A very common question we get asked! The answer = it’s a bit complicated! Before we explain why, let’s first differentiate between the two distinct safari options we offer.
The first option being ‘Set Departure Safaris’: these are pre-planned, small group safaris that have a fixed start and end date (a package deal) – the great benefit to these safaris is that they have a fixed price as well, so you can confidently answer the question ‘How much does this safari cost?’ Perfect for travellers who want to keep things simple, know exactly what they are getting and to share the logistical costs with other likeminded travellers (especially popular with single travellers). Click here if you want to see our selection.
The second option, something which we specialize in, is ‘tailor-made safaris’ called ‘Trip Ideas’ on our website. Here we ask a range of questions, either via skype or by email, in order to custom make a safari exactly to your individual (or groups) needs. We take into account your accommodation preferences, travel style, budget, your expectations, your previous travels, when you would like to travel and your interests. This is where things get a little complicated when answering the question ‘how much does a safari cost?’
The below breakdown is dedicated to explaining how these factors impact on the cost of a safari (scroll down if you want to skip straight to the table comparison). We have a number of ‘Trip ideas’ that you can use as inspiration for starting your own tailor-made safari journey with us.
safariFRANK’s Safari Budget Levels explained:
Our Budget Levels categories are defined by which type of traveller you are. It’s important to know where you fit in, so later you can review our price guide and know the expected cost of the relevant safari.
- Budget – Your biggest priority is being on safari. You don’t mind staying at very basic accommodation, you just want adventure.
- Affordable – You want decent accommodation that doesn’t cost too much. You also want to know that it’s safe, clean and of an acceptable standard.
- Mid-range – You want a quality safari experience, but you don’t need luxury. Think authentic tented safari lodges or mobile safaris with quality safari guides. Nothing unnecessarily fancy, but comfortable and the real deal.
- High-end – You have a taste for the finer things in life and want great food, nice wines, luxury amenities and excellent guides. You recognize that you get what you pay for on safari.
- Top-end – You want nothing short of the ‘best of the best’. Whether that be ultra-luxurious accommodation, world class service, exclusivity or the absolute best wildlife viewing possible. Money is no object.
3 Important factors that influence the price:
When do you want to travel?
Quite possibly the most important question of them all. The African continent is an exceptional year-round destination, but the typical safari destinations are normally seasonal. Broadly speaking, we have a rainy season (often named green season, off season, secret season, summer months), a dry season (often named the peak season, winter months) and in certain destinations also a shoulder season (in between the rainy and dry season). There are many advantages and disadvantages to travelling in these different seasons depending on the destination (read more about ‘When to Travel’ here). But when it comes to the cost of the safari it can often be much more affordable to travel in the green/rainy or shoulder seasons if possible. In the case of Botswana for example, regarded as the most expensive safari destination in Africa, it can be almost half price to travel in the green season when compared to the peak season, meaning you can potentially stay longer or upgrade the experience while keeping within the same budget parameters. It’s also important to note that not all safari destinations are year-round destinations, in fact some areas have very heavy rains making them inaccessible during those months, or at least severely compromise the experience.
So, if you let us know roughly when you want to travel, and your maximum budget– we will advise on your options depending on the season at the time of travel. And this leads us into the next critical consideration.
Where do you want to go?
There isn’t one standard price range covering all safari destinations & lodges across Africa. In fact, quite the opposite! Each country and area within that country has its own price range. A safari in the greater Kruger National park is priced much differently to a safari in the Okavango Delta, the Serengeti or the Republic of the Congo. There are many factors that determine why the prices vary so much between each destination, such as the remoteness (logistical costs of operation), the number of visitors per year, or the competition between safari lodges (or lack thereof). Each country differs from its neighbours on many levels and this could also be currency related, tourist volume or the tourism model. Using Botswana as an example again, they have generally adopted a ‘high cost, low volume’ tourism model in order to minimize the environmental impact while still funding the protection of wilderness areas with the higher cost. So, knowing where you want to go will determine what the price of the safari will be. If you have a set destination in mind, often its best to be flexible with when you travel – taking our advice into account.
If you don’t know where you want to go, but you DO know your budget and when you will travel – we will be able to advise on the destination where your money will be best spent.
