African Hunt Budgeting
African hunt budgeting covers all the possible costs surrounding your hunt. Once you have chosen your hunt and think you know what it is going to cost, there are all the additional items to factor in which may or may not apply to you but are worth asking your outfitter about.
"To determine the precise cost of a safari before the fact is rather like figuring out the length of a piece of string with only one end in sight.
" Peter Hathaway Capstick
Budgeting for your trophy fees depends on what kind of hunt you have booked...
Pay-As-You-Shoot Trophy Fees
- These are hunts where you do only pay a trophy fee when you successfully take an animal or wound and lose one.
- You should have a list of all the available animals with their individual prices which are payable at the conclusion of the hunt. The fee is payable even if you wound and lose the animal. Usually the presence of blood or other tissue will indicate the wounded animal and even if it is not found, you will still have to pay.
- Trophy fees are usually payable in cash before you leave the hunting camp. Some outfitters now offer the full range of credit card services for trophy fee payment. It used to be traveller's cheques were an acceptable alternative to cash but they are practically obsolete nowadays due to the difficulty and very high charges to cash them in banks.
- Always check with your outfitter before the hunt how he prefers trophy fee payment and in what currency.
- Most outfitters charge trophy fees in US$ but a few in South Africa want payment in Rand (ZAR) and outfitters in west African countries will want Euros.
Pre-Paid Trophy Fees
- It is becoming common now for hunting companies, particularly the larger operators in Tanzania, to require a refundable trophy fee deposit to be paid before your departure to Tanzania. The amount required is based on the length of your hunting licence, for example, US$3500 for a 7 day hunt, up to US$25000 for a 28 day hunt.
- If you don't, for whatever reason, take all the animals that would add up to the deposit amount, you should promptly receive a refund of the balance from the outfitter into your bank account, without any quibbling.
- If you shoot more trophies and exceed the deposit amount, you will be required to pay the balance due in cash at the end of the hunt.
- This system essentially is a pay-as-you-shoot with your trophy fees held in 'escrow' and is useful if you don't want to carry around tens of thousands of dollars cash around with you. There is never (or should be never) any pressure from the outfitter or PH for you to shoot any animal you don't want, for whatever reason, just because you have pre-paid the trophy fees.
- If it is of concern to you, it is worth asking whether the outfitter passes any refund bank charges on to you.
Pre-Paid Trophy Fees Within A Hunt Package
- You need to keep your wits about you if you booked and are budgeting for a package hunt. Technically you have pre-paid for all your selected package trophies which may include 5 plains game animals OR 1 Cape buffalo only OR 1 leopard with 1 buffalo...there are endless package permutations.
- You really must check out the refund situation carefully should you not take some or all the animals on your package 'combo'. It might not be a big deal if you failed to get an impala out of your 5 animal plains game package but it's a big financial loss if you don't get a pre-paid high dollar animal. Some hunting companies offer no refunds whatsover, others will knock off a percentage of the listed trophy fee of the animal you failed to get and others will give you a fixed amount refund such as US$16000 if you failed to get the elephant on a 1 elephant hunt package.
- You must also find out whether your hunt package outfitter attaches any (hidden) criteria to issuing a refund for failing to get a package animal. For example, will he refund you if you do not find or see the animal at all during your hunt, the PH got you up on an animal but there was no shootable bull or it was impossible to get a shot, you missed a shot completely or you turned down a shot at a mediocre trophy hoping to do better later and this just didn't happen?
General Trophy Fee Budgeting
- You will need to pre-plan your trophy fee budget, bringing enough money for all the trophies you really want and perhaps an 'emergency' fund in case you can't resist an unplanned trophy animal. You will need to exercise a modicum of restraint in your hunting when working to your budget, unless you have previously agreed with the outfitter that he will take a online bank transfer mid-hunt, accepts credit cards or trusts you to send funds after you get home.
- If you exceed your planned trophy budget don't forget this may increase your taxidermy and shipping budget.
- There is another expense related to trophy fees that it is important to know about and have a contingency plan for. If you are hunting in a country that has strict Government hunting trophy criteria of animal size and gender, like Tanzania, there will be a hefty financial penalty if a game law is broken. Regardless of whether it was an unintentional or not, if the 'wrong' animal is killed or wounded, the fine will be the trophy fee x 3 total with the option that the Government may (unlikely) seize the trophy. This will not be an inconsiderable amount if a high dollar animal is involved!
Tips / Gratuities
- This can be quite a major expense especially if you are hunting in a wilderness area where there are a lot of camp and hunting staff involved with your hunt. Take the advice of your outfitter or PH as to what is expected by the way of tips. The subject of tips or gratuities always seems to cause some problems with some hunters so will be discussed further.
- If you are working to a budget, you might want to factor in other possible non-hunting tips en route - airport & hotel porters, taxi drivers, waiters etc.
Other Hunting Camp/Lodge Expenses
- Some hunting camps offer items for sale like their own range of clothing or African souvenirs. If you think you might buy this sort of thing, budget for a few dollars more, as again these items will be payable in cash or added to the final bill. Occasionally you'll find one of the camp staff is running his own African souvenir 'business' and in this case, cash will be the only form of payment. It is a good idea to bring small denomination notes for these purchases.
- You should already know whether alcoholic beverages of all types are included in your hunt price, whether some drinks are included such as beer and wine but branded spirits and champagne are not, or whether all alcohol beverages are at extra cost.
If alcohol is not included or partially included, be prepared for a bar bill at the end of your hunt. Again this will added to your hunt account and payable in cash before you leave.
