If you’re mulling over the possibility of booking a safari, one of the first questions that comes to mind will probably relate to cost. Safaris are usually seen as extravagantly exotic holidays that surely cost the earth – dreamy, bucket list excursions that must remain just that – a dream – because of the enormous price.
While it’s not difficult to find safaris that cost the equivalent of a year’s worth of mortgage payments, assuming that this is the case for all safaris means you could be missing out on one of the greatest experiences of your life.
Calculating a safari can be a little complicated, but rest assured, we have something for all budgets. Whether you’re looking for a specifically tailored experience that includes high-end hotels and campsites, or a bare-bones budget option where you couldn’t care less where you’re staying as long as you see some of Africa’s greatest animals, Safari Frank has you covered.
What are my safari options?
Before we dive into the complicated world of cost breakdown, let’s begin with two options, because which path you choose will generally have a huge bearing on the overall cost.
Option 1 – Set Departure Safaris
Our Set Departure Safaris are pre-planned, small group safaris that begin and end on certain dates. We can broadly refer to these as package deals because we give you a single price and an itinerary to accompany it.
This is an excellent option for those who want to share logistical costs with other like-minded travellers, which keeps overall prices lower than tailored options. If you’re leaning more towards the budget option and want to have a fixed price from the very get-go, this will probably be the best option for you.
Set Departure Safaris are also great for those travelling alone as there is always an excellent level of camaraderie between those on our safaris and it’s a great way to make friends with people who share similar interests to you.
Option 2 – Tailor-Made Safaris
As you’ll probably guess, our tailor-made safaris offer a much more flexible experience that can be personalised to your own wants and needs. We will work with you, either over email, skype, or zoom, to create the perfect safari for you and your group, while also taking into account accommodation preferences, travel style, budget, expectations, previous travels, preferred dates of travel, and interests.
This option makes giving a single price a little more difficult because there are numerous factors at play, but once we’ve gone through your preferences and discussed what you want to do on Safari, we’ll be able to crunch the numbers and come back to you with a figure.
What kind of safari budget levels are there?
When considering what kind of budget level you fit into, it can be easy to think solely about price. Yet while cost plays a huge role in determining what level of safari you have, it shouldn’t be the only consideration.
Budget safaris offer a very different kind of experience than top-end safaris, which is not to say either of them is better, but it’s something you should certainly think carefully about before booking a safari.
Budget – Your biggest priority is being on safari. You don’t mind staying in very basic accommodation, you just want the thrill of the 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 and are not afraid to splash out a little.
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.
What factors can influence the price?
While your budget level and choice of tailored or set will affect the price of your safari, there are a few other factors that can influence the cost.
When do you want to travel?
This is probably the most significant factor that can affect the cost of a safari. While Africa enjoys excellent weather for much of the year, safari destinations are typically seasonal.
The rainy season is also described as the green season, off-season, and secret season, which probably gives you a good idea about visitor numbers. This period typically sees plenty of rain – though often at relatively set periods in the day – higher temperatures, fewer people, and lower prices.
The dry season, often referred to as peak season, sees greater numbers and high prices to go along with the drier weather.
It’s important to be realistic about why these two very different tourist periods exist. During the dry season, you are much more likely to have warm dry days where you can sit in the back of a vehicle and watch the animals to your heart’s content. Whereas the rainy season can be a real mixed bag, and you can bet you’ll need your waterproofs at numerous points.
But the trade-off for the wet weather usually means much lower prices in the rainy season. In Botswana for example, one of the most expensive locations for a safari, an expedition in the rainy season can sometimes be half the cost of something similar during the dry season.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that not all destinations are year-round and some locations become almost inaccessible during the rainy season due to the weather.
Where do you want to go?
When you start planning a safari, something you’ll quickly learn is the differences in pricing depending on country or region. A safari in the Greater Kruger National park is priced much differently than a safari in the Okavango Delta, the Serengeti, or the Republic of the Congo.
This can be down to popularity and general costs within certain countries, but may also reflect different tourists models. If we take Botswana again as an example, the country has chosen a ‘high cost, low volume’ tourism model to minimize the environmental impact while still funding the protection of wilderness areas with proceeds of the higher cost.
Other nations have chosen the opposite model, in which more tourists are welcomed but on a lower budget.
If you don’t know where you want to go, but you do have a set budget and period of travel – we will be able to advise you on the destination where your money will be best spent.
What level of accommodation do you want?
