Tipping Etiquette

Tipping, gratuity, “Greasing the guide” or whatever you choose to call it, is one of the most slippery slopes guided hunters negotiate when an outfitted hunt is considered. Many hunters have never been on a guided hunt and don’t know what the protocol is. In today’s society, most waiters and waitresses average a 10% – 15% tip for taking an order and delivering it with a smile. Professional Hunters and their staff normally work a lot harder for far less.

I’m often asked by clients about tipping. In fact, I ease the subject of gratuities into every pre-hunt meeting I have with clients along with safety talks, hunt strategy sessions, bag limits etc. I explain to hunters that they are in the care of experienced professional guides whose skill and knowledge will most likely determine the success of their hunt. I state upfront, that tips are absolutely not mandatory, but are always appreciated and without a doubt, well earned.

Professional Hunters, regardless of where they ply their trade, rarely make over $150 US at the end of their long, hard and oftentimes dangerous days. Figure in fuel, wear and tear on their own vehicles, insurance and the like, and it’s not easy to see that no one in this game is getting rich regardless of how much you shelled out for an African Safari. The fact is, cash tips at the end of a hunt are a very important part of a professional hunter’s financial bottom line.

Professional Hunters do not have stock options, bonus incentives, or mandatory pay raises and the like to fall back on. Their earning potential is limited to a few months on the calendar when they must make enough cash to see themselves and their families throughout the rest of the year.

So what is the right tip amount? Well, that depends on many factors. Your overall enjoyment of the hunting experience should be a determining factor. Right here is a good time to state a very important fact. Not all hunts are enjoyable experiences and not all PH’s put forth the effort to be eligible for extra consideration at the hunt’s conclusion.

Lazy, unprepared, and unqualified people who imposture as true guides in the industry you may have as well. Bad service and a lack of effort should not be rewarded in the bush any more than it should be at a restaurant.

Let your conscience and honest feeling for your PH be the determining factor, as well as your financial situation when deciding a tip amount. This is a game with no written rules, although the “Golden” one fits pretty well here.

We hope you can use the above information to get a better foothold on the slippery slope of the tipping dilemma.


The trackers are without a doubt the most important staff position on all safaris. You will be with them all day, every day and it is normal that strong bonds and pleasant memories will be forged with them. Tipping trackers is something that each client usually feels strongly about since they “watch” them earn their pay daily, often under dangerous and harsh conditions. It is customary to tip the trackers personally, away from other staff. We usually carry cash on the last day for this and it is preceded by a short word of thanks and a handshake in the field. If you do not speak the lingo, your P.H. will translate, but your guys will know what you are saying and they will appreciate you for it.


This team of men will process your trophy, either in camp or in the field, and prepare it for transport to Port Elizabeth for Dip and Pack. Larger camps may have 3 skinners, with smaller camps not less than 1 skinner.

Camp Manager

Your camp manager will dazzle and amaze you. They are responsible for every aspect of the camp life from daily menu to your hot water for showers. From the moment you arrive until the moment you depart, you’ll be spoiled by these members of staff.

Kitchen Staff

This includes the chef, waiters, cooks and sculleries. They will be preparing and serving you three full meals each day, packing your lunch for the day and stocking up your coolers for the days hunting or sightseeing. A single tip will be sorted between themselves.

General Staff

This group is comprised of gardeners, maintenance as well as right hands where-ever their services are needed. A single tip will also suffice and be worked out within the group. Remember, there are people working for you that you may never even see, but let them take the day off, and you would immediately miss their service!

Incidental tipping

As with all travel, you will be bombarded with opportunities to tip for incidentals such as waiters in airports, a cab driver, the luggage guy, your meet and greet rep in Johannesburg… you get the idea. This tipping will consume your small bills in a hurry. In your hunting camp, larger bills are easily broken by the camp managers relieving you of the burden of carrying small bills for safari tipping.