SOUTH AFRICA: NB Safaris In SA - The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (Hunt Report)

Discussion in 'Hunting Reports Africa' started by Gater, Aug 30, 2019.

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  1. Gater

    Gater AH Senior Member

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    Preface - if anyone is curious why I’m just now posting this, it’s because I don’t like to tell a story until the door on that story has been closed, so I’d been waiting for us to receive our taxidermy – and I’m glad I did.

    I will post everything as factually as I can to give others a preview of what I experienced in case they’re looking to book with NB Safaris themselves. Also, if there’s an onslaught of “new members” chiming in about how WONDERFUL NB Safaris is, that’s because they keep a group chat through WhatsApp for former clients and someone may see this thread and ask everyone to post glowing reviews – just a heads up. Point to note, I’ve since been removed from that thread on WhatsApp by the owner of NB Safaris – apparently he doesn’t want me sharing my experience with the rest of his clients.

    Last September (2018), my Dad and I went on what may be a once in a lifetime Safari in South Africa. A friend of mine had hunted with NB Safaris several times prior and got us a decent package deal for our hunt.

    THE GOOD:

    Accommodations: We arrived in camp late on the 1st day and shared camp with 2 other hunters, who were great guys. It was hard to see the lodge setting in the dark, but things appeared to be much nicer than I expected. I was pleasantly surprised when I got to my hut – it was really nice and comfortable with a private bathroom. Each hunter had their own hut, which I knew ahead of time, but was still pleased with. The next day it was clear that the grounds were very nice. The buildings are well maintained and clean. The shower cleanliness in my room left a little to be desired, but nothing worth complaining about.

    Staff: The staff were all wonderful. From the groundskeepers to the PH’s, everyone was very polite, friendly and accommodating. My Dad and I hunted with PH George and driver/tracker George (yep, 2 Georges got confusing – LOL) and had a great time with them. They were both genuinely good guys – capable, professional and friendly.

    Animals: We were blown away by the amount and variety of animals we saw. We hunted 3 different properties and saw a ton of animals on each. How the numbers stack up against other places to hunt, I couldn’t tell you, but I wasn’t disappointed in the amount of animals we saw. I also couldn’t compare the quality of the animals we saw to anywhere else in SA, but we saw some really nice animals too.

    Saved the best for last – Food: The food they prepared for us was out of this world. Breakfast was typical South African style being mostly toast, coffee and cold cereal, which was just fine with me. But lunch and dinner were absolutely amazing. My Dad and I were even just recently talking about how it was the best group of meals we’ve ever eaten. I forget the chef’s name, but he’s extremely talented – you won’t go hungry at NB Safaris, that’s for sure.

    THE BAD:

    To preface this section – it’s important to know that the owner of NB Safaris, Neil Barnard, was having a lot of trouble with a tooth and had to make several unplanned trips to Johannesburg for some dental work while we were there. This meant he wasn’t around much, and when he was, it was only briefly and it was clear he was in pain and uncomfortable.

    There’s not much bad to say about our time there, but one issue that rubbed us raw was that we put together an animal package that included gemsbok. When we got there, we learned that there are VERY few gemsbok on the properties we were hunting and they're rarely seen. If we wanted to hunt them, they wanted us to drive 8 hours each way to the Kalahari (at our expense) and pay additional fees to stay at another outfitter’s place while we were there. That wasn’t in our plans or budget, so we opted to exchange different animals for the gemsbok. I will say that Neil was very fair with the way he offered to modify our animal package and we resolved the issue exactly as I was expecting. It was just very disappointing to not get to hunt them as gemsbok was the #2 animal on my wish list and #1 on my dad’s.

