at least some of the South African endemic, i.e. those that occur naturally only in South Africa and nowhere else, species on your first safari.
With the limited knowledge of the different biomes, and the animals characteristic of each biome, and in the absence of data about the cost of hunting in each of the major biomes you are unlikely to feel quite ready to complete the seventh step of the planning process. Your decision at this stage may only be a tentative decision, and one that can be revisited again at a later stage. You should now write on your "My Safari Planning" sheet, or copy and edit if you wish, the following, or similar, text: "Step 12. I am sure / not sure that I want to hunt the (a1) savannah or bush veldt biome or (a2) the grass veldt biome first. Thereafter I want to go on (b) a plains game hunt in the alternative of (a)1 or (a2) biome, or (c) the second week of my stay I want to go on a wing shooting (d) varmint hunting (e) go on a tour of some of the national parks. Once I have worked through more of the planning process I intend re-visiting this decision."
Step 13: Rifle, Bow, Muzzleloader? Hunting Tools Considerations.
What is allowed? Other than the limitation of the use of a .22LR in South Africa there are very few rules and regulations about which hunting tool could/may/should be used. Almost any killing tool with which the hunter is totally familiar is an acceptable hunting tool. If a cast javelin is the tool of choice for some hunter and he knows very well up to which distance he can cast his javelins with deadly accuracy, then he can most certainly achieve ethical kills with his javelin, if he possesses of the stalking skills and patience to actually get to within his sure killing distance before attempting a kill.
Can I bring my own? Javelins and all types of bow can be brought into South Africa freely without any special formality. Juts arrive with your equipment, but tell your hunting outfitter beforehand what you intend to bring. All firearms, be it a rifle, shotgun or handgun require a special import procedure that is described in detail elsewhere. Note: Semi automatic rifles and shotguns are not allowed in South Africa. Hunting handguns require special attention that is described elsewhere.
Archery. Similarly if you prefer to shoot sharp pointed sticks from a piece of wood put under some tension with a string, provided that you know what you are doing you and your traditional bow would be accepted in our hunting environment. Similarly modern bows, and compounds bows and crossbows, in the hands of people really proficient in their use, are also accepted killing tools. Not all hunting concessions allow the use of bow and arrow for hunting, but such hunting can be arranged in every single province. You must however convey your desire to hunt with a bow to the outfitter at an very early stage of your negotiations.
Muzzleloaders. In view of what was stated above it hardly needs saying that you will be most welcome to bring your favorite traditional or replica or even modern in line muzzleloader as the only or primary killing tool for your plains game hunt in South Africa. There are no special seasons for muzzleloaders, and they can be used at will, again as a matter of courtesy, let your hunting outfitter know that you want to bring and hunt with one. Black power is not allowed on any airplane, so be sure to inform your outfitter so that he can arrange a suitable supply to be available. Also allow some extra time to test the powder supplied in your particular firearm.
Handguns. Provided you know the limitations of yourself and your equipment. Weight for weight South African plains game is reportedly at least somewhat tougher that the American equivalents, so they may require a bit more killing power. But, like in the USA and elsewhere, for a sure and quick kill they need to be hit in the right place to start with! The knowledge of where to aim on the different South African plains game species is quite easily summarized as: A little more in front of where you want to hit a white tailed deer.
Modern rifles? Yes. I’m not going to bore everyone with advice on caliber, bullet weights, speed, scope, zero distance and the other BS some hunting outfitters make such a scene about. Just be sure that you know at which distances you can hit what you aim at, and please use premium quality hunting bullets. Note that semi-automatic rifles and shotguns are not allowed in South Africa. If you want advice, by all means ask. The only important lesson in this document is that you must please advise your hunting outfitter early on in your safari negotiations about your intended choice of killing tool. This will allow him time to ensure that your safari will be conducted legally and ethically with good chance of success.Special advice? Note the true fact: Excessive alcohol the night before cases wounding!
Select your killing tools, and tell outfitter of your choice.
Now write on your "My Safari Planning" sheet, or copy and edit if you wish, the following, or similar, text: "Step 13. I acknowledge that I have noted the limitation on bring any semi-automatic firearm into South Africa and state that I want to bring (a) a single rifle, and rely on the hunting outfitter to have a dependable back-up if something goes wrong with mine. (b) .....? (c) .....? (d) .....? "
Step 14: Alone or not? Decide Whom you Want to Share the Experience of the Hunt With.
Decide how you want to go. A single hunter can enjoy many benefits, of mobility, travel flexibility, never having to wait for someone to get ready, undivided attention of his professional hunter and other advantages associated with doing your own thing, alone. The biggest advantage for the single hunter probably lies in the ease of planning such a safari as compared to planning for a whole group of hunters.
