The A to Z of booking your trip

Planning and Booking your next African Safari.

Traveling internationally can be so daunting with all the arrangements that need to be made, where to stay, where to eat, will it be safe? Now throw the word Africa into that sentence and for many it is just too a big task to even attempt. And sadly, for many, that’s exactly where their dreams of traveling to Africa stops. And the reality is that traveling to Africa is no more difficult and as easy as traveling to most other countries and continents.

Like all international travel, it just takes a small amount of planning and it should be smooth sailing from there on out. Herewith is an overall breakdown of how to go about planning and booking your next African Safari.

Dates

For most areas the hunting season runs from about March through to October / November. In Africa winter is normally May through to July/August. Cooler weather leads to better capes and more pleasant conditions.

Some areas and species have seasons that are different from what I have mentioned above, so be sure to check for the best dates with your outfitter.

Ask Your Outfitter the following questions:

What would be the best time of year, success and quality, for me to book this hunt?”

Keep in mind that there could be a difference between best time of year for Quality of trophy and best time of year for best experience. This could be due to weather etc.

I can only make this trip in the month of XXXX, would that time frame still allow for a quality trip?”

The idea here is to find a date that works for you, works for the Outfitter and that will deliver a high-quality experience.

So, with dates secured with the Outfitter we can now move over to looking at flights!

Flights

When booking flights, you can go directly to the airline website and book your own flights. I prefer recommending a travel agent as they are more familiar with travel requirements, documentation and layovers and they do this for a very small fee. Often it works out cheaper booking through a travel agent as they can implement a thorough search for all airlines. We use an amazing travel agent based in the States that we would highly recommend. Drop me an email and I’ll place you in contact. mark@hudsonsafaris.com

You want to mention to your Travel Agent whether or not you will be traveling with your own firearms or not. If you are making your own bookings then you want to allow for a bit more time on layovers in the event that your firearm needs to go through security clearance.

Another tip I like to ell my clients is that if they have the time available, possibly spend an extra night over before the hunt starts. You might be flying from Atlanta Georgia, to Johannesburg South Africa and then onto Port Elizabeth South Africa. On Arrival spend the night in Port Elizabeth just to catch your breath.

Safety

Like all countries, there are places that are safer and less safe. Africa and in particular South Africa is exactly the same. Most of the time, whilst on Safari you will be with the Outfitter or the Professional Hunter. It might be that if you are flying into Johannesburg, South Africa and this is not your final inbound destination that you might need to spend the night before catching you next flight. There are numerous hotels close to the airport that can be used however I would caution on making use of public transport and staying at a random hotel or Guest House in the city.

When our clients need to spend the night, I always book them at a nearby Guest House/Lodge that has a meet and greet representative at the airport as well as a dedicated shuttle to and from the Lodge. This same Lodge will also assist with getting your Temporary Import Export Permit, for your firearm, before you arrive and will assist you with clearing you through the firearms inspection.

This same lodge will also assist you the following morning with getting your firearms checked through the security check and get you to your security screening gate. A fantastic service and well worth the small fee that they charge.

In addition to the above there is also a company that helps you through the Customs Clearance and baggage claim and walks you through to the rifle office should you need.

Drop me an email and I’ll get you the details. mark@hudsonsafaris.com

How does the Safari work?

Your Outfitter/ Professional Hunter or company representative will meet you at their nearest airport and transfer you back to camp. On arrival you would normally settle in and then if light allows, you will get a chance to sight your rifles. If its already dark you will need to do it first thing in the morning.

A nice hearty dinner and a good night’s rest will get you to day 1 of your Safari.

Its normally a fairly early morning start with a light breakfast and then you are off to the ‘veld’ (pronounced like you would say felt) …African for bush/woods/hunting grounds. It depends on the different terrains and the type of animals you will be hunting but mostly you will drive around to various vantage points to scout for game. Once you have located the game you and your Professional Hunter would lay out a plan. Your PH will normally have a very good understanding of the lay of the land and how the animals react.

Lunch is either enjoyed in the veld (remember FELT) or you would head back to the lodge. If you are lucky enough to get a little siesta after lunch it is best to take full use of it and go lie on your bed and check your eyelids for holes. The afternoon will normally start around 2:30pm and will go through until dark.

