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A Trip of a Lifetime

Your first Africa Safari, within reach: a How-To of Safaris.

Man is a hunter.

Now, whatever your view may be on how we’ve come to where we are as a species, man from both pre and post historic times have hunted as if his life depended on it, and it really did. In these periods man had to embody the hunter-gatherer skillset to survive, and the art of hunting put man in a position to feed himself. Becoming skilled earned man a loftier status, man could take a mate, raise a family, and further advance the species itself.

Failure as a hunter meant certain death. Or vegatarianism, in today’s standards.

Hunting was hard, and many men have failed in their attempts. Being the Apex Predator, the act of hunting required skill, cunning, and loads of courage in their pursuit of woolly mammoths or dangerous sabre-tooth tigers, with primative implements such as stone axes, flint-tipped spears, and such. Today, however, hunting is less of a life-or-death ordeal, and the modern tools we have at our disposal more than make up for our limited physical abilities.

Opening Up the Dark Continent

Ever since European explorers set foot on the shores of Africa, its wealth of wildlife has been an attraction for many. Without much regulation, these hunting excursions saw many animals being driven to the point of “almost” extinction, this saw the creation of stricter game laws that eased pressure off of the African wildlife, and thus the golden age of the African safari was born.

Even as the centuries passed everyone from Dukes, presidents, generals, knights, actors, and even the not-so-rich-and-famous have flocked to the Dark Continent to experience what a true African safaris was really about. Moreover, though, it was Theodore Roosevelt’s great safari in 1909 which saw them braving thirteen months as they collected a total of 23,151 specimens for the Smithsonian Institute.

Safaris For Us

Africa still remains the place to go for big game hunting as the numbers of plains and dangerous game that populate sub-Saharan Africa are far greater than anywhere in the world. And while the full Big Five safari (hunting the top five most dangerous species of game in Africa, which are the elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and cape buffalo) can cost upwards of $200,000, there are loads of other more budget-friendly safaris for thos on a more modest budget; roughly $5000 including airfare, in some cases.

An example: a seven-day safari hunting several species of game can be the equivalent of a reasonably priced elk hunt in the Rocky Mountains. Puts it in perspective, doesn’t it? Now, we’d agree that an African safari is a doable option for any man who is both employed and has the absolute desire to go.

A Bad Example

Now, it’s easy to pack your bags and to head off to adventure. All safaris give you an experience beyond anything you can imagine. That isn’t to say that you SHOULD just pack your bags and head off to Africa. It helps doing some research and making sure that you know what you’re in for because you’re doing something that’s out of your comfort zone, and going on an African safari is exactly that.

So, here are a few tips to keep in mind when booking your safari and planning for your excursion into the wild.

The Safari How-To

You always need a plan. A good plan. Having one for your safari is key, as well, and it will also ensure that your trip is a smashing success. There are so many factors that can dictate what constitutes a good safari, but, for us, the most important aspect is which operator your safari is conducted with.

1.) Choosing an Operator

He is the jack of trades when it comes to the safari. Your operator acts as a host, guide, tracker, outfitter, bartender, cook (in some cases), and even mechanic. Your operator is the man (or woman) in charge of everything that influences the hunt and the safari.

However, there are HUNDREDS of operators to choose from and you can’t simply “eeny-meeny-miney-moe” your choice of operator. So, how DO you choose the right one? Simple: with some good old fashioned research.

Consider this: finding the right operator is like finding the right doctor or dentist when you’re moving to a new area. You ask for recommendations, call references and see what experience others have had. All of this information will ultimately influence and culminate into making your decision as to which operator you’ll choose.

2.) Deciding What You Want To Hunt

For the uninitiated, plains game is a great starting point. Plains game are the type of game that ISN’T part of the Big Five and it encompasses a broad category of game of all sizes and costs; anything from pygmy antelope that weighs about 6lbs to a 2200lb Lord Derby Eland.

The best advice would be to consider starting with the more common (and less expensive) species, for the uninitiated.

3.) The Cost of the Safari

Hunting in Africa is a financially manageable endeavor. In some cases, though, the client has to be able to budget his/her costs. Usually, there are daily rates and trophy fees, both of which are fine, however, one has to look at the finer details as to what these two costs entail.

For instance, daily rates normally includes the cost per day being in camp, and normally covers food, accommodation, laundry services, services of the Professional Hunter accompanying you on the safari, etc. Trophy fees are charged per animal that has been harvested. This can vary from region to region and it’s also influenced by the supply and demand of the animal you are hunting, and with the numerous species available, these fees can increase substantially.

There are pricing alternatives, however.

Many outfitters do market their safaris on a daily rate/trophy fee basis, however, there are others who offer packaged deals, or hunting packages that are inclusive fees, sometimes even airfares. This provides, in an economic way, a more scaled pricing option that can lower the total cost of a hunting safari and make these safaris surprisingly affordable.

4.) Location, Location, Location

Even though this isn’t listed first, this might be the first question on your mind: where to go? For a good majority of first-time hunters, South Africa and Namibia are the defacto destinations of choice. Why? Simply because it’s safe, which is something of concern for many first-timers who are considering Africa as their safari destination of choice. Also, above all else, it’s relatively inexpensive and both countries offer a wide variety of hunting options.

Many others feel that hunting in Africa gives them the necessary experience by hunting plains game, giving them a chance to prepare themselves, if they’re looking to ramp up their safaris to go after more dangerous game.

Your First African Safaris IS Within Reach

A hunting safari in Africa won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, however, the thrill and experience that such a safari can bring is the biggest reason alone that sends many first-time hunters jetsetting across the pond to create their own unforgettable safari experience. With the beautiful landscapes, good company and abundance of wildlife, it’s a scene ripped straight from the pages of a wildlife magazine.

Whatever the goal of motivation may be, an African safari isn’t something that only the super-rich and famous can afford; it’s an affordable goal for anyone with the desire to go. Setting goals, saving and some extra planning may soon see you pursuing African game in the landscapes of Africa.

A small word of warning, though: Africa is a beautifully magical and addictive destination, and its an itch that isn’t easily scratched.

For most safari hunters, the first trip is seldom their last.