You may however wish to share the excitement of a South African safari with your wife/companion. Be aware though that the hunting areas are typically far removed from towns and entertainment centers. For some non-hunting companions the thought of spending a few days just relaxing in camp by a pool may be wonderful. Others will be bored stiff. Many hunting outfitters will cater to arrange entertaining trips for a companion, at additional cost or not. Undertaking such a safari with one hunting buddy is just about the norm. But then many hunters come to South Africa for a first hunt as a whole group of hunters friends and non-hunting companions. The choice is yours! South African hunting outfitters can and in general will gladly arrange a custom safari for groups consisting of multiple hunters and companions. Every hunting outfitter who can arrange a true custom safari will do so at lower individual cost if there is a group of hunters involved. A word of advice if you intend to get a group of hunters together: You are not going to South Africa to compete in some hunting contest, you should all just go to enjoy your dream trip.
Where the species of choice for two hunters occur in different biomes the planning of a group hunt becomes slightly complicated. You may have decided that a trophy springbok hunted in the Karoo is of the highest priority, while your hunting buddy may have set his heart on a nyala. Now these two species never occur naturally in the same area, so you can not hunt together, unless one is prepared to accept an artificially introduced trophy which is hunted outside of it’s natural habitat.
To properly plan a tight budget safari for a number of hunters with different wishes, trophy lists, trophy quality requirements, different choices of killing tools, different size budgets and tastes can be quite a challenge. Be assured that many South African hunting outfitters excel in taking on such challenges and making the dreams of many hunters come true. Needless to say, a group of like-minded hunting buddies with basically the same or similar requirements is just a pleasure to have as clients.
Now write on your "My Safari Planning" sheet, or copy and edit if you wish, the following, or similar, text: "Step 14. For the initial planning I plan to (a) hunt alone (b) Hunt alone with my wife/companion as a non-hunting guest (c) hunt with a buddy", as (i) oneXone or (ii) twoXone hunters (d) ....? (e).....?"
Alone, with one hunting buddy, with a spouse or child/parent as companion or as a whole group, the choice is yours. The more the merrier certainly applies. But, and a big but, the more difficult the planning become!
Step 15: Start the Real Planning of the Safari.
In Step 4 you were advised (without any real motivation) to allow 14 days for the safari. The question now is: How are you going to spend these 14 days? How much will it cost. Some who read this document will have a hard tome getting say $ 5000 set aside for a safari, while others may have many times this amount readily available. Yet all will want to know: "What will it cost?" and: "What do I get for what is spent?"
The whole safari should be “a trip of a lifetime”, well, at least a first one! How many days do you want to hunt? How many trophies do you want to collect? How much money do you have available for the safari? Do you want to hunt all the time? Or do you want to do some other tour or other outdoors activities also?
I want to now introduce the concept of a split safari. For some hunters the thought of flying all the way to South Africa to get to know only a single area on a 10 or 12 day hunt is less appealing. For such hunters the ‘split safari’ may be an option. By this I mean that you may for example wish to go and hunt for kudu, impala and other bush veldt savanna species for 6 days, and then move to the Free State to do some wing shooting and/or hunt for some of the grass veldt species. In this way you will get to experience two quite different hunting terrains in a single trip.
If there is a group of hunters all of them may want to go to the bush veldt first, then some may want to go wing shooting, while others may wish to travel to the Kalahari for springbok and gemsbok. Any good hunting outfitter will be able to (certainly Andrew McLaren Safaris can) arrange a safari in which one group at some time gets split up into two or three groups hunting at different places. Splitting a group, or merging two or more groups into one is not really a difficult exercise, but it does take some careful planning. All of the activities need not be hunting, some may wish to go and experience the Kruger National Park or the Cape Wine routes or whatever before or after the actual hunting part of the safari. Fact is, you will do a lot of expensive flying just to get here, then why not make the best use of the opportunity and see some more of the country?
Now write on your "My Safari Planning" sheet, or copy and edit if you wish, the following, or similar, text: "Step 15. I don't know all the implications of going on two consecutive hunting safaris in quite deferent types of terrain, but the idea appeals to me. Logic tells me that hunting in open grass veldt terrain first will give me ample opportunity to steady my nerves for the relatively quicker action that can be expected in the bush veldt"
Step 16: Species? Start Formalizing your Selection of Trophy Species that you Wish to Hunt.
There is really no motivation or need to have a specific trophy list to plan your hunting adventure. The critical important decision about in which type of biome you want to hunt dictates which species can be available for ethical hunting. But a list is a good thought to help you get some idea of what to expect, and to help you understand the interplay between number, size, scarcity of trophy animals, and the number of hunting days required to hunt as well as the associated taxidermy and shipping costs. You can now already note that you are going to go around in circles a bit. First you will make a list, set trophy quality demands, then calculate provisional hunting time and cost. Once you compare the cost to your budget, you in all probability will have to change a few things, and then go through the whole procedure again.
Now you make your first preliminary list of the desired trophies, and considering your trophy quality expectations noted in Step 11 you should allocate hunting time according to the guide below. Claims of how many animals of a certain trophy quality can be hunted in any time span varies. With hunting outfitters who offer "package deals" of real put-and-take hunting you can probably “get” more than one trophy every day. For ethical hunting on good concession areas the time is much longer, and from my experience inversely proportional to how lucky the hunter is! As a first approximation planning guideline I advise to allow 2 days hunting for each representative male, 3 days for each SCI bronze or better and 4 days hunting for a Roland Ward or better trophy.
