Going on a safari is an incredible experience that allows you to witness majestic wildlife up close. However, safaris also tend to be quite expensive, which can make them seem out of reach for many travelers. In this article, we’ll explore the various factors that contribute to the high cost of going on safari to help you understand where your money is going.
Factors driving up safari costs
There are several key reasons why safaris end up being so expensive compared to other types of vacations:
Most safari camps and lodges are situated deep within national parks and game reserves, far from major cities and infrastructure. It takes considerable investment to build and maintain lodgings and roads in these remote areas. The cost of transporting supplies, food, and staff also adds up.
Since the number of beds available in top safari destinations is finite, high demand allows operators to charge premium rates. The more intimate, exclusive, and luxurious the lodge, the higher the nightly rate.
Governments impose daily entrance and conservation fees to visitors of protected wildlife areas. These can range from $30 to $100 per person per day. Fees help fund wildlife protection initiatives.
Professional guides and staff
To ensure top-notch guiding services, safari operators hire highly trained guides with expert knowledge of wildlife and years of experience tracking game. Quality guides that can transform a safari into an unforgettable experience are an considerable expense.
Custom safari vehicles
Safari goers use specialized open-air 4×4 vehicles designed for off-road game viewing complete with added features like charging ports, roof hatches, and increased viewing height. The modified rugged trucks are costly to customize and maintain.
Low guest-to-staff ratios
Safari camps usually have more staff than guests to keep service exceptionally attentive and personalized. The expense of having a highly staffed operation gets distributed over fewer guests, inflating per-person prices.
Many safari accommodations offer extra amenities like lavish dining, infinity pools, and complimentary laundry service. While not essential, these high-end touches make for a more indulgent, seamless experience at an elevated price point.
Cost saving tips
Luckily, there are some cost saving measures you can take to make your dream safari more affordable:
Visit in off-peak seasons
June through October is traditionally considered peak safari season when demand surges. Opting for a safari during the quieter months of November through May (excluding Christmas & New Year’s weeks) can yield significant savings on lodging. Flights also tend to be cheaper.
Join a scheduled small group tour
Booking onto a scheduled departure with a set itinerary eliminates costly charter flights between camps. It also shares guide, staff, and transport expenses across the group to cut down per-person pricing.
Choose budget/participation camps
Some camps offer accommodation in simple dorms or tents to provide a no-frills, back-to-basics setting focused purely on the wildlife viewing. As guests help out with camp chores, participation camps provide affordable safari experiences.
Search for hidden deals
Asking safari sales experts to keep an eye out for last minute discounts or special offers that may not be publicly advertised can score you significant savings, especially in the off-season. A little flexibility with trip dates makes it easier to capitalize on hidden deals.
Fly in/out of budget hub
When planning a safari that includes multiple countries or camps, look into flying in/out of a more affordable regional hub instead of gateway cities to reduce airfare costs. Many safari itineraries will include budget airline connections.
Book with safari consolidators
Safari consolidators combine inventory and purchasing power across multiple camps/lodges to secure discounted rates up to 30% below published prices that they pass onto guests, making dreamed-of safaris more accessible.
Are luxury safaris worth the spend?
For some savvy and budget-conscious travelers, roughing it on safari and skipping more extravagant camps or lodges is totally acceptable, especially on shorter trips. But it’s also important to consider the advantages of booking at least a few nights with a luxury camp or lodge on safari:
Better chance of good wildlife sightings
The highest-end camps are able obtain coveted locations deep inside protected areas with prime game viewing locations unreachable via day trips. The quality guides at luxury camps are also unmatched when it comes to tracking wildlife movement patterns. Both these factors culminate in better wildlife sightings.
Comfort enhances experience
Top tier camps pamper guests with five star dining, indulgent amenities like massages, and highly attentive staff delivering personalized service. The comfortable, stress-free environment allows you to better soak in the sublime wilderness. Roughing it can grow tiring.
Giving back through conservation
Many prestigious camps partner with non-profits and contribute a portion of earnings toward supporting wildlife research, anti-poaching efforts, and community development – good intentions to feel doubly good about during your stay.
The limited number of beds at top camps means you share sightings with fewer vehicles. Exclusivity makes wildlife encounters feel remarkably private and intimate.
Much like luxury cars, the high-end safari lodges hold their value and can typically be sold for the same (or even higher) price to other travelers down the road. So if you invest upfront into a luxury safari, you have the option of making your money back.
