Guns and Gear

How to Plan a Safari

Mike Piccione Editor, Guns & Gear
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Planning any hunting trip is an exciting time. For the first timers to Africa here are a few pointers that might help you in booking one of the greatest adventures of your life.

Decide on which Outfitter to book.

Choosing the right outfitter for your hunt can be the difference between a successful and enjoyable hunt and a complete disaster! As in many occupations around the world there will always be the professionals and then you also get the fly by nights- the safari industry is filled with both.

Once you have met an Outfitter at a show or via the internet there are some things you will need to know.

Does he actually have a Licence to guide and to Outfit?

There are unfortunately people out there who advertise, but are not qualified to run or guide hunts. These people take deposits, and disappear. Make sure that your Outfit is registered with a local hunting organisation and then you can be comfortable you are hunting with a qualified professional.

How long has this operator been in business?

Most legit operators should have worked under an Outfitter before becoming one themselves, this ensures that they know the ins and outs of the industry and know how to conduct a successful safari. In South Africa a professional hunter needs to be qualified for a Minimum of 3 years before qualifying to become an outfitter. 

Does he have references from previous clients?

I would suggest at least 5 references over a period of 3 years, Contact these people ask your questions. A few good references will give you peace of mind. 

Is there any bad media about him/her on the internet or any of the many hunting networks?

Google the outfit, and the operator, see what comes up, if there is any negative publicity, confront the Outfit and find out about the incident or incidents. Hopefully you find nothing and you can proceed on with your plans.


Make sure you and your Outfitter have a Safari contract in Place before paying any deposits. This contact should state all costs and must be signed by both parties; this will ensure when it comes time to sort the bill out there is no hidden costs. 

Decide what country to hunt.

Africa has many safari destinations- when you have made the ultimate decision to start looking at your dream safari, your first and foremost decision will be what you are looking to hunt and in which country you can acquire these animals. Each country has its own adventures waiting.

South Africa is the premier plains game destination in Africa, closely followed by Namibia.

All other hunting countries have good plains game in numbers but are most well-known or their free range big game animals. Very seldom will you see a plains game hunt booked in one of these countries. Usually there will be a member of the big 5 on the wish list and then any plains game that happens to come along will be taken on opportunity.

Guns and gear:

It’s always exciting when you are gearing up for any safari. When coming to Africa is no exception. Talk to your outfitter and let him send you a list of things he recommends you bring.

Your rifle is obviously the most important piece of equipment. If you don’t wish to bring one along, all outfitters have a few spare guns that they rent out.  I personally think bringing your own gun is a good thing; you know your gun, its capabilities and restrictions. Hunt with a gun you have faith in. Africa is home to some of the toughest animals in the world and your equipment needs to be up to the task. Most medium calibres will work fine on plains game, but I would not recommend anything lower than .270 with 150 gr bullets. The best all-rounders will be the .300 calibres with 180gr bullets. Dangerous game requires nothing less than a .375 with 300gr bullets. Discuss caliber and bullet choice with you outfitter before your arrival.

Before you come on your safari, spend some time at the range, make sure you are comfortable up to 250 yards from an array of positions, and practice shooting quickly; sometimes all you have is few seconds. By training yourself to shoot quickly and accurately will help you to acquire some fantastic trophies.

Any rifle scope will work in Africa, but having a variable can be a helpful. 3-9×42 is the perfect magnification scope for plains game, with shots varying from 30 yards to 300 yards. For dangerous game a small magnification is recommended; anything from 1-5xs 25 will be perfect. Most shots on dangerous game will be anything from 15-75 yards. Make sure your optics won’t let you down.  A range finder can come in handy; if it’s something you always use then bring it along. Binoculars are professional hunter’s best friend; clients should also have a pair. But when it’s time to make the final stalk leave your bino’s, you must focus on the shot. Let your P.H. make the call and you make the shot.

Do your research on shot placement. African game is shot differently to North American game. Kevin Robertson’s book ‘the perfect shot’ is a must read. He explains exactly what to do and where to place your bullet, by putting in this little effort before your arrival it will give you more time hunting and less time talking.

Certain African countries have restrictions on cammo clothing so make sure your outfitter lets you know well in advance what colour clothing, and type of clothing to bring. All greens, through browns and even a darker khaki are your best options. Light khaki isn’t favourable. A good pair of jeans, and a darker coloured shirt have worked for me for years. Make sure you have well-worn in boots that you are comfortable in. sometime you can walk 10 miles a day and you need to make sure your shoes don’t restrict you in doing so.


Do your research and make sure everything is legal and in order.

Practice your shooting, get comfortable with you rifle, don’t tell your P.H. how great you shoot. Show him!

All the best to everyone out there and may your African Safari is a memorable one.


Shaun Keeny is a Professional Hunter, Outfitter and Safaris Operator in South Africa & Zimbabwe. Check him out on Facebook(Shaun Keeny/Shaun Keeny Safari’s) or his website