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Going on safari is often seen as a once in as a romantic, once in a lifetime experience… that’s going to set you back a small fortune to enjoy. But how accurate is that idea? I was surprised to find the answer – and you might be, too.
If you’re like me, there’s a good chance you’d already written off the idea of an African safari and assumed you couldn’t afford it. Although I can’t give you an exact cost of going on safari in Africa (you’ll see why) I can tell you one thing:
I went on over 50 safaris last year.
That’s not me just having a casual boast over here. I just want to prove the point that I wouldn’t have even gone on FIVE on those if it had been expensive. Because while I’m making a very healthy income online while travelling, I have no plans to blow that money.
So, how much does an African safari cost?
So, how much it cost to go on safari in Africa? It depends! I managed to go on safari in places like South Africa, Namibia and even Botswana – a notoriously expensive safari destination – for less than I’d spend on an average day in the UK.
African safari costs
Like most kind of travel, the cost of going on safari can vary a lot from country to country and depending on the kind of trip you want to take. Here is a rough breakdown of the costs you’ll need to consider and how much you can expect to pay.
Whether you’re in South Africa, Namibia or somewhere else entirely, most national parks have multiple accommodation sites – or “camps”, at they’re usually called. Don’t let the name deceive you – a camp can contain anything from a basic campground to a luxurious 5* lodge.
Most camps have more than one type of accommodation in them and share facilities such as an on-site restaurant, swimming pool and shops. Some of them even have views of a waterhole on-site!
Stay connected wherever you go with SkyRoam pocket WiFi. This handy little device will give you unlimited data for your trip to Africa, so you’ll never be without maps, emails and a way to contact home.
Here are the main types of accommodation to choose between:
This is what you typically see in the travel brochures and, yes, they can be astronomically EXPENSIVE. This is probably where the high ticket reputation comes from, but fear not – it really doesn’t have to be this way! Although some lodges can cost upwards of $1,500 a night per person (meaning a room for two costs $3,000+!) there are some more affordable options out there.
Just like the price, the comfort level and style of lodges can vary a lot. You can find everything from thatched huts to colourful hotels in this category, so you have plenty of options. In some places, you can get a really nice lodge for not much more than camping. In other places, however, you’ll be paying a premium to sleep in one.
Total cost: £40-£2,000+ per night.
Camping is by far the most affordable way to do safari in Africa, and this is how we managed to spend so much time in the parks. Camping can cost as little as around £5 per night, so it’s a very budget-friendly way to experience safari! They’re usually charged per person rather than per pitch, so make sure you budget for that if you’re travelling as a family or a group.
There are two main types of campsites: tented camps and “rest camps”. If you don’t have your own camping gear or a car that’s made for camping you’re only visiting for a day or two, the former is probably your best option. If, however, you have a tent or camping vehicle, the rest camps are a great place to stay.
Total cost: £5-£100 per night. (Note: some tented camps in the Okavango Delta cost up to £1,000 per night!)
If you want a truly wild experience, you won’t get much closer to nature than this! Bush camps are exactly what they sound like – camps that in the middle of the bush. Usually unfenced, these aren’t for the faint of heart but offer a more unique experience in a more remote location. I had a real love/hate relationship with our bush camp experience in Botswana! You can read more about that here.
Total cost: £5-45 per night.
Usually located outside the parks, these are a great option if you only want to visit a national park during the daytime. Be warned, though: gates usually open strictly around sunrise and close on the dot at sunset. Camp gates usually allow and extra 30-60 either way, so it’s worth staying inside the park if you want the best chance of seeing animals at their most active times.
Total cost: £35-150 per night (for low-mid range guest houses).
Once you’ve decided on your accommodation, your other main safari expense is going to be the vehicle. You have two options here:
Organised game drives: If you’re not planning to hire a car, you’ll need to join an organised game drive. These usually have to be booked once you arrive – just ask at your camp’s reception when you check in. Some parks offer game drives throughout the day, but many only offer sunrise and sunset drives because these are when the animals are most active. If you want a really special safari experience, book on to a night drive!
Other safaris: In some places, it’s possible to try a slightly different type of safari. Walking safaris are available in parks like Kruger (yes, even with the lions!) and I even took part in an incredible horseback safari in Eswatini.
Self drive: By far the cheapest way to go on safari in Africa is by self driving. Almost every park allows self driving and it’s a great way to go on a longer drive or have the most flexibility. You only need to pay the park entrance fee, which is usually around £10 per day, and the cost of car rental.
Food & drink
One of the great things about booking an organised safari is that they usually include drinks. There’s nothing quite like pulling up next to a water hole and grabbing a fruit juice from the human waterhole (i.e. the cooler box). If you’re heading out on your own, though, you’ll want to make sure you have any food and drink you’ll need.
Once you’re in the park, you can’t leave your vehicle at any time. The one exception is at designated view points and picnic spots where it clearly says you can (at your own risk!). These picnic spots sometimes have barbecue areas (“braai”) where you can cook fresh food to enjoy. I recommend picking up some impala burgers at the camp shop!
Unlike skiing, which really can be expensive, you don’t need ANY pricey gear to go on safari. Shocking, right?
Forget the cliché head-to-toe beige look (or save it for Halloween) and dress for the weather instead. Think long loose clothes to keep you cool and protected from the harsh African sun during the day, plus layers for the cold evenings. I went into this in way more detail in this post on what to pack for an African safari.
I never, even travel without travel insurance because it’s just way too risky! Why risk wasting thousands of dollars when you could just spend a few upfront and travel with complete peace of mind?
I always use World Nomads travel insurance because they offer such extensive coverage. As well as covering almost every country in the world, they cover you for a number of adventurous activities. That means you don’t need to worry about the small print, and can just go and enjoy your trip.
Click here to read more about why I love World Nomads and what you need to know before buying your own insurance, or get a quote below:
How to do a budget safari
You might just be surprised at how affordable going on safari can be – I certainly was!
If you want to go on safari on the smallest budget possible, self driving is the way to go. That way, you’ll only have to cover the cost of car rental (which can be as low as £200 per month) and can skip the pricey game drives. If it’s your first safari or you have the budget available, I’d still recommend jumping on one or two organised game drives purely for the experience. The only thing you won’t be able to do yourself is a night drive, so it’s worth booking one of those too if you can!
Aside from car rental, you’ll need to budget around £10 per person per day for park and another £10-20 if you plan to camp. You can either buy camping at one of the many outdoor stores or hire a car with built-in tent. If you buy camping gear, budget around £200-£300 for everything for two people. If you choose to hire a camper car, budget around £50-75 per day (for 2 people sharing).
We usually rent with Avis and they have a great selection of safari vehicles in South Africa. Expect to pay around £65 per day for a 2-person vehicle. Click here to check current prices and offers.
Once you have your car and accommodation covered, you’re pretty much good to go. Food in Southern Africa isn’t expensive, even inside the park. It’s something I really love about travelling there because you can relax without worrying about being ripped off. £30 per day would be more than enough to cover you for food and drink. All that’s left is flights!
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