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How expensive is an African safari?

How expensive is an African safari?

Embarking on an African safari is often considered a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that many aspire to fulfill. However, for some, the dream may seem out of reach due to perceived high costs. The initial question that often arises is, “How much does an African safari cost?” Fortunately, the reality is that an African safari can be more affordable than one might expect. The overall expense depends on factors such as the chosen safari destination, the timing of travel, the itinerary’s complexity, and the accommodation preferences of the traveler.

Gaining insight into the factors influencing the cost of an African safari empowers travelers to tailor their itineraries to match their budget, interests, and expectations. While quality often correlates with cost, affordability doesn’t necessarily imply compromised quality.

As for the expense of an African safari, it varies significantly. As a general reference, anticipate spending anywhere between US$250 to US$2,000 per person per day. The final figure hinges on factors like the timing and location of your safari destination.

The price of embarking on an East African safari.

In East Africa, renowned as the birthplace of traditional safaris, you’ll find some of the most breathtaking open-plain game viewing opportunities on the continent. Additionally, it’s the sole destination in Africa where you can experience an authentic gorilla and chimpanzee trekking safari. Prices are typically quoted in US dollars.

Kenya: During peak season, the average cost per person per night for a safari in Kenya ranges from just over US$600 for a scheduled, small-group budget safari to up to US$2,550 for a private, fly-in luxury safari (based on 2023 prices). This fee typically covers transportation from Nairobi to your safari destination, national park entry fees, game drives, and possibly additional activities. However, it does not include international flights, visas, or optional activities like hot air balloon safaris over the Masai Mara or walking safaris offered at select camps.

The timing of your visit to Kenya, your chosen mode of transportation, the selection of safari camp, and the frequency of domestic flights between destinations all play pivotal roles in determining the overall cost of your safari itinerary. It’s important to note that safaris in Kenya are priced in US dollars, which can make them relatively more expensive compared to similar experiences in South Africa, where safaris are priced in South African rands.

Peak season in Kenya, occurring from mid-July to the end of September, coincides with the migration period when vast herds of wildebeest migrate from Tanzania to the Masai Mara National Reserve. This period is renowned for offering extraordinary wildlife sightings but comes with higher costs, especially for luxury safari camps that guarantee a more private and exclusive game-viewing experience. If budget constraints are a concern, consider traveling outside of the peak season, particularly during the short rains from January to March and sometimes in November.

During the shoulder season, which falls outside of the peak period, prices typically range from around US$550 per person per night for a scheduled small-group safari to US$1,100 per person per night for a luxury fly-in safari. Despite being less crowded, the parks and reserves still offer remarkable wildlife encounters, as resident wildlife remains abundant throughout the year. These safari experiences primarily focus on exploring the most popular game reserves. However, more budget-friendly options are available by staying at camps located outside the game reserves.

Please note that the prices provided here are rough estimates based on 2023 pricing. Your destination expert at Wild Wings Safaris will provide personalized guidance on cost-saving strategies, such as traveling outside of Kenya’s peak season, opting for a private guide and personal driver instead of a fly-in safari, and minimizing the number of stops on your itinerary.

Tanzania

Similar to Kenya, the cost of your safari in Tanzania hinges on various factors including the timing of your visit, mode of transportation (fly-in safari versus drive-in safari; private safari versus scheduled small-group safari), choice of accommodation, and the frequency of domestic flights required between national parks or safari lodges. Although park fees in Kenya are slightly lower than those in Tanzania, there is minimal price disparity between Kenyan and Tanzanian safaris, both of which are priced in US dollars.

In general, the cost of a safari in Tanzania typically ranges from US$450 to US$2,800 per person per night (excluding international flights), contingent upon the season and the selected camp.

Similar to Kenya, the wildebeest migration significantly influences the expense of a Tanzania safari. However, unlike Kenya, where the migration peaks between July and September, Tanzania hosts the mega herds for most of the year.

The wildebeest migration unfolds in various phases spanning several months. It commences with the calving season from January to March in Ndutu and Southern Serengeti, followed by the rutting season from April to June in Western and Central Serengeti. The spectacle continues with the dramatic river crossings from July to August in Northern Serengeti. As October and November approach, the herds embark on their journey southward once again.

To keep costs manageable, your choice of accommodation plays a crucial role. This is where the expertise of a reputable tour operator proves invaluable. For budget-conscious travelers, joining a group tour and opting for larger, more affordable safari lodges can be a sensible option. Conversely, those willing to invest a bit more may prefer the intimacy and prime locations offered by smaller, exclusive safari camps.

