The Affordable Safari; Your African Dream Hunt, Part I

Editors Note: Jeff, the author, was not compensated in any way by South Africa or the outfitter for writing this article. He paid with his own money the same way any other hunter would in this situation.

An African safari is just about every hunter’s dream – the ultimate hunting experience. A chance to see and chase game we’ve only seen on TV, online, or in a zoo may seem out of reach or above the average hunter’s paygrade. I recently found out that was not actually the case.  

Seeing your first herd of these run past will change your hunting goals forever.

One day, a few months ago, a friend called and asked if I wanted to go on an African safari with him and some of his family. I said yes, of course, but then doubted I would be able to spare the vacation time or find room in my budget to go.  

He quickly piqued my interest by saying the package they had from the outfitter was 3 animals for $1000, though most going were planning to upgrade for additional animals.

Bottom Line Up Front

Now I was really interested and asking for dates and details. The Marupa Safari’s $1000 package price included all transportation inside the country, lodging, and food along with the 3 animals. The specific animals included were a wildebeest, a warthog, and a springbok. 

This all seemed a little too good to be true, but I was assured they had hunted with this outfitter before and it was on the up and up. This was a bit of special pricing and not one of their standard packages, but more on that later. So, I quickly cleared the time off work and started looking at flight prices to match up with the group’s flight times.

As we all know, flight prices vary depending on season, availability, and how far in advance you purchase. To leave from my hometown and arrive on the same flight as the group, the cost was $2000. I used some credit card points and some airline miles I had from previous travels and got the cost down to $1200, so I was in.

Most groups start planning and booking with an outfitter at least a year out, I was dealing on a much shorter time table, but the group already had all the logistics in place so all I had to do was follow the path already in motion. This was going to be a trip to South Africa (SA) for what it would cost me to go to the beach for a week – unbelievable.

You never knew what you would see around the next bush, curve or the next day

Dream Hunt Series Details

This article is the first in a three-part series. In this series I’m going to dive fairly deep into the details of the costs, getting there with all my gear, and how the hunts went in an effort to give you an idea of what I experienced, what to plan for, and what to expect if you decide to make the trip yourself- which I highly recommend.

Each part of the series will have details about the planning, logistics, accommodations, and in-country experience, so be sure to read all three parts to get the full picture.

We hunted the Kimberley area (center of the map); another hunting area is in Limpopo province.

Marupa Safaris

Marupa has hunting property in the Northern Cape Province near Kimberley, as well as two camps in the Limpopo Province. We hunted the Kimberley location. The variety of animals left me speechless; I have hunted for over 30 years and never knew there were so many different types of plains game.

In the Kimberley area, Marupa has access to about 20,000 acres for hunting between what they own, lease, and have concession rights to. The Limpopo Province hunting camps have almost double the acreage available for hunting. The location for a hunt is determined based on the hunters and what game they are interested in hunting.

It seemed game knew when it was and wasn’t being hunted

The Path to South Africa

The first step is to lock in hunting dates with an outfitter, and that doesn’t happen without putting the money down to reserve your dates. I quickly added my payment to that of the others already on the trip to secure my spot at the lodge. Now the group had a full 8 people to fill the bunking available at the Marupa Kimberley lodge.

Kimberley lodge was modern and had all the creature comforts…

In order for the outfitter to only make one trip to the airport to pick us up, we arranged to all be on the same flight. This also supported getting all our firearms imported and through customs at the same time, strength in numbers, or at least that was the plan.

Paperwork

I’ve traveled quite a bit hunting and competing around the US and in European and South and Central American countries. In comparison, it is relatively straight forward to bring a rifle into South Africa for a safari. All you need is a passport, an invitation letter from the outfitter, a CBP 4457 and a SAPS 520. 

I always make a couple of extra copies of the main page of my passport and the CBP 4457’s and keep them in different locations just in case the originals get lost somehow along the way. You don’t need a travel visa or any additional vaccinations for traveling to SA. 

Passport

If you have one, make sure it is still going to be valid for several months beyond the dates of your travel and has at least one blank page available. If you don’t have one, get started on getting one. A passport costs $110 and takes 6-8 weeks to get processed. In case you catch yourself short on time they can expedite the processing for another $60 and have it done in 2-3 weeks.

