Skip to main content

4 Great Options for an African Safari

At Safari Club International's annual convention, I've taken part in a panel seminar on "the first safari." It's a wonderful thing to see. The room is always completely full of folks in some stage of planning their first African hunt. I envy them. The first African safari is a truly life-changing event that can never be recaptured€¦ although many of us spend much of our lives trying to regain that level of magic and excitement.

Most all the people in the room have made the decision to take the plunge.  Even so, I know that some of them, and many of you, are intimidated by the concept of going all the way to Africa to hunt. This is understandable, and there's usually no shortage of bad stuff in the press on African crime and politics.

So, is Africa safe? Africa, like many large American cities, may not be a place where unescorted tourists should run around at will. I think Africa is very safe — when conducted with a reputable outfitter who will shepherd you through your adventure.

A surprising number of hunters believe Africa is completely unaffordable. OK, I get it. All guided hunts are unaffordable to some€¦ and there are certainly some African hunts that are far beyond my means. However, here's the truth: Many African hunts are surprisingly affordable. There was a recent post on this magazine's website, directed at me and definitely anti-African hunting, about me being born with a silver spoon in my, er, somewhere.


Yes, my dad made a good living — but he had no interest in Africa. I was a 24-year-old First Lieutenant when I saved my pennies and went for the first time, with no assistance from anyone. Today, I meet hunters from all walks of life and, honestly, all income brackets who have been, are going, and are going again.


A plains game safari yielding a half-dozen good trophies and a lifetime's worth of memories might be priced about the same as a good whitetail hunt in Texas or a very average guided elk hunt on public land. A safari that includes buffalo will run about the same as a premium elk hunt€¦but considerably less than a good Alaskan moose or Dall sheep hunt.

The Plains Game Safari

A plains game hunt is seven to 10 days for a selection of non-dangerous animals. When I was planning my first safari in the 1970s, this type of safari was actually quite unusual. Back then, the "norm" was a two- or three-week safari that usually included at least a couple of the big nasties. Today, the plains game safari is the most common, probably about 70 percent of the approximately 20,000 hunting safaris conducted annually, continent-wide.

The game list varies considerably from area to area, but one thing is certain: In Africa, it is almost impossible to take all the varieties of game found in an area on one short hunt. So most plains game safaris concentrate on a couple of "premier" trophies, with kudu and gemsbok probably the most popular choices. Then there will be a selection of other animals, such as springbok, impala, hartebeest, blesbok, wildebeest, warthog, zebra, and more. Some animals will be deliberately hunted; others will only be taken by chance encounter.




One of the best things about Africa is you never know what you might see on a given day. So it's impossible to determine exactly what your bag might consist of at the end of your hunt. You will likely take your primary animals, because that's where you'll invest most of your time. But you'll also collect an animal or two that you had in mind, and you will also probably take an animal or two that you hadn't even thought about.

A piece of advice (and this is important where "trophy awareness" is an endemic sickness): Leave your tape measure in camp and listen to your PH's advice. He will do the best he can, but trophy quality will likely follow a bell curve. Some of your trophies will be exceptional, most will be pretty good, and a couple will be average. This is how hunting works.

So let's look at the options for the plains game safari. Outfitters from Cameroon to Tanzania and down to Zambia sell less expensive hunts for the more common non-dangerous species. These are good hunts, but because of logistics, paperwork, and the sheer "TIA" (This Is Africa) factor, probably not ideal first safaris. In the 1980s and '90s, there were three primary choices for a first plains game safari: Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Since Zimbabwe's despot, Robert Mugabe, began land reallocation in 2000, most of Zimbabwe's plains game on private land has been poached and eaten. With few exceptions (like some of the large conservancies), Zimbabwe is no longer in the plains game market. This leaves two primary choices for a plains game safari.


South Africa

South Africa has the largest hunting industry on the African continent and hosts possibly 40 percent of the entire continent's hunting safaris. Although South Africa offers the entire Big Five, the majority of South African safaris are for plains game.

Namibia

Then South West Africa, Namibia was a very quiet and little-known backwater when I first hunted there in 1979. Today, this country hosts Africa's second-largest hunting industry, and I believe it now holds ten times the game than when I first hunted there.

Mozambique

Just a few years ago, I wouldn't have offered up Mozambique as a first safari option, but Africa can change quickly€¦and Mozambique's game has proven marvelously resilient.

Zimbabwe

Due to the huge losses of game on 'reallocated ' private lands, Zimbabwe is no longer a primary destination for a plains game safari, and options for a buffalo-plus-plains game safari are much more limited. However, buffalo hunting remains excellent in the designated safari areas and some of the forestry reserves and communal lands on the periphery of the country.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Popular Videos

Stuffed Elk Backstrap Recipe

Stuffed Elk Backstrap Recipe

Take your venison loin to a whole new level with this delicious reverse-seared stuffed elk backstrap. Smoking the backstrap on a Camp Chef Woodwind pellet grill first, then finishing it on a blazing-hot skillet or flattop, creates a perfectly cooked, medium-rare steak with a crispy, seared exterior. The filling of diced mushrooms and creamy Boursin cheese adds a whole new level of amazing flavors to an otherwise classic smoked venison loin.

New for 2021: Browning X-Bolt Pro McMillan & Recoil Hawg

New for 2021: Browning X-Bolt Pro McMillan & Recoil Hawg

Browning's X-Bolt Pro family has grown in 2021 with the addition of the Pro McMillan. An innovative muzzle break — the Recoil Hawg — also joins the line.

Fare Game: Venison Heart Kabobs Recipe

Fare Game: Venison Heart Kabobs Recipe

The heart of a deer, elk, antelope or other big-game animal is an underrated cut that often gets left behind in the woods. Next time, save your heart for these amazing appetizers. A hunter's riff on anticuchos de corazón, a popular Peruvian street food you can make easily right on your grill.

See All Videos

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Petersen's Hunting App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Petersen's Hunting stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Hunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now