Continue reading to find out all about hunting in South Africa.
In my last few articles I described hunting conditions in in Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. In this article, I plan to discuss conditions in one of the crown jewels of African hunting: South Africa. As perhaps the most economically developed country on the entire continent, South Africa presents a set of hunting opportunities unique among the African states.
South Africa is one of the larger countries in Africa and is almost twice the size of Texas. As the southernmost country in the continent, South Africa is bordered to the north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Mozambique from west to east. Also, the country of Lesotho is an enclave located entirely within the borders of South Africa. South Africa has 11 official languages and four the most common are Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans and English. Afrikaans and English are commonly used during business transactions and most professional hunters speak English.
Travel To South Africa
South Africa has probably the best developed infrastructure out of all of the countries in Africa. As such, many airlines, most notably South African Airways, Lufthansa, and Delta, provide regular service from the United States and Europe to South Africa. The most commonly used airport for foreign tourists is Johannesburg, but Cape Town is also a popular option.
Since South Africa is such a popular destination for foreign hunters, officials at the airports are used to people entering the country with firearms. However, getting a firearms permit approved during the peak of the hunting season can be a very time consuming process due to the sheer numbers of people attempting to enter the country with firearms.
All hunters bringing a firearm into the country must present a South Africa Firearms Permit Application Form (SAPS 520 Form) for approval upon arrival. This form is available online here and here is a great post on how to fill out a SAPS 520 form. Every airline is different, but Delta Airlines made me present my completed SAPS 520 form along with my passport before they let me board my flight. Additionally, all hunters must present a “Letter of Invitation” from their hunting outfitter as proof that they will be using the firearm for hunting. Obviously, this is something that your hunting outfitter should provide to you prior to your trip.
There are many businesses in South Africa that specialize in assisting hunters with clearing customs with their firearms. Some also provide overnight accommodations and transport back to the airport the next day for connecting flights. My father and I utilized one of those companies and the services they provided us were well worth the price we paid. For about $100 apiece, they met us at the airport, assisted us through customs, and drove us to their home where we spent the night. The next morning they fed us breakfast and transported us back to the airport so we could catch our next flight. If you are considering traveling through or hunting in South Africa, I would strongly suggest that you consider utilizing one of those companies.
Like Zimbabwe, South Africa has no official hunting season and it is legal to hunt there 365 days a year. One thing to keep in mind is that South Africa is made up of nine provinces and that each province may have unique rules regarding different hunting methods and minimum caliber/kinetic energy requirements for rifle and bow hunting. Your hunting outfitter should be aware of the specific rules for hunting in their province, but it is still a good idea to make sure you are familiar with any specific hunting regulations before your trip.
South Africa Climate And Geography
South Africa is also similar to Namibia and Zimbabwe in that the winter months of June, July and August are the most popular for hunting due to the cool, dry weather. The “wet season” in South Africa coincides with the warmer summer months. During the winter, temperatures can get down into the 30-40°F range with highs around 60-70°F. Summertime temperatures can range from 55°F to 90°F.
Most of the country consists of dry scrub savannah. The western portion of the country contains part of the Kalahari Desert, and is correspondingly drier and contains less vegetation than the rest of the country. The eastern portion of South Africa, which receives the most rainfall, is known as the bushveld and is a sub-tropical region containing thick clusters of deciduous forests in some areas. Separating the drier western portions of the country from the wetter eastern portion of the country are the Drakensberg Mountains and the cool, dry highveld area surrounding the mountains.
Unfortunately, South Africa is not without its problems. Like many other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, HIV is very common. With nearly 6 million people infected (~12% of the population), South Africa contains more infected people than any other country in the world. In addition, South Africa suffers from relatively high unemployment and poverty rates which contribute to the high crime rate there. Fortunately though, the crime is most common in the cities and relatively rare out in the country where most of the hunting takes place. As long as you are cautious and spend as little time as possible in cities, you run a small risk of being a victim of a crime in South Africa.
Species Available For Hunting in South Africa
South Africa has a very well deserved reputation for producing excellent quality trophies for a number of difference species. South Africa is another country where one can hunt all of the Big 5 (buffalo, elephant, rhino, leopard, and lion). In addition, there are dozens of species of plains game available for hunting. Not only are most of the native species available, but many different species of plains game from the rest of Africa and the rest of the world have been introduced to various game ranches for the purposes of hunting.