What level of accommodation are you looking for?
As you can imagine, the price of a small ground tent will be much cheaper than the presidential suite at a 5-star safari lodge. In the safari world, the accommodation options vary massively across the continent. The basic categories to decide between: camping safaris (small tents setup temporarily), budget safari camps (you don’t care much where you stay), comfortable safari camps (decent accommodation), mid-range safari camps (good value), luxury safari camps, top-end safari camps (best of the best). See our HUGE selection of accommodation options here.
Other factors that influence the price:
How many people?
The price varies considerably between a single traveller, a couple, a family and a group of friends. Generally speaking, the more people the more affordable the safari becomes – as you share certain logistical costs such as transfers, vehicle and drive/guide rates (particularly true in vehicle-based safaris in East Africa). However, your sleeping arrangements also play a factor. If you are 4 people travelling together and each needs their own single room, then you can expect to pay more than 2 couples (also 4 people) who have a room each. Please refer to our ‘Who’s travelling’ page.
How do you want to get around?
There’s a huge variety of ways to get from A to B on a safari. Let’s look at the opposite ends of the spectrum: rental of a small car from an international rental company at the airport and drive yourself to the lodges – or take a scenic helicopter flight between lodges with included champagne breaks included mid-way. As you can imagine, there’s potentially thousands of dollars in difference between the two! Here are a few common options of getting around: rental of a basic vehicle, rental of a kitted out 4×4 (self-drive), private minibus transfers, guided game viewing vehicle-based transfers, charter or scheduled flights, walking safaris (it’s possible to walk from one camp to the next in certain places!), boating, horse-back, camel-back (awesome right?), helicopter and the list goes on.
Do you have specific hobbies/interests?
If this is true for you, then you are in the right place! We are all about creating niche and tailored safaris around your particular hobbies or interests, whether they be fly-fishing for a particular species, specialist birding trips, multi-day walking safaris in pristine wilderness – the list goes on. But the moment your hobbies/interests veer away from the ‘typical’ BIG 5 safari experience and become more specialized the costs can increase as it becomes more niche or custom made. So, it’s worth bearing in mind that these special interests or requests can affect the price. Find your interest or hobby in our Adventures section here.
Fixed Logistical costs
The day-to-day logistical costs of a safari are often overlooked when comparing prices. Most of our safaris are fully inclusive, unless otherwise stated, of items such as national park fees, community fees, conservation fees, regional flights, transfer costs, safari activities etc. These costs can be quite considerable depending on the destination – and there’s not much avoiding them.
For example, in northern Tanzania (Serengeti, Ngorongoro etc) you can expect about US$250 per person per day in national park fees, entry fees and logistics such as vehicle, driver and flights. That’s amounts to roughly US$ 2 500 per person on a 10-day safari before even booking accommodation and meals! With decent, affordable, accommodation starting from US$ 250 per person per night, you can see just how quickly a lower-end safari can become expensive due to the unavoidable fixed logistical costs.
You might ask “How can this be so expensive?!” especially when comparing different companies’ offerings. This is where it’s essential to read the fine print and see what exactly is included in those ‘lower priced’ safaris. Often you will find yourself with many hidden costs that you will end up paying anyway once on safari (drinks, meals, park fees & activities). It might feel like you are saving when you book a US$ 2000 safari, but you will probably need that amount in cash (or more) while on safari to pay for the extras in order to get the most out of being there.
Remember to read our Price Guarantee here!
Notes on the above table & some ‘frank’ advice:
- Budget safaris – notice it states ‘NA’ on budget safaris in Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia & Zimbabwe. This is because we believe that Budget safaris in these countries are either not viable, not safe or just not good enough for us to confidently book for you. Honest advice is at our core, and the last thing we want is to send you on a safari we would never consider safe or satisfactory. For truly Budget conscience travellers, please consider South Africa, Uganda, Botswana or Namibia as viable options.
- Zambia & Zimbabwe – notice that there’s only a small difference between low and high season prices. This is mostly the case because the popular safari areas in these countries are very seasonal and in most cases are closed during the green season. So, shoulder season and peak season are the most viable options and only slightly vary in price. Although not reflected in the table, this is also true for specific areas in other countries across Africa (such as southern Tanzania for example).