CBP 4457

The next paperwork that needs to be completed is the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Form 4457. These forms are needed to document your guns and personal property before you leave the country so that you can bring them back into the country. This proves the property was yours and you didn’t buy it overseas, so you don’t have to pay any duty or tax on it when bringing it back into the US.

All the paperwork you need for an amazing trip to South Africa, I recommend a folder for it in your carry-on.

You can download and print the CBP 4457 or get it at your local Customs office. You have to document the item description, serial number, and your personal information (name, address), let them verify the item and have it stamped at the Customs Office which can typically be found at your local airport. I did a separate form for each item I took overseas.

I completed a form for my rifle, scope, laptop, laser range finder, and my Nikon camera. You need the one for your rifle before you can submit your paperwork for the temporary import license/permit.

Invitation

Your outfitter will send you a standard invitation letter that you need to fill out as part of your import package. It requires your name, passport number, dates of when you will be in the country with your weapons, rifle descriptions, caliber, serial number, and amount of ammunition (only 60 allowed per rifle).

SAPS 520

SAPS 520 can be found online or sent from your outfitter to get your firearms into SA.

The South African Police Service 520 is an easy 8-page form to fill out, most of the 8 pages will be blank. It only requires your basic personal information, passport number, dates of travel, rifle and ammunition information. One thing to note is that all dates on the form need to be in the SA year-month-day format.

Expediter

You can complete and have the Airport Police process your SAPS 520 and associated paperwork when you arrive but as I understand it this can take an undetermined amount of time due to the volume of firearms coming through the office during hunting season.

Another option and the one I strongly recommend is to use an import expediter. These companies collect your paperwork in advance and process it through the Police so that it speeds you through the entry process once you are on the ground in SA.

We all utilized the services of Hunter Permits Africa. Adele took care of the processing and things could not have gone smoother. The cost for the expediting service was $130, and worth every penny. All the paperwork needs to be submitted at least 25 days prior to getting the pre-approved import permit.

The Hunt Begins

Hunt #1 – Black Wildebeest – The first thing on my hunt list was a black wildebeest. The group had met with Pieter (Marupa’s owner) and the 3 Professional Hunters (PHs) the night before and established plans and divided up the 8 hunters between the 4 operators. Dolf, my PH, I and one other hunter, who already had a wildebeest, set up in a small stand of trees along one of the herd’s normal travel routes.

All the hunting groups were stationed along this travel route and the plan was that hopefully, the herd would stop within the range of one of the groups and then move down along the route towards other groups. 

Wildebeest herd in the distance beyond the next set of trees, as close as we could get.

Luckily the herd stopped in our area, however, it was a bit beyond the range we had hoped for and there was no cover to allow movement to get closer. I took a reverse kneeling position and used a small tree branch to steady the rifle. I watched the herd through the Nightforce scope with the magnification turned all the way up to 8x. 

Dolf evaluated the bulls moving slowly in the distance trying to find a good one amongst the milling herd. The coordination back and forth reminded me of many a team sniper competition. He was describing the location of the bull he had found among the herd and what it was doing, and I was providing feedback to ensure I had the proper target.

Once we were sure I was tracking the right bull in the crosshairs we were just waiting for a clear shot. I asked the range, and he replied 291 yards. So much for the shot being within that 250-yard comfort zone I had hoped for. I knew good data out to about 270 yards so I just added a little elevation and favored right for the crossing wind. 

A fantastic Black Wildebeest trophy, these horns stood out in the herd.

The bull cleared the surrounding animals and presented a nice broadside shot, Dolf said “take him,” and I started applying pressure to the smooth Wild West Guns trigger. The shot broke clean, the scope lifted off, and the bull fell. 

I quickly levered in another round and stayed in position. Dolf reported that I had hit its spine, high and left of my intended impact. It was down but not out. Dolf wanted to move forward but that would mean the only shooting position would be firing off the shooting sticks. 

The bull tried to get up and I could now see shoulder and neck above the knee-high grass. I corrected the elevation and wind hold based on the input from the PH and sent a second-round that found its mark. The bull never managed to get another hoof under him to get up.

The skinners recovered many of the bullets from our hunt for our evaluation

The Marlin, Wild West Guns, Nightforce, Hornady 45-70 combination did a fantastic job on its first African game. I was extremely happy considering the distance and had an awesome trophy to start my hunt.

