From Namibia to Minnesota: African safari outfitters mix business and pleasure during annual trip to EGFGRAND FORKS — It’s a little bit like old home week when Chris and Anita Boshoff visit the North Country.
By: Brad Dokken, The Dickinson Press
GRAND FORKS — It’s a little bit like old home week when Chris and Anita Boshoff visit the North Country.
It’s also a change from their home in Namibia, an African country where ice fishing isn’t an option.
But there they were earlier this week, ice fishing at Arnesen’s Rocky Point Resort on Lake of the Woods with Jim Benson of Sportsman’s Taxidermy Studios in East Grand Forks, Minn.
“It’s a very strange feeling because you always think you’re walking on water,” said Chris Boshoff, 53, who owns Onduri Hunting Safaris in Namibia with his wife, Anita. “I mean, I knew Americans were good, but I didn’t know they could walk on water.”
Ice fishing excursions aside, the Boshoffs say the northern U.S. is a good fit for their safari business. Several hunters from the area, including Benson, have made the trek to Namibia to sample the hunting opportunities the African country has to offer.
Those opportunities, Chris Boshoff said, are nearly as limitless as the vast African plains. And while South Africa long has been the go-to destination for safari seekers, Boshoff said hunters get a different experience in Namibia.
He can be excused for sounding biased.
“We are bigger than Texas, but we have 2 million people compared with 54 million people in South Africa,” Boshoff said. “It’s a huge, open landscape. This is the kind of African experience you want.”
According to Boshoff, Namibia is one of the few countries where the game belongs to the landowner and not to the public, as it does in North America. The Boshoffs’ game ranch in north-central Namibia covers 26,000 acres, and hunters have the opportunity to target such species as wildebeest, zebra, springbok, warthog, hartebeest, gemsbock, kudu, impala and giraffe.
It’s not a package deal, and hunters can decide which species to pursue; prices for many species range from $400 to $1,000. Boshoff said they don’t take more than six hunters at a time, and they run the business as a family operation.
Their son Helmuth and his wife, Cindy, also are partners.
“For hunting, you have to give each and every one the same opportunity and hospitality,” Anita Boshoff, 49, said. “If you have too many hunters, you lose that.”
Their approach also gives hunters the option to add species during the trip, and the average hunter shoots five to eight animals.
“For a hunter, Africa is the same as a kid in a candy store,” Chris Boshoff said. “They don’t want to stop.”
The Boshoffs met Benson when he hunted with them a few years ago, and their visit to East Grand Forks is the third in four years. Their U.S. trips coincide with the off-season in January and February.
Benson does most of the taxidermy work for area hunters who visit Onduri, which means “giraffe” in the country’s native Afrikaans language. His taxidermy studio is filled with mounts from African hunts.
“You see a lot of taxidermists, and the work that Jim does here is just unbelievable,” Chris Boshoff said. “He can bring a dead animal to life again. I think you have to be an artist to do this job, and I think he’s one of those guys.”
The Boshoffs hosted an open house Saturday at Sportsman’s Taxidermy and are scheduled to be at an exhibition sponsored by Hosted Hunts Inc., from noon to 7 p.m. today at the Fargo Holiday Inn.
They’ve also traveled to Las Vegas and have a booth at an upcoming Safari Club International show in the Twin Cities.
The couple says their U.S. visits are essential.
“Americans want word of mouth,” Boshoff said. “If you don’t come over to America, you’re not going to get clients.”
While in East Grand Forks, the Boshoffs are staying with Loren Abel, an avid hunter who made his first visit to Namibia in June 2010 with his daughter, Ellen.
Abel said he met the Boshoffs in 2009 during one of their visits to East Grand Forks and decided to book the hunt as a graduation present for his daughter. Among the animals they shot were gemsbok, springbok, impala, kudu and wildebeest.
Abel said he’s planning a return trip next year.
“In 2009, Chris told me, ‘If you come, you will come back again,’” Abel said. “We’re planning on 2013 right now.”
A typical day at Onduri begins with a 5 a.m. wakeup, and the hunters and their guides leave camp at 6 a.m. It’s typically a spot-and-stalk style of hunting, Chris Boshoff said, although hunters also set up near watering holes or other areas that will attract wildlife.
After returning to camp for lunch and a siesta — midday temperatures can exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer — hunters resume their pursuit late in the afternoon and stay out until dark.
Abel’s trip coincided with winter in Namibia, and temperatures ranged from freezing in the morning to the low-70s midday. He said the hunt exceeded his expectations, and that’s why he’s planning to go back.
“Everything there was just great, between accommodations and hunting and seeing lots of game,” Abel said. “There’s a lot of stuff you hear on Africa high-fence hunting, and each farm in Namibia is somewhat of a fenced operation, but they’re very large operations and you don’t see a fence.
“It would be no different than going to Wyoming and seeing some fences going across the Wyoming prairie.”
As exotic hunts go, Abel said the Namibia trip was a good value. Airfare from Grand Forks is about $4,300, based on current rates, but once there, a $6,000 to $7,000 hunt will get you five animals, full-service accommodations and three meals.
“You look at guided hunts in Montana or somewhere in the states, and you start at $7,000 to $10,000,” Abel said. “You’re not guaranteed (in Namibia), but I think there’s a higher probability.”
Dokken is the outdoors reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.