African safaris are known for being an expensive, blow-out, once-in-a-lifetime trip. While you certainly can spend a huge amount of money if you choose to, you might be surprised to learn that you don’t actually have to compromise too hard to still get an amazing experience. With the huge range of lodges and tours available across Africa’s parks and reserves, there’s plenty of options for you to get the luxury touch but at a great price.
Here are some easy tips to follow which can help you to save a few dollars and let you indulge in the things you really want.
1. Location, Location, Location
You’ve probably heard of the Maasai Mara and the Serengeti – well, so has everyone else. Famous for the wildebeest migration and the high density of wildlife, safaris in these well-known parks unsurprisingly come with some of the highest costs. If you’re looking to capture that ultimate safari experience and travel in style, but without breaking the bank, try some of the other parks which offer alternative, but still unforgettable, African wildlife encounters – Nairobi National Park in Kenya, or Tarangire in Tanzania.
2. Use Local Currency in African Safaris
Also, check out what currency the African safari price is offered in and what the exchange rate to the local currency is; you can get a high-end experience for less if you can book in a local currency rather than US dollars, and find a good rate – for example, with the South African rand.
3. Go with the Seasons
Consider the time of year when you want to go visit African safaris, and think seriously about going in the off-peak season. Low season varies from place to place with different weather conditions and habits of local wildlife populations, but broadly speaking, the Southern Hemisphere summer and autumn (November – March) is a good bet.
This has many advantages if you’re looking for a special and unique trip – don’t be too put off by the term ‘rainy season’, it’s mostly just bursts of thunder showers which clear up after a few minutes.
- Lower room rates – In the low seasons, many lodges and hotels will drastically cut their rates, enabling you to experience high-end luxurious accommodation for less.
- Less crowd -There will be less people around, enabling you to avoid the ‘car parks’ of the high season, where forty or more vehicles crowd around a giraffe or herd of zebra. You will have less people in your tour group, and may even get the luxury of being privately escorted.
- Lower air fares – Air fares will also be lower, meaning you can spend more on your safari.
- Better views – The foliage is low enabling you to spot animals easily, and many are giving birth to young at this point, which make for some really special photo opportunities.
4. African Safaris Transports of Delight
The usual method of transport while visiting African safaris is an 8-seater minivan with raised roof hatches for wildlife spotting. The trips between parks can take around five hours, so be prepared for early starts. If you want a treat and can afford a bit more, a great way to cut out this travel time and spend more time actually in the parks is to utilize light aircraft for hopping between the reserves – this can reduce travel time down to around forty minutes. Your tour company can organize these, and then arrange for you to transfer to local vehicles and guides in the park.
Another option is to self-drive around the African safari. Driving yourself means renting a private vehicle, seeing exactly what you want to see, and going at your own pace. It’s also possible to be more flexible with your accommodation – for example, camp some nights and then blow-out luxury on others – if you’re not locked into a specific tour. However, you might miss out not having the knowledge and expertise of a guide, and you will need to be confident about finding your way and staying safe around wildlife.
There are several options for self-drive, ranging from hiring a car and organising the whole thing independently, to booking with a tour company who will arrange accommodation and permits for you. If you’re not a confident independent traveller but still want the experience of self-drive, this can be a good choice – and there are plenty of companies who can customise a self-drive route for you so you get to see exactly what you want to.
5. Accommodation in African Safaris
Think about staying outside the African safari parks where rates are cheaper, enabling you to get more luxurious accommodation for your money. If you base yourself within easy distance of several reserves, and consider flying in rather than driving, this can really help you to get more for your money.
In addition, staying outside the parks helps you to pay less in park entrance fees if you’re only going in for one day.
Consider the type of accommodation you are staying in too – perhaps try a luxury glamping site, which will be less expensive than the full lodge complex experience but have a few more comforts than a basic campsite or roof tent.
If you have got your heart set on staying inside a park or reserve, have a search on TripAdvisor for recommendations of good budget accommodation in Africa. Official national park accommodation can often be a good option.
6. Make the Most of your Time in the African Safaris
Above all, one of the most important things to do is try and make the most of each of your days in the African safari. Be ready for early starts and late finishes, as dawn and dusk are the best times to see the African wildlife. Here’s what else you can expect on a safari.
Which safari have you visited?