Budgeting for an African Hunting Safari: How Much Will it Cost?

Posted On : Dec 11, 2017

Posted By : TM

Budgeting an Africa Safari Trophy photo

Budgeting for an African Hunting Safari: How Much Will it Cost?

One of the first things a potential client asks a hunting safari broker, or an outfitter is “How much money is this going to cost?  Every client has three questions he asks himself.  How much do I want to spend?  How much can I afford to spend?  And, how much will I really spend?  The only way to answer these questions is to sit down and work out exactly what is wanted on the safari.

Africa can be either very expensive or very cheap depending on what areas the hunt will occur at; what areas the client wants to see; what level of luxury is required; and finally, how the client wants to get around (flying or driving).  Using travel methods such as a chartered aircraft or helicopter can run up the travel bill substantially.  About ten years ago, I met a gentleman who, accompanied by his family, crisscrossed Botswana in a pretty blue Aerospatiale Ecureuil AS350 helicopter.  Now, I’m not real sure what the hourly cost of the aforementioned toy ran, but I know for sure that it was a number much larger than what it cost me to bounce along dirt roads in a Toyota Land Cruiser with 155,000 km on the clock.

For purposes of comparison, we’ll look at the cost of a ten day hunt.  We’ll start with air transportation, and cover everything down to, and including tips.  Just because I just did this, let’s make the departure city Las Vegas, NV.  The safari will be in Zimbabwe’s Matetsi area #5, and include a four day after-the-hunt stay at Victoria Falls.  Our air itinerary will be Las Vegas – Atlanta – Johannesburg – Victoria Falls –Matetsi hunt camp.  The round trip air fare from Las Vegas to Victoria Falls runs right at $2,150 as of last September.  There will be an overnight stay in Johannesburg at a Bed and Breakfast, or hotel.  Figure on $275-$300 for food and lodging.  The following day will be a flight up to Victoria Falls from Johannesburg, but this is already in the airfare quote.

Our PH picked up myself and my wife at the airport, then drove us out to camp.  This safari was based on the daily rate for hunter and observer, plus the trophy fees for the animals taken.  Everyone’s hunt will be different, so I’ll give some general estimates.  Daily rates can run anywhere from $250 per day to $1200 per day; depending on outfitter and type of hunt.  The non-hunting observer rate is usually $150-$400 per day.

My hunt was rather specialized.  I wanted a non-exportable elephant, and no other game.  The trophy fee for such a hunt usually is below $10,000.  Now, hunting plains game is a different matter.  Here are just a few trophy fees for some plains game:

South Africa

Impala - $400

Zebra - $1,000

Kudu - $2,500+

Blesbok - $475

Gemsbok - $1,200

Red Hartebeest - $1050

Sable - $6,000+


Buffalo - $2,000

Buffalo (second) - $2,300

Grant’s gazelle - $600

Elephant (33 pounds) - $10,000

Elephant (80 pounds) - $22,500

These prices are relative.  Each outfitter has different prices. Depending on what animal you will be hunting in what country, prices can vary a great deal.  Not all African countries are considered similar when it comes to safari costs.  A safari to fairly-well travelled countries like Zimbabwe, Namibia, or South Africa can be much less expensive than hunting remote areas of Tanzania, or Botswana where a lot of charter air travel will have to be figured into the package.  Even different areas of one country – say Zimbabwe – can vary a lot in costs.

Your safari portion of the trip is normally priced as all-inclusive.  Accommodations, meals, use of a safari truck, use of a PH, soft drinks (sometimes alcohol), and maid service and laundry are all included in the daily rate.  Side trips, excursions, game drives, and the like will be an extra. A number of outfitters have loaner rifles.  If the client doesn’t want the added concern of shipping his rifle from home, this is a good way to go.  Usually, the cost to rent a rifle is either zero, or $25-$30 per day.  Ammunition is very expensive throughout Africa, so it’s possible to have to pay $5.00 to $20.00 per round, with the larger calibers being even more expensive.

Depending on the season and country hunted, rates can vary.  Here’s a general idea on a country-by-country seasonal price fluctuations.

