Safari Pricing Examined – Southern Africa
‘What does a typical safari cost?’ ‘How much is the average South Africa safari these days?’ ‘what should I look at per night?’ Or some variation on that theme must be our most frequently asked question.
We always heave a little inward sigh because it’s like asking how much a car costs, or a house!
If we’re honest, any safari probably costs more than you want to spend. But we follow that up quickly by saying it ranges from the moderately expensive to very expensive (sorry!). On the other hand, for many people their African safari is often declared to be their best holiday ever…
We have started a series of articles where we examine safari prices by African Destination. See the links to those detailed articles at the end
However this page gives this useful summary by destination below. It is a rough guide only but I think it shows you the variations.
|By Country – Mid Season||Moderate||Premier||Luxury|
|Typical price per person per night|
- There are several dimensions: season, quality of camp and in the case of South Africa, mode of travel. So the individual country articles give more detail.
- What constitutes moderate varies by country. It may be the choice of camp. Or it may be a less expensive way of travelling. (For example using road transfers or staying in one region to cut down on flight costs)
- These are all-in prices including flights in country, activities park fees
- South Africa is priced in Rands. But we show $ prices here as a way of comparison.
- South Africa & Namibia safari prices are governed more by mode of travel than season, so we have taken the most expensive option (Privately guided with 4-5 nights on safari)
- Overall South Africa is by far the least expensive – even choosing the most expensive mode of travel
- Malawi is the next least expensive. But it is still more than many people expect.
- Zambia and Zimbabwe are similar in price
- As are Kenya and Tanzania though Kenya does have the edge mainly because of lower park fees and tourism taxes
- And – as we suspected – Botswana is by far the most expensive destination, though once we start look at the very top lodges, every country gets expensive.
The rest of the article looks at South Africa, then Southern Africa and finishes with East Africa
Why are South Africa Safari Prices so much lower than elsewhere?
So lets try to unpack it… as it depends on a number of factors
- Number of nights on safari
- Safari season is also Low Season elsewhere
- Safaris are in Rand
- Variety in how you can travel around the country
See our in-depth article on South Africa Safari Prices . This gives much more detail but we summarise below
Number of Nights on safari
Usually visitors to South Africa like a varied holiday. They want to head up Table Mountain and see Cape Town, they want to meander through the Cape wine estates, enjoy whale-watching or one of our many wonderful beaches.
So you may only spend 3 or 4 nights on safari, which will be the most expensive part of the trip. But the cheaper nights elsewhere bring down the overall cost of the holiday.
Typically, one night at a South Africa game lodge will range from the equivalent of $275 per person sharing per night for a modest private game lodge, all the way up to whopping $2,200 per person per night for one of the best safari lodges in the world. So you can see why the sky’s the limit!
