AFRICA ON A BUDGET
By Jim Taylor
The day finally arrived when we were leaving for South Africa. The last couple weeks had gone by very slowly it seemed, but now we were packed up and heading for Tulsa, OK. Our schedule was to fly from Tulsa to Atlanta, GA where we would meet up with most of the rest of the members of this Safari. Tom Lindner, his wife Emilie and our friend Regan Nonneman
(Nonneman Custom Rifles –
www.leveractions.com ) were all riding together. The drive to Tulsa took slightly more than two hours but went by quickly as we discussed and wondered about what was waiting for us across the sea.
Check-in at Tulsa went very smoothly. There were no problems checking our firearms or our luggage that had our ammo, knives etc. After a brief wait we boarded the commuter jet for the short flight to Atlanta. Once in Atlanta we made our way to the other side of the airport where we found Tom Peterson and his wife and kids who had arrived ahead of us. Soon the rest of the ‘gang’, Marlin Davis and Al DiPrima, joined us. Eventually we boarded the airplane and took off for Johannesburg, South Africa. Excitement was high. For awhile. After six hours or so reality set in that we still had 12 hours flying time left! I slept some, read a book and got up and walked around every once in awhile. Many of us would congregate in galley where they had snacks and coffee. There we would visit, tell stories and meet other folks until the flight attendants would “shoo” us out and back to our seats. It turned out that at least half of the people on this flight were going to Africa to hunt! We met a young lady who had just graduated from college and for her graduation her Dad was taking her on a Leopard hunt. There were many others who were hunting about every species in Africa that can be hunted. It was great!
After 8 ½ hours of flying we landed in Dakar, Senegal for refueling and to change the flight crew. We were on the ground about
1½ hours, but were not allowed to leave the airplane. During that time Security personnel searched the airplane and all carry-on bags were accounted for. Once the plane was refueled we took off for Johannesburg … only another 8 ½ hours away! Man it is a loooong ways across Africa! Just after takeoff the flight crew came through the cabins and sprayed us. They explained that South Africa requires all planes coming in from Senegal to be sprayed. They said that the World Health Organization had “approved” the spray used … which was not real comforting. I am not sure what the spray was supposed to do but when you are crammed into a small metal tube with several hundred other people and someone starts spraying the place .. AND you are several thousands of feet in the air .. well .. let’s just say it wasn’t the most pleasant moment of the trip.
A little over 8 hours later we landed in Johannesburg, South Africa. Coming off the airplane we were greeted by staff from Air2000. They got us all together and then took us through Passport Control. The line was several hundred people long but Air2000 took us around those to a place that was for registered groups where our passports were stamped. They then took us to Customs where we picked up our luggage and firearms. Once they were collected they then escorted us to the South African Police Station in the airport where the serial numbers on our firearms were verified and we were issued Temporary Firearms Permits. After it was all finished Air2000 handed us off Chris
Troskie, the Professional Hunter. The whole process from the time we got off the airplane until we got the Firearms Permits was about an hour. I could see people still standing in line for Passport Control when we left. I cannot adequately express just how professional a job Air2000 did. Their service is invaluable. I highly suggest anyone going to Africa with firearms use their services!!
Once we had all the paperwork in hand we headed out to parking and loaded the vehicles. Then we set out for the drive to the hunting camp about 3 ½ hours northwest of Johannesburg. It was dark when we arrived and having been on airplanes and in airports for the better part of the last 2 days, I was nodding off while the driver tried to make small talk with me. We drove through mountains and plains and eventually into the hunting camp in the Limpopo District of South Africa. After a short greeting by the staff and meeting all the other hunters we went were shown to our chalets. The quarters where we were housed were just beautiful but I was too tired to do anything but sleep.
It seemed I had just gotten to sleep when someone was talking loudly outside our window. I was bunking with lifelong friend Marlin Davis and he said sleepily, “Maybe it’s time to get up.” I replied that I did not think so and that it was too early. I figured it was probably just the staff getting ready for us later. About that time someone knocked on our door and said loudly “GOOD MORNING” so I took it that I was wrong.
