Preface - if you want to skip this and go directly to our adventure, click here
This adventure had it's beginnings a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... But, for the sake of brevity, we'll begin our little adventure at a more recent time, specifically Thursday March 13, 2008. Harold and I attended the annual Edmonton Boat & Sportsman Show down at the Agricom so we could do what we do every year, look at all the stuff we either can't afford, already have or don't want. Over the course of the evening our conversations turned to caribou hunting, an interest we've both had for several years. And as it happened, we came upon the Blackstone Outfitters booth.
Blackstone operates out of the Yukon and does caribou hunts. We spent some time chatting and getting info on the hunts they offer with Adrienne Fink, who owns the outfit with her husband Jim. The conversation peaked our interest, but a hunt with Blackstone wasn't really practical for us as you couldn't plan specific days for the hunt. As it turns out, if you want to hunt barren ground caribou in the Yukon you have to wait until the herd moves into the area before you get the call to fly up. That could be anytime within a 30 day period. Regardless, it did get us thinking about caribou hunting.
Move ahead to October 11, 2008. Harold and I set out on our annual Thanksgiving week hunting trip. This year was a little different as we decided to use the farm north of Fairview as our base. However, game was not plentiful that trip. So between our hunting forays, wood cutting and bridge building we had quite a bit of time to talk hunting, specifically the possibility of looking further into a far-north caribou hunt sometime in the future. No luck in harvesting any game that trip, but the seeds had definitely been planted for searching out an outfitted hunt.
When we got back home after that trip, I did some serious internet surfing to research caribou hunting, specifically in Quebec/Labrador, the Yukon again, the Northwest Territories and even Alaska. The bottom line is that the Quebec hunts were the most affordable but also the most commercial. Two caribou three-day hunts out of Schefferville were being offered at around $2500 to $3000. However, you really got the sense during the course of researching the subject that the hunts were get in, shoot a couple of animals and get out. Not really our idea of a quality hunt. All the other caribou hunting across the country came in at anywhere between $3500 and $6000 for a three to a seven day hunt.
My next hunting trip was November 7th with Craig, my good buddy and longtime hunting and fishing partner. We travelled up to the Fairview farm for a couple of days of R & R and beating the bush. And oddly enough, once and awhile our conversations turned to caribou hunting. Craig and I had occasionally talked caribou hunting over the years and his interest was definitely there. I got home from that trip committed to finding a guided, outfitted hunt.
Then November 12, 2008 ... a fateful day. I was at home preparing some new link submissions for addition to my hunting directory website, LinkSelect.com, when one in particular caught my eye. The website was Trophy Safaris Africa, submitted by a fellow named Robert Clark and the description he provided was, "African hunting safaris located in the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa providing first class accommodations and cuisine specializing in plains game at very reasonable rates." While hunting in Africa was not even close to being on the radar at that time, I was interested enough in African hunting, safaris, South Africa, first-class, plains game and reasonable to take a quick look. Doesn't cost anything to look, does it?
Robert Clark's pitch was one on one hunting with a Professional hunter, trackers and skinners, trophy fees for three animals (kudu, zebra and impala), skinning and field preparation of trophies, all license fees, first class accommodations, all meals and beverages (alcoholic beverages limited to beer & wine in moderation), daily laundry and ironing, maid service, and transportation to and from Durban airport and all hunting areas all for $3500 US. Could this be for real? An African safari for the cost of a caribou hunt? Apparently so, and I was hooked. Now the challenge would be to hook Harold.
I spent the next week or so researching African safari hunting to death and mentioned it to Harold. He didn't immediately throw out the idea so I sent him a couple of websites to look at. On the evening of Thursday, November 20th, Harold and I struck out for a New Brigdon mule deer hunt and I was determined to get my best friend Harold on board. During the drive down we tentatively started talking about the possibilities of an African hunt. By the drive home Saturday afternoon we were definitely talking African safari and how we were going to sell this to Lee and Wendy. Simple really, we'd make it an African holiday and they were invited! By the way, we both took very nice mulie bucks that weekend.
When I got home and broached the subject with Lee, it took her all of 3 seconds to buy in. We have both wanted to see South Africa since Friday, April 13th 1990. That was the day we met and had an interesting chat with a Mr. Foster from South Africa during a wine tasting tour in a port house in Oporto, Portugal. It took Harold a few more weeks to reel Big Wend in. Throughout December I kept checking out available hunts. Christmas came and went. Lee and I hosted the Holman Christmas and Harold & Wendy spent New Year's enjoying their new condo in Manzanillo, Mexico. However, on January 5th, I got the good word from Harold. I quote the following from his email, "After about ten seconds worth of consultation with Wendy she told me that the trip to Africa is a 'no brainer' and that I'd be stupid not to take the opportunity to go. So the long and the short of it is COUNT US IN!"
Planning & Preparation - if you want to skip this and go directly to our adventure, click here
Our planning and preparation took a fair amount of time, involved a pile of decisions and occurred in several stages. Of course, the first decision we had to make was when to go. This was a very important factor in that we wanted to give ourselves lots of time to plan this caper, at least a year. From what we could determine, hunting in South Africa takes place mostly from April to October. As we didn't want to interfere with our fall hunting season at home, we felt an April, May, June 2010 timeframe would work best.
The hunt we were most interested in was not the Trophy Safaris Africa hunt in the KwaZulu-Natal area of South Africa that we originally looked at but another hunt Cruiser Bob offered through another outfit he represented, Cruiser Safaris in the South Africa northern province of Limpopo. This was a 7-day package for kudu, impala and gemsbok. As Cruisers were not accepting bookings for 2010 until March 2, 2009 we spent the intervening time between January and March researching other available hunts, of which there are hundreds if not thousands.
Meanwhile, we put the word out that we were going on safari in Africa and asked if anyone else was interested in joining us. With no takers, Harold and I booked the hunt with Cruiser Bob on the morning of March 2nd and had a confirmation back by the end of the day for the 7-day hunt we requested. Our hunt would start on May 16, 2010 to run through to May 22, 2010. Deposits were sent, contracts were signed and the real work began on our end.
Now that we had firm dates around the hunt to work with, we could start planning the two week "vacation" segment of the trip. We decided to leave at the end of April and tour South Africa. We worked out an itinerary for Victoria Falls, Kruger Park, Swaziland and Durban with Climax Africa, a small tour company out of Pretoria. We booked Cape Town and area on our own.
To get to Johannesburg from Canada and as we were transporting firearms, we determined through a fair amount of research that it was best to fly through Frankfurt, Germany. We booked our flights with Lufthansa and South African Airways and were able to check our firearms straight through to Johannesburg. If you check them straight through, Germany does not require any paperwork. Not so with the United States, London, Amsterdam or other European countries.
Once we had all our travel arrangements finalized, we could now apply for our firearms export and import permits for both Canada and South Africa. The difficult part of the firearm permit process is not applying for the permits themselves, but understanding what supporting documentation that's required. However, once we waded through all the bureaucratic crap, it went fairly smooth on both sides.
Now all we had left to do was deal with the thousands of details that had to be looked after prior to traveling for a month. Vaccines, shots and tropical medications had to be addressed. Safari clothing, hunting gear and travel accessories were purchased, packed and repacked many times to meet the luggage weight requirements of international flights. A kennel was booked for the dogs and arrangements were made for checking on the house. Lots of things had to be done, but after more than two years of planning and preparation we were on our way to catch a plane on Wednesday, April 28, 2010.
Now, click anywhere on the map to join us on our African Adventure!