This comes back to the budget levels that we mentioned earlier. You probably won’t be shocked to hear that the cost of a small ground tent is in a different world to the presidential suite at a 5-star safari lodge.
There are several basic categories to go on; camping safaris (small tents set up 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).
For a more comprehensive guide to accommodation available, check out our selection of accommodation options here.
How many people are going on safari?
You’ll notice that there is often quite a big price disparity between a single traveller, a couple, a family, and a group of friends. Generally speaking, prices become lower the more people are involved, as this means you can share logistical costs, such as transfers, vehicle, and drive/guide rates, which is particularly true in vehicle-based safaris in East Africa.
Your sleeping arrangements can also have a considerable impact on cost. For example, four friends travelling together who each need their own room will pay more than two couples with two rooms. But conversely, if those four friends were to share a room, the cost would be lower.
For more information about how costs work for different categories, please refer to our ‘Who’s travelling’ page.
How do you want to travel around?
How you travel while on your safari will also have a bearing on the cost. Renting a car from the airport and driving yourself to lodges will be among the cheapest options, while a helicopter ride complete with a champagne stop mid-way, lies on the completely opposite end of the spectrum.
There are many ways to get from A to B while on Safari, including the rental of a basic vehicle, rental of a kitted out 4×4, private minibus transfers, guided game viewing vehicle-based transfers, boating, charter or scheduled flights, all of which come with different degrees of pricing.
On some safaris, it’s possible to walk from one camp to another, while travelling by horse-back or camel-back may also be options, all of which as you might imagine would probably work out cheaper than motorised vehicles.
Do you have specific hobbies/interests?
At SAFARI FRANK, we’re all about creating the perfect niche and tailored safari experience around your hobbies or interests – whether they be fly-fishing for a particular species, specialist birding trips, multi-day walking safaris in the pristine wilderness, or the perfect light-chasing photography.
As you’ll probably imagine, the more niche your safari becomes and the further away from the traditional it evolves, you can expect to see higher prices. This might not always be the case, especially if your hobby can be done during a typical BIG 5 safari experience, but often, the more specific the activity the higher the cost.
For more information on interests and hobbies available while on safari, check out our Adventures section here.
What are the fixed logistical costs?
It’s not hard to see safari costs spiral upwards when you take into account logistical costs. These might include national park fees, community fees, conservation fees, regional flights, transfer costs, safari activities, etc. Most of our safaris are fully inclusive unless otherwise stated, but these costs can quickly add up, particularly in certain areas of Africa.
For example, in Northern Tanzania (Serengeti, Ngorongoro, etc) you can expect about US$250 per person per day in national park fees, entry fees, and logistics such as a vehicle, driver, and flights. That amounts to roughly US$ 2500 per person for 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.
This might come as a bit of a shock if you’re planning your first safari, but these costs are unavoidable and much of it does go towards park maintenance and animal welfare. Before booking a safari with any company, it’s vital to carefully go through the small print to find out exactly what you are paying for with your upfront fee.
It’s not uncommon for safari companies to offer what seems like bargain-basement prices, but they conveniently forget to tell you, or inform you but fail to disclose just how much logistical costs on the ground can be. Be wary of any safari that seems a little too good to be true.
We know that booking a safari for the first time can be confusing and a little daunting, which is why we’ve put together our Price Guarantee.
Some Frank Advice on pricing a safari
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.
Seasonal Pricing – In Zambia and Zimbabwe you’ll notice that there’s only a small difference between low and high season prices. This is 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).
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
As with much in life, you get what you pay for, and this is particularly true for 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.
However, there does come 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 this is the kind of experience you’re looking for then we’ll be more than happy to provide you with it, but it’s also not necessarily the only option.
We specialise in creating safaris 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 who have long achieved the converted legendary statues, pristine wilderness areas/remote national parks, outstanding wildlife/photographic opportunities, and 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, because as we said earlier, you get what you pay for
Dispelling a safari myth
One commonly held belief that we’d like to see confined to the great mythological dustbin of history, is that it’s more expensive to book a holiday through an agent or tour operator than directly with the lodge/safari operator themselves. This is simply not true, in fact often quite the opposite where the agent/tour operator can negotiate better deals on the client’s 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 and help to keep prices lower.
And that’s before we even consider the time spent researching and self-planning a safari. There are thousands of safari lodges across the African continent, all with pros & cons 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.
What isn’t typically included on 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 before arrival for certain e-visas. We cannot fulfill 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 Covid-19 era, there might be a 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 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, before 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, all guests must be 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 SAFARI FRANK to get started on your safari of a lifetime!