Once up and dressed we met with the rest of the group around the fire for coffee and something to eat. Chris Troskie then introduced us to the PH’s we would be hunting with. This hunt was set up with 2 hunters per PH. I was paired with Mark Neal of London, England and our PH was Jaco (pronounced “Ya Koo”) Human. We decided Mark would hunt today and I follow and take photos. Mark had a unique rifle that he had built for this hunt. It was a double rifle in 450 Nitro Express. Built on a shotgun action, the gun was solid, heavy and business-like. I wanted to see it in action.
The first thing we did was set off to the rifle range and check the zero on our rifles. Oddly enough several of the guns were not shooting center and that was corrected. Once the guns were sighted in the each of us headed out into the bush with our PH.
The area we were hunting was abundant in game. At every turn we saw a large variety of animals and birds. But even though the game was more than plentiful, they were extremely wary. The method of hunting was to drive the “baki” (pickup) down the dirt roads and either spot game or else fresh tracks. Once either was spotted we stopped, got out and tried to stalk in on the game. The problem with seeing the game from the truck was that the game saw us also and as soon as the truck stopped the game departed. We made several good stalks in the heavy brush only to have the wind betray us at the last minute.
About 11 AM we returned to the hunting camp for “breakfast”. Breakfast consisted of fresh fruit, cereal if one wanted it, yogurt, eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, either
fried potatoes or “chips” (French fries to us Americans), a couple vegetable dishes, steak or fish, and several other things that I disremember now. It was a HUGE meal!!
Then it was back into the trucks and off into the bush to hunt until dark. If we did not have any game by dark we came in and joined the others around the fire for drinks and refreshments, visiting until dinner was served. Again the meal was a 4 or 5 course meal, more than one could eat. The whole time there ALL the meals were excellent. We ate Wildebeest, Kudu, Impala and Warthog as well as a few other species of game. Even those among our group who did not particularly like eating wild game loved the food! The chefs were very very good cooks.
Right at dark the first day Mark Neal took a warthog with his 450 double rifle, so we were a little late getting in. However, everyone waited on us and we all ate together. This became the routine for the week. Up early … an early morning snack and coffee … hunt till 11 and then come in and eat a big meal .. then back out and hunt until dark. There were several times when tracking wounded game that the 11 am meal was missed by some of the hunters. I always carried some granola bars in my backpack and they came in handy on more than one occasion.
Each truck had a cooler with water or juice in it so staying hydrated was not
The second day of the hunt arrived just as early as the first had. We were up and off into the bush by daylight. I was looking particularly for a Zebra. By 8 or 9 AM we had located a herd and made a stalk close to them, in thick trees. They either smelled or heard us or else something spooked them and they came rushing past us, not 30 yards away. The PH said “Don’t shoot!” so I held my fire as they ran past. We continued to hunt them the rest of the day but never got into position for a clear shot.
One thing I learned that may help a first-timer: Make sure you understand what the PH wants you to do when you see game. Also make sure he understands what you think you heard him say. For instance, Jaco the PH told me he would tell me when to shoot and when not to shoot. I was OK with that. He is the Professional Hunter and the one responsible. So we were slipping through the brush, trying to get into position on some Zebra that we had seen. As we
came around a very large bush 4 or 5 Impala jumped up in front of us, maybe 30 feet away. One was an extremely nice male with huge horns. The PH said nothing about shooting them and
since I was concentrating on where the Zebra were supposed to be, maybe 100 yards away,
I watched the Impala mill around in front of us for 15 or 20 seconds and then they ran off. The PH then looked at me and said, “You should have shot that one. He was a record-book Impala.” I sort of felt like a schoolboy at that point. I realized that you must have a clear idea of the game you want and then take whatever chance offers you. However, make sure that both you and the PH understand each other clearly. It will help ease any frustrations.
We made several very good stalks on warthogs that day but both times there were no pigs in the group that the PH felt were worth shooting. The stalks however were very satisfying and great fun. Everywhere you turned there were animals. It was just an amazing experience.
