Hunting Africa: How much it costs, how to find deals

A few years ago, someone told me that it is cheaper to hunt in Africa than it is to go on a guided elk hunt in Idaho. I couldn’t believe that until I started looking into it further. Now that I’ve been to Africa a couple of times on hunting safaris, I can say that it can absolutely be true if you plan the trip right. Later in this post, I’ll share the exact budget and a recommended outfitter to do that.

But first, let’s look at what an average hunter would spend on an African hunting safari.

A typical hunt in Africa costs between $5,000 and $8,000 per person, which includes hunting four to seven plains game animals, all transportation, lodging, and food. However, hunting rare or dangerous game, or selecting five-star accommodations can dramatically increase that price.

You googled “Cost of hunting in Africa” which includes many different countries. To simplify things, I’ll focus on costs for South Africa in this post since it is the most popular, but I’ll also mention how costs differ in Zambia, Tanzania, or other countries in Africa.

Let’s understand the real price of a hunt in Africa by separating the price into categories: trophy fees, transportation, outfitter cost (includes your food, PH, and lodging), and taxidermy.

Trophy Fees for Hunting in Africa

The following prices for trophy fees are averages based on looking at three different outfitters and averaging their prices together. These prices will likely be about 35% lower if you purchase a package of animals rather than buying each one a la carte.

Average Plains Game Trophy Fees in Africa

  • Impala – $355
  • Com. Springbok – $350
  • Blesbok – $395
  • Gemsbok – $950
  • Lechwe – $1,950
  • Cape Eland – $2,050
  • Blue Wildebeest – $910
  • Black Wildebeest – $790
  • Waterbuck – $1,950
  • Nyala – $2,100
  • Red Hartebeest – $700
  • Warthog – $500
  • Kudu – $1,750
  • Sable – $3,900
  • Roan – $2,800
  • Ostrich – $550
  • Burchell’s Zebra – $980
  • Steenbuck – $370

Average Dangerous Game Trophy Fees in South Africa

  • Leopard – $22,750
  • Lion – $53,000
  • Hyena – $4,560
  • Cheetah – $5,000
  • Cape Buffalo – $11,900
  • Giraffe – $2,300
  • Elephant – $31,000
  • White Rhino – $30,000
  • Crocodile – $5,200
  • Hippo – $8,200

Hopefully, the lists above give you a good idea of what animals are economical to hunt, and which are more expensive; however, keep in mind that in very few cases will you purchase your trophy fees a la carte. Almost always, they are available in a package from the outfitter to include your food and lodging. The a la carte list is really just for if you wanted to add animals to a package.

Cost of Transportation to and Within Africa

A typical airline ticket from the United States to Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport runs around $1,200, but could be slightly less if you live near a major airport. Flights from the US almost always depart from Newark, NJ.

Johannesburg is a large and modern city. There is some hunting that can be done with a long car ride, but most hunters will catch another flight from within the country. Fortunately, air travel within South Africa is very inexpensive. Be aware that most airlines within South Africa do not accommodate rifles. In my case, the only option I had was Airlink, which cost $80 total for roundtrip tickets.

Another cost to be aware of with transportation is if you’ll need to stay one night in Johannesburg before taking off to your destination the next day. If you do, I highly recommend contacting Afton Lodge. They specialize in helping hunters on their way to a safari, and they will assist you at the airport, provide a private shuttle, and handle your gun permit paperwork for you.

I paid $250 for my one-night stay at Afton, and an additional $100 for their airport concierge to assist with the rifle permit.

Taxidermy Costs After the Hunt

We all know that taxidermy is very expensive, but it can get very very expensive if you aren’t careful after hunting in Africa. Fear not, though, I have some tips for how you can do it much less expensively than most.

Average Taxidermy Cost for Hunting in Africa

  • $950 for a normal-sized plains game shoulder mount
  • $1,100 shipping to a major port in the United States
  • $300 clearing agent
  • $300 shipping from major US port to your home

First, however, I recommend you take a second to watch this video where I outline the costs of the taxidermy we did after our first trip to Africa.

Exactly What I Paid in Taxidermy

Before you get sticker shock by seeing the prices below, keep in mind that this was a giant order of taxidermy. I got 3 shoulder mounts, 1 European mount, and 6 skins tanned.

  • $4,287 for the taxidermy
  • $2,143.47 shipping from Africa to major US port (in my case, Seattle)
  • $1,775.82 for clearing agent, and shipping from major US port to my home

After my hunt, I used TaxidermyAfrica and was extremely pleased with them. My hunt was literally two weeks before Covid started shutting down the world, and I still received my mounts in 10 months. They proactively emailed me at least a dozen times to update me on the status of the work. The final product looks perfect.

How to Save on Taxidermy Costs

For most hunters, I recommend a trophy/cull hunt on your first trip to Africa. Get one or two trophy animals that you love, and then ask the PH about doing a cull or management hunt for 3-4 other animals so you don’t feel obligated to do taxidermy of each animal. Cull animals are young, or have poor genetics, or are female. They are fun to hunt, assist with improving the health of the animals, and save you money.

Another way to save on taxidermy costs is to hunt animals that can be made into a rug rather than a shoulder mount. Zebra are generally not expensive to hunt and make a great rug. If you get taxidermy of a rug instead of a shoulder mount, you dramatically reduce the cost of shipping.

Another important tip is to know exactly the cost of the mount you want before the hunt. During our hunt, we shot a waterbuck and thought it’d be fun to get a skin. We didn’t realize that waterbuck fur slips easily and requires a lot of extra work. That skin ended up costing $750, which if we had known that, we wouldn’t have ordered. Contact your taxidermist before your hunt, decide on what mounts you want, and then go hunting.

Last, consider not doing taxidermy at all. You don’t have to. The animal will still be used by the PH and will all be eaten. If the choice is between not going to Africa because the costs stack up too much, and getting taxidermy, then the choice is easy. Just go on the cheap, take pictures, and leave it all there. Just keep in mind that you may be subject to a 20% tax on the trophy fees if you don’t do any taxidermy (it’s South African law). But most PH’s overlook the tax on each item if you do at least some taxidermy.

Outfitter Costs and Tips

I’m loosely using the term “outfitter costs” because that’s what we would call it in the USA. Here, I mean what you’ll pay for your PH (professional hunter), lodging, and food. Usually, this is all part of one package that also includes trophy fees for a package of animals.

This cost needs little explanation because you’ll find it right on the website for whatever service you select.

I did, however, want to remind you that gratuities will not be included in that price. Gratuities in the hunt world are exorbitant. I really do wish that guides would simply build it into their price so we wouldn’t have to figure out what to pay and wonder if we’re doing enough.

In general, expect to pay about $900 per hunter after the safari for a tip. Realize, however, that it could be a lot more if you are going on a premium dangerous game hunt. Also, most outfitters charge more for giraffe hunting or ask for a larger tip because the skinning and butchering is extremely time-intensive and requires multiple additional workers.

How I Hunted Africa for Less than the Cost of a Guided Elk Hunt in the USA

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that you can hunt Africa for less than the cost of many guided hunts in the United States. That wasn’t hyperbole and I’ve done it twice. Here’s what that would look like.

  • $1,200 – Airfare from the United States to OR Tambo Airport (Johannesburg)
  • $80 – Domestic flight in South Africa
  • $2,700 – Five animal bargain package
  • $250 – One night hotel in Johannesburg and help in airport with firearms permit
  • $900 – Tip for the outfitter
  • $100 – Airline firearms handling fee

Total cost = $5,230. A typical guided elk hunt in the United States costs $6,000 and that doesn’t include the tip or transportation. Having been on this exact trip to this same outfitter twice, I can tell you that price is totally realistic.

Keep in mind that the above pricing is for one hunter taking five animals. That package can usually be split among hunters, and then just a day rate of approximately $150/day added for the additional hunter.

Just Know This About Hunting in Africa

It was a sacrifice for me to pay for me and my two sons to hunt there. It was a lot of money and I had to save up for it. However, that experience provided me and my two boys the best week we have ever spent together on this earth. Find a way to make it happen.