Memories that last a lifetime
Skimping too much on safari can mean missing once-in-a-lifetime moments with wildlife or not having guides skilled enough to make you appreciate them fully. It’s worth investing in the experiences you’ll reminisce joyously about for decades.
While safaris are undoubtedly expensive undertakings, understanding what grade of safari experience your budget allows can set clear expectations. With strategic trip planning and cost saving techniques, enjoying a luxury safari immersion in Africa’s magnificent wilderness is more attainable than ever for intrepid, wildlife-loving travelers. Prioritizing spending on aspects like top guides, camps in remote settings, conservation initiatives and exclusivity will better your chance of having those quintessential safari moments that make the splurge worthwhile.
Going on safari is a travel experience like no other that offers unparalleled access into raw wilderness and Africa’s captivating wildlife in their natural habitat. While the high costs can seem prohibitive initially and put safaris out of reach, grasping the myriad of expenses invested into creating a high-quality safari experience helps justify the pricing. Fortunately, following smart booking practices and cost saving tips can substantially lower total safari costs without compromising too heavily on quality. This makes it possible for more travelers to have their own spectacular up-close encounters with lions, leopards, elephants, and rhinos in Africa’s most wildlife-abundant landscapes.
- How expensive is an African safari?
An African safari can range from budget-friendly to wildly luxurious. You can find basic 3 day camping safaris for $500 per person or ultra high-end bespoke safaris averaging $1500+ per person per night. Mid-range options usually fall around $700-$1000/pp night.
- Is it safe to go on a budget safari?
Budget safaris spare the extra frills but shouldn’t cut corners on essential safety. As long as your safari is booked through a reputable operator with properly trained guides, medical/evac protocols, reliable vehicles, etc it should still be quite safe.
- What is most expensive safari country?
Rwanda and Botswana tend to be the most costly safari destinations owing to their luxury offerings and lower-volume tourism relative to the vast wildlife populations available to view.
- Is it cheaper to go on safari in Kenya or Tanzania?
Kenya has more competitive budget safari options outside the national parks that make it slightly cheaper for budget travelers. Tanzania’s level of service, park fees and traffic limitations however make it preferable for many midrange to high-end safari-goers.
- Can you negotiate price of a safari?
Yes, safari pricing is often flexible especially for last minute deals or repeat customers. Having some wiggle room on dates also helps secure better rates from operators looking to fill open spots on scheduled departures.
- What should you not wear on safari?
Avoid bright colors, dark shades, or light/bright hats that can alarm animals. Natural earth tone clothing with lightweight layers works best for daytime game drives. For all vehicles & camps, pack closed-toe walking shoes.
- Do Safari vehicles have washrooms?
Most do not. Full-day game drives offer breaks at restroom facilities midway. But some high-end vehicles designed for photographers on longer drives may have basic onboard toilet facilities. Always clarify with your operator.
- What amenities increase safari costs?
Higher-end safari costs stem from more luxurious lodging, fine dining, infinity pools, massage services, scheduled activities like walking safaris or hot air balloon rides, and top-of-the-line vehicles with extra accessories.
- Do all meals increase the overall safari price?
Yes, most camps and lodges include all meals on safari as there are no alternative restaurants available nearby. Having the camp handle all dining with in-house chefs contributes to overall trip pricing.
- How much more are luxury tent accommodations?
Expect luxury tent and villa accommodations on safari to range from 1.5 to over 3 times the pricing level of a standard room/tent. The rate increase reflects the additional amenities, seclusion and premier locations.
- Does beverage choice impact safari pricing?
Yes. Most packages include house wine/beer/spirits as standard, but upgrading to premium imported brands or champagne comes at added cost or reduced overall allowance limit. Some bring-your-own alcohol policies also apply fees.
- Do park fees vary by national park?
Yes the daily conservation fees per visitor charged in national parks and reserves varies by country and region anywhere from $30 to over $150 per day, contributing to fluctuating safari rates.
- Is tipping included in quoted safari prices?
No, gratuities for safari staff and guides represent a sizable budget item on top of base trip rates. Most operators suggest $15-25/day for guides and $10+/day for camp staff as a reference.
- Can I get discounts by booking my own safari?
If you book direct flights, transfers and lodging separately, you typically won’t see substantial savings, lose out on packaged perks and pay more overall than a discounted consolidated safari package.
- When do safari packages go on sale?
Last minute promotional deals pop up sporadically, but it’s more common to find discounted rates 6+ months before peak season when companies add early bird sales hoping to fill open spots.