An African safari cost can be expensive, and while it’s worth every cent, there are many ways to experience the best that Africa has to offer while ensuring you get excellent value for money. Here’s how you can make luxury African safaris affordable.
Why are safaris generally more expensive than many other holidays?
We go on safari for the privilege of observing some of the planet’s unique wildlife and experiencing untouched wilderness. These are both found in remote areas, and it’s precisely this remoteness that makes the logistics of running a luxury safari camp more complicated and costly than it would be in an urban environment – and pricier to get to.
It’s also worth remembering that the price you pay for the best African safari lodges is fully inclusive. Not only does it cover accommodation, meals, snacks, drinks and more, but it incorporates the services of an experienced guide – and sometimes a spotter or tracker – who are dedicated to showing you all their region has to offer.
Furthermore, a small camp of, say, 12–24 beds might be supporting the conservation efforts and sustainability of many thousands of hectares of wilderness.
So how do you make a luxury African safari affordable?
1. Travel outside of peak season
While peak-season travel has its appeal, the demand for safaris during these times – which generally align with popular holiday periods, such as school breaks and Christmas – pushes up their prices. If you travel during Africa’s green season instead, not only will the more popular destinations be less crowded, but your luxury African safari will be more affordable.
Game viewing during the green season is still good, if not excellent, and contrary to popular belief, you can still witness phenomena like the Great Wildebeest Migration, which doesn’t stop just because everyone is back at work! Rather, the animals continue their circular voyage, and with the right help, you can be at the right place at the right time and be immersed in this experience. For more information, you can also read about the best times to visit Africa on safari.
- You can witness the Great Wildebeest Migration during the green season.
- Lodges are often discounted in the green season. © Phinda Rock Lodge
- During the green season, game there are fewer people on game drives. © Victoria Falls River Lodge
- You'll often have sightings to yourself during the green season.
2. Get off the beaten track
Africa is vast, and so is her wilderness. While popular destinations are touted on well-known wildlife TV channels such as National Geographic, hidden gems abound. Places like Mana Pools and Hwange in Zimbabwe, the Luangwa and Kafue regions of Zambia and Southern Tanzania – to name but a few – are some of the most pristine wildlife areas on the continent.
These lesser-known treasures are often more affordable to visit than their famous counterparts, such as the Serengeti in Northern Tanzania or the Okavango Delta in Botswana, plus a safari here offers more solitude and space.
3. Travel less, stay more
Remote locations are, of course, not serviced by high-volume, low-cost airlines. You either have to fly in via light aircraft – scheduled or private charter – or drive long distances to get there. As such, getting from place to place is a major contributor to your safari cost: the more you move around, the more you spend.
Safari itineraries often have an average stay of two nights per lodge, and while you do get to see more, you’re not only spending more time on the move but you’re pushing your costs up significantly.
At Art of Safari, we recommend a minimum of three nights per lodge and strongly suggest four. Not only does this make a luxury safari more affordable, but more enjoyable too. There’s less packing and unpacking, and more time to relax and experience all a place has to offer.
- Travelling out of season means more focused attention from safari staff. © Chiawa Camp
- In many places, game viewing is excellent year round.
- Lesser-known treasures are often more affordable to visit than their famous counterparts. © Tanda Tula Field Camp
- Longer stays in one lodge make a luxury safari more affordable. © Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge
4. Take advantage of travel deals
Most lodge operators offer deals, usually involving longer stays, stays at a particular combination of lodges within a portfolio or travel during the (already reduced) green season.
These might take the form of stay-pay deals (say, stay four nights and only pay for three) or they could even include free local flights. With some help from Art of Safari, you can take advantage of several deals to cleverly create a safari with exceptional value.
5. Get familiar with lodge classing
There are different levels of luxury when it comes to safari lodges, from ‘premium’ all the way through to ‘ultra luxury’. While all are clearly luxurious, the difference in cost could be as high as 300%!
For example, a luxury safari lodge such as Sand River Masai Mara in Kenya, an excellent lodge in a great location, could cost up to 65% less than an ultra-luxury lodge such as Sasakwa in the Serengeti. To make your luxury safari more affordable, it’s worth considering ‘premium’ over ‘ultra-luxury’ safari lodges.
- Simple dining in the bush is priceless. © Kings Pool
- Expert advice will help you maximise your experience at the best rate.
- Choose the luxury of experience over the experience of luxury accommodation. © RockFig Safari Lodge
- Premium lodging is more affordable than ultra luxury. © Sweetwaters Serena Camp
6. Choose the luxury of experience
For some, a luxury safari is all about staying at the world’s best safari lodges, and who wouldn’t want to?! However, we believe that the ultimate luxury is that of experience: the privilege of having a remote location all to yourself, enjoying the focused expertise of a private guide, or experiencing an authentic safari environment in a minimalist camp with world-class service.
At Art of Safari we delight in enabling our clients to tap into these experiences. Take our safari under the stars in southern Tanzania, a fly-camping safari that’s wholly a luxury experience, and an entirely cost-effective way of achieving exclusivity and privacy in the African wilderness.
7. Use the advice of an expert
We’ve said it before: Africa’s a big place. There are a staggering array of options for a dream safari, and even the best personal research won’t unearth it all.