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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 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.