Author: Mike Schoby
When the winter wind howls around the eaves and my mind becomes claustrophobic from cabin fever, I reflect on the Africa of my dreams. Read on and see how easy and economical a trip to Africa is today.
I looked through the heavily frosted windows at the snow piling up outside. The wind crescendoed and created an eerie howl around the gaps in the window frame. My mind drifted back to a different place and time.
While I love watching a mule deer crest over a distant sage-covered rise, or a coyote barreling in to a rabbit - in - distress call, nothing is quite as memorable as the green hills of Africa. I closed my eyes to Savannas covered in waving, tawny grass, dense clumps of Mopane trees and groves of Acacias. Among them, zebras, impalas, wildebeest and warthogs all bellied up to the waterhole vying for the best spot as the sun does it's daily fiery-red plummet to the horizon. It is a scene that is hard to expel from memory.
Africa, It is a Feasible Hunt
When I first started dreaming about Africa, I thought I would never be able to afford it. How wrong I was. Africa today is cheaper than most guided North American hunts and is almost always cheaper than going to Canada or Alaska for a moose or even a caribou hunt. In addition to being cheaper, your chances of harvesting game, let alone multiple species, is much, much higher. When you look at the cost, compared to what you get for your money, it is easy to see why so many people feel that Africa is the best "bang for your buck" hunting destination in the world.
Another nice thing about Africa is that it really doesn't take much in the way of specialized equipment. If you are an avid big game hunter, chances are you already have the perfect gear in your closet. A standard deer/elk rifle in the .270- .338 range is more then adequate for all of the antelope species you will ever encounter. If you are planning a hunt for big game (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant or rhino), then yes, your rifle caliber will need to be increased. A .375 will work (and has accounted for thousands of dangerous critters over the years), but a .416 Rigby or Remington will probably be a better all around choice.
Regardless if you are hunting antelope or going after the biggest of tuskers, bullet selection should be made with care. I prefer premium, controlled - expansion bullets, such as the Swift A-Frames, for 90% of the game in Africa. If dangerous game is sought, a box of solid bullets should be included as well, even though most situations will dictate the use of expanding bullets.
As far as other accessories are concerned, pack a couple of khaki shirts, some bush shorts and a pair of khaki pants (laundry is done daily by the help, so there is no need to pack large amounts of clothes). A good pair of soft-soled stalking boots, a large brimmed hat and your wardrobe will be complete.
Now Is The Time
There is no better time to dream of Africa, and consequently plan your hunt than right now. The main hunting season in most African countries starts in mid-April and ends around mid-September. Most of the time you will need to book a year in advance. So winter is the perfect time to stop dreaming and start planning.
Where To Go
Where to go is dictated by what you want to hunt, the kind of experience desired and the amount of money you are able to spend. That being said, most first time safaris are taken to South Africa.
South Africa is a marvelously diverse country. Stretching from the barren red sands of the Kalahari in the west, to the lush rolling mountains of KwaZulu-Natal in the east. I have spend months hunting in South Africa and have yet to even come close to seeing it all - It truly is everything rolled into one.
The majority of hunts conducted in South Africa are high-fenced, ranch style hunts. These hunts are sometimes spoken of in derogatory terms, but usually only by people who either haven't experienced one, or by someone who had the rare bad experience. I, as well as many friends, have hunted on many different ranches in South Africa, and to a "T" have all had excellent experiences.
Most of the ranches in South Africa are so large, a fence is seldom (if ever) encountered. The lodging is first rate, the trophies are usually exceptional, and the price is modest to say the least. All that being said, what sets South Africa apart from other countries is its accessibility. There are non-stop flights leaving daily from Atlanta, GA. on South African Airlines, that will deliver you either to Cape Town or Johannesburg.
Clicking through the 2002 Outdoor Adventures hunt selection pages on this site, I saw several packages that offer 8 animals for under $5,000. Compare this to a single moose hunt that costs twice as much - it really does put South Africa into the realm of possibility.
Another country that also offers ranch style hunts, but of a little different flavor, is Namibia, located to the west of South Africa. I have hunted there six different times, and it always leaves me in awe. To begin with, if the ranches in South Africa are huge, then the ones in Namibia are colossal! The country is still wild, mainly uninhabited and the game is thick. Vast herds of gemsbok, eland and springbok are constantly encountered, as are large bull kudu, and warthogs. It is a great experience for a first-timer or an old-hand, and should seriously be considered by anyone looking to take a plains game safari.
For The Big Five (elephant, rhino, Cape buffalo, leopard, and lion), as well as a good mixture of plains game species, take a look further north. Countries like Zimbabwe, and Tanzania both offer terrific sport and first rate scenery. Most safaris in these regions are more closely akin to the traditional tented camps of old east Africa fame and there are some tremendous "deals" to be had on certain members of the Big Five.
As the wind changed from a howl to a gale, my mind snapped back from the dying sun of the Dark Continent and refocused on the swirling clouds of solidified water outside my window. It had been a year since I last drank the waters of the mighty Zambezi. I needed to return, I decided, as I reached for the latest copy of Cabela's Outdoor Adventures World Wide Big Game Trips catalog. "Where to this year?" I thought as I flipped open the cover.
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