How to Plan an African Safari for Less

Chase your dreams without ruining your credit score.

Eland are the world’s largest antelope. Bigger than Alaska/Yukon moose. Bigger than Cape buffalo! They are common, elusive, and delicious across southern Africa.

 

Dream dates are often expensive. Your African dream safari doesn’t have to be. It’s actually less expensive to hunt big game in Africa than in North America . . . if you plan a safari for less. We are going to show you how to do just that in a new series of in-depth articles. Everything you need to know to make an Africa safari for less! Let’s dive in.

 

WHERE TO MAKE YOUR AFRICA SAFARI FOR LESS

The southern African countries of Namibia and South Africa offer the most productive, least expensive big-game hunting in the world right now. Thanks to hunter demand, wildlife is thriving, with populations their highest in more than 100 years. You could hunt there for less than the cost of a decent elk hunt in Montana—and a heck of a lot less than a moose hunt. I recently saw a nine-day Alaska moose hunt advertised at $24,500. That didn’t include airfare, licenses, and tags. Spend half that in Africa and you’ll have to buy a bigger barn to hold all your trophies.

Heck, some African outfitters are offering five-species hunts for less than $4,000. That sometimes includes room, board, guides, trackers, skinners, licenses, and tags/trophy fees. Throw in about $2,000 for a round-trip jet ride, and you’re in and out for about $1,200 per animal. You can’t get a pronghorn hunt in the U.S. for that!

And don’t worry about seeing enough game. You’ll see dozens. Choose among antelope bigger than an Alaska/Yukon moose, plus three more the size of elk and a half-dozen the size of a whitetail. We’re talking eland, kudu, oryx, wildebeest, hartebeest, warthog, impala, springbuck, steenbuck, reedbuck, blesbuck, mountain reedbuck, bushbuck, and more! And you’re liable to see all of it in a single day.

Game numbers range from common to abundant in southern African hunting concessions. Often the hardest part of a stalk is sneaking past giraffe, baboons, and two or three antelope species in order to reach the one you’ve selected.

By the way, you won’t have to sleep on the ground in a tent in the rain and eat freeze-dried food during your Africa safari for less. Oh, you can find those hunts, but most Africa hunts are conducted out of luxury canvas tent camps, cabins, or ranch houses with hot showers, real beds with clean sheets, and fine dining at a real table on real china. Maids and cooks and cleaners and trackers and drivers will do all the work for you. You just eat, drink, and be merry, hunting hard and celebrating ’round a warming campfire each night while a billion stars rotate overhead and jackals bark in the distance.

So maybe it’s time you looked at Africa in a new light?

Since 1995 I’ve enjoyed more than a dozen safaris in five southern African countries and—Hello!—lived to tell about them. No snake bites, no lion mauling, no elephant charges. OK, one rhino charge, but we were in a truck and he couldn’t catch us.

Heck, I haven’t even had to endure horrible series of shots to ward off tropical diseases. Southern Africa climates and habitats are more like eastern Montana, West Texas, or Arizona. I’ve rarely seen so much as a mosquito there. So lay aside all your Tarzan preconceptions. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to spell out how you and your family and friends can enjoy what I and my family and friends have loved time and time again. I plan to provide all the information and details you’ll need to indulge in a safe, comfortable, productive, and affordable African safari. I’ll cover everything from guns and optics to clothing and travel. And I’ll wager dollars to doughnuts your African safari will be easier, cheaper, and more fun than you ever imagined. Let’s get started with everybody’s favorite part of this extended dream: guns and ammo.

 

This .416 Rigby Mauser is right at home on an African safari.

 

 

RIFLES AND CARTRIDGES FOR YOUR AFRICA SAFARI FOR LESS

Start saving by not buying a special, big-bore Africa rifle. Oh, you’re welcome to get one (and I encourage you to just because new rifles are fun and the excise taxes on them fund wildlife conservation!), but you really don’t need to. Your deer rifle will suffice. You don’t need a double rifle or a .375 H&H Magnum unless you’re tackling buffalo, hippo, or elephant. Seriously. Any common bolt action, single shot, or lever action from a .270 Winchester on up will kill African antelope dead, even those 2,000-pound eland. The .300 Win. Mag. may be the perfect do-it-all African plains game cartridge, but shoot a .30-06 and I doubt the antelope will know the difference.

A few years ago I had excellent success in Zambia (watch the hunt in this video) with a Sauer 101 in .30-06 shooting 180-grain Swift A-Frames. With 140-grain Barnes TTSX bullets, a Blaser R8 in 7mm Rem. Mag. proved deadly on kudu, wildebeest, oryx, and eland. At Immenhof Safaris in Namibia, my wife took black and blue wildebeest bulls with single shots from a .308 Winchester spitting 150-grain Norma Kalahari bullets. On one hunt with Jamy Traut in Namibia, she toppled a fine kudu bull, a 40-inch bull oryx, and a massive blue wildebeest using three 140-grain Swift A-Frames launched from a Jarrett rifle in 7mm-08 Remington.