Next Time Check out Part II of the Africa Dream Hunt Series for more information on the Trip Schedule, Gear Selection, Prep Work, Packing, Flights, Getting the Guns to Africa, and Hunting the next pair of animals in the package. Yes, it’s worth it, start saving for you’re Marupa Safari today.

Go to GunsAmerica to get the rifle you need for your African hunting experience.

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About the author: Jeff Cramblit is a world-class competitive shooter having won medals at both the 2012 IPSC World Shotgun Championship in Hungary and more recently the 2017 IPSC World Rifle Championship in Russia. He is passionate about shooting sports and the outdoors. He has followed that passion for over 30 years, hunting and competing in practical pistol, 3gun, precision rifle and sporting clays matches. Jeff is intimately familiar with the shooting industry – competitor, instructor, RO, range master, match director. Among his training credits include NRA Instructor, AR-15 armorer, FBI Rifle Instructor, and Officer Low Light Survival Instructor. As a sponsored shooter, Jeff has represented notable industry names such as: Benelli, 5.11 Tactical, Bushnell, Blackhawk, DoubleStar, and Hornady. He has been featured on several of Outdoor Channel’s Shooting Gallery episodes and on a Downrange TV series. Jeff’s current endeavors cover a broad spectrum and he can be found anywhere from local matches helping and encouraging new shooters as they develop their own love of the sport, to the dove field with his friends, a charity sporting clays shoot, backpack hunting public land in Montana, or the winners podium of a major championship.

{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Harold E. Cartwright February 21, 2020, 8:58 am

    I wish to ask if you would have this SAME type of deal , anytime in 2021 ? Any information you have, I. would greatly appreciate. Thank you.

  • Victor Bretting February 17, 2020, 9:12 am

    I am trying to get a hold of Pieter for my hunt. Can you send me his contact info please?
    Thanks,
    Victor Bretting

  • Lamar Turner February 14, 2020, 9:15 pm

    Great start to a great article. Can’t wait for part 2.

  • TJ Turner February 11, 2020, 10:23 am

    There’s a lot of good info and details in this article. Looking forward to part two and three.

  • Mike Dugan February 11, 2020, 10:05 am

    Jeff this was a awesome trip. So glad to meet you and to get to hunt with you. Your story is spot on. hope to do another one sooner then later. I have a few animals on my list already. Till next time 2021 ?

  • Crazylegs Johnson February 11, 2020, 9:55 am

    I want to go!

  • Buffalobwana February 11, 2020, 6:49 am

    Pretty good info.

    I have done 12 safaris in almost all the South and East African countries. Most of them twice.

    Agree, use an expediter on gun imports to SA. Police can be difficult for someone not experienced.

    Keep in mind these South African packages are “loss leaders” designed to get you there. Don’t book it unless you can afford to shoot more animals, or things can get very uncomfortable for you there.

    A safari is something every hunter should experience. Don’t overlook Namibia and Botswana for excellent plainsgame Hunting. (Botswana is my favorite) but may not be the best for everyone.

    • Bobby February 16, 2020, 6:59 am

      I am just starting to think about hunting Aferica. What do you mean by the term “loss leaders”.

      I am guessing they intend to do a big up sale on the animal package?

      Which country would you do, for your first hunt?

      • SIDNEY POST February 24, 2020, 10:41 am

        By loss leader, just like your local grocery store, sell a few cans of beans or some flour below cost to get people “in the door” and hope they buy some steak and potato chips.

        South African hunts can be very nice and a lot of fun but, people from North America often refer to them as “canned hunts” because the wild animals are farmed within high fences. Whether this is good or bad is up to each hunter to decide. Similar hunts like this are available in Texas FWIW.

        The Dallas Safari Convention in January is an awesome show for people who are interested in Safaris, South American bird shoots and fishing, and Canadian/European/Caucus Region/Asian hunts too!

        If you google Safari forums, don’t discount the “Accurate Releading” forum. There are a ton of multi-safari members there with a wealth of practical “on the ground” advice.

        Also for whatever reason, hunters that have multiple safaris under their belt rarely hunt South Africa. Personally, I want game animals that aren’t “farmed within high fences” and look to other parts of Africa. I also like the fact my Safari money helps impoverished people improve their standard of living so they don’t destroy the land with poaching and ‘slash and burn’ farming practices.

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