The Hunt of a Lifetime - Africa
Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012
Forrest Parker has his dream job.
He’s always loved to hunt and been fascinated with Africa since he was a little boy.
Now, the 31-year-old gets to share his passion for hunting and love of wild Africa with American country boys like himself.
“When I was a kid, I never watched cartoons. All I wanted was to watch Bill Dance on TNT. I watched TV and went out and practiced what I learned,” he said. “My grandparents probably hated it, but I hunted every kind of bird there is with a BB gun.”
Today, he works for Wild Africa Hunting Safaris, helping arrange and lead excursions for men and women whose dream vacation puts them in the heart of nature. A self-proclaimed “home-grown farm boy” from North Carolina, Parker stars in the award-winning show “The Sovereign Sportsman” and markets African hunting trips at events like October’s Sunbelt Expo in Moultrie.
While some clients go to Africa in search of photos, most are hunters looking for a new experience.
“It is such a destination. Everybody wants to experience what Ruark and Hemingway and Roosevelt did. There’s a lot of history and legacy with (hunting) in Africa,” he said. “It is very seldom that you see a guy who is passionate about hunting who goes to Africa and it doesn’t change his life.”
That doesn’t mean that the safaris are all made up of 40- to 50-year-old men. Lots of couples travel; even whole families, Parker said.
“There’s a lot of relationships built around the campfire in Africa, a lot of business deals done,” he said.
“It’s different, which for adventurers is cool. But it’s also so diverse,” he said. “I don’t think there is any other place on earth where you can be in one spot, walk a short distance and it seems like you are in a totally different world with totally different animals.” That diversity of wildlife makes safari hunting even richer than great hunting trips in the U.S.
“You may go elk hunting for 10 days in New Mexico and have a great trip, but you are still hunting only elk,” Parker said. On a safari, a hunter may get to go after a dozen different animals, with different techniques and weapons, all on the same trip and for less money. As in the U.S., responsible hunters fuel an industry in Africa and gives locals a financial incentive to preserve nature.
“It’s important for people to know that hunting is the reason that Africa is still Africa. Countries that do not have a hunting industry have no incentive to preserve animals,” he said. “To many people who live in Africa, a lion or elephant is nothing but a coyote raiding the chicken coop.”
But hunters give Africans a financial incentive to protect that wildlife and give a value to the native animals.
Safari season for Wild Africa Hunting Safaris is April through October. The company doesn’t have a set schedule of trips for hunters to buy, but instead waits for interested travelers to define what type of trip they want and when.
“Every safari is different; no two are alike,” Parker said. So, Wild Africa Hunting Safaris plans each trip and tailors it to the needs of the particular travelers. “We aren’t going to overdo ourselves. We would rather give 20 clients a world-class experience than give 50 people a mediocre experience,” he said.
As far as logistics go, most hunters work with the same weapons that they use to hunt in the U.S. Wild Africa works with travel agents familiar with the visiting Africa and transporting hunting weapons. The company’s main lodge is in South Africa, where a hunter stays in luxury accommodations on about 15,000 acres. A hunter doesn’t have to leave the property to hunt wild kudu, buffalo and leopard. Another option is Zimbabwe, where the company holds an exclusive concession in the Matetsi Game Reserve, the largest rangeland for African elephants and a grazing land for wild buffalo, zebra and giraffe.
Wild Africa also offers trips to its concession in western Tanzania, which has hippo, elephants and buffalo.
Packages range from about $5,500 for 10 days and six animals (not including airfare or returning trophies to the U.S.) to more than $10,000 depending on the length of the trip and destination.
The accommodations and hunting opportunities are more in line with a trip that usually costs twice that much, Parker said.
“This is the cheapest I’ve ever seen prices,” he said. “But they already are climbing.”
For a hunter who has never been outside North America, South Africa is a great introductory safari, but experienced hunters also return dozens of times to South Africa, Parker said.
“It doesn’t matter how much you read and watch on TV, you can’t know what it feels like to have a 4 or 5 ton elephant looking down on you from 30 yards until you experience it. You can never explain what it’s like to have a buffalo stare through you.
“You can think about it, you can talk about it, you can read about it, but until you get there, you can’t experience it.”
For more information about Wild Africa Hunting Safaris, go to http://wildafricahuntingsafaris.com