Help planning a first safari on a budget?

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Aug 24th, 2011, 09:22 PM
  #1
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Help planning a first safari on a budget?

I've wanted to visit Africa for awhile now and finally have the chance to do it, thanks to an unexpected large gift from a relative. I really want to go on a safari (want to see lots of animals, especially zebra) but would also like a few chances to have "cultural" experiences. I was thinking mostly Kenya and Tanzania. I'm 28, female, and would be traveling by myself.

Budget: $5,000 (for everything including airfare, tips, spending money, etc.)
Duration: at least 2 weeks - 3 would be even better!
Timeframe: ideally over Christmas and New Years, but I can be flexible here

Being my first (and possibly only) trip to Africa, I've been looking for trips that cram everything in - masai mara, serengeti, ngongoro crater, zanzibar, and victoria falls are what i'd really like to see. I had picked this gap adventures trip out http://www.gapadventures.com/trips/n...ture/DNV/2011/ but looking at the detailed itinerary, I'm not so sure I'd enjoy spending so much time driving (over 100 hours!) and I am definitely not too keen on participation camping for so many nights.

I really want to see Africa but I'm a little nervous because I've never been camping and almost all of the traveling I've done so far has been on cruises. I would really appreciate even slightly nicer accommodations than participation camping, and it might be a nice idea to fly into vic falls to save on travel time, but I'm not sure my budget will allow for those things. I'm not quite sure which aspects/parts of the trip to change to get the best overall experience. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
guadalakara is offline  
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Aug 25th, 2011, 01:35 AM
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First of all congratz with this opportunity! You will be in for a great trip, no matter what the details work out to be

I would not combine victoria falls with Kenia/Tanzania to be honest. Better save that for a future trip in combination with maybe botswana/namibia/zambia/zimbabwe or even SA..

If you are a bit afraid of lots of camping, you can always go for a trip to include lodges (budget) or go for permanent tented camps (more costly, but also more unique 'real' experience). Those tents are really luxuary with a real bed and your own shower (bucket) and toilet.

considering the time of year you might be good for a trip in Tanzania including southern serengeti. Go to include Tarangire, Manyara and The Ngorogoro crater.. I wouldn't include masai mara as that would involve another flight. Save the budget for some more days on the ground.

Most important question for you I think is the trade off between private/luxuary and a group safari. For the budget you mentioned this probably will mean that you can go on a longer trip if you go with a group, safari truck and camping. But I would personally never choose to go on such a trip as I hate the rush and the 'checklist safari' (lion-> check, 'rhino'-> check.. now lets go for an elephant... ugh)

You have to take into account though that it will be more costly to do a private trip when you're alone. (the single supplement).

I would see for yourself what you like best in terms of private vs group and get in touch with some operators to see with what itineraries they come up with.
Roy's safari is one local operator that could give some advice on a more budget basis.
I've also good experience with Tanzania Odyssey (didn't book with them, but got good help and advice)
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Aug 25th, 2011, 02:38 AM
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Game viewing opportunities abound on this Tanzania safari vacation priced at $2795 per person. Travelers save more than $1500 on the cost of similar packages and reap the ...
http://www.travelzoo.com/...2795-Tan...gration-Safari

best deal out there right now Kenya with www.friendlyplanet.com
can be a little cheaper sometimes.SAA has good Kruger package
better food wine wildlife sighting/activity not as good usually.

www.porini.com Lion Camp or other eco-camps more but very good

Be careful many scammers never wire money always pay with CC

www.insuremytrip.com independently always a must for me.

Happy Planning!
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Aug 25th, 2011, 05:16 AM
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There's another thread about reducing costs while on safari:
http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...2nd-safari.cfm

I would recommend you take a look at trips in South Africa, as I find SA to be much more affordable than East Africa, with many more choices for accommodation. A trip to Victoria Falls is more convenient and affordable from South Africa as well. There are also lots of cultural activities available.

