Blog 3 of 4: What budget do I need for a safari?
In our previous blog we explored ‘Where’s the best place to go on safari?‘ but in this blog we’re going to look at what factors need to be considered when setting your safari budget.
“What does a typical safari cost?” is one of the questions we get asked regularly during any conversation about Africa and safari options. Not an easy answer I tell you as it’s a bit like wanting to know what a house or a new car costs…
So many factors need to be considered in order to give a definitive answer and so we typically reply with a host of questions. Your overall safari price will be determined by how many nights you want to spend on safari (viewing wildlife) and whether you want some in between time experiencing some of Africa’s beaches, wine lands, culture, activities or scenery. Safari nights are the most expensive component of your trip as they’re all inclusive and usually set in remote areas but that doesn’t mean that your overall cost need break the bank. Let’s look further at some of the details that need to be considered when planning your safari budget:
All about your experience
- How much time do I have to go on safari?
We recommend no less than 10 nights in Africa but most of our guests spend about 3 weeks and some as long as 6 weeks in Africa.
- When do I want to go? Can I be flexible with my time?
Timing is a very important factor as the safari industry has peak season (June – October), low season (November – March) and shoulder season (April & May). Prices can vary greatly between the seasons so if your budget is on the smaller end then you may get better value for money by making use of the lower rates.
- What level of accommodation am I comfortable with?
All the safari camps that we use are extremely comfortable – some in brick chalets with air-conditioning and wifi and others in stylish safari tents in more remote areas. Ask yourself what falls within your comfort zone – dome tents, eco loos and bucket showers on a walking safari, classic safari tents with all the amenities or something super luxurious with your own private pool and butler?
- How exclusive would I like my experience to be?
If it’s only about the animals for you and how many you’ll see then a safari camp in a more ‘civilized’ and connected area such as South Africa will be a great match. If you are a true wilderness junkie and the most remote places on earth excite you then your safari costs will naturally be higher due to the limited accessibility of some of these lodges. Higher end safari camps are typically smaller in size and allow 4 – 6 people per vehicle as opposed to the more affordable camps that can be larger in size and fill a safari jeep to maximum capacity.
- Do I have specific interests or hobbies?
If you are a birder or avid photographer then we may recommend certain areas, guides or seasons to maximize your experience. Photography workshops, specific vehicles or specialty guides could add to the cost of your safari if you request it.
- Who will I be traveling with?
Traveling as a single is most expensive as almost all properties in Africa charge per person and not per room as we are used to in Canada. A single supplement is charged for single travelers which is usually around a 30 – 50% extra cost on your pp rate. Some charter companies will also only book your flight if a minimum of two seats have been booked. If you are traveling alone, we recommend joining one of our small groups that we do twice a year to keep your costs lower.
Families – special rates are available for children of certain ages and as families are accommodated in ‘family rooms’, the costs are often very affordable for your youngsters.
Some other factors that need to be taken into account:
- Choosing reputable safari companies
We want your safari money to make a difference in the lives of the people and wildlife you’ll encounter in Africa and therefore we only use operators and camps that have excellent reputations in the industry in terms of their ethics, conservation policies, community development projects and staff welfare.
- Guiding is an extremely important aspect of a good safari
A good guide can make an average safari absolutely exceptional. Mid-range to high-end safari camps ensure their guides are well trained, well paid and well cared for. A highly qualified guide not only enhances your experience through his knowledge of wildlife, geology, history and culture but also ensures your safety is a priority.
- Experiencing different countries
A safari in one country is significantly cheaper than traveling to numerous countries for different experiences. Travel costs – especially private charter flights to remote areas, can quickly add to your overall expenses.
- Particular locations
If Botswana’s Okavango Delta is on your must-see list (and we highly recommend it should be) then you should budget more as the Okavango is one of the most exclusive safari options due to it’s remote locations and small, intimate camps. The Skeleton Coast in Namibia is another spectacular spot that is hard to get to due to the long flight in a chartered plane.
Every season in Africa has its pros and cons and a real safari expert can help you narrow down exactly where your expectations and desires can best be met. The majority of our guests are spending upwards of $7000pp excluding international flights for a good 2.5 week experience.
Africa is a long way off and a safari should be the best vacation of your life. See it as the investment that it is and don’t cheapen your experience by cutting the budget too finely – the price you pay in the end will not be worth the cost.
Dan & Antoinette