It is very easy to write down a long list of species that you wish to hunt, but the reality ob budget and time constraints should be considered. I advise that you consider firstly the "bread and butter" species, those that are very regularly hunted and for which the costs are realistic.
Consult the “Average Internet Trophy Prices” price list and crunch the numbers to see if your desires are more or less in line with your hunting budget. If not, I advise to increase your budget!
A critical point often overlooked by beginners is the fact that the hunting outfitter’s ‘trophy fees’ does not include any taxidermy costs. How much will the taxidermy work cost? A rough guide to taxidermy cost undertaken in South Africa can be: For commonly hunted plains game a full mount will cost 2 to 3 times the trophy fee, while a shoulder mount will cost between half of to the full trophy fee. But that is not all! What about shipping costs? You still have to ship the completed taxidermy home. And here is a high cost that many planners underestimate. Shipping cost can easily exceed trophy and taxidermy costs. There is simply no good enough rule of thumb to help with the planning the budget for shipping costs in general. The good thing about planning for the taxidermy costs is that you do not need to make a final decision until just before the end of your safari, or even later.
Be aware of the choices you have for getting taxidermy done: 1. Have photos only! 2 Have taxidermy done in your own country. 2a. Have only the horns and/or skulls dipped and shipped. 2b. Have horns/skulls and capes with or without back skins dipped and shipped for taxidermy in your own country. 2c. Have everything for a full mount dipped and shipped for taxidermy in your own country. Note that the shipping costs for dipped and shipped taxidermy is much lower than for the same species as fully mounted specimens as shipping cost is much more about the volume than the actual weight.. 3 Have taxidermy completed in South Africa. 3a. Have only skull mounts with or without fur or leather tanned skins. 3b. Shoulder mount with or without a tanned back skin. 3c. Full mount. The shipping costs are notoriously difficult to estimate – but it is a subject that I’m working on to get better estimates.
Those who are familiar with the use of spreadsheets will realize that the procedures described in the previous few paragraphs can be automated by using a properly designed spreadsheet. This has been done, you only need to e-mail us and ask for a copy, which I will gladly forward for your use.
Now write on your "My Safari Planning" sheet, or copy and edit if you wish, the following, or similar, text: "Step 16. I'm not confident that my first list of species desired, considering the hunting terrain chosen in Step 15 is reasonable and expect tenders from hunting outfitters to be near my actual available budget. I wish to hunt Blesbok, black wildebeest and springbok in the open areas, and kudu, impala and waterbuck in the bush veldt."
Step. 17: The Use of the Management and Planning Cycle in Planning a Hunting Safari.
Planning any vacation like a wing shooting or antelope trophy-hunting safari has many elements in common with the management cycle. You can only plan once you have clear objectives. Many foreign hunters do not really know what types of hunting can be enjoyed in South Africa. They are therefore unclear on what the potential objectives of their trip could be. Reading and asking to learn what can be offered and expected is one way overcome this lack of knowledge. Or you could simply put all your trust in some agent or outfitter, book and learn through actual experience. In the first 9 documents in this series some important aspects have been briefly discussed. These should assist the hunter(s) to formulate a reasonable first set of objectives to present to the hunting outfitter. In the planning cycle these are presented as the “What do I want? What is ideal?” questions in the so-called “Starting Square”. It is then up to the hunting outfitter to go through all the steps in his planning cycle to the point where a formal and full proposal is made to the hunter(s). The proposed arrangements are then scrutinized by the hunter(s) and they may then either accept the proposal as presented, or they may wish to adjust the stated objectives, so passing the ball back to the hunting outfitter.
All the hunts that I offer are custom arranged safaris to suit the needs of a specific individual or group. As potential hunting outfitter for your intended safari, I can only cost the trip once your initial objectives have been communicated to me. In this write-up I will attempt to give you some guidance and choices based on the assumption that the safari will be a first one to South Africa. From these you can set your own objectives, which I then invite you to communicate to me. I will evaluate the practicality of your choice and advise on probable costs. If you make some serious mistake, i.e. expect to hunt Cape grysbok and Natal red duiker at the same venue, I will advise you and make practical suggestions of how to modify your objectives to suit your budget. I will concentrate on planning a plains game safari in this write-up.
Would you now please take a few moments to study the “Planning Cycle” as presented below. This representation of reality may be very simplified, but it is regarded as a good starting point to understand the interactions required to plan a true custom hunting safari.
Both these circles work in a clockwise direction. The "Start" is when a prospective hunter describes in some detail his desires to a hunting outfitter as the contents of the What do I want? and What is Ideal? block. The reason that you have been advised to keep records of your decisions at the end of each step, is to at some time have a detailed record ready of your desires to simply send to the hunting outfitters that you have selected as worthy of giving you a quote for your ideal safari.
