Safaris are on the travel bucket lists of many people, and for good reason. On a safari, you can observe wildlife in their natural habitat, hike through beautiful scenery and even do other exciting things such as taking a hot air balloon ride or visiting a Maasai tribe (depending on which safari you choose).
But unfortunately, safaris are also one of the more expensive vacations you can take. According to Travel and Leisure, the average price of a safari is $800 to $1,000 per night per person. Since most safaris last around two weeks, that price will multiply all too quickly — and that number doesn’t even count your plane ticket, food and similar expenses.
How can you cut the cost so you can enjoy your dream safari vacation? Here are a few ideas.
Travel With a Group
When you book a safari, you pay for the whole vehicle — even if it has eight seats and you only have two people. Going with a group can help you get the most bang for your buck. Make plans to travel with some friends from home, or if you didn’t think that far ahead, look around the lodge where you’re staying and ask if any of your fellow travelers want to split the cost. In addition to saving money on driving, you can save money on the lodge itself if you travel with a big group of people.
You can save money by choosing to drive yourself on your safari holiday. According to Cedarberg Africa, self-drive vacations are the most cost-effective. ShermansTravel explains that a vehicle with a guide costs about $100 per person per day, so the cost will add up fast. And there’s no reason to worry about driving yourself — generally the roads are well kept up. Plus, you won’t be on a schedule; you can move at your pace and make the most of your time, since park fees are paid per day.
Travel During the Off Season
Africa’s slow tourist season runs from about May to July (that’s winter in Africa), and Travel and Leisure says that lodge rates can drop as much as 40% during that time. But sometimes saving money comes with a trade-off; be aware that traveling during the off season means you might not see as much wildlife.
Stay in Small Lodges
Avoid chains and stay in family-owned lodges to get the best deal. In addition to saving you money, this can give you a more authentic experience overall. Finding a lodge that’s outside the park instead of inside will be cheaper, too, or you can also choose to bypass the lodge completely and camp in a tent — that will most likely be the cheapest of all.
Choose Lesser Known Game Reserves
Instead of going to Serengeti or Kruger along with every other tourist in Africa, do a little research and find some parks that are less well-known and therefore less crowded. These parks typically have cheaper prices. Try starting with Nairobi National Park in Kenya or Tarangire in Tanzania; these parks hold just as much wildlife as other parks and can give you a great vacation.
Use Common Sense
As you prepare for your African safari, do the same things you’d do on any vacation to save money — conduct plenty of research ahead of time, don’t buy lots of souvenirs or anything unnecessary and save up your money before you leave so it won’t be as much of a blow. You can also bring your own food; some safari packages include meals and snacks in the price, but others don’t. Using common sense and making a budget can help prevent unforeseen costs on your safari.