Bucket List: Adansonia Safari

by Chris McCotter

At sportsman’s shows I am always intrigued by the handful of exotic outfitters that set up elaborate booths touting South American hunting or fishing trips and African Safaris. During slow moments I look longingly through their inviting literature and visit with their staff to learn more about these Bucket List adventures.
At the recent Virginia Sportsman’s Show I got to know my across-the-aisle neighbor, Gary Pleasants, a congenial representative for Adansoni Safaris. Pleasants, 64, is a retired Deputy Chief, Charlottesville Police Department who was born and raised in C-Ville and who currently resides in nearby Crozet. The central Virginia resident handles all US bookings for Adansonia and was a wealth of information about a trip that has been on my personal bucket list for years. I asked Pleasants how one attains chief US booking agent status for a safari lodge.
“I did my first safari in South Africa in 2004. I became friends with the outfitter and have been bookings hunts for them since 2006. I go over with clients once or twice a year, typically spending a month or more there. I am the face of the lodge for most US clients and help potential guests with questions and booking procedures.” 
Pleasants told me that typically US residents will contact him via phone or email and he will book the hunt, price their safari and set dates with them. He works with the guests through the entire process, helping with airline tickets and completing the firearm permit paperwork. (Taking firearms to South Africa is very easy with few restrictions.) Perhaps the most common concern about a safari is how much does it cost? Clients with big dreams don’t always have big money but the good news is that Adansonia offers some very affordable adventures.
“The most economical safari is for plains game (antelope) and a 7-10 day safari with four to six animals will cost around $6,500, including airfare,” according to Pleasants. “We have 32 species of plains game in South Africa hunting guests can choose from.”
Guests stay in the beautiful Adansonia lodge that offers six bedrooms, each with its own full bath and an incredible chef that prepares meals.
“Daily flights to Johannesburg are offered by United out of Newark and Delta out of Atlanta. The United flight runs around $1,200 round trip from many eastern cities through Newark,” Pleasants told me.
He also noted Adansonia is located in a malaria free area of South Africa so there are no immunizations of any kind required for a visit. That’s good news for us needle-haters. The typical safari client varies, according to Pleasants. Many family and friend groups visit and father/son, father/daughter trips are quite popular.
Non hunters are welcome to join most hunts and there are daily trips they can also choose to enjoy like watering hole photo sessions, market visits and sightseeing drives.
So, what does a prospective safari participant need to do to prepare for the rigors of the hunt?
“Hunting in South Africa is not physically demanding but staying in good shape is never a bad idea. We use shooting sticks and hunters will benefit greatly by practicing shooting in this manner,” Pleasants told me. Always happy to have an excuse to visit Green Top or other outdoor clothing supplier, I asked the Adansonia representative if one needed to purchase any special clothing/footwear?
“Packing for our safari is relatively easy and light as laundry is done daily by our staff. Three changes of clothing are sufficient to include good walking boots/shoes, a mid-weight jacket and hat of some kind. No rain gear is needed.” 
A big question for some potential guests that have saved all their lives to go on a safari: “Is an Adansonia safari fit for someone over 70 years of age? Why or why not?”
Pleasants noted, “We can make the hunts as physically undemanding as necessary and hunters 70-90 years of age frequently hunt with us.” 
So, what are the most popular hunts guests choose?
“We have two plains game specials that are very popular; a $3,950 special where the hunter chooses any animals they wish and a $6,950, six-animal hunt, including our most sought-after species. Our $9,450 cape buffalo, dangerous game hunt is also very popular. Cape Buffalo hunts make up the majority of our dangerous game hunts as they are most plentiful and present on our concession where the lodge is located. We hunt a dozen different concessions totaling about 100,000 acres.”  With so many safari providers to choose from, I asked Pleasants what makes Adansonia different.
“We are a family owned and run business, hunting out of our own lodge. All members of our staff are friendly and go out of their way to ensure our guests have the best possible experience. Also, with me here in the US, I am available for any questions or assistance at any time. Clients do not have to wonder about who they may actually be communicating with overseas.”
I asked Pleasants to share a story and describe the most incredible thing he’s seen on a safari.
“I had clients out hunting on a large open plain bordering a wood line. We were standing in the open, recovering an impala, when a large number of animals came running from the woods, directly in front of us. We couldn’t understand why they would knowingly run toward us until we saw the large leopard that was chasing them!”
I think that one day I will experience an African safari for plains game and the Adansonia experience sounds like something that would fit all aspects of my bucket list wish. Pleasants event told me that there is plenty of wingshooting opportunities for sand grouse, something I have also always wanted to hunt.

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