Book a Great Safari on a Budget
Going on an African safari may seem like a luxurious dream to many, but it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. If you choose a budget friendly country, go during off peak seasons, and minimize your transportation and accommodation costs by planning ahead, you can ensure yourself a safari that is memorable without emptying your bank account.
Part 1 of 3:Choosing a Location
1. Prioritize what animals you want to see
Prioritize what animals you want to see. Deciding what animals you would most like to see will determine the best place for you to visit. Spending some time to choose a budget-friendly country with exciting animals will pay back in dividends! You’ll both save money and have a great time.
For example, if seeing a lion is on the top of your bucket list, make sure you go to one of the six countries where you can actually see them. While you can find lions in Botswana, perhaps South Africa would be a better pick since it is less expensive.
2. Research to find a budget-friendly destination
Research to find a budget-friendly destination. Researching what African countries are the most budget friendly will pay off in dollars. Choosing smartly doesn’t mean having to give up any aspects of the experience. Southern Africa has some of the most affordable options with cheaper park entrance fees.
Botswana, for example, is one of the most expensive countries for booking safaris so it would be better to choose a cheaper option in South Africa.
3. Choose a location where you can self-guide
Choose a location where you can self-guide. Driving your own four wheel drive vehicle through national parks will be an adventure all on its own! Look for parks that have well-maintained roads that are easily driveable. Foregoing a paid guide will save you some big bucks.
Kruger National Park in South Africa is highly recommended for going on a safari without a guide.
A benefit to self-guided safaris is that you can set your own pace.
If you worry about safety when doing a self-guided tour, you can always hire a company that follows you with a support vehicle. This will be more expensive than the fully self-guided tour, but will put your mind at ease and still be less expensive than a guided safari.
Part 2 of 3:Limiting Transportation Costs
1. Travel off season
Travel off season. Booking your trip during the wet season of your chosen country will help ensure lower airfares. Go at the beginning of the wet season before the grass grows too tall. Just make sure to pack your rain jacket!
Check the wet season for your specific destination as they happen at different times throughout the continent. South Africa’s wet season, which lasts from May through September, makes for a great deal since a large portion of South Africa during this time is actually not rainy!
Wet seasons in East Africa do correspond with the rain and are from March through June and October through December.
2. Visit just one country
Visit just one country. As tempting as it may be to stretch yourself thin by visiting multiple countries in a single visit, choose the one country that offers the most and go there. This will help cut down on airline costs and, as a bonus, allow you to get to know a single location well. You can rent a car and have fun driving around seeing the country!
Some countries, such as Botswana, require internal flights because of the topography. Be sure to choose a country to visit that you can easily drive through.
3. Use airline miles to book your flight
Use airline miles to book your flight. Are you a frequent flier? Save up those airline miles for your trip! Book well in advance to make sure you get the most out of your miles and can travel to the destination of your choice.
4. Fly into a large airport
Fly into a large airport. Rather than visiting a safari spot far off the beaten track, arrange for a destination near a major airport. This will bring down the costs significantly.
You can arrange to cheaply rent a car to bring you to your final destination.
5. Invite your friends
Invite your friends! If you’re renting a car, invite along all your friends. The more spaces in your car you fill, the cheaper the cost will be for everyone.
Part 3 of 3:Reducing Accommodation Rates
1. Stay during low or shoulder seasons
Stay during low or shoulder seasons. During low or shoulder seasons, the period between low and high travel seasons, many lodges will cut their costs reducing rates by about 20%-30%.
2. Book super early or super late
Book super early or super late. Booking your accommodations nearly a year ahead of time can work to your advantage since some properties offer specials for advance bookings. On the other hand, if you book a place last minute you might just snap up unsold rooms that lodges are looking to get rid of at a discount price.
If you decide to risk a last minute booking, you should be prepared to camp if you cannot reserve a lodge space.
Camp. Instead of staying in a luxurious lodge with loads of amenities, consider pitching that tent yourself! Add to the sense of adventure by getting down and dirty with nature, while not adding significantly to your costs. Camping also allows you to cook your own meals, which will cut down on costs of lodge dining.
4. Find a budget lodge
Find a budget lodge. Are you not quite cut out for camping, but can’t afford $1,000/night luxury lodges? No need to worry since there are budget lodges available. You can usually dine a la carte in budget lodges to reduce food costs.
5. Stay outside of the national parks
Stay outside of the national parks. Instead of staying within the boundaries of your chosen park, book a place on the outskirts and then drive in. These accommodations located further out will save you a pretty penny or two.
6. Choose small and local accommodations
Choose small and local accommodations. Avoiding big chains will help drive down those costs. Plus you’ll be supporting the local economy by staying in smaller, owner-operated lodges.
7. Volunteer for a reduced rate on accommodations
Volunteer for a reduced rate on accommodations. Want to score cheap accommodations and get an educated outlook as a bonus? Volunteer with a not for profit organization for several weeks in exchange for a reduced rate. You can learn more about conservation and wildlife while bringing down the price tag of your safari experience.