The Planning Circles Adapted to Plan a Safari Hunt
The proverbial ball is now in the hunting outfitters' side of the court. He will now "translate" your desires to actions and schedules required to ensure that you get what you want. He will provisionally mark your dates on his planning calendar, and then do a whole lot of things to plan the safari in detail and get a good cost estimate of what it is going to cost him to present the safari. Examples of the arrangements required include
scrutinize the total desired trophy list and decide at which one or more concessions he can present all the desired animals
make provisional bookings at the concessions of his choice
phone and make a provisional booking with suitable professional hunter(s)
arrange to have the hunter or whole hunting party met and welcomed at the airport on arrival - either himself or one or more of the professional hunters, or some other reliable driver
ensure that there will be a suitable vehicle, fuelled and serviced to transport the client(s) to the first overnight destination
arrange for snacks or a meal en-route
There is an almost endless list of things that have to be arranged, booked, planned and cost estimations be done before a hunting outfitter can make a good estimation of how much the safari is likely to cost him. Only when all the work has been done can he then present the hunter with a formal proposal and fixed cost.
Note that this proposal may not be identical to what the hunter had in the first instance desired. A good hunting outfitter will tell a prospective client if his desires are very difficult to meet, and make a realistic counter proposal. As an example a group of hunters compiled a list of species of which all but a single animal can readily be taken at a single concession, like typical bushveldt animals, but the odd animal out can only be collected in a totally different province, like a Cape grysbok. I would suggest that the grysbok be rather replaced by a similar sized and priced steenbok or duiker. For completeness I would make provisional arrangements to actually hunt the grysbok, but I would also tell the hunters about the cost and time implications of them insisting on getting the grysbok about 1000 miles from where they can get the other animals on the list.
The actual formal proposal made by the hunting outfitter would in all probability not yet be in the form of a remuneration agreement, but just a provisional safari plan and schedule.
Now the hunter(s) would consider the proposal by attending the the decision tasks outlined sequentially on the inside circle. when completed the modified request is again passed to the hunting outfitter.
If the requests are clear, and the hunter outfitter does his homework well it is seldom required to have more than a second costing and proposal before everything is ready to formalize the booking.
You may have listed your ideal species as u, v, w, x, y and z and want w as a full mount and the rest all as shoulder mounts! If you the use the guideline costs you find that your budget is exceeded significantly. Now you must make a change in some of the parameters. My advice is to firstly increase your budget, then cut down on taxidermy costs! In Step 11 you were told what a trophy is: A memento of the hunt. Two different species as skull mounts with nice framed photos hung below them is IMHO a better memento of two hunts, as is a single shoulder mount of a single hunt at the same overall cost. Once you have a bit of a “feel” for how long it will take to collect your desired trophies and the interaction between daily rates and number of trophies, taxidermy costs and finally shipping costs you are ready to start contacting a number of selected hunting outfitters for their offers.
Now write on your "My Safari Planning" sheet, or copy and edit if you wish, the following, or similar, text: "Step 17. With the insight gained from understanding the planning circles and the help of the Safari Planning Spreadsheet I'm now confident that the final list of species desired as edited in Step 16 is reasonable and expect tenders from hunting outfitters to be near my actual available budget."
Step 18: Tender? Request a Selection of Hunting Outfitters to Make you an Offer.
Now that you have made all the critical choices, decided on ethics, authenticity of your experience, your trophy quality expectations and a few more and you have also selected a few two week periods in which you could go on a safari, you can start to look at the advertising material of the hundreds of outfitters.
A quick Internet search will soon have you inundated with information about South African hunting outfitters. Now is also a good time to read some Questions and Answers to get to know what else is involved. Read, and heed, the advice posted by Terry L Carr at http://www.accuratereloading.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php?Cat=&Number=472962&page=0&view=collapsed&sb=5&o=31&fpart=1
In the Q&A you should in particular take note of the contractual requirements. The advice from Terry Carr to “make sure it is in writing in the contract”. Is very sound indeed. Do not accept one hunting outfitter just because he advertises such very nice low rates on his web page. In all probability the web page prices have not been updated for some time, and no longer hold. Also true that you should not eliminate a potential hunter outfitter just because his advertised prices look a bit on the high side. In October and November 2003 a sample of nearly 100 price lists taken from the web pages of hunting outfitters have revealed that the ratio of highest price to lowest price is typically in the range of 2.5 to 8.0 for the same trophy species or service.
Please consider the prices listed as the Andrew McLaren Safaris 2005 price list only as a guideline of what to expect! These are in fact only the average prices from a large number that were published on the Internet and should only be used as a guide to the probable maximum final prices. A single hunter wanting to take only a small number of species and only Roland Ward size trophies may be charged at the full listed price. A group of hunters, wishing to each hunt a number of species and will be happy with hunting fully grown mature males with representative size horns, may be finally quoted significantly lower prices. Do not judge me by the prices in the list, judge me by the final offer that I make as a binding Booking Agreement or Remuneration Agreement.
By now you should know essentially: When, in what type of terrain, which species, and how “ethical” you want to hunt. You should know if a package deal offered appeals to you, or weather you feel confident that an deal based on daily rates and trophy fees will suit you, or lastly, if you are on your way to negotiating a real custom safari. Now is the time when you start your tough negotiations.