South Africa

June to September are the travel season, but an optimal season for a safari.  There is little rainfall, and the vegetation is low, making spotting animals easier.  South African daily rates average from $250 to $400 per day.  Non-hunter rates are charged at $150 to $200 per day.  Depending on the hunting areas, the client can be picked up at O.R.Tambo International Airport by the safari company.  If the hunting camp is more than a few hours drive from the airport, there can be a destination charge anywhere from $200 to $500 for the round trip. 


Victoria Falls, and surrounding area.  Generally costs don’t change very much when staying at the Falls, as this is a year-round destination.  The best safari months are May to October. Near the end of the season (mid Sept. to end of Oct.) the weather can be hot both day and night.  Inquire as to air conditioning availability at your camp.  On the lower price scale – this might be a semi-rusted fan with two bare wires that have to be stuck into the 220 volt socket. (Ask me, just ask me.)  Personally, I’d pay the cost and be able to sleep cool and dry.

My September non-trophy elephant hunt had a daily rate of $1,250.  This is a bit higher than normal, but it was a different hunt than most clients would choose. 

Zimbabwe is still one of Africa’s best big game hunting destinations, and getting to the camps by chartered aircraft is quick, easy, and relatively inexpensive.  Many outfitters offer packaged hunts ranging in duration from 7-10 days to 28-day “Big Four” (elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, and plains game) hunts.  A 7-10 day hunt usually has a $750 daily hunt rate; a Big Four runs up to $2500 per day.  Observers are $200 - $300 per day.  Trophy fees vary by animal.  An elephant with 70+ pounds of ivory will run $40,000.  A female impala - $295. 


Big game safaris are available as a 10, 16, 21, 28 day hunt..  An average 10-day hunt in the Selous with a 1 x 1 (one hunter – one PH) will run around $28,000.  For a full-on 28-day hunt in the Selous, expect to spend from $78,000 to $95,000.  Some outfitters offer Companion hunts.  This type of hunt allows two hunters to share the game on any length hunt. Both clients share the services of one PH, and have to obtain their own hunting licenses.  They are able to export their trophies separately.  For example:  if the total cost of a 1 x 1 10-day hunt is $$28,000, then adding a companion will add $10,750 with the companion fee. On a 28-day safari, the Companion fee will be $26,750.  These fees do not include air charter or trophy fees.

Air charter varies, but usually runs from $1,750 to $5,500 each way.  These hunting fees do not cover Anti-poaching, Community Conservation, Government Game, nor Development fees.  Trophy freight charges are additional.  Tips, additional alcoholic drinks, and meet-and-greet are additional.  I could do an entire article on tipping, but here it is in a nutshell.  You tip according to what you can afford, and just how good the service was.  Safari camp workers have caught onto the money game.  Just about everyone from the game scout down to the person who keeps diesel in the generator has the idea that they should be given money.  No longer do t-shirts and Frisbees count; especially in Zimbabwe where their own Zimbabwean dollars aren’t worth anything (literally).

Some outfitters in South Africa offer package hunts for more common animals at a fairly economical rate.  Of course, elephant, lion, hippo and the like are expensive to hunt, but if a client would be happy with a bag including impala, gazelle, wildebeest, warthog and numerous other plains game, the safari expense can be quite reasonable.  A 7-10 day South African safari hunting package which features 5-7 animals on license, can cost much less than $10,000.  Some short plains game hunts are offered in the $3,000 range.  Add in airfare to O.R. Tambo Airport in Johannesburg, and the total expenditure is under $5500. 

An all-inclusive Cape buffalo hunt can be had for $8,000 if buying through a hunt broker that specializes in finding great deals, like Discount African Hunts.  This is less than you would pay for a trophy elk hunt in North America.  A leopard hunt costs roughly the same as a Kodiak Brown bear hunt in Alaska.

An African hunting safari costs much less than you had imagined.  And the chance to get out into the African bush where you will see hundreds, if not thousands, of animals is an adventure you will never forget.  So contact your hunt broker today, and he can get you on the road to an African safari adventure of a lifetime!