For your budget I think it would be reasonable for a comfortable 2 week trip to SA (solo) and perhaps even include Victoria Falls. I use www.Go2Africa.com as a travel agent and they have been very helpful.
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Aug 25th, 2011, 06:13 AM
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qwovadas
Do you ever bother to check out the links you post. They just are not applicable. It is looking more and more like spam.
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Aug 25th, 2011, 06:56 AM
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If $1500 is airfare (and that's likely conservative), and if $500 is for tips, med evacuation insurance, spending money, visas if needed, malaria pills, purchase of binocs if you don't have them, etc. that leaves $3000 for the trip itself.

Given some of your concerns about wanting more lux and minimizing travel, and the timeframe of travel Christmas/New Years, which is not low season, you may want to shorten the 2-3 week time frame.

Fortunately zebras are found all over, so seeing them will not be hard. Do let your guide know of your interest in zebras.

Check Elephant Plains in Sabi Sands Reserves of South Africa. This area has some of the most abundant wildlife in Africa--zebras too. I can personally attest to Sabi Sands, but have not stayed at EP, though many have and enjoyed the stay, appreciated the value, and commented on how very lovely the accommodations are.

http://www.e-gnu.com/elephant_plains...dge_rates.html

A Vic Falls visit (duration depends on whether you want to see just the falls or do activities there) and week or so at Elephant Plains or EP & another lodge would get you zebra, predators, rhino, nice accommodations, relatively close location to Vic Falls.

You'd likely overnight in Joburg, where you could visit Soweto or Apartheid Museum for culutural aspects. There are village visits and cultural activities in Vic Falls and nearby Ele Plains.

As a solo, you'd share a vehicle with other guests and probably dine with them as well.
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Or, if you would eliminate Vic Falls from your itinerary
To see the migrating herds of zebras and wildebeest, plan to spend the bulk of your time in the Southern Serengeti of Tanzania during Dec-Jan. If you stopped at Lake Manyara on the way to the S. Serengeti and at the crater on the way back from S. Serengeti, drive times would be in the 4-hour range at the max.

You may be able to join a group for this trip, decreasing your costs. The budget group trips are harder to find during the Dec-Mar time frame because there are fewer S. Serengeti accommodations to choose from and it is the S. Serengeti that is popular this time of year due to the migration. Near Lake Manyara are plenty of cultural activities.

Might pay you to be flexible on your travel dates to take advantage of group departures that hit the Central Serengeti rather than Southern Serengeti, offered by lots of companies such as Good Earth in Tanzania, 2Afrika in NYC, The Africa Adventure Company in Ft. Lauderdale, Go2Africa (mentioned above) in South Africa.

Roy's (mentioned above) had a nice GROUP photographer trip (catering to serious photographers) during this popular time. Roy's could certainly arrange a private trip for you. But if you plan to visit S. Serengeti this Dec-Jan, act fast as the limited lodging books quickly.

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Or, if you would eliminate Vic Falls from your itinerary
Less expensive than Tanzania--especially Dec-Jan when the migration is in Tanzania's Serenegti--is Kenya. There are still resident zebras in Kenya's Maasai Mara that do not migrate to Tanzania. Plus if you add Samburu there are unique Grevy's Zebras there, a different species of zebra.

You can fly to Samburu for 2-3 days, then on to the Mara for
4 days or more and back to NBO. You can visit both Samburu and Maasai villages. I found Eastern and Southern Safaris in Nairobi to be economical for a solo traveler.

In East Africa, I found I ate alone at the lodges as a solo traveler with a private guide (unless the guide joined me). If you share a vehicle with others, then you'd likely dine with them.

Good luck in planning your first trip to Africa. You could not put that gift to better use.
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Aug 25th, 2011, 08:06 AM
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Africa safari countries are far and wide on the Continent.
For travel over Christmas regardless whether South or East,prices will be at highest rates.

In Tanzania between Dec-Mar is peak season with prices to match, this due to the "calving" in the southern Serengeti. Kenya though is at mid-season prices most properties... lots of zebra everywhere including the Grevys and except for the Ngorongoro Crater that is unique to Tanzania, Kenya has as much or more game (even species not found elsewhere in Africa)... might be the answer for you.

