Your go-to guide for what safaris cost, and which value-added extras are really worth your while
Not all safaris are created equal. Many travelers learn this the hard way, which is devastating for those who have journeyed from afar only to end their safari holiday feeling disappointed and disillusioned.
Because we’re passionate about safaris, and we’re on a mission to get more travelers enjoying more authentic and responsible adventures, we’ve set out to explain which factors have the greatest influence on your safari budget and what the main differences are between a $20-30K safari versus a $10-15K safari (pricing per person).
Single vs multiple destinations make a big difference
Traveling to multiple countries makes sense for many reasons, but it can significantly contribute towards the cost of your safari. Countries that are commonly grouped together for African safaris include Rwanda and Tanzania, South Africa and Zimbabwe, and Botswana and Namibia, for example, but the light aircraft flights getting between these countries can add up.
Luxury accommodation adds to the cost
Even though Africa is generally quite cost-effective for travelers paying in dollars, it goes without saying that choosing 5-star camps and lodges doesn’t come cheap. Top luxury lodges in Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Rwanda range from $2500 to $4500 per person, per night. Taking that into account, you can see how even a 6-day safari can easily add up to more than $20K per person. Some destinations and areas can be lower cost for longer stays (Zambia & Uganda for example) versus some higher cost areas like Botswana & Rwanda.
Seamless connections are convenient but costly
Accommodation isn’t the only factor that can boost your budget – the convenience and peace of mind that private charters offer can easily push the price up. As we tell our clients, a private charter isn’t always ultra-luxurious, it’s often just the most efficient way to streamline your logistics and reach your destination more quickly. Less time in transit means more time to relax and enjoy, but because every destination’s connecting options are different, this is an area of travel within Africa that we’re specialized in.
Be selective about your seasons
Peak safari seasons (generally from July – October and mid-December to mid-January) come with higher price tags – with the difference in rates sometimes being as high as $800 per person, per night. If you’re working with a tight budget and you can travel in off-peak seasons, it’s worth your while. Rainy seasons are often overlooked, but they can be a photographer’s dream, offering lush green picturesque landscapes. This is especially true if your destination has summer rain, in which case you can usually expect sunny mornings and the odd beautiful bushveld thunderstorm in the afternoon, offering you the best of both worlds. You can chat to us about what your ideal experience would be and we’ll use our hard-earned expertise to find you the best experience (and more bang for your buck) in the least crowded areas and seasons.
Choose a central location wherever possible
Many travelers don’t realize the sheer scale of the reserves they’re traveling to, making their camp location a key consideration. Most itineraries in the lower price brackets will offer accommodation options that are close to the national park and reserve entrances, which are busier and more crowded. Not only that, but budget operators often have strict limitations on what distances can be driven on a game drive, which can make it challenging to access unique spots and big sightings that aren’t already surrounded by multiple game vehicles. Higher bracket locations, however, are often based in private conservancies. Besides offering beautifully central and quiet, remote locations, they also often limit the number of visitors in the area and allow for more off-road driving, night driving, and walking excursions, all of which make for better wildlife sightings and beautiful photo ops.
Research your ride
This is another request that comes with experience – what kind of ride will you be game viewing in? Is it a diesel vehicle or a (quieter) electric vehicle? Is it closed or open? How many people will be seated in the vehicle? If you’ve experienced a safari before, you’ll know that you ideally want an open-sided 4×4 safari vehicle that takes no more than 6 total guests at a time (to ensure that everyone has a window view).
Another question worth asking is whether or not there’s an option to hire a private vehicle. Sure, this will come at an additional cost (anything from $300 to $1200 per day), possibly pushing you into the higher price bracket safari experience, but there are many advantages to choosing this additional expense. For a start, a private vehicle gives you the flexibility to go at your own pace and spend time searching for the wildlife that really interests you. For those who love birding, a private vehicle is especially advantageous since not all safari goers love to stop for birds. It also affords you the flexibility of being able to depart, return, stop, and stay out when you want, and for as long as you want.
Since game drives are such a huge portion of your experience on a safari, this is one area of a trip that we advise our clients not to compromise on.
Fancy yourself a foodie?
For a $10-15K safari, you’ll often get a pre-set menu offering two options to choose from for your main course. The cuisine is also likely to be more ‘meat and potatoes’ style dinners, cooked around a cozy campfire. Buffets are common at this price point.
For a high price bracket safari, however, you can usually expect customized menus with multiple meal choices for each course, including a greater variety of healthy options and more salads and vegetables (something which can be hard to come by in certain lodges due to factors including logistics).
Setting the bar high
The same applies to the variety of wine and cocktails on offer. Your lower price bracket safaris will typically offer 1-2 white and red wines from South Africa, a few local beers, and a range of well-known spirits like Gordon’s gin and Smirnoff vodka. If you’re visiting a more upmarket establishment, however, like the Singita group of luxury lodges, you’d be looking at an in-house sommelier running a sophisticated wine program that offers guests access to exclusive wines, many of which would be otherwise unavailable to members of the public.
Now that you understand some of the finer nuances between what makes for a $20-30K safari versus a $10-15K safari, you can see that even if luxury accommodation isn’t your top priority, you may very well want the perks of a private vehicle or varied food options which pushes your needs up into a higher bracket safari experience.
No matter what your preferences and priorities are, trust in our passion for Africa and our safari expertise to help you plan your dream adventure.