Heart beating like you were eight years old again chasing squirrels at home. Yet this is a far cry from your childhood home and bushy-tailed squirrels. You have worked hard all your life to explore the mystery and grandeur of the dark continent and find yourself settling the crosshairs or bow pins behind the shoulder of a life long dream. Then, as you squeeze slowly on the trigger, reality hits and that slow squeeze was just your finger changing the channel on the TV remote.
Let’s deal with the elephant in the room, there are concerns about traveling to hunt Africa right now. The dreaded E word, Ebola, has many in fear about traveling to the Dark Continent to fulfill their dreams. On the surface, can you blame anyone for not being concerned? But before we make one giant generalization and put African Safaris on the black list for a year or two, let's look at the information and make an educated decision.
Be honest with yourself. Is the backcountry of Africa going to be the most prime location to contract Ebola? Remember, Ebola can only be contracted by direct contact with infected fluids, it is NOT AIRBORNE. The World Heath Organization released a statement saying, ”Transmission requires direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other body fluids of infected living or dead persons or animals, all unlikely exposures for the average traveler.” Yes this says animals have the ability to be infected but calm down. How many Kudu are migrating from South Africa to Serria Leone and back? If you are really concerned, don’t kiss anyone while traveling. You probably have a better chance of being trampled by the Cape Buffalo or the Hippo you are pursuing than contracting Ebola.
But these realities don’t always stem the fear and tourism in general to unaffected parts of the continent, has suffered. The epicenter of the Ebola outbreak has been concentrated in the North Western part of the continent in the counties of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. The vast majority of professional hunting operations in Africa, not the mention the hunts being auctioned off at the Safari Club International show in Las Vegas, are located in the southern countries of the continent. To put things in perspective, from the epicenter of the crisis to Johannesberg, South Africa, is a distance of about 3,510 miles. The distance from New York City to San Fransico is around 2,904 miles. While hunting in any of the countries popular for booking Safaris, you will be more than the length of the United States away from the epicenter. Parts of Europe are closer to the epicenter than your hunting destinations.
Still concerned? American media has not really reported on the precautions and travel restrictions African countries have set into place themselves. The countries in which the hunting safaris take place, have either imposed full travel restrictions on individuals from impacted countries or strict heath screenings. Zambia, for instance, has banned all travelers from any affected country- no screening or containment period. It’s not like other countries in Africa are blind, they know what is going on and are taking full precautions. So far, there have not been any Ebola reports in the popular hunting countries.
Remember, knowledge is power. Understand Ebola and how it is contracted and take appropriate precautions while traveling. Research your travel routes and avoid connecting flights in impacted countries. If you can work with a booking agent, make sure to firmly communicate your desire to avoid traveling through impacted areas. Have open dialogue with your outfitter expressing your concerns and build a solution to alleviate your fears. Listen to their advice and what they have to say about the matter.
Staying home out of un-researched fear could have a devastating impact on the local economies which benefit from outfitting businesses as well as the wildlife and habitat which benefit from hunting and conservation dollars. At SCI 2015, there is a long list of hunts to be auctioned. Some of these hunts include, a ten day South African plains game hunt with Craig Boddington for two hunters and two observers, and a hunt of a lifetime, a ten day tusk less elephant hunt in Zimbabwe.
Ask yourself this question, will you really let misconception and mass fear keep you from researching the facts and planning the adventure you always dreamed of?
Jason is a writer and business professional from Upstate, NewYork. An avid bowhunter, Jason's passions for adventure, hunting and writing can be seen on the website www.pushingthewildlimits.com which started as a pipe dream in his college years.