Reducing the number of stops on your itinerary is another effective cost-saving strategy. Instead of rushing between game reserves, which can escalate expenses, consider lingering longer in one or two locations. This allows you to take advantage of long-stay specials or early booking discounts.

The Cost of a Southern African Safari

What are the expenses associated with a safari in Southern Africa? There are numerous appealing aspects to a Southern African safari. Beyond exceptional game-viewing opportunities, it’s relatively straightforward to combine two or three Southern African countries into a single itinerary. Southern Africa boasts both the continent’s most budget-friendly and most luxurious safari destinations—South Africa and Botswana, respectively.

South Africa

In general, South Africa stands out as the most affordable safari destination, offering the opportunity to experience luxury within a budget. Game viewing remains consistently excellent throughout the year, with accommodation choices having a more significant impact on safari costs than the timing of your visit. South African safaris are predominantly priced in the local currency, the South African rand. The favorable exchange rate offers added value for safari-goers earning US dollars, pounds, or euros.

For budget-conscious travelers, a scheduled, small-group safari to Kruger National Park presents one of the most economical safari options. While the expense of a long-haul flight to South Africa must be factored in, the attractive pricing of the safari itself often compensates for this. For instance, a typical four-day Kruger Park budget safari in 2023 costs only ZAR 15,500 per person, which translates to well below US$900 for a 3-night/4-day safari, considering the current exchange rate. This comprehensive package includes return road transfers from Johannesburg, entrance fees to Kruger Park and daily conservation charges, three nights’ accommodation within the park, breakfasts and dinners, as well as all game drives led by a qualified English-speaking guide in an open safari vehicle.

These budget-friendly safaris prioritize maximizing the game-viewing experience over lavish five-star accommodation. The lodging is modest, comprising simple air-conditioned bungalows with two or three single beds and a small en-suite bathroom. Savvy travelers can further reduce costs by taking advantage of early bird specials and booking well in advance, which also helps keep flight expenses reasonable.

While even more economical safaris exist outside the park, they are often suboptimal. Conversely, within the adjacent private game reserves, pricing varies significantly based on the reserve and accommodation preferences. The most budget-friendly lodging options in these reserves typically range from approximately ZAR 4,000 to ZAR 8,000 per person per night. This rate typically includes three daily meals, early morning and late afternoon/evening game drives, as well as tea and coffee. Not included in the nightly rate are transportation to the safari lodge, gate entry fees, and usually, beverages.

In South Africa, a mid-range safari typically costs between ZAR 8,500 to ZAR 13,000 per person sharing per night when staying at mid-range safari lodges. At the current exchange rate, this translates to approximately US$500 to US$700 per person, a price range considered budget-friendly in comparison to Botswana and East Africa. This offers exceptional value for money considering the inclusions and the high standards of safari lodge facilities and service levels in South Africa. Most lodges in this category are luxury five-star accommodations.

In South Africa, there are also exceptional high-end lodges that rank among the finest in Africa. At the top end of the market, prices range from approximately ZAR 14,000 (US$750) to ZAR 35,000 (US$2,000) per person per night. Safari enthusiasts seeking the ultimate luxury safari experience have an array of options to choose from. The renowned Sabi Sand Nature Reserve, celebrated for its frequent leopard sightings, boasts numerous award-winning luxury safari lodges. These establishments offer lavish accommodations, gourmet dining, and unparalleled game viewing, ensuring guests enjoy the epitome of luxury safari experiences.

Botswana

Botswana has adopted a high-revenue, low-volume, low-impact approach to safari tourism. While there are some affordable safari options available, Botswana is widely regarded as the most expensive safari destination in Africa. The majority of safari camps in Botswana are priced between US$1,000 and US$2,500 per person per night during peak season. Therefore, if affordability and budget-friendliness are primary considerations, South Africa is often the preferred choice.

In Botswana, many lodges are situated in remote locations accessible only by light aircraft or challenging 4×4 journeys. This factor significantly impacts the costs associated with constructing and operating high-end safari lodges. High operational expenses, concession fees, and the necessity for chartered light aircraft flights to access and depart from many safari camps contribute to the high price tag of a typical fly-in safari in Botswana.

Nevertheless, Botswana offers guests the allure of some of the most secluded and exclusive African safari experiences, free from the crowds and congestion commonly experienced during peak seasons in East Africa and South Africa’s Kruger National Park. Other factors influencing the cost of a Botswana safari include the type of safari booked, the timing of the visit, the number of stops on the itinerary, and the pricing structure in US dollars.