The ladies went along as observers for the first day and then took tours around the area the rest of the days. There are several huge state wildlife parks in the District as well as various things to see. All of them said they really enjoyed the time.
Accommodations were “5-Star”. I took 3 changes of clothes and never had a problem. Dirty clothes were picked up in the morning, washed and pressed and were waiting in our room when we came back in the evening. The rooms were clean and kept that way. Instead of heavy clothes I layered. It was in the mid-30’s in the mornings but warmed up into the 60’s and near 70 most days. I wore long-sleeve t-shirts with a shirt over that, a vest and a light raincoat. The raincoat was an excellent windbreaker in the mornings and evenings and did not take up any room in a pack.
A couple tips for first-timers:
- Bring plenty of money. Figure high and then take more. It can be real hassle to try and draw funds through a bank if you don’t have enough money with you.
I had to draw some money for a friend who didn't have enough with him
while there and, though everyone was gracious, it was a long and difficult
- Read and understand the contract with your PH. Do not assume you understand it. Clarify every point.
- Be completely familiar with how your PH operates. Some PH’s want the money up front. Some PH’s ask for their money at the end of the hunt. Some bill you after the hunt. Just be sure you understand the contract you sign. It eases frustrations. The less frustrations you have a on a trip like this, the better.
- Do not expect everything to work like it does “back home”. If you relax and take things as they come you will enjoy yourself.
- KEEP ALL YOUR PAPERS SAFE AND ACCESSIBLE. I bought a neck pouch and kept my money and passport in it and kept it with me at all times. You have to have your Firearms Permits to get your guns back out of the country. You also have to have your Customs Form 4457 to get your guns back into the United States. DO NO LOSE ANY OF THESE. One person in our group packed his Firearms Permit in his checked luggage and nearly did not get his guns out of South Africa.
- Familiarize yourself with the animals in the area and how much they cost. For instance early one morning the PH spotted a nice Duiker. He stopped and said “There’s a really nice Duiker up ahead. Either of you want to try and take him?” Neither of the guys knew what a Duiker was, let alone how much it cost and so they passed on a possible record-book animal that is one of the cutest of the antelope family, not much larger than a small dog and the trophy fee is less than $300.
Chris Troskie was very gracious with us "first
timers" to Africa. He worked with us and helped us through any
rough spots. He worked at making this a good trip for us all. However,
with preparation and forethought you can make the trip more hassle-free and
thus enjoy Africa all the more.
So .. how much did all this fun cost? Well .. that depended on how many game animals you shot. Since I only took a monkey and a Zebra my trophy fees were not real high.
- Air Fare (from Tulsa) $2200.00
- Air2000 (help with Firearms Importation) $130.00
- Gun case $170.00
- Locks $25.00
- Passport $90.00
- Shots $45.00
- Daily Rates: (covers all meals, transportation to and from airport and while
hunting, housing, laundry, tracking, skinning, guides etc.) 7 X hunting days @ $285.00 per day incl. departure day
Sub -Total - $1,995.00
- Incidentals (gifts, travel pouch, extra batteries, tips, meals while traveling) $450.00
Total for the trip (not including taxidermy) - $6480.00
At this point I do not know how much my taxidermy bill will be and don’t have much of a way to estimate it since I don’t know what the shipping and import costs will be. Having a hide tanned is less than $50.00. It costs about another $100 to have the hide certified clean for import into the US. I rather doubt it will add another $500 to the costs, but it could. Most likely I will not know until sometime next year. But .. even at that, you can see that with a little discipline and savings a person can have the hunting trip of a lifetime!
Preparing for this trip I sold some of my guns, figuring a Safari to Africa at
my age was worth more than a few guns that I rarely used. There are
other ways to save to money. Get creative. Cut out a few
"extras" for a year and you will be surprised what you can save up.
For my part I can say that it more thanl worth it.
After having been my first time I am of the opinion that everyone should see Africa at least once! My friend Tom Lindner told his wife yesterday morning, “I am homesick for Africa.” I know what he means.