If you haven't yet checked international air prices for travel when you wish to visit,, suggest you do so. See Kayak at www.kayak.com for an idea, then deduct that from the $5K you have which doesn't leave much for the safari itself, and then as a solo traveler, if a private trip... that darn single supplement.

Choosing a group departure might be your best bet; some even include international air.

And, if you choose East Africa, forget about Victoria Falls. Internal flights within Africa are expensive and schedules limited and often at odd hours. Even if you choose Southern Africa, i.e., South Africa, a side-trip to Vic Falls can be rather expensive, especially the air to/from.

Check out some of the companies mentioned by atravelynn for what they may have available. But do know that it's getting late for booking over the Dec-Mar period in many places.

Good luck!
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Aug 25th, 2011, 09:11 AM
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Thats a tight budget. Try Bobby Tours, they might be able to do a Tanzania Kenya combo safari for you

http://www.bobbytours.com/
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Aug 25th, 2011, 02:02 PM
  #9
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wow, thanks so much everyone! the links have been very helpful. for some reason i am not as excited about south africa as i am about the east, so i think i will keep trying for kenya/tanzania and probably give up on vic falls. since i am so used to (and am a little fond of) the "rush" of cruises (less than 24 hrs in each port!) I don't think I would mind a group tour - especially if it was a notch above participation camping every night. i am optimistic that i will sort something great out with enough research. i have calls and emails in to most of the places you all mentioned, but any additional resources for tours are always appreciated.

i know i need to book a tour soon to go during that time of year, but when it comes to airfare, am I best off booking right away, or should I keep an eye on fares for awhile to see if prices drop?
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Aug 25th, 2011, 02:12 PM
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"...keep an eye on fares for awhile to see if prices drop?"

I've heard and since come to believe that airfares are best at about 6 weeks before departure. But I'm sure that this varies a lot. The best priced airfares are likely from "consolidators" like Premier Tours -
http://www.premiertours.com/pages/airfare/airfare.asp
However, consolidators usually have severe policies about changes or refunds so look closely at their T&Cs.

regards - tom
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Aug 25th, 2011, 05:33 PM
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So, it's looking like East Africa. Is Dec-Jan still your preferred time frame or can you go other times too?

Many group tours stay in lodges that are very nice.
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Aug 25th, 2011, 06:12 PM
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I'd still really like to be in Africa on New Years Day. I haven't contacted Premier or any other consolidators, but I'm starting to get nervous about airfare that time of year because from what I've checked (kayak, cheapflights, priceline, etc.), it looks like roundtrip flights in late Dec/early-mid Jan are running at least $2,100 (in excess of $2,500 on certain dates). I thought they were usually $1200-1500 to this region(?) is Nairobi my best bet?

And I don't need to stay in luxury lodges - in fact I'm okay with some participation camping... just probably not 20 straight days of it
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Aug 25th, 2011, 09:59 PM
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depends on if you're going for Kenya or Tanzania of course If you go to Tanzania you can fly on Kilimanjaro airport directly.
But for budget reasons I would also check the flights to nairobi and dar es salaam and maybe fly from there to kilimanjaro..

My ticket Amsterdam <-> dar es salaam (which also lands at kili) would have cost me 1000 euro's with KLM.. my ticket Amsterdam - Cairo - Dar es Salaam is costing me 500 euro's (with EgyptAir)
So it is worthwhile to checkout the alternative routes with maybe a stopover somewhere.

As for the group-tour. I would also be sure to check out their way of transportation and preferably see if they use multiple jeeps. I've seen a lot of groups crammed up in a minivan where only half of the people could stand up and look out of the top of the roof, and the others were behind glass.. also a big truck doesn't seem to comfortable or nice to me.. but jeeps make it more expensive again of course..
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Aug 26th, 2011, 06:48 AM
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Airfares into NBO are less expensive as more carriers fly here - British, Virgin, KLM, Swiss, Brussel, Emirtes, others - and where you'll see fares in the $1200-1500 range over the holiday period; way less than if from AMSterdam into Kilimanjaro/JRO, Tazania, where fares in excess of $2000 is usual.

