An African safari is one of those bucket list items that nearly every adventure traveler has on his or her list. There is nothing quite like seeing amazing wildlife in its natural habitat or experiencing the Great Migration as it unfolds across the Serengeti. It is truly a magical experience for the entire family, ranging from the youngest children to the most well-traveled grandparents.
But, a safari can also be a very expensive excursion, which keeps many people from ever checking it off their list and realizing this travel dream. If the cost of such a journey is keeping you from going to Africa, here are some tips that can help you save some money and make your trip of a lifetime a reality.
Go During the Off Season
Just like most other tourist destinations, the hot spots for African safaris have their busy season and their off-season. For instance, in Kenya and Tanzania the best times to go are between June and October, when the migration is in full swing. But March and April are the rainy season, and because of this April and May are considered the "off-season" as a result.
That means that if you go during those months, you're likely to receive substantial discounts when booking your accommodations and excursions. You'll also find that crowds are at a minimum too, which can lead to a better all-around experience. Just be sure to bring a rain jacket in case you do encounter some inclement weather.
Stay in a Tent Rather than a Lodge
It often comes as a surprise to many travelers that there are a number of luxury lodges to be found near most safari destinations. These places provide a comfortable – often pampered – setting to return to at the end of the day.
Staying in these lodges makes the experience easier for sure, but it can also add greatly to the price. Alternatively, you could also take a camping safari, during which you'll sleep in a tent rather than lodge. This will save you a great deal of money, provided you don't mind roughing it a bit.
Avoid the More Popular Safari Parks
There is no question that the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, and Kruger National Park in South Africa are the most iconic safari destinations in all of Africa. All three are outstanding places to go on safari, but because they are so popular you can expect to pay a little more to visit them and encounter more travelers along the way.
Instead, visit lesser known safari parks in those countries, such as Samburu National Reserve in Kenya or the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania. Both are more affordable and less crowded –– but no less enchanting –– making them good destinations for those traveling on a budget.
Choose a Lesser Visited Destination
The two prime spots for a classic safari experience are East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) and the country of South Africa. But there are other countries on the continent that offer fantastic safari experiences for less money. These places tend to have fewer visitors, and thus a less developed tourism infrastructure, but they are also less crowded and often offer a more pure travel experience.
For instance, Botswana's Okavango Delta is an amazing place for safari, as is Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park. Both offer unique experiences that aren't found anywhere else in Africa, with plenty of wildlife – including the Big Five – to spot in the wild as well.
Take a Self-Guided Safari
Some of the expense of a safari is hiring a driver and/or guide to show you around these fantastic natural environments. But, if you want to be a bit more adventurous, you might consider a self-guided safari instead. Not only will it save you some money, you'll get to do things at your own pace as well. This option isn't allowed everywhere of course, and it is only recommended for the experienced traveler. But those who have the knowledge and confidence to pull it off, will find it a very enriching experience.
South Africa allows visitors to drive themselves through Kruger National Park for instance, although they are restricted to sticking to paved roads without a trained guide. Alternatively, there is a company called Safari Drive that will actually book the entire self-driving safari experience for you. Those bookings come complete with vehicles, tents, and other gear and are available for those visiting a wide variety of countries across Africa.