How Much Does a Safari to Africa Actually Cost?
Money talks and the money you save for your dream safari to Africa will take you as far as your budget allows so you need to know what an African safari actually costs. How much can you expect to pay for your safari to Africa, one of the biggest commitments you will make and one of the most exciting events on your calendar? Paying for the journey is the first priority and as you dig deeper you will realize that the cost of a safari is not just about the wildlife as many surprise factors come into play.
When trying to budget for the cost of an African safari, think about how long you will be going for, how many people you are taking, which part of Africa you are visiting, what time of year you are travelling and whether you will be roughing it off the beaten track or pampering yourself in luxury lodges and hotels? An African safari can cost anything from $200 per day to more than $1500 per day depending on your choice of activities and accommodation. So, let’s dig deeper into how much a safari to Africa actually costs!
Your budget may need to have some flexibility when you plan to safari in Africa because of several varying factors: the exchange rates, the regions differing prices and distances, the time you want to spend away from home (some safari revellers go away for months at a time and others for a short 7-night trip), whether you are taking children or going alone, and whether you are camping, walking in the wilds or choosing decadent fly-in luxury safaris.
What Needs to be Considered in Your Budget
Plan your African safari with care and forethought because what you can expect to pay will change during that planning period and is dependent on several factors. We have already mentioned a few but these factors are vital to work out your actual budget because they will add on more costs:
- Passport renewals: Cost a lot so get that booklet up to date way before you go.
- Visa applications: Each Southern African country has its own rules and regulations and while some will charge for visas, others will let SADC residents in without visas. These costs average around $50 per person.
- International flights: These are expensive but you can save money by flying indirectly to another country en route to Africa, choosing budget airlines and arranging safari packages that include all flights and transfers. Avoid flying during the peak holiday season when the schools are on holiday as this is the most expensive.
- Extra accommodation before or after flights: Adds costs to your budget depending on when you land – you may need to stay in a main centre like Nairobi or Arusha before setting off on the safari holiday of a lifetime to top Kenya national reserves and world-renowned Tanzanian national parks. Distances are vast and group safari tours have set itineraries that you need to adhere to.
- Vaccinations on arrival: These will cost extra unless you had them in your own country – yellow fever, hepatitis A and B, rabies and typhoid, for example. Malaria is prevalent in many African countries so pack anti-malaria medication with advice from your doctor.
- Travel insurance: This is important and safe insurance can cost from R1250 to R3500 for two weeks of travel.
Consider More Budgetary Factors Before you Leave on Safari to Africa
- Time – The longer you go away, the more expensive it is but the longer you stay with a particular safari company on a packaged tour, the less you pay per day.
- Season – Visiting Africa in peak season, school holidays, is more expensive and safari accommodation will be full, roads busy, airports crazy and national parks less peaceful. Save money by visiting Africa in the off-peak season, when the rains are due or just ending. This means more heat, more mud on the roads, and scarce wildlife – but perks include the lush vegetation, new animals being born and the challenge of finding rare animals.
- Countries to choose – Southern Africa is cheaper to visit on safari – South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Botswana. The roads are usually good, camping and self-drive safaris are easier and lodges and bush camps cost less. East Africa costs more due to the range of luxury lodges and the focus on attracting privileged travellers from overseas – Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda.
- Accommodation – This takes up most of your budget so choose wisely as some lodges charge a few thousand Rands per person per night while others charge thousands of US dollars! Choose cheaper bush camps and maybe compare all-inclusive package deals with trying to book everything separately yourself.
- Exclusivity – Do you want an exclusive tour for birding, Big 5, family holidays or deluxe honeymoons, or can you afford a rustic resort instead with shared facilities and fewer luxuries?
- Responsible travel – This is a good way to travel – travel light, fly less, choose eco-lodges, and take part in conservation and community initiatives on the ground.
- Volunteer travel – Join a volunteering programme in top national parks to assist the management and staff in doing groundbreaking conservation and community work.