Of course, you can choose larger calibers. I used a Ruger Hawkeye in .338 Win. Mag. recently and took an impala, oryx, and massive bull eland with one shot each. A .375 H&H in a Blaser R8 felled another eland. Both of these cartridges put out enough recoil that flinching becomes a real possibility. You don’t want to flinch. The increased bullet diameter and mass are nice, but not if they can’t be directed to the right spot. Choose bullet placement over power every time.

Bolt actions are best because they are legal, rugged, and simple to operate, unload, and repair. Lever actions and single shots are fine, if not ideal, but autoloaders and “military-look” rifles are not going to cut it at customs. Illegal. Officials see classic hunting rifles every day, so importing them is easy. We’ll dive deeper into rifles in our next installment.

 

Following African trackers is an education in field craft as well as an adventure.

 

 

BULLETS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN CARTRIDGE/CALIBER

Be more concerned about your bullets than your cartridge. Placed properly, most bullets that work on deer and elk will also lower the boom on African antelope, but to be on the safe side, lean toward deep-penetrating, controlled-expansion bullets. You may be shooting a 40-pound duiker one day, a 700-pound kudu the next, and a 1,800-pound eland after that on your Africa safari for less. You want projectiles that you know will drive through massive muscle and bone to rake the vitals from any angle.

Such bullets include:

1. Monolithic hollow points like the Barnes TTSX and Hornady GMX. African guides (known as PHs, professional hunters) say these bullets are like an expanding soft point and a solid in one bullet. That’s because the noses peel back instantly upon striking game to expand 1½X to 2X original diameter. Sharp edges radiate energy and tissue damage well beyond the bullet’s path. The long, copper-alloy shanks drive these expanded noses deep, and virtually none of the bullet’s mass is lost to erosion or fragmentation.

2. Bonded, lead-core bullets. There are many, but Swift’s Scirocco and Norma’s Oryx bullets are prime examples. Though shaped differently, each consists of a thick copper-alloy jacket molecularly bonded (welded) to a lead core. The two cannot separate. Friction against hide, bone, and meat will erode some lead from the mass, but most will remain intact to drive deep. Sciroccos are long and sleek for maximum long-range work, the Oryx for closer shots.

3. Partitioned bullets. Nosler’s Partition is the original. A horizontal wall of jacket material across its center locks in the lead shank, while the lead nose mushrooms like a typical cup-and-core bullet. Partitions usually retain 60 percent or more weight and penetrate nicely. I usually find them lodged against the hide on the far side.

4. Bonded and partitioned. Swift’s A-Frame fits this category. It’s designed much like the Partition but with a thicker jacket and bonded lead nose. Weight retention and penetration are impressive. A-Frames, like Barnes monolithic bullets, often shoot through, improving chances for a blood trail if needed. Africans are fantastic trackers, but a dribble of blood never hurts. Swift A-Frames, as well as Sciroccos, are now loaded by the Swift Cartridge Company in most popular hunting calibers. You can load your own, of course, and bullets can be purchased from Brownells.

 

Left to right: .243 Win., .260 Rem., 7mm-08 Rem., .308 Win., .338 Fed., and .358 Win. The .243 Win. is a bit light for larger African species, but it has been used many times to bring home the bacon. I’d lean toward the 7mm-08, which I’ve used several times with excellent results, and the .338 Federal.

 

 

CHOOSE REASONABLE ACCURACY FOR YOUR AFRICA SAFARI FOR LESS

Were I deciding among all controlled-expansion bullets, I’d probably go with the one my rifle shot most accurately. By the way, a rifle that consistently groups shots into 1½ MOA (1½-inch circle at 100 yards) is more than deadly accurate enough for Africa. It is capable of keeping all its shots inside a six-inch circle at 400 yards, and you rarely have to shoot that far in Africa.

The bullet weight you choose in any caliber depends on your recoil tolerance more than anything else. (The heavier the bullet, the more the recoil.) In a given caliber and shape, heavier bullets do carry more energy downrange and penetrate more deeply than lighter ones, but with the controlled-expansion bullets listed above, you should get adequate penetration regardless. Still, if you can handle the recoil, go with the heavier bullets offered in your cartridge. Examples include 150-grains in .270 Win., 160- to 175-grains in most 7mms, 180- to 200-grains in .30-06, and 190- to 225-grains in .300 magnums.

In our next installment, we’ll take a more thorough look at rifles, actions, stocks, etc. Stick with us as you prepare for your Africa safari for less!

 

For more from Ron Spomer, check out his website, ronspomeroutdoors.com, and be sure to subscribe to Sporting Classics for his rifles column and features.