African Hunt Tipping
African hunt tipping is subject of great confusion and is a never-ending hot topic of debate among hunters.
"The tipping custom originated in England when small sums were dropped into a box marked T.I.P.S. -- TO INSURE PROMPT SERVICE" Anon
To most, tipping was, and still is, an optional gift given in return for excellent service.
Recommendations for actual tips or gratuities amounts will not be included here because there are so many variables - the following are just points to consider.
African Hunt Tipping
- Somehow tipping has become mandatory not only in hunting but in many service industries. In fact it has often been conveniently taken out of your control with 15% service charges added to your restaurant bill. Neglect to or under-tip a hotel concierge for his services in the US, ensures you will not be welcome again.
- Some hunters are at least bemused or downright vitriolic about the African hunt tipping business where safari companies publicise their tipping 'suggestions' for their PHs and staff and it has become a norm and accepted additional expense to the hunt. Some hunters resent, having paid all their hunt costs, they are then expected to shell out not inconsiderable amounts to supplement the wages of the PH and staff, which are heavily relied upon. On the other hand, some don't want to appear too mean and genuinely don't know what the 'correct amount' to tip is or even how to judge 'good level of hunt service' - often gauging this just on hunt results.
- Some hunters actually take exception to tipping staff that they rarely or actually don't see during the hunt equating this with not tipping the guy taking the garbage out in the restaurant at home. Thus, the laundry person, chef and night security guard and the other workers, there to make sure the wheels don't fall off your hunt, are not considered worthy of some recognition for their work.
- Having said this, tipping African hunting staff is traditional and the tip is a fairly important part of their wages. So going from here, it is advised to budget for this expense in your early hunt planning and indeed, if you feel that it is an expense you can ill afford, tailor your hunt down to where you can afford to give an average tip for good work done.
- Estimate a range of tips or gratuities on the advice of your PH, based on the highest level of service you expect to receive, affordability, the length of hunt and whether dangerous game is involved. This will give you the scope to tip more if you feel it is warranted or less if things were not as you hoped. Bear in mind this is hunting and not shopping and you play a large part in your own success, so lack of trophy results is not usually due to lack of effort by the staff. So don't reward gut-busting effort with low tips - it's insulting. Indeed, if there is a paucity of game going into the salt, your hunt staff will work even harder to make things come right for you.
- Take advice from the PH about the staff 'hierarchy' regarding individual tip amounts. The senior personnel like the hunting crew, skinner and chef would generally receive more than the 'invisible' personnel who still work more than 14 hours a day. Increasingly, hunters cannot be bothered with all this and would rather throw a wad of money at the PH and tell him to sort it. This is rather bad-mannered and the least you should do is genuinely thank someone for their efforts face to face.
- The only person who should be tipped privately is the Government Game Scout if you have one and feel he is worthy of a tip. As a Government servant, only there to observe for game law infringements, he should not be seen to be receiving a 'reward'. However some Game Scouts are extremely helpful and practical in the field and rewarding this may be appropriate.
- Make sure your tips or gratuities are in the appropriate currency. US$ are fine in most places but Rand would be more suitable in South Africa. Small denomination notes are best and ensure that any US$ are the new version with a large-headed President, as the older notes are not acceptable in banks or shops in many African countries. Certainly, traveller's cheques are not appropriate for tipping staff - they will have the devil's own job trying to cash these.
- Fun items like T-shirts and caps are very much appreciated by staff. A little forethought is required before bringing any more expensive gifts and expecting this to replace cash, wholly or partially. While not wishing to pour cold water on 'useful gifts' like knives, duct tape, cheap binoculars and other hunting paraphernalia donated with the best intentions, to trackers and skinners, there is a hint of the 'beads and mirrors' mentality. A popular tracker will have half a dozen of these items by the end of a season and quite frankly, will probably sell them. He, like you, has a family to keep, school fees and medical bills to pay, so generally a cash tip is more welcome.
- Some hunters like to donate their hunt clothes and other items that they have bought with them, going home considerably lighter than they arrived. Most hunting staff view this with concealed amusement but thank the 'bwana' most profoundly!
Tipping Your PH
- Tip according to how you feel about the job he has done for you, what you can afford, length and type of hunt.
- There is some chariness among some hunters about tips or gratuities for a PH who actually owns the hunting company based on him getting a 'huge' slice of the profits anyway, and as such, does not merit a tip. As a hunting company owner, there is not a huge amount of profit in any hunt and if he is acting in his capacity as PH for the duration of the hunt, so why should his efforts not be rewarded should you feel they merit it?
- It is commonly proposed that you should tip your PH a percentage of the daily rate per day. This means with some hunts, priced on an all-in basis, you'll actually have to figure out the daily rate isolated from all the Government taxes and fees.
- Giving your PH a useful hunting gift, as with the other staff, can be a hollow gesture, even though well-intentioned, unless you know him very well. Choice of hunting equipment is a personal matter, besides which how many good pairs of binoculars or knives can the guy need? If you know your PH from previous hunts or get to know him in the hunt booking process, it might be appropriate to ask him if he needs anything that you could bring over.
More On African Hunting Safari Expectations
Page Updated: Jan 2020