What's Your Budget?
When setting a budget, consider how much you want to spend and keep in mind three things: your flight, the actual safari costs, and extras. You can have a low-budget self-catering trip in one of South Africa's national parks or spend a great deal of money in one of the small, pampering, exclusive camps in Botswana. Almost every market has high-priced options as well as some economical ones.
The most popular option is to book with a tour operator and stay in private lodges, which are owned and run by an individual or company rather than a government or country. Prices at these lodges include all meals and, in many cases, alcoholic beverages, as well as two three- to five-hour-long game-viewing expeditions a day. Occasionally high-end lodges offer extra services such as spa treatments, boat trips, or special-occasion meals served alfresco in the bush. Prices range from US$350 to US$1,600 per person per night sharing a double room. If you travel alone, expect to pay a single supplement because all safari-lodge rooms are doubles.
Safaris on a Shoestring
Don't let a tight budget deter you. There are many opportunities for big-game experiences outside the luxury lodges. Your least expensive option is to choose one of the public game parks—Kruger National Park, for example—where you drive yourself and shop for and prepare all meals yourself. The price of this type of trip is approximately one-tenth of that for private, fully inclusive lodges.
Mobile safaris are another option. Travel is by 4x4 (often something that looks like a bus) and you sleep in tents at public or private campsites. You need to be self-sufficient and bush-savvy to travel this way.
Rates for national park camps, called rest camps, start at about $34 a day for a two-bed rondavel (a round hut modeled after traditional African dwellings) and go up to $85 for a four-bed bungalow. Budget about $6 for breakfast, $8 for lunch, and $12 for dinner per person for each day on the trip. You also need to factor in park entry fees (usually a onetime fee of approximately $20 per person).
Booking a private lodge in the off-season also saves a bundle of money. Many lodges—South Africa's Sabi Sands area, for example—cost about US$800 per person per night during the high season but can drop to about US$500 a night during the slower months of July and August.
Besides airfare and safari costs, make sure you budget for tips, medications, film, and other sundries. Plan to stay at a city hotel on your first and last nights in Africa—it'll help you adjust to jet lag and make things altogether easier. Expect to pay from US$50 for basic accommodations to a maximum US$750 a night in the most luxurious hotels.
Not digital yet? Stock up on film before you head out into the bush; a roll costs about US$20 in a safari camp. And don't forget to save some money for souvenirs.
Safari Planning Time Line
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