Back at camp you will have an opportunity to get cleaned up and then enjoy a fantastic evening around the camp fire. Dinner and drinks will round out a fantastic day.

The remainder of your days should be quite similar.

At the end of your safari, you will be transferred back to the airport where you will start your journey home. If you are having to connect through Johannesburg, a meet and greet and airport assistance can be arranged?

Taxidermy

At the end of your Safari, your Outfitter will arrange for your clearly marked trophies to be delivered to a local taxidermist that the company works with. Once the Taxidermist receives your trophies, they will contact you with a list of the parts and pieces received and then request your instructions.

You can either have the local taxidermist mount the animals as per your instructions and then on completion have them shipped home or you can have the local taxidermist do a ‘dip and ship’. This is when they get the skins and horns cleaned according to international standards and them ship them to your home. You will then need to get a US based taxidermist to mount the animals for you!

Depending on when your hunt is, you can expect your mounted trophies home between 8 to 10 months after the work order has been started. On Dip and Ship you would probably be looking at about 4 to 5 months.

Ask your Outfitter who their Taxidermist is and drop them an email. Give them an idea of what you are planning to hunt and ask them to give you some more info regarding their services and what their turn around time would be. Get some pricing from them so that you know everything going into the hunt? If you are in a hurry to get your trophies back it helps to get a deposit down as soon as possible as your deposit starts the work order.

Costs

If you are anything like me you too will hate surprises…. especially when it comes to finances.

Below is a list of the main expenses / costs that you can expect on your trip. Use this list and ask you Outfitter to discuss all the costs with you so that you can plan properly.

Flights – The obvious would be your flights from your home to your point of contact with the outfitter and back. Remember to check on baggage requirements and maximum weights, Gun luggage costs if applicable and also the cost of any charters if required.

Accommodation before and after your safari – On your inbound flight you might need to spend the night at an airport like Johannesburg. These costs are normally for your account. Likewise, on the way out, however this is not normally the case as flights can be booked to avoid overnight layovers.

Temporary Import Export Permits and gun clearance assistance – In South Africa you will need a temporary license for the duration of your stay. It is best to get these permits pre-approved which means that your application would need to be submitted about a month prior to your arrival. There are companies that specialize in providing these services and are worth every penny. Some of them will also offer a meet and greet service at the airport which again I have found to be exceptionally valuable.

Day Fees – These are the fees that cover your daily costs from the Outfitter. If you are booked on a package hunt then they are normally included in the price. Ask about all the inclusions and exclusions in your Day Rate like drinks, laundry etc.

Trophy Fees – These are the rates that relate to the animals you will be hunting. Again, if you are on a package hunt then certain animals will be included in your package price. Ask if there are any limitations with regards to size on the animals listed in the package.

Keep in mind that you will be charged for all animals killed or wounded. You might want to check what the definition of wounded is? This will normally relate to the signs of blood, bodily fluids or hair. In Africa there is no such thing as just a graze or a nick. Grazes and nicks cause death in the end.

In my company I make it clear to my clients that sometimes one isn’t able to find any blood or signs of a hit, however if I am watching the animal and based on sound and reaction determine that the animal has been hit then I will make the call and ask that my clients will honor my decision. This might sound harsh but I can assure you that in 20 years of being a professional hunter, I have never had a discrepancy regarding this and 99% of the time the clients will tell me that the animal was hit before I can make the call.

Tips and Gratuities – This is always a difficult subject to discuss as tips are not mandatory, but very much appreciated by the staff assisting you. When looking at the norms there are differences in the average amount tipped to staff based on the type of safari and also where you will be hunting! Big 5 is different to Plains Game as an example. Send me an email to mark@hudsonsafaris.com and let me know where you are planning to go hunting and I will be happy to forward you a recommendation.

Please feel free to download our packing list on my website at www.hudsonsafaris.com

We are currently running the most amazing special to date!! Check it out at www.huntinghudsonsafaris.com

Blessings and happy hunting!

Mark Hudson Safaris.