    My biggest turn off revolved around our trophies. At one point, George (PH) asked what our plans were for our trophies and we informed him that we weren't 100% sure, but we were leaning towards dip and ship back to the US so that we could spread out the taxidermy costs over the next couple years. Apparently, this information got back to Neil pretty quickly, as he was there at the bar when we returned from hunting that night. He went on and on about how US taxidermists don’t know how to properly handle and care for African hides and basically belittled anyone who wouldn’t want to have their African trophies mounted in Africa. He also, very pointedly, assured us that if we decide to dip and ship, that the hides would likely be damaged, and that he’d give us only 3 days from the end of our safari to find our own taxidermy company and shipping for the dip and ship of the hides. I’ve since learned that it’s customary to provide 2 week for the client to arrange this – why he only gave us 3 days – I could speculate, but I don’t want to inject speculation into this review. Message me if you’d like to learn more. This stood out to both my dad and I as strange – think of a gangster movie when they try to shake down small business owners for “protection” and tell the owner, “you wouldn’t want something bad to happen to your store, would you?”. Neil presented us with price sheets for the taxidermist he recommended (African Expressions) and that he’d personally see to it that the mounts were excellent. We were told it was the same taxidermist who had mounted the animals in the lodge, and they did look great. It wasn’t until later that we realized the owners name on the taxidermy price sheet shared the same last name as Neil. Turns out that she’s his ex-wife, and a broker who doesn’t actually own the taxidermy studio. The taxidermy studio she uses is Burns Taxidermy in Pretoria. Reading the writing on the wall, and not being prepared to find our own dip and ship accommodations within 3 days, we opted to have the taxidermy done through African Expressions.

    It’s important to note before getting to the “UGLY” that when I picked up my trophies, the label on the crate for African Expressions had Neil and Karen (his ex-wife) Barnard, so he’s clearly more affiliated with the taxidermy side of things than he wanted us to know at the time.

    THE UGLY:

    The ugly part of our safari revolves around our taxidermy. The overall process of the taxidermy was fairly simple; NB Safaris took care of all the transport details to the taxidermist. Some issues came up with the positioning of our mounts when they sent pictures for approval of the molds, which was frustrating considering we sent very specific instructions with both sample images and drawings diagramming what we were wanting. This wasn’t really that big of a deal and can happen with any taxidermist, but it was odd as to how they could be so wrong. With quite a few positioning issues, most of the attention was paid to that aspect when they sent us completed photos for review. In hindsight, I wish I would have known what other issues to look for in the pictures and would have asked for more detailed close ups – lesson learned.

    When the mounts arrived, and we got them unpacked, I couldn’t believe the amount of hair loss there was, especially on the waterbuck. It has 2 very large bald patches on the front of both shoulders. My kudu also has a bald spot on its chest and my zebra has bald spots around its ears and on the face. My impala looks great. My dad got 5 animals and all but one look really good. The hide on his kudu is a total loss in my opinion. I wrote to Neil and African Expressions and and a long sting of communications resulted with Neil making excuses and denial of any preventable hair loss. I never heard back from Karen at African Expressions. Admittedly, I originally bought into the nonsensical explanations for the conditions of the hides, and even agreed with Neil at one point through e-mail about climate and/or breeding playing a possible role in the kudu baldness.

    However, I should have listened to my gut and stuck to my original guns about the hair slip, because I started a thread on this site to get 3rd party, unbiased, opinions and the responses were overwhelmingly in agreement with my original opinion.

    My dad also sent pictures of his kudu to them and Neil admitted that the hair loss “is a bit excessive... I will check with George and get your field photo. Expect a reply regarding details shortly.” It’s now been 16 days with no response.

    I've cut my losses and am moving on. Neil clearly isn't interested in resolving the issues and would rather point fingers.

    For details and pics on the condition of the mounts, check out my other thread:

    https://www.africahunting.com/threads/hair-slippage-or-normal-characteristic.52697/

    CONCLUSION:

    In the end, we had a really great time. The staff, food, accommodations and amount of animals we saw were all excellent. It’s unfortunate that those memories can be soured by terrible animal hide prep and care; followed by an outfitter who not only doesn’t live up to his promises, but instead makes excuses for poor workmanship and denies any such quality concerns even exist.

