Luxury safaris in Africa do not come cheap, but if you are looking for expert guides, great accommodation, good food, and comfort, then the price is truly worth the experience. If your safari is a once in a lifetime experience, then try and go high-end but at a lower cost by following the tips below.
Why Luxury Safaris Are Expensive
The high cost associated with a luxury safari is partly because they take place in remote settings where supplies are hard to come by. The logistics of running a camp or a lodge in the middle of the African bush is complicated when the closest shop is 500 miles away, and there's no guarantee it will be stocked anyway. Besides this, it takes a lot to maintain a national park and reserve, as well as making sure the wildlife continues to be protected. Park fees can run to almost $100 per person at some national parks.
That's before you've even eaten breakfast, gone for a drive, or spent the night.
Some of the fees associated with high-end safaris also go towards making the experience eco-friendly. They tend to be light on the carbon footprint, and heavy on social responsibility to nearby communities. Luxury safari rates include transfers, accommodation, game drives, food, lodging, and often drinks as well. Anyone who has been on safari will tell you, it's all worth it, but there are a few things you can keep in mind to keep your safari costs down.
Make Your Safari Cheaper Without Cheapening Your Safari
- Go in the shoulder or off-season -- Conventional safari wisdom says that the "dry" season is by far the best season to go on safari. It's when the animals congregate around waterholes and the grass is short, i.e. better game viewing opportunities. Go to a private game reserve with a great guide, though, and you will be guaranteed to have an incredible safari in any "off-season", and that's for half the price. The wet season can offer wonderful opportunities to view wildlife by boat, it's an excellent time for birders, and there are lots of baby animals to swoon over.
- Go with a friend or a group -- You can really cut the costs of a customized safari and retain all the benefits if you travel with friends. You'll be sharing the cost of the vehicle and guide and avoid any single supplements. Set departure dates and group safaris can also reduce your safari costs significantly, but you lose a little flexibility in your schedule.
- Spend it all in one place - Africa is massive, so don't try to traverse an entire subcontinent. Focus on one country and eliminate the need for expensive regional flights. Nobody gets to see it all in a lifetime, let alone one trip, so get the best value for your money by spending it on the experience you came for - a great safari.
- Add on a little city time - A safari is just a small slice of life in Africa; experience a little time in the towns and cities before and after your bush adventure. The accommodation is often cheaper, includes breakfast, and you're at your own discretion to taste some local fare at restaurants. You'll be hankering for some cultural interaction after a week or so with animals.
- Forego the extra luxuries - You can get a great safari experience with a good guide and good accommodations for much less money if you cut down on some of the ultra-luxurious perks. These would include a private plunge pool, a spa, personal staff, air-conditioned tent, gourmet meals cooked to order, and a large selection of wines.
- Find a good safari consultant -- A good safari consultant will take the time to listen to what you want out of a safari and will get you the best value based on your personal preferences. African safari specialists will know when a regional flight makes more sense than driving. They will be able to tell you whether it's worth paying extra for a room with AC during the dry season in Botswana. They know when the rainy season means roads are impassable, or whether it is, in fact, the perfect time to view wildlife in certain areas. They understand that if you wish to go on a walking safari and want to do night drives, that you have to safari in private reserve.
In the end, it pays to book your safari with an expert to get the safari you want, at the price you can afford.