You should by now also have gathered quite a number of hunting outfitters’ names, addresses and e-mail as well as home page URL’s. How do you decide on one of these, plus the few thousand others in South Africa that you don’t even know about, you are going to entrust with making your dream come true? How do you avoid making a bad choice that results in your dream turning into a nightmare? Let there be no misunderstanding about it:
The choice of hunting outfitter is the crucial one to have a dream come true, or live through a costly nightmare!
Hunting outfitter firms come in various shapes and sizes: Small, medium and the big boys. They are also either declining, stagnant or growing in yearly number of clients’ turnover. Their web pages/brochures/advertising material is horrendous, average or excellent. Their daily rates and trophy fees are either below average, about average or above average. A most important fact about the condition of any hunting outfitter firm is: Is the shape, size, growth and whatever what it is by choice, or does market forces force the change against the will of the owner(s)? If you consider one of the big boys with excellent advertising/web page material and average prices, but which is declining in client turnover against the wishes of the owner(s) - there must be a reason for the declining clients???
A big hunting outfitter firm must be good, because after all you do not become big because you are bad. Right? Yes, quite so, but you may become bad because you are big! Similarly the medium boys who are expiring to become big may give very good service and value for money. Simply because they want to grow big! In exactly the same manner some very small, even one-man firms will give you excellent service and an experience of a lifetime, just because they want to be successful and grow bigger. But then some medium guys were big boys at a time, but their management was not up to the standard to remain big and good, and the have declined from big to medium through market forces. Do not judge by size of the outfitter firm alone!
As owner of a small, and by choice I will remain relatively small hunting outfitter firm, I will advise you to choose a small firm with growing client numbers. One who has not yet reached such a size that the Peter Principle applies, of being promoted or have grown to beyond the level of competency! That is IMHO a sure-fire recipe for a successful South African plains game safari.
But, what do you do to find a hunting outfitter that you feel confident will make your dreams came true?
You start by sending an e-mail message to ALL those that you have details for in which you request them to make an offer based on your preliminary trophy list and time allocation. The planner who took my advice seriously will by now have a detailed document My Safari Planning on which all his important decisions, feelings and views of importance to the hunting outfitter were recorded. Please send this file to email@example.com in order to also give me a chance of tendering to arrange your safari.
You may wish to put such a request on hunting chat forums, like rec.hunting or Accurate Reloading and any number of many others. Give the guys a reasonable time to respond. You are very likely to get a very large number of responses; all claiming to be just the right firm to arrange your dream hunt. A few days after placing your intention to go on a plains game safari for your selection of species to South Africa on the Internet you will have a large number of responses and offers from many hunting outfitters. Give the guys a week or two to respond to your request. Be open to evaluate a late offer!
Your next major task is to evaluate the offers that you have received. In response to your specific request, what was offered? Do you get the feeling that the hunting outfitter really tried to tailor a deal for you, or is his offer a standard “Take it or leave it,” type? At what cost was what you desired offered? When comparing two similar offers, do you get the feeling that the firm with the higher priced offer will give you a better hunt, bigger trophies and a more enjoyed experience? Or do you get the feeling that the higher priced offer will give no better value for money, and the firm will simply make more profit from you? How well was the offer presented? Is the outfitter very clear on what is included and what is excluded in his price? Do you feel that the offer is so vague that there is room for an unscrupulous outfitter to maneuver and later add cost items for which you have not bargained for?
A bit of advice: The majority of hunting concession owners in South Africa are Afrikaans speaking farmers. This means that they communicate with you in English, for them a second language, and one in which many of them have great difficulty to express themselves adequately. Try to be sensitive to the language use, and understand that the firm may be really first class as actual arrangers of a plains game safari, but the owner has some linguistic disadvantage and cannot make a grammatically correct and easy to read and understand offer in English. Get your “gut-feel” into action, but do not rely on it alone, if in doubt, ask the hunting outfitter to clear up any misunderstandings.
Compare the offers that interest you with your original request, if it exceeds your expectations, and remain within your budget, and then all is good and well. If the offer does not quite meet what you had originally hoped for, refer to the planning cycle and see if you can live with the changes. There will be some offers that you feel confident in “throwing out” for some reason, maybe so far exceeding your budget or whatever other reason. Try to get down to as short a shortlist as possible.
Depending on the complexity of your request you could by now be able to decide on a specific hunting outfitter that you want to use, or you may want to have a few matters cleared up before finally deciding. Here you must communicate with the prospective hunting outfitters and clear up every single aspect that you are not sure about.
Ask for and INSIST to be provided with a draft remuneration agreement or contract to be used for the hunt. You should get one from each one of the few hunting outfitters to which you have restricted your short list for potential choices. It is a legal requirement that such a remuneration agreement or contract be signed before the onset of the hunt. It is only this contract that actually specifies what is included, and what not. Download and read the documents pinned by Terry Carr at http://www.accuratereloading.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php?Cat=&Number=472962&page=0&view=collapsed&sb=5&o=31&fpart=1 particularly the parts which deals with the hunting outfitters.