- Alcoholic beverage prices will vary, depending where you hunt. For example in Tanzania, imported brands of alcohol are more expensive and there will be the additional costs of bringing it in to a remote camp either by air or truck. In southern Africa, alcoholic beverages are generally cheaper. You will be charged per bottle rather than per glass. A good outfitter will also ask you prior to your arrival, what your drink preferences are. If you don't specify what you want, don't expect the very finest vintage wine or best malt. If you want a very special brand of alcohol, it is a good idea is to buy it in the airport duty free shop and bring it with you, as some brands are not available in Africa or are outrageously expensive.
- If all alcohol is included in your hunt price, you may see that the outfitter has optimistically added 'in moderation'. Be realistic, if you do tend to drink heavily, please advise your outfitter so he can plan for this, otherwise, especially in remote areas, the drink may run out.
Airport To Hunting Camp Road Transfers
- The costs of transfers by road from the main or local airport to your hunting camp and return, may or may not be included in your hunt price. If it is not, check with your outfitter for the exact cost.
Other Possible Road Transfers
- In southern Africa, if you are going to be hunting another local area for a specific animal or two, find out if the road transfer costs will be added to your bill. If it's a case of going to the next door game farm, there will probably be no charge but if it's a good distance away, you'll likely be charged for fuel.
- A not inconsiderable part of your hunt budgeting, especially if you are travelling a long distance. Getting a good flight deal will be up to you but do not incur extra baggage charges inadvertently - remember your firearms and ammunition are included in your baggage weight allowance.
- If you are transiting or have a lay-over en route, remember possible additional hotel, meals, taxi, portering costs. Check whether any airport taxes are pre-included on your ticket and are not payable in cash at the airport on departure.
- Some European airlines charge to handle firearms and ammo which is payable at check-in. Sometimes these are quite hefty charges, for example BA charges £50 per case containing a firearm or ammo each way. Check with your travel agent or the airline you are planning to use.
Domestic Commercial Flights
- These flights can be booked when you make your international flight reservations. Except if you are flying to Zimbabwe with firearms, ensure all your flights are ticketed together so that your original baggage allowance applies to all your flights. This is particularly important for hunters from USA where they start with a 60kg allowance and a domestic flight in RSA, for example, only routinely allows 20kg.
- Assuming these are not included in your hunt price, the air charter costs will be itemised separately on your hunt invoice for advance payment and are booked by the outfitter. There may be a proviso that the cost may alter, usually due to potential fuel cost increases. Air charter costs are usually charged per aircraft, not per person - double check this with your outfitter if you are not sure. The costs are based on the size of aircraft and the distance travelled.
- On occasion, you will find some outfitters include air charter costs in your hunt costs. This where an outfitter can offer a air charter 'schedule' of sorts with outgoing clients using the return leg of the incoming clients, instead of the aircraft returning empty. It cuts air charter costs but only works when the hunt start and finish dates are convenient with all the hunters, or at least a batch of hunters, for the season.
- There is also an additional per person tax for landing, departure, safety and navigation. Depending on the country, this is a small US$ cash payment made at the charter terminal. Usually, for convenience, the good outfitter will add it to your invoice and pre-pay it, rather than have you delayed at the airfield. Check if this is the case.
- This African hunt budgeting item is based your personal choice of hotel accommodation standard. Your outfitter may recommend accommodation and make your reservation at a hotel which may give his clients preferential rates.
- If you prefer not to bring your own your firearm for any reason, the outfitter can usually offer to rent you one. There is generally a rifle rental charged daily or for the hunt duration and you will be charged for ammunition per round used or per box. The ammunition charge may be higher than you are used to paying in your home country, especially for good quality, large calibre rounds because they are more expensive in Africa.
Firearm Import Permits
- Depending on the country you are hunting in, there may be a fee per firearm to obtain your import permit. Where there is a charge, check whether it is included or not in your hunt price - some outfitters may include the fee for 1 rifle and charge you extra for subsequent rifles that you may want to bring. Other outfitters may exclude the fee from the hunt costs and just add it to your hunt invoice as a separate item. In South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe the issue of firearm import permits is free.
- The necessary 'meet & greet' service in countries like Tanzania are usually included in your hunt price. The company representative has your firearm permit with him and will see you through the firearm checks on both arrival and departure.
- In South Africa, for example, you can either organise your own permit documentation or use a airport firearm assistance company who will get your permit in advance, meet you and help you through the firearm checks. This optional service is an extra expense but may be useful as the documentation is quite involved and time-consuming especially if you have a tight onward flight connection.
- This is payable on airport arrival only in some African countries like Tanzania. It is a Government duty imposed on any amounts of ammunition exceeding 100 rounds. It will usually be a US$ cash payment.
- This important African hunt budgeting item may incur an increased premium rate for your hunting trip as hunting is considered a 'hazardous sport'. Also you may need to buy extra travel insurance cover for direct medical evacuation from the bush. Consider buying special hunting insurance and make sure your firearms are fully covered.
- Unless you don't intend to keep your trophies, taxidermy expenses are a major cost component of a hunt budget. Do plenty of research to find the company that will suit your budget whether in Africa or in your home country.
- Another major African hunt budgeting expense where shopping around may be called for. However, go with the
trophy shipping company that is most reputable and is very experienced with shipping animal products. Cutting corners and pennies here can result in disastrous consequences of delays, lost or impounded trophies.
Last But Not Least
- Africa is the home of the finest quality precious gems in the world. Wouldn't a piece of tanzanite or tsavorite jewellery be an ideal gift for the most important person in your life? Worth extending your African hunt budgeting plan a little, don't you think?
More On Planning An African Hunt