- Lodge based – the above table is only relevant for lodge-based safaris. This is the most common type of safari and should give a good indication of the cost of a general safari. There are many other types of safaris such as: self-drive, mobile safaris, house-boat, camping, fly-camping, walking safaris, horse-back safaris etc.
You get what you pay for
This statement is especially true in the safari industry. Although it is possible to travel on a tight budget, we believe that a safari experience done right, comes at a bit of a price. It’s also worth remembering that most safari lodges have their roots deeply embedded in conservation projects and initiatives to support the local communities and the wildlife in the area. They are also often operating in remote areas with high logistical costs, have high insurance premiums, expensive bed levies, and require highly skilled & trained staff to enhance your experience. Often most of the costs of your safari are for the before mentioned items.
In saying that however, there comes a point when you are no longer paying for the logistics or safari experience itself, but rather your extra dollars are going towards things such as: larger room sizes, exclusivity, brass bathtubs, butler service, world class chefs and wine cellars. If those are important to you, that’s perfectly fine, we have many such clients and there’s a multitude of luxury establishments to choose from. You’re likely in the Top-end budget category.
BUT! Our specialty is for those travellers who want their dollars spent on the best possible authentic safari experience. We are talking about intimate owner operated camps, expert local guides (often legends), pristine wilderness areas/remote national parks, outstanding wildlife/photographic opportunities, plenty of activity options such as walking & mokoro and an incredible backdrop. Seeking out these hidden gems and focusing on the overall safari experience (not the bathtub experience) is what we live and breathe. This ‘fine-line’ is often around the mid-range to high-end budget level (you get what you pay for).
Dispelling a myth
Many people have the belief that it’s more expensive to book their holiday through an agent or tour operator than directly with the lodge/safari operator themselves. This is not true at all, in fact often quite the opposite where the agent/tour operator can negotiate better deals on your (the clients) behalf due to their personal relationship with the safari companies. Agents are also aware of all the specials and deals available at any point in time, which can make a HUGE difference!
Not to mention the time and energy spent researching and self-planning a safari! There are thousands of safari lodges across the African continent, all with pro’s & con’s and varying prices. It would take a few weeks for the laymen to properly research, compare and plan a well-rounded safari – only to then realize that it’s the same price (or more expensive) than the offer an Africa travel expert could have put together in a few days. Our expertise and honest advice is FREE to our guests, it is paid for by our trusted safari partners.
The last thing to consider is what isn’t typically included in a safari:
- International Flights – although we can include these for you if requested, we have found that most of our clients prefer to book these themselves, taking advantage of their frequent flyer points or looking out for special deals should they arise in their home country.
- Visa Costs – these are normally paid for in cash, in person, once at a port of entry to the destination country – OR online prior to arrival for certain e-visas. We cannot fulfil this on your behalf, but we can advise on the expected costs.
- Vaccinations – Certain countries have regulations for required vaccinations (we will advise if this is the case) and your medical professional might also recommend some optional vaccinations to you. Also in the new Corona era there might be need for PCR tests when crossing borders.
- Tipping – Tipping is customary in Africa however all tipping is solely at your discretion. A tip of 10% is normal in hotels, restaurants and for taxis, depending on the service received. Typically, you will be asked to give any gratuities to your host (or the lodge manager) upon departure for each safari lodge/camp, and these monies will then be distributed amount all staff members. Guides should be tipped separately, and you’re often encouraged to hand over their tip personally. Indicative tips are: game lodge or mobile guides: US$ 10 per guest per day. General lodge staff: US$ 5 per guest per day for all staff. Transfer driver: US$ 3 per guest.
- Travel Insurance – You must please cover yourselves, prior to confirming a booking, with comprehensive travel, medical, cancellation, curtailment and default insurance for the duration of your trip. Due to the remote and wild safari areas, it is vital that all guests are covered for emergencies and other unforeseen circumstances.
If the above is too much information and you are feeling overwhelmed or more confused than ever – please get in touch with our team of experts so we can simplify the process and make your safari dreams come true!
Any other questions about safaris? Get in touch today!
Contact safariFRANK to get started on your safari of a lifetime!