Now list all the aspects about which you are still not 100% sure of from the contract. Then ASK the hunting outfitter to explain or elaborate. The true service-orientated hunting outfitter will not be offended by a question like: “Do you guarantee that all the animals offered to be hunted are true wild animals and that none have been recently released (e.g. within the last x months) into the concession area? If you do guarantee it, please include a clause to this effect into the remuneration agreement!” You can also on your own edit the draft remuneration agreement to suit you, and then e-mail the altered contract back to the would be hunting outfitter for their consideration. Heed the advice by Terry Carr: “If it is important, have it in the contract!”
Do not compare the offers of hunting outfitters based on their brochures, or the prices quoted on a home page on the Internet. It is only the actual contracted price as specified in the remuneration agreement that has any weight. Remember what has been said before: In South African hunting you will generally get what you pay for. With all but the few real rouge hunting outfitters you should get decent accommodation, good and tasty food and be generally very well taken care of. It is the less often thought of details that make a trip sour: The lack of attention to the client’s trophies that often result in hair slip and a ruined shoulder mount. The mix-up with the taxidermy instructions, the poor marking of the client’s trophies and other that result in a shoulder mount with horns that does not look in the least like those on the animal on the “happy snap” photo. Some beginners, who do not yet know how to really handle a safari, and thus slip up on these aspects, may, through being so eager to get clients, offer seemingly very competitive prices. But in the end you are most likely to get what you pay for! For your own sake you are advised to not make a decision of which hunting outfitter to use only on the price at which a seemingly similar safari is offered by two competing hunting outfitters.
Shortly after entering this final negotiations phase is the time when you will have to make the final decision on which outfitter you are going to book with. Now is the time to ask for references and check these out. Check the advice of Terry Carr on which questions to ask the references. Remember that no outfitter is likely to give as a reference the one or more clients for which things went wrong, for whatever reason. Andrew McLaren Safaris provide the names of every single past client in Clients. Here the clients say what they have experienced and were free to include telephone numbers and e-mail addresses.
It is now the time to post questions on hunters chat forums to enquire about the hunter outfitter. You have to do this is before you have decided finally on a hunting outfitter, at the time you are busy checking the references provided by the hunting outfitters on your shortlist. Be aware that any question about AA hunting outfitter is bound to bring up a lot of advice to use BB instead. You must decide how you are going to handle such referrals, as giving consideration to such will put you right back to drawing up a new shortlist! But the advice from trusted individuals should be heeded.
Be aware that all hunting outfitters are people, and people make mistakes. There may be clients who suffered as a result of a mistake, and will forever give the particular hunting outfitter a bad reference. The real question is not if the guy never made a mistake, the question is: What did he do to rectify the mistake and lessen the adverse impact on his client? Most importantly, is he the type of guy who will at least learn by his mistake? If he is, then you can be sure that he will not repeat the mistake, or even make a similar one to whatever some former client give a bad report on a chat forum.
What you wish to accomplish by asking a question about a potential hunting outfitter on a chat forum is to eliminate is the really unscrupulous hunting outfitter who consistently cheats his clients. A question about such a hunting outfitter posed on one of the forums is sure to result in ample warning to beware!
In fairness to less experienced outfitters, do not make up your mind finally by just considering the first response to your invitation to tender of the selected outfitters that you have invited to make proposals. By all means eliminate a few of those who did not respond in accordance with your desires, but keep a few in the contesting pool, and ask them to fully explain all aspects of their offers that may not be very clear to you. After receiving the response to the first queries you should be in a position to motivate the reasons why you want to choose a specific hunting outfitter to make all the arrangements for your first, or second or whatever, South African plains game hunting safari. If you are still not sure and have only a few options left on your shortlist, now you start bargaining. If, for example, you are a teetotaller and the daily rate offer includes alcoholic beverages, tell the outfitter that you don’t drink, and what discount he is prepared to give? It is often not the few $ that you will save that decides the issue, but the attitude of the hunting outfitter to such bargaining and client satisfaction that will help you decide.
Be reasonable and honestly tell those that you have decided not to use that they have lost out. If you so wish give reasons, but do not at this stage start arguing about what was offered and what not. The guy had his chances, and you, and only you as the customer alone, may decide to use or not to use some hunting outfitter!
Congratulations! You have now decided to let Andrew McLaren Safaris arrange your South African plains game hunting safari. Read about the next steps.
Step 19: Confirmation? Deposit and Conformation.
As soon as you have decided on which hunting outfitter you are going to use, your attitude towards the firm should change. Up to the moment the decision is made you were a tough, hard-bargaining and levelheaded businessman/woman in your negotiations set on getting the best possible deal. You kept the often-repeated advice that “In South Africa on a plains game hunting safari you generally get what you pay for!” in mind when the very ‘cheap’ offers were presented. As soon as you have decided, you are suddenly a customer or client, and in a sense a co-worker, who has to work with the hunting outfitter to ensure the success of your own trip. By the time you have decided on a hunting outfitter there will in all likelihood still be some outstanding or unclear issues. Now you should give your full co-operation to the hunting outfitter to resolve these issues to your mutual benefit. Remember you are now part of the team of hunting outfitter, professional hunter, trackers, skinners, camp cook, camp servants, cleaners and client, all who should have one objective, i.e. your enjoyment of the hunt.
