So, you have decided to take the leap and finally go on a once in a lifetime trip, an African safari. Congratulations! Upon research, you may have noticed that an African safari is not a budget friendly trip option, but rest assured the money spent will be worth the journey. The question still remains, how much should you budget for your African safari? Where it varies by company and luxury accommodations, here are some guidelines to stick to, to help you understand what you are paying for. Some countries have more hidden fees than others, so we will be sure to share all the hidden costs to help you make the right decision.
Choosing your Accommodations
African safaris have become a very trendy vacation option. Celebrities and influencers have popularised the notion of an African safari, which was previously held in regard for a very wealthy few. Because of the demand and rise in popularity, most safari locations have a range of accommodations to choose from. Large scale resorts tend to have more luxurious options than smaller operations, but some of the smaller companies may have more intimate safari experiences.
When choosing your accommodations, be careful to select based on the level of luxury you would expect. Naturally, those that are comfortable sleeping in a tent, roughing it a little, and showering outdoors often have access to inexpensive sleeping options, but if sleeping outdoors frightens you, there is no shame in paying a bit more for indoor plumbing and the comforts of home.
Botswana has a reputation for being the most expensive safari destination in Africa, with the likes of Kenya and Tanzania not trailing too far behind. In Kenya’s Masai Mara you can expect to pay anywhere between $100-$140 USD per day for conservancy fees alone. This matched with expensive bush flights, camp fees and international flights can make Kenya one of the most expensive options for a safari.
With an endless range of safari lodging, South Africa is often one of the more affordable places to go on safari. In Kruger National Park you can experience a range of safari offerings from camping through to all inclusive five star lodges. Regional airlines like Safari Link can get you there cheaper than chartered flights, making this a great choice for budget travellers. You might also choose to self drive if you wish to save even further, but be prepared for some long car journeys!
My favourite lodges per country are:
Dining on Safari
If you are setting out on an African safari, it is likely you are not solely going for the cuisine but believe me when I say this often ends up being a highlight! The wildlife will steal the show, but those late nights back at camp can be a real highlight of the overall safari experience.
There are a few dining options when it comes to the average safari. For those in a remote area utilizing camping accommodations, your chef will prepare dinner for you when you return back from game drive.
Depending on your location and how much you budget, your driver might take you back to the lodge for your meals. In this case, you will receive a variety of options to fit many different tastes. All-inclusive lodge options are best for those with food sensitivities or allergies. Lodges that offer full board will be willing to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, dairy intolerances and gluten intolerances. It is best to advise your allergies before you arrive at camp, however it isn’t uncommon to let the team know when you arrive.
The location of your excursion will have a drastic impact on your overall budget. This is an area that can be a bit tricky to navigate. The more remote a location, the more likely you will see more animals. Some companies really will take you out into the vast wilderness of the African landscape, but others will choose to travel within a sanctioned wildlife area. Both notions will allow you to see your fare share of wildlife, but one important thing to remember in regard to location. Remote locations must ship in supplies and foods from far away while those with access to neighbouring towns will be able to maintain their supply easier. Remote areas may have less abundant dining options and can garner higher prices due to travel expenses, so the location of your African safari can play greatly into your overall budget plans.
Mode of Transport
We have all seen the movies in which jeep style vehicles bus tourists around the landscape. There are many companies that still use these old, reliable modes of transport, but in an effort to aid in conservation of the area, many companies are now employing vehicles that have far less negative impact on the environment. If conservation and the environment is important to you, it is in your best interest to seek out companies that share your beliefs and provide modern environmentally friendly transportation.
Your African safari can get very expensive very quickly, but do not be dismayed by sticker shock. You are not simply heading out to the beach for a little rest and relaxation. You are going into an environment that is rugged and largely, unoccupied, apart from the array of wildlife. A good rule of thumb for budget concerns is $1,000 per person per day. This budget gives you a substantial amount of options without simply resorting to the cheapest, and sometimes less than desirable safari.
If you are looking at more luxurious options (like And Beyond, Wilderness or Singita to name a few) you can expect to pay around $2,000 per person per day, incorporating accommodation, transfers and tips.
Something to Keep in Mind
While shopping for your African safari company, never be dismayed by promises of budget friendly safaris. Where it sounds excellent to pay far less for the trip, these budget minded safaris are often not worth it. African safaris are meant to not merely entertain, but educate people about the needs of our wildlife and offer protection for the animals. Many budget safaris do little to support wildlife and conservation efforts, so investing a little more for the journey will provide a more money to go to the wildlife rather than just in the pockets of the safari company.