Details of African Safari pricing

Mar 17th, 2013, 06:42 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 34
Details of African Safari pricing

I am trying to understand the details of how the price of African safari gets where it is (about $550-650 pppn for double in high season). It seems that even a 5* lodge in high season is about $250 pppn, for example:

I assume this includes food. Does it include game drives ? What else needs to be taken into account to arrive at the average final price of about $600 pppn ?
itrvlr is offline  
Mar 17th, 2013, 08:29 PM
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The rates almost always include food, vat tax and two game drives. Some include drinks and laundry (Arathusa does not). If you drive to the camp, you usually have to pay the conservation fee for the reserve. Plus tips for staff, guide and tracker.
christabir is offline  
Mar 18th, 2013, 08:40 AM
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The prices you found of around $550-600 pppn are typically for...
- a room in a lodge in a private reserve, not in a national park (advantages; no crowds at sightings, offroading allowed, night drives allowed).
- Three activities per day (morning-, afternoon- and night-drive). Some lodges go walking in the morning. Drives and walks are with well-trained guides (typically FGASA lvl 2 or 3) and -trackers.
- Three meals per day, and some also offer tea/coffee & cake at 3PM, before afternoon drive departure.
- water at the table. But soft drinks and wines/beers/liquors are kept on a bar tab to be paid at departure. Idem with coctails during sundowner (= between afternoon- and night-drive). However, drinks are very inexpensive compared to here in EU. I assume compared to US as well.

Possible extras, apart from the bar tab:
- tips for staff and guides. $5 and 10$ per day per person is typical for these people.
- transfers to/from airport, or to/from next lodge.
- entrance fee for your own vehicle, if you drive yourself. It's only a few dollars.
- conservation fee, per person, for every day you are in the reserve. It's a very low amount as well.
- laundry service, if you need it.

The more expensive the lodge, the bigger the chance that some extras are included. Some are all-in (no bar tab). Some include laundry service. Some do not charge conservation fee levies separately. Etc. But tips are never included.

The more expensive the lodge, the bigger the chance that they allow less people per vehicle. For example; only 2 people per row of seats instead of 3 people.

Also; the more expensive the lodge, the bigger the traversing rights should be (note that these lodges share their territories).


Now, the above is the theory. So if theory is anything like practice, then you'd think; the cheaper the lodge, the worse the deal (or: the more essential stuff is missing).

The truth, however, is quite different: there are reasonably priced lodges giving a much better value for money than those priced $600+. You just have to shop around to find them.

So how come some lodges are able to offer better deals than others?

One reason my be that their original plot was much bigger than most others, which means they need less traverse, but also that they get more income from traverse. This map...

...shows traverse in Sabi Sands. Hover over Arathusa, you'll see it has a big area to drive around on. About idem as Elephant Plains, which is also well-priced. Other lodges in that area have similar traverse, or less. But if you check out their prices, it's much higher.

Another reason may simply be because they're focusing on another market. It sounds crazy but it is like that; there's a whole bunch of lodges fishing in the same "top spender" pool, and in order to fish in that pond your price cannot be too low, or those people won't come.

My picks in the Kruger area;

- Arathusa and Elephant Plains. The most affordable options in Sabi Sands. But Arathusa may be the better option as EP is really popular and therefor always full (so their vehicles as well).
- Shindzela in Timbavati reserve; morning walks and afternoon drives, very cheap, and great tents & location. No traverse, just 3000Ha.
- Simbavati River Lodge in Timbavati; huge traversing area, yet much cheaper than any other lodge with about the same traverse. See this map;
- Africa On Foot in Klaserie reserve. Morning walks and afternoon drives, very cheap, but much bigger traverse than Shindzela (8000Ha+)
- nThambo in Klaserie. Sister camp of AOF, but all drives. Same traverse. Looks more expensive but it's an all-inclusive camp, so no bar tab. Most fantastic guest units ever.
- Pungwe Bush Camp in Manyeleti. A lot of people forget about that reserve, but it has about the same or even better animal densities as Sabi Sands, because there's a big lake there. This is community ground, but apart from the town near the lake, you won't notice this. There's only three camps; two expensive "Honeyguide" camps in the north and Pungwe in the south. All are allowed to go anywhere on the reserve, including off road. Choice between walks and drives in the morning, and drives in the afternoon. Biggest downside is that the vehicle is rather old (but perhaps its been replaced by now).


pixelpower is offline  
Mar 19th, 2013, 01:57 AM
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Thanks so much, pixelpower Now we know what to look for in Kruger. But we would also like to see the animals from the water (motorboat, or kayaking if it is safe), which is apparently available only in Botswana, Okawango delta. But Okawango camps are exorbitantly expensive in high season (we are planning for August). Are there any alternatives ?
itrvlr is offline  
Mar 19th, 2013, 12:49 PM
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Canoe safaris are available in the Mana Pools area of Zimbabwe. Selous in Tanzania offers game viewing by boat. I don't know how these compare pricewise to Bots but they're additional options.
Patty is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2013, 09:23 PM
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"Are there any alternatives ?"

Don't go during high season. Green season in Botswana is an amazing bargain. We will spend three weeks in high end camps there in November for less than $500 per night.
TC is offline  
Mar 25th, 2013, 06:45 AM
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If you really want to see animals from the water, Kruger should not be your only stop. Because that sort of thing is not available there.

It's available in Zimbabwe (Lake Kariba, Mana Pools etc), and in Tanzania (Selous) but both are not easy to combine with South Africa.

Your best option would perhaps indeed be Botswana. But beware of where you go;

1) If you choose a real "water camp" in the Okavango Delta, note that ALL the game viewing is done by boat. Those kind of trips are actually very quiet. Lots of papyrus reeds, birds, crocs, and some frogs. Not that many mammals are adapted to water; hippo, sitatunga (if you're lucky to see them) and elephant. Unless you pick a seasonal water camp, which can also do drives. Note that on drives you see much more game; the big cats, and all the plains species including red lechwe (which also stays away from the deep ends of the delta where mokoro trips are offered). Problem is that these camps are expensive again (and you posted because you tried to stay away from such camps), unless you go in green season ...but then you may end up with flooded and muddy roads, which means game drive success is limited.
Personally, I don't buy that "green season = bargain" marketing strategy from Wilderness. Perhaps because I have known these camps when they costed 250$ in high season, a few years ago. Maybe a trick is to stay away from water or semi-water camps in the delta. But rather go for a houseboat on the panhandle of the delta. From there, you'll be able to do mokoro trips as described above, but without paying the prices of the camps in the delta, AND you don't need to go in the green season to get good prices. Ngwesi houseboat comes to mind.

2) If it's really about seeing both water-loving species and plains species from the water, then an even better offer might be Chobe. Plenty of lodges near Kasane, and easy to get there (regular flights from Jo'burg). Only problem is that too much of the gamedriving done by lodges is concentrated in the east section of the park. So perhaps rather opt for one of the few camps at the other side of the part of Chobe that's near the river. I'm thinking; Muchenje Safari Lodge or Baobab Camp.

Hope this helps,

pixelpower is offline  
Mar 26th, 2013, 02:07 AM
Join Date: Mar 2013
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If you real want to see animals from the water then Tanzania ( Selous) will be the right place, wonderful walking and boat safari in a fiber boat, a nice spot of Hippos,Crocs,Elephants crossing/cooling their bodies,Buffaloes,Water bucks etc.
It is very possible to get one of the best lodges/luxury tented camps for less than 500$ pppn, if your time and budget allows you can combine the tour with serengeti and ngorongoro.
narasa is offline  
Mar 26th, 2013, 10:31 AM
Join Date: Mar 2013
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Typically that price would be all inclusive, except for tips and transfers. But many lodges have become exorbitant. It is worth shopping around for lodges in some of the lesser known reserves: Thornybush near Kruger is a great option, as is the Madikwe reserve in the North West province (about 3 hour's easy drive from Johannesburg, or fly in direct, in both cases). Both reserves have great game viewing and a variety of accommodation. At Madikwe, try Madikwe Hills or Tuningi for luxury and at Thornybush, Royal Malewane. For the same game viewing, comfortable and more authentically local accommodation that is lower down in the price range , try Thakadu river lodge at Madikwe and Tangala Private Camp in Thornybush.
If you decide to head up north, look at a few days on the Zambezi River Queen, a houseboat that chugs up the Chobe river. Incredible bird viewing, buffalo and elephant abound. Enjoy your trip!
KarinPanainoPetersen is offline  
Mar 27th, 2013, 09:48 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
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For African travel, I highly recommend using an agency to build your package. They are the ones that truly know the benefits of each property. I HIGHLY recommend TRAVEL BEYOND (TRAVELBEYOND.COM)
kj39 is offline  
Mar 27th, 2013, 03:56 PM
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Yes, I completely agree, first time trip to Africa should be arranged thru an agency.
I contacted, they seem very knowledgeable, but they could be geared towards a bit more luxury than I am looking for.
itrvlr is offline  

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