A vast majority of hunting outfitters will confirm your booking as soon as you have paid 50% of the estimated daily rates for the safari. Warning! Do not pay anything until you have a fully satisfactory Remuneration Agreement from the hunting outfitter! A remuneration agreement is not a “nice to have” offered by some ‘better’ hunting outfitters; It is a compulsory document that needs to be signed by each and every single foreign hunter before he/she starts to legally hunt in South Africa.
You should absolutely insist on getting a Remuneration Agreement before paying any money as a deposit for any hunt whatsoever to any hunting outfitter operating in South Africa! Do not pay any deposit without a signed document clearly identified as a “Remuneration Agreement” by the would-be South African hunting outfitter! If any hunting outfitter tells you anything else and you believe him, you are exposing yourself unnecessarily. The South African Nature Conservation Regulations in all provinces universally require that a foreign hunter enter into a Remuneration Agreement with a hunting outfitter before the onset of the hunt. My advice is to get this agreement in place before any deposit for any hunt is paid! Unscrupulous hunting outfitters may tell you all manner of BS, but there is absolutely no getting away from the fact that before the start or onset of any hunt by any foreign client a Remuneration Agreement between the client and the hunting outfitter must be signed. Make this a condition of paying any booking confirmation deposit.
Once the booking is confirmed the more detailed preparation for actually going on the safari starts. Now is the time to read through some packing lists, and to ask the hunting outfitter about all the small things. Simple small things like: Does your definition of “personal toiletteries” include a washcloth? Some hunting lodges, even some really upmarket establishments, do not provide visitors with a washcloth, as it is regarded as a personal item. Make sure that you remember that semi automatic rifles and shotguns are not allowed in South Africa. Make sure that you have the required US Customs 4457 (Certificate of Registration of Personal Effects Taken Abroad) form for each individual firearm and other valuable items like video cameras etc., that you intend taking to South Africa with you. Now that the arrival and departure dates are fixed, you start to seriously get the best airfare deal and buy your ticket. No you go for a medical check-up, get fit (or fitter), acquire travel insurance and do all the things that your outfitter advises. Now you start seriously practicing shooting from shooting sticks, if you are to use them on your hunt.
Step 20: Learn about the basic Legal Requirements.
As a visiting hunter you will want to do everything in a nice 100% legal compliance manner? Our laws are as complex as those anywhere else in the world. The brief summary given here is just aimed at making sure that the basics are in place.
Warning! The overwhelming majority of visiting hunters who get into trouble in South Africa do so for the simple reason that they are not told and warned by their incompetent hunting outfitters, or they ignore or forget that they were told, that all semi-automatic rifles and shotguns are not allowed in South Africa. Get detailed instructions from your hunting outfitter on the required procedures to bring your own firearms into South Africa, and make sure you adhere to these instructions. Generally the South African Police Services are responsible for issuing you with a temporary import permit for any firearm brought into the country. Although arriving at JIA with a semi-auto shotgun is not likely to actually land you in serious trouble, it will cause significant delays, and you may have to hunt with a borrowed shotgun, as yours will not be allowed in the country, you have to export it back home there and then, at great cost!
As a visiting hunter your hunting in any one of the 9 provinces has to be arranged by a hunting outfitter or professional hunter who is the holder of a valid license to operate in that province. Beware, there are some operators who do not have the required license, so ask to be faxed or send a scanned copy, or at least a number and expiry date of the license if you are not sure.
A Remuneration Agreement is not a "nice to have", it is a Regulatory requirement. You and the hunting outfitter have to sign two copies, one to be retained by you and one by him, of a Remuneration Agreement in which all the details of what is offered at what cost is spelled out before the onset of the hunt. I advise that you insist that the completed copies already signed by the hunting outfitter be sent to you before you pay any deposit to confirm your booking.
While actually hunting, like being in the veldt with a rifle, you have to be guided by a professional hunter who holds a valid license to operate in the particular province, and at all times hunt only in his/her immediate personal presence. Except on a bird hunt, a single professional hunter may guide a maximum of two hunters at any time.
You have to listen to and obey instructions given by your professional hunter, as it is his duty to see to it that you do not do anything illegal while guided by him.
You have to complete and sign the SOUTH AFRICAN PROFESSIONAL HUNTER REGISTER AND TROPHY EXPORT APPLICATION book, which will be presented to you by the professional hunter before the onset of each hunt as guided by him.
These matters are not “nice to have” little things, they are legal requirements that you are advised to adhere to. Be careful in your selection of a hunting outfitter and you should never have any trouble with the law or anyone else for that matter while enjoying your hunt in South Africa.
This guide is for plains game hunting, and the exportation of the trophy from any species of plains game should not be a problem at all. But if you are hunting leopard or cheetah be very, very careful about the export procedures. Warning! Before you pay any deposit for a leopard hunt insist on a copy of the provincial nature conservation authority license to hunt it, and for good measure ask for a certified copy of the CITES permit to hunt the leopard.
Step 21. What if Things go Wrong?