    Would I ever hunt with NB Safaris again? No. If it weren’t for the good pricing my friend got us, we wouldn’t have hunted with them in the 1st place. I definitely wouldn’t be able to afford his standard pricing. You can check the pricing on their webpage for yourself, and as I’ve seen and heard from others, they’re sky high, so shop around before booking.

    http://www.nbsafaris.com/

    The hide quality on the mounts, unwillingness to accommodate with dip and ship and being virtually blown off in response to concerns with the taxidermy are the nails in the coffin for me hunting there again, even if the pricing was more reasonable.

    It’s also notable that NB Safaris “donates” a LOT of hunts to charity auctions where people are sucked in with the “low introductory price”. But, by the time they’ve paid for additional animals not included in the basic package they won at the auction, they’re going to be left with a quite hefty bill. And then on top of it all, to receive taxidermy of this quality, for the prices they charge, it’s a surprise they get any repeat business. So, if you win a hunt through an auction, heed my final words below:

    Caveat Emptor!
     
    Rick Cox, Trogon, Mekaniks and 2 others like this.

  2. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN AH ENABLER SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR LIFETIME TITANIUM BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    Thanks for the report. Sad it did not settle out well.
    Lots of bait and switch in your experience. Hmmmm
     
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  3. TTundra

    TTundra AH Enthusiast

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    Thanks for the report. Easy to draw some conclusions being there is a bit of nepotism present on the taxidermy side....

    Sorry you had to go the big but dont let it detract from your next hunt!
     
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  4. Ridgewalker

    Ridgewalker AH ENABLER LIFETIME BRONZE BENEFACTOR AH Legend

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    Yep, as reported several times on AH, Africa is a difficult place to communicate with and you will lose virtually any argument. No one seems to ever be responsible.

    My decision after my last problems is I’m bringing nothing home except euros and they too will probably be over boiled leading to skulls falling apart and bleached out horns. It’s really sad that they (Africa taxidermists) have such an opportunity to do well in their business just by communicating and being up front timely.

    Sorry for your problems!
     
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  5. Red Leg

    Red Leg AH ENABLER LIFETIME BRONZE BENEFACTOR AH Legend

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    Unfortunate. Whenever you go on a guided hunt again make sure all the taxidermy decisions are arranged ahead of time. That way you are not caught abroad wondering how to set up a shipment home on short notice. If he is experienced with international hunts and game (really a good idea), your Stateside taxidermist will have that well in hand for you. It also shuts down arguments at the bar before they get started.

    The oryx issue is in some ways most concerning. I assume both you and your father made clear how important this animal was on your priority list. I also assume it was offered on NB's game package list. Much of South Africa is a pretty lousy place to hunt an Oryx. Your outfitter certainly already knew that fulfilling that animal was not possible within the terms of the contract. You were I assume hunting a high fence game ranch, and Neil Barnard certainly new if he or a neighbor from whom he buys quota would have two available. If a game ranch - their website is very non-specific about their South African concessions - I suspect the 200k wilderness areas refer to Moz and Zim - he knew at booking whether an Oryx was available. They are either stocked or not - nothing is "rare" on a game ranch.
     

  6. enysse

    enysse AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    The truth is out there now. I’m sorry you got taken by someone who was financially motivated to fill their pockets before being concerned about their clients taxidermy and long term memories from the hunt.
     
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  7. Hogpatrol

    Hogpatrol AH ENABLER SILVER SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Thanks for the review. Cross that venue off the list. (n)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 31, 2019
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  8. aaronraby1

    aaronraby1 AH Enthusiast

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    Well... he's not wrong.
     
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  9. flatwater bill

    flatwater bill AH Elite

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    It is surprising to me how many field prep and taxidermy problems can arise in Africa. One would think that the caping, skinning, boiling and dip and pack, at the least, would be something they would be great at.......universally. But it is not the case. There are very good ones...and marginal ones. Rotted, hair slipped, over boiled horns that are mushy.....all possible. There are some people on this site who know exactly who to use. Red Leg is right................get good advice on these areas before you go, and convey them to your operator...early. Sorry to hear of your experience....but glad you posted. Focus on the memory of what went right......and let that offset the negative. Thanks for posting.....FWB
     

  10. Witold Krzyżanowski

    Witold Krzyżanowski AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    Thanks for the report.
     
