Q) I intend to go on a plains game safari in South Africa next year and want to take my own rifle, a .308. I have been told that bringing a rifle and ammunition through London Heathrow can be fraught with bureaucracy and problems, however. What do you advise?
A) Your informants could not be more wrong. I frequently take a rifle to South Africa and have never yet had any problem with security or customs at London Heathrow, either going out or returning. You must, however, make sure that your carrier accepts rifles and ammunition. I find that South African Airways is totally geared up to carry sporting firearms. A purpose-made rifle case, which can be locked, is essential and I prefer one made from metal. Remove the bolt from the rifle but keep it in the case. You will, of course, have your firearms certificate with you and your rifle will be checked against this by customs security. The same procedure will take place when you return. Ammunition must be placed in a seperate lockable metal box.
When you arrive in South Africa, your hunting camp or agent will supply you with a police form, which must be filled in. You will also need a letter of invitation. Your temporary hunting permit will be issued by the police department at Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg. Alternatively, for a modest fee, you can arrange to have the procedure shortcircuited by a company that handles the import of hunting clients firearms, such as Hunters Permits Africa, www.hunterspermits africa.co.za, which I strongly recommend.