A last thought on planning and preparing for your hunt has to deal with a less positive aspect, the agony of dealing with: “What if things go wrong?”
In hunting, and in life in general, some good advice is to: Plan for success, but be prepared for failure. The whole object of reading and working through this planning documents was to plan for a successful choice of a hunting outfitter to arrange your South African safari so that it will be a dream come true! Chances are very good that you have made the best choice, or at least a very good choice.
But what if, despite all your effort, after you have committed to a particular hunting outfitter by paying a substantial amount as a booking confirmation deposit, you hear some horror story about the past dealings of the particular hunting outfitter? What do you do if, despite your efforts to not get caught by some shyster, you hear after paying the booking confirmation deposit that your chosen hunting outfitter has, at least by some, a bad reputation? It is agonizing just thinking about it, but what do you do?
A lot depends on the situation: How long before the onset of the safari did you first hear the horror story? If you meet a fellow hunter on the airplane en route to your safari that tells you such a horror story, you are basically stuck. But if you had heeded the advice of insisting on a signed Remuneration Agreement before paying any deposit, you have at least a contract that binds the hunting outfitter by South African law. Call me on arrival in South Africa in any case at +27 82 654 6474 and I may be able to assist. I have on occasion been called at 08.30 on a Sunday, and had a satisfied client (who spoke only Japanese) with an ethically hunted record book trophy impala back at the JIA in time for a flight the same afternoon. On the other hand if you have made a well-planned advance booking and there are a few months before the start of your hunt, before you hear such a horror story, it is quite a different kettle of fish. You now have time to establish the seriousness of the allegations. How trusted is the source of the horror story? Have you heard “…the other side….” of the story? You could consider sending an e-mail message to the hunting outfitter and state that you have heard serious allegations about some past hunt, and ask his version of the story. Alternatively you could just keep quiet about your knowledge, and keep a sharp watch for any funny business during your safari. Which one of these actions, or some other you choose must to a degree depend upon your own personality and attitude. You could also contact the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA) to enquire if they know about the incident. You should realize that PHASA is an organization to look after the interests of South African professional hunters, including possible misconduct by some members, but it is NOT meant as an organization to protect the interests of the foreign hunter. The only recourse that the foreign hunter has is to lodge a complaint with the nature conservation authority in the province where the hunt occurred. The nature conservation authorities are only interested in “illegal” aspects, so if you were ripped off, but nothing illegal was done you will have to face the loss.
An alternative type of potential nightmare is when you remain under the impression that you have booked with a trustworthy and good hunting outfitter firm, until you reach South Africa. You clear customs and enter the public lounge looking for someone to meet you, but no-one seems to be there to pick you up. You get to a telephone and phone the hunting outfitters’ number, with either no reply or a message only. What do you do now? Has the pickup simply been delayed in traffic? Involved in an accident? Or has your hunting outfitter disappeared off the face of the earth with your deposit? How long do you wait before taking action? What do you do?
Should this ever happen to you, and it has happened to quite a few unwary hunters, please telephone Andrew McLaren on my cell phone at +27 82 654 6474. Unless I’m actually on a safari hunt then I may be able to help and assist.
A really scary thought is that all could go well with the pickup and transport to the designated first hunting area. Then, while actually hunting in South Africa you only then realize that there is something amiss. Many things can go wrong: Substandard accommodation, or food, or have a professional hunter who is mostly half or totally drunk. You get offered to shoot animals that you can clearly see are “canned”. You find out that you are expected to hunt by driving around on a vehicle and then shoot from the vehicle. Your professional hunter suddenly sees an animal walking crossing a path 600 yards from you and visible for only a few seconds and then you are pressurized to “Shoot! Shoot quickly! It’s a good trophy. Shootit! Shootit!” You then later hear the professional hunter reporting that you “blew” an excellent opportunity and will have to pay for the animal in the package hunt, as you had an opportunity but did not use it. In this case too, I invite you to phone me at + 27 82 654 6474.
Many things can, and unfortunately sometimes something does, go wrong on a safari. How you handle the situation will again depend on your personality, and obviously that of the professional hunter who is guiding you. A small-built, quiet, soft-spoken ethical hunter from a professional or office background will likely handle the situation different from a big burly construction gang foreman. You may, or may not have ready access to a telephone at the hunting area to use to phone someone to complain to. But you must complain if you feel you are being short-changed! In the first instance to the professional hunter and then to the hunting outfitter. Finally if you do not feel that your complaints are taken seriously, and you are confident that you do have reason to complain, you must fill out a hunt report and post it on some chat forum to expose the situation to the broader public.
The Professional Hunters of South Africa (PHASA) is ONLY interested in hearing complaints about their members. They have very few teeth, and have an unfortunate history of being extremely reluctant to use what bit of teeth they have to discipline members guilty of some misconduct. Since Stuart Dorrington has taken over as the new President of PHASA, reports about more action to discipline members are filtering through the industry.
If a hunter has a complaint that clearly relates to the legality of conduct, the correct place to complain is the relevant provincial Nature Conservation official. Here are contact details for Nature Conservation Officials involved with professional hunting.