East Africa Safari Cost Guidelines
One of the most exciting things you will ever do is venture to Africa on safari to see wildlife in its natural habitat. There is something magnetic about East Africa and its iconic Big 5, the annual Great Wildebeest Migration, mind-blowing open grasslands and floodplains, huge starry skies, the sounds of a lion roaring and the smell of fresh rain. Add to this gorilla trekking in pristine rainforests where myriad birds and beasts play, oblivious to human observation. Make plans to get to Africa on safari and use these East Africa safari cost guidelines to assist you in making the right choices:
- The cost of a safari to Tanzania starts at $500-725 per person per day, middles out at $800-1350 and enjoys high luxury rates of $1250-1850.
- A Kenya safari costs from $450-650 per person per day, a medium range is 650-1050 and lavish lodges from $1100 to $1750.
- For travelers keen to hit two birds with one stone, the Tanzania Kenya combo tour can start as low as $500-650 per person per day, flatten out at $700-$1400 and hit a high of 5-star luxury at $1450-2900 per person per day!
These safari cost guidelines are estimated on average for one person per night sharing a room in high and low seasons. These rates do not include international flights, visas, extra activities or all the factors as listed above. Most national parks and game reserves add on conservation fees, permits and levies too which change all the time. Peak Season includes holidays in Easter, mid-year and Christmas as well as the dry winter season and is the most expensive for all travelers.
Southern Africa Safari Costs
Travelling on a dream safari to southern Africa costs less than exploring the popular East African regions. South Africa and Namibia happen to be the most affordable southern African destinations thanks to their good roads, excellent self-drive holidays, a wide range of attractive camping, self-catering and budget accommodations and their availability of good fresh supplies en route.
Many international travelers fly to Johannesburg or Cape Town, rent a car and start driving – from Cape Town up the West Coast to Namibia, from Johannesburg to Botswana or Zimbabwe and along the East Coast to Durban and Mozambique. Some of the best South African game reserves lie outside Johannesburg and are also malaria free so ideal for children – these include Pilanesberg Game Reserve, Madikwe Game Reserve and Sun City. From Cape Town, safari enthusiasts can explore the Garden Route game reserves and venture to the Eastern Cape to experience world-class game viewing in private parks.
Head north to Vic Falls to experience the delights of the Zambezi National Park, then cross the border into Zambia to jet set off into magnificent national parks like Mosi O Tunya National Park in Livingstone, the Lower Zambezi National Park, Kafue National Park, and South Luangwa National Park. Botswana is in the other direction where safari goers will discover the vast Chobe Region including the Linyanti and Savute floodplains. The Okavango Delta is one of the best safari destinations in the world and costs less than an East African safari to visit, as well as Moremi Game Reserve, a spectacular combination of dry and wet safari activities for all.
Let’s compare the prices for these countries and see how that compares to East Africa above:
- Botswana: safaris start around $600 per person per day and go up to $2850 for a luxury safari.
- Namibia: the more affordabale safaris are about $300 per person per day and this goes up to a luxury safari for $1750 per person per day.
- South Africa: starts at $450 a day and soars to a better $1700 per person per day for exclusive game viewing in award-winning private lodges.
- Victoria Falls: your safari can cost anything from $550 to $1900 per person per day so choose that tour with care and find the safari lodge that suits your needs.
- Zambia is more expensive for a safari in top national parks, starting at $900 per person per day and rising to $2000 per person per day. These destinations include expert game rangers and 5-star food.
- Zimbabwe boasts some of the most satisfying game viewing and accommodation in Africa, costing travellers from $700 to $2950 per person per day on a life-changing safari.
How much are you willing to pay for a safari to Africa? An African safari can cost anything from $200 per day to more than $2500 per day depending on your choice of activities and accommodation. You can expect far more than the first quotation you get from a tour operator due to hidden additional factors. Make sure to do your research and planning properly before you calculate the costs of a safari to Africa and set off on that dream holiday.