Outrider South African Safari

By Charlie Benton

Banging and yelling hadn’t worked. Since the door was locked, I reached my arm through the open window and grabbed the water from the desk. I launched the bottle in a perfect arch that crested just shy of the hotel room ceiling before falling and smashing full force into Buck’s sleeping face. He shot up into the beam of my flashlight. I remember thinking that even his mustache looked violently angry. Moving my mouth close to the opening, I greeted him, “Good morning, Sunshine. Grab your shit and get out here. We got a plane to catch.” 

It was 4:10 A.M., and Pat and I were hosting the Inaugural FE Outrider South African Safari. Our group of nine had only met the day before, and we’d stayed up getting to know each other— and the self-serve bar—around the courtyard firepit until about 2:15 A.M. With everyone now awake and accounted for, we distributed armfuls of foil-wrapped breakfast sandwiches before loading into two vans and heading to the O.R. Tambo Airport for our 6:00 A.M. flight to Port Elizabeth. 

Once on the ground, the Crusader Safari PH crew greeted us with reassuring news. Despite the staff having filled every available refrigerator in the entire camp from top to bottom with beer, we would stop at a liquor store on our way to the conservancy to buy more. Pat and I climbed in with Dave, one of our favorite PHs, as the rest of the guys packed in other trucks, and we set off on the two-and-a-half-hour drive. Roughly an hour in, we pulled into the Tops at SPAR (South African package store) and managed to Tetris cases of Windhoek, Lion Lager, and Castle Light into the bed of Dave’s Hilux before continuing on.

The Baviaansriver Conservancy proved to be even better than I expected. After hitting the range to confirm zeroes, we spread out over the property’s 450,000 acres and got to the business of really enjoying ourselves and hunting. If you’ve never been to Africa, there’s nothing like it. In that first afternoon exploring the green-carpeted mountains above camp, we saw well over 200 animals. There were herds of wildebeest, zebra, hartebeest, Cape buffalo, and the occasional quick-to-spook blesbok which served to stir up all the other game, making our potential shots a bit more sporting. 

After requisite sundowners, we all convened back at the main lodge for pre-dinner beers around the campfire. I was happy to see that pretty much everyone complied with Pat’s request to bring gaudy party shirts for dinner each night, as wearing them is a well-known gesture of respect towards the gods of hunting. 

Inevitably, the evening conversations consisted of everyone asking each other what was seen and killed. It quickly became apparent that those of us experiencing the Dark Continent for the first time were all—separately—having essentially this same exciting exchange with our PHs while scouting and glassing each day:

One of us spotting game we’d never seen in person before: “Hey, what kind of animal is that over there?”

PH: “That’s a _______  [vaal rhebuck, red lechwe, waterbuck, etc] … Wanna shoot it?”  

The hunting package included five animals, and everyone on the trip killed at least that with most choosing to add on others as the opportunities presented themselves. It should be noted that people pay just as much and often significantly more to hunt elk in the Western US with a pretty decent chance of coming home empty-handed. That’s not to knock elk hunting at all but to highlight a point that many don’t realize: an African safari with multiple animals included is actually a lot more affordable than most people think. 

Significant benefits come with having access to hundreds of thousands of acres of discerningly well-managed land. Hunts can be as laid back or as challenging as the client prefers. Hunters are also afforded the opportunity during the duration of a single safari to target an abundance of game across a wide range of terrain, from fairly open grassy plains to thick bush and from sparsely vegetated craggy mountains to sweeping valleys and hills.  

If you’ve ever even remotely considered a safari, do it. Think back to your childhood summers when you’d grab a BB gun and a pocket knife, head out into a patch of woods to jump creeks, clamber over rocks, climb trees, and shoot birds and squirrels until you were thoroughly exhausted. The FE Outrider South African Safari is like getting to experience those great parts of your youth all over again but with bigger guns, bigger rocks, and bigger game. You’ll end each day covered in dirt, sweat, and dried blood—a mixture of yours and that of the dead animal loaded into the back of the truck. You’ll be rewarded for your efforts with a beverage of your choice prepared by your PH as the sun drops below the horizon. Then you’ll be driven back to camp to meet up with the other dudes where you’ll swap stories and talk shit over a delicious meal prepared with meat you and your new buddies have killed during your trip. After dinner, you can head over to the lounge or grab a beer and sit by the fire on the back patio under the stars until you’re ready to go to bed and do it all over again the next day. If there is a greater time to be had, I haven’t found it yet. 

You should join us on the next one. Email Tony@fieldethos.com and tell him you’re interested; he’ll get you sorted out. 

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