Botswana experiences three distinct seasons, with the lowest prices typically observed during the Green Season from December to March. During this period, many mid-range safari camps offer rates ranging from US$550 to US$600 per person sharing per night, while top-end camps may cost around US$850 to US$1,100 per person sharing per night. Although heavy rainfall occurs during this season, it’s also a time of remarkable beauty and abundance. Most animals give birth during this period, and the landscape transforms into a lush paradise, ideal for birdwatchers and photographers.

The Shoulder Season typically spans from April to June, including November, while peak season in Botswana runs from July through October. The price disparity between the Green Season and peak season can be considerable.

For budget-conscious travelers interested in safaris in Botswana, we recommend exploring options to capitalize on more competitive pricing during the Green or Shoulder Seasons. Additionally, consider extending your stay at one or two safari camps to avoid the costly necessity of flights between destinations. Keep an eye out for special offers within safari lodge groups to further optimize your budget.

Zimbabwe

How much does a safari in Zimbabwe cost? Zimbabwe, like South Africa, offers more than just safaris. It’s renowned for Victoria Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the “Seven Natural Wonders of the World.” Many travelers opt to visit Victoria Falls, often combining it with a safari in South Africa or Botswana.

However, Zimbabwe boasts some of the finest game reserves in Africa, where you can easily spend a week or more on safari and encounter abundant wildlife. Safari prices in Zimbabwe are typically quoted in US dollars.

Zimbabwe stands out as one of our preferred safari destinations, harboring numerous hidden gems. Its expansive and remote wildlife areas offer an intimate, uncrowded, and unspoiled game-viewing experience. Renowned for providing some of Africa’s finest game-viewing and photographic opportunities, both on land and water, Zimbabwe boasts friendly and welcoming locals, ensuring a safe and enjoyable visit. Considering these factors, a safari in Zimbabwe remains reasonably priced.

Zambia

Zambia, renowned as one of Africa’s most pristine safari destinations, is celebrated for offering some of the continent’s best walking safaris. The country’s wildlife-rich game reserves are remote and sparsely populated, with most safari camps being small and exclusive. These factors contribute to the overall cost of a safari in Zambia, making it relatively expensive compared to other destinations.

Additional factors may further influence the cost of a safari in Zambia. Domestic travel between game reserves and national parks is primarily conducted by air. Safari packages are priced in US dollars, and due to Zambia’s limited operating season—many camps close during the intense rainy season from November to May—the safari industry tends to cater to discerning safari-goers seeking an intimate, off-the-grid, and authentic African safari experience.

During the low season, accommodation at a four-star comfort safari camp typically ranges from US$800 to US$900 per person per night, while in the high season, the cost rises to around US$1,000. For a five-star luxury safari camp, expect to pay approximately US$1,400 to US$1,500 per person sharing per night during the low season, with rates increasing to around US$2,000 in the high season.

If you’re planning a safari in Zambia between July and September, we highly recommend allocating one or two nights to explore Victoria Falls. A visit to Livingstone Island and a swim in Devil’s Pool or Angel’s Pool at the edge of the falls promises a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will linger in your memory.

The cost per person sharing per night in Livingstone varies depending on the level of accommodation chosen, along with optional activities such as Zambezi River cruises, helicopter flights over Victoria Falls, whitewater rafting, canoeing, bungee jumping, and ziplining. Livingstone offers a multitude of excellent accommodation options to suit various preferences and budgets.

Other popular game reserves in Zambia offering reasonably priced safari camps (below US$1,000 per person) include the Lower Zambezi National Park and the expansive Kafue National Park. However, accessing these reserves typically involves flying in, which adds to the overall cost.

Namibia

Namibia is vast, with vast distances between destinations. How costly is a trip to Namibia? It can be an affordable Southern African safari destination, depending on various factors such as the time of year you travel, your mode of transportation between destinations, the number of stops on your itinerary, the level of accommodation, and the remoteness of your safari lodges.

Similar to much of Africa, the more private, exclusive, and remote your chosen destination, the higher the expected cost. Some remote lodges can only be accessed by air, which drives up operational and maintenance expenses. Additionally, these safari lodges often participate in community upliftment and eco-tourism projects, which may entail additional levies.

For travelers eager to experience Namibia’s diverse attractions but lacking the budget for a private tour or fly-in safari, joining a scheduled, small-group, road-based safari is an excellent alternative. It allows you to explore the country’s iconic highlights while sharing costs with fellow adventurers.

However, it’s important to note that Namibia is a sought-after safari destination, and accommodation options are limited. Securing availability can be challenging if you don’t book well in advance, often up to a year ahead of your planned visit.

 

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