The native species available for hunting in South Africa include, but are not limited to the Cape Eland, Greater Kudu, Sable, Roan, Nyala, Hartebeest (Lichtenstein and Red), Wildebeest (Blue and Black), Blesbok, Impala, Warthog, Bushpig, Waterbuck, Reedbuck, Springbok, Zebra, Bushbuck, Duiker, Klipspringer, and Oribi. South Africa has especially good impala, zebra, and kudu hunting. It is also the only country in Africa offering hunting for blesbok and black wildebeest for native (instead of introduced) populations of these animals. Some of the introduced species include American Bison, Blackbuck, Fallow Deer, Mouflon, Red Stag, and Water Buffalo.
The people of South Africa have realized how lucrative of an operation hunting is and make every effort to maximize this by providing quality hunting opportunities for people from all over the world. As a result, a South African hunting safari costs less than most people probably think and you don’t have to look very hard to find quality outfitters offering reasonably priced South Africa hunting packages.
Just make sure you hunt with a reputable hunting outfitter and be very cautious about booking with any place offering “discount African hunts.” You quite often get what you pay for with a hunt in Africa and as the saying goes: “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
On the plus side, you will struggle to find another country that produces such consistently high quality trophies as South Africa. Just look in the Safari Club International (SCI) Record Book and South Africa will be very heavily represented among the highest scoring animals for many different species. Additionally, no country has nearly the diversity of species available for hunting, both native and introduced, that South Africa does.
It is true that few people go to Africa specifically to hunt Fallow Deer, Mouflon, or Red Stag. However, those introduced species can provide an added bonus for hunters after traditional plains game while at the same time helping to create a small, yet unique and profitable niche in the African hunting market. Finally, there are so many hunting outfitters in South Africa that virtually anyone can find an outfitter that caters to their specific needs and desires as a hunter. They can accommodate everyone from a person brand new to hunting to a veteran of many hunting expeditions all over the world by providing varying levels accommodation quality as well as hunting difficulty.
Another thing South Africa has going for it is the wide variety of tourist activities outside of hunting. South Africa has a large number of national parks, Kruger National Park being the most popular, where visitors can observe many different animal species. In addition, The Voortrekker Monument and Robben Island are other common tourist destinations. Finally, South Africa has some very highly regarded wineries that are also popular for tourists.
Trophy Hunting in South Africa
On the other hand, there are certainly some negatives involved with hunting in South Africa. While there is plenty of public land available for hunting in South Africa, the majority of game is located on private land, which is often high fenced. This allows hunting outfitters to ensure high trophy quality among the species they have available as well as offer hunting for additional species that are not native to the area.
While this is not a big deal to some hunters (game on a 10,000 acre high fenced ranch is free range for all intents and purposes), it is to others. Also, due to convenience of hunting combined with the generally excellent trophy quality available there, South Africa hunting safari prices tend to be slightly more expensive than comparable hunts offered in other countries at first glance.
That being said, South Africa is the easiest and cheapest country on the continent to reach from the USA. The same goes for shipping your trophies back home at the end of the hunt. When you look at the total cost involved with a hunt in any country in Africa, South Africa is still the least expensive to hunt for Americans.
In that same vein, some outfitters in South Africa are starting to migrate towards the “pay by the point” trophy fee scales that are common in the United States in Europe. In virtually every other country in Africa, the trophy fee for a given species is the same regardless of if it is a new world record or if it is a very low scoring trophy. Under a “pay by the point” price scale, the better quality trophy an animal is, the price is increased, often times dramatically. I would not say that this is a widespread practice in South Africa yet, but it is starting to become more common, especially with very desirable trophies like sable, kudu, and buffalo.
South Africa is another wonderful African country to visit and provides some truly outstanding hunting opportunities. Due to the relative simplicity of hunting in the country, the typically high quality accommodations available to hunters, and the wide variety of other tourist activities, I recommend a trip to South Africa for inexperienced hunters as well as those looking to bring non-hunting companions, such as spouses, with them.
Additionally, South Africa is an ideal destination for someone wanting to hunt all of the Big 5 during the course of a single trip. The cape buffalo hunting in South Africa is renowned as being among the best on the continent. South Africa can very likely provide a great experience for virtually any hunter, like this wounded veteran Big Game Hunting Adventures took on a plains game hunt in 2017.
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The map of South Africa was obtained from the CIA World Factbook.