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  11. BnC 04

    BnC 04 GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Appreciate the report and sorry to hear of the issues.
     
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  12. Neil Barnard

    Neil Barnard AH Member

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    Hi everyone this is Neil Barnard, the Outfitter for NB Safaris replying to the report.
    I have attached the photos of Jeff’s mounts for your personal approval.

    Feel free to send me any questions you might have regarding his allegations; I will with pleasure help with an honest reply. Nit picking can be a problem and hard to handle. LOL!!!

    NB Safaris stands by its product and we have a great reputation, unfortunately it’s hard to please everyone. We do try!
    High trees get a lot of wind.

    Have a great day and I hope your weekend is relaxing.

    IMG_7471.jpg IMG_7472.jpg IMG_7473.jpg IMG_7474.jpg IMG_7475.jpg IMG_7476.jpg IMG_7477.jpg IMG_7478.jpg IMG_7479.jpg IMG_7480.jpg IMG_7481.jpg IMG_7482.jpg
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 31, 2019

  13. Neil Barnard

    Neil Barnard AH Member

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    Hallo Anysse, I think if you would take a moment and have a good look at the true details you might find that things aren’t as it appears. Hope you have a wonderful day.
     

  14. Nyati

    Nyati AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Thanks for the report, and sorry to read about your bad experience.

    It really strikes me that your outfitter could not find an Oryx in Limpopo, a few of my friends and myself have hunted them there.
     

  15. Neil Barnard

    Neil Barnard AH Member

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    Hi Nyati,
    The devil is always in the details my friend. There is more to this story then is being shared... hope you have a wonderful day.
     

  16. TTundra

    TTundra AH Enthusiast

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    @Neil Barnard the images of the trophies still show many defects and you see full images of the slippage and work on the OP's post linked above.
    It's best to offer any additional information right away in a thread like this.

    For starters from personal experience, my taxidermist in RSA paid to have a mount shipped back and redone because of much smaller issues than seen here.

    Can you comment on the relationship between you, the intermediary, and then the actual taxidermist? Did you also not offer to help find a different taxidermist as the OP stated by limiting to 3 days?
     
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  17. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN AH ENABLER SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR LIFETIME TITANIUM BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    Screen Shot 2019-08-31 at 14.37.58.png


    @Gater Do you happen to know the Lotto numbers? Crystal ball? LOL
     
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  18. Hogpatrol

    Hogpatrol AH ENABLER SILVER SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Too funny. Anyway, the plot thickens. Probably need to whip up some popcorn. This is going to be good.[​IMG]
     
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  19. Newboomer

    Newboomer GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    ALWAYS, ALWAYS deal with a reputable USA outfit like Safari Specialty Importers for any hunt. They handle everything from the outfitter to your taxidermist here in the USA. If there are any questions or problems they will solve them. There are too many shady characters out there for the average hunter to deal with.
    Gater, not to cast aspersions on you but you could have avoided the trophy debacle by using SSI or another US importer. Proper treatment of your trophies would have been guaranteed.
    I hope everything works out satisfactorily for you.
     
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  20. aaronraby1

    aaronraby1 AH Enthusiast

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    Wrong. Proper treatment of skins and skulls start the minute the animal is down. Skinning, fleshing, turning and drying are all parts of proper trophy care. Not how they are shipped or who ships them. I've imported many many animals from different countries all on my own, without brokers with no problems. I've also been at hand for a lot of my animals watching and checking. I've even done my own skinning, fleshing and turning if needed. But at the same time, if an outfit states as part of a contract that trophy prep is in fact part of the deal, then one would expect the proper care of skins and skulls to be upheld the right way.
     
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