AFRICAN AIR TRAVEL TIPS
Book your Flights Early!
Peak hunting months in Southern Africa are June, July and August. If you are traveling during these peak months, it usually pays to book your flights early to ensure you get your desired seating arrangements. Airfare typically goes on sale 330 days in advance. As it gets closer to your travel date, the airlines will begin raising the rate as availability is reduced.
Economy Comfort Seating on Delta Airlines
Delta Airlines offers Economy Comfort Seating on its flights between Atlanta and Johannesburg, South Africa. These seats offer an additional 5 inches of legroom and feature additional reclining abilities. This upgrade typically varies from $75 - $160 each way. That might sound like a lot when you are looking at a $1700 - $2200 ticket, but on a 17 hour flight it is well worth it! The seating space is not very generous in Economy, and with Business Class seats running upwards of $6,000 roundtrip, it is the best way of making the trip tolerable. The flight is the worst part of the trip, but once you have been, you will be willing to do it again to get back to Africa!
Stay at a Guesthouse!
If you are arriving at Johannesburg, South Africa, I highly recommend that you stay at a guesthouse overnight and continue your journey to your final hunting destination the next morning. Many outfitters will wait for you to emerge after clearing customs and will whisk you into a van for the 3 – 5 hour drive to your hunting camp. Since most flights from the US arrive in the late afternoon, you will not get to camp until after dark. You will have to spend the first hour of your first hunting day sighting in your rifle. If you overnight at the guest house, you can eat dinner, relax and get a good night of sleep before continuing your journey. Your PH can pick you up in the morning after you have had breakfast. You will then have time to stop at the wine store, grocery store or other stops that you desire to make on the way to camp. Remember, you may not see a town or stores again for several days! You will then be able to sight your rifle in upon arrival in the afternoon, get acclimated to your camp and room, have a relaxing supper and be ready for the start of your great adventure. I have done it both ways, and this is the only way I will ever travel to Africa! I highly recommend the Afton Safari Lodge. They will pick you up at the airport, have great secure accommodations, will take you to a good restaurant, and will deliver you back to the airport to continue your journey. For around $80 - $100 per night it is a great bargain!
Beware Weight Limit Differences
If you are changing planes in Africa from your international carrier, beware of differing weight restrictions! Current policies allow for economy passengers to check two bags weighing up to 50 lbs for free. If you are changing to a domestic flight within South Africa, the policy may differ depending on the destination you are flying to. In some cases, only the first bag is free. Many times the allowable weight per bag will be reduced to 20KG (44 lbs). You may be charged extra for your second bag and the overage on your first bag.
Carry-on bags are normally restricted to 1 bag and it should only weigh 17 lbs. Like US airlines, they are usually looking for additional revenue from unwary travelers.
If you are changing planes in Johannesburg, you may be flying the remainder of your journey on a separate airline, even though the plane has a similar name and logo and it was not clear when you booked your trip. The luggage limit will likely be less. You will feel like you are being held up and in many ways your feeling is correct! So research those luggage limits carefully, pack accordingly and don’t be surprised if you have to pay additional to get your bow or gun to its final destination!
Be Aware of Charter Flight Baggage Policies
Many remote destinations require the use of charter flights to greatly reduce travel times. Make sure you find out what the policies are regarding luggage on these smaller planes. They may limit you to 1 bag in addition to your firearms. In some severe cases, you may be limited to 1 firearm! The charter company will probably request that you pack using a soft duffel bag to facilitate packing the plane. For most of us, it is tough getting down to 1 bag, a gun case and a carry-on, but having daily laundry service in most camps helps lighten the load.
Pack your valuables in your carry-on!
Keep your valuables and equipment like binoculars, cameras, prescriptions, passport, jewelry, watches, cash etc. on your person or in your carry-on while you are traveling. If you have to go into the Police office at the airport, make sure that someone is watching your luggage or take it in with you. At a minimum, ensure that it is locked. You don’t have to be paranoid, just be safe and smart!