From NBO, depending on time of arrival and if wishing to visit in Tanzania, there is a Shuttle Bus (about 5-6/hrs) to Arusha in Tanzania... cost is about $40/person each way. Departures from NBO are 8am and 2pm; return departures from Arusha are, likewise, 8am and 2pm. If you miss any of these bus departures on arrival, you just overnight in Nairobi (Visa required that can be purchased on arrival) and then bus next morning.

Of course, you'll require a Visa for Tanzania, which can be purchased on arrival.

You'll also require a Yellow Fever inoculation and proof of same for entry to Tanzania* from Kenya. No proof, no entry... discuss this, malaria meds and other recommended inoculations with your personal physician.

*if only visiting Kenya, arriving from US, Canada, Europe, Australia, YF inoc is NOT required for entry.
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Aug 26th, 2011, 07:00 AM
  #15
 
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You also need a 'cholera stamp' (at least Im told everytime I go and have to get one )

@sandi; how safe do you consider that journey to be, from NBO to Arusha? I'm told that this is a very dangerous track, nasty accidents happen to often and it is best avoided....
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Aug 26th, 2011, 07:39 AM
  #16
 
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As you are starting to see, Kenya is a less expensive option than Tanzania, and it starts with the international flight.

The difference in cost continues when pricing the safari itself, generally speaking.

There are also flights between NBO and JRO if you prefer not to drive. I've flown and driven. Both were fine.

Not knocking TZ--I'm headed there soon--but on a tight budget, your $$ goes farther in Kenya. If you want to see the wilde/zebra migration in Dec-Jan, then TZ is where you want to be.

Take a look at this low cost deal with air included. Not sure where you are flying from.
http://2afrika.com/site/safaris/safari.asp?SafariID=96

I have not traveled with 2Afrika but based on what I know about them and others that have gone with them, I would. This is very whirlwind. Lots of long drives. The properties used are very nice. The best pricing still available is when grass is longest, there could be rain, and the migration is elsewhere.

I know someone who did a similar trip low cost whirlwind with Lion World Safaris in Canada as a first safari (prime season in Sept) and described the whole thing as glorious.

For a quick Africa fix on a budget, especially as a solo traveller, I can see going on something like this some day.

Good point by Nikao on the transport. At a minimum, every person should have a window.
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Aug 26th, 2011, 10:18 AM
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You might also look at Overseas Adventure Travel and their Tanzania or Tanzania/Kenya safaris. Their prices include airfare from the US. www.oattravel.com
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Aug 26th, 2011, 10:55 AM
  #18
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Thanks again everyone. I'm still having a hard time finding flights under $2,000 even to NBO. I'm flying from Charlotte NC (CLT). The cheapest one I could find was for $1850 and it was a little ridiculous (taking over 40 hours to get there when most took around 24). Any advice? Am I looking too early?

In actuality, most of the plans I'm trying to hatch involve me ending up a long way away from where I start (i.e. a round trip ticket wouldn't do; i'd fly into NBO, overland to some other country, and fly out of a different airport). Should I look into round the world tickets?

atravelynn, that deal you posted is amazing. the dates that get free airfare don't start until next April.. but maybe I can wait if it will save me more than 2 grand! I also wanted to stay for 2 weeks rather than one but maybe the travel company would be flexible on the return flight that comes with that deal. i'll definitely consider it - thanks.
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Aug 26th, 2011, 11:20 AM
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Some of the earlier numbers you saw posted on this thread were accurate, but looks like they increased fares for the holiday period. I see CLT-NBO for $1427 2 stops but reasonable 22 hrs out- 24 back
12/8-12/22 if you are flexible in your dates
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Aug 26th, 2011, 06:11 PM
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nikao - Where did you read/hear that the route between NBO/ARK is accident prone? I sure haven't. Those shuttle buses run daily between and perfectly safe. Granted it's long, but inexpensive.

guadalakara - Airfares are always highest over the holidays.
Maybe you can get a cheap flight to NYC (JFK or EWR) or to WashDC (IAD*) for a lower cost flight via Europe to NBO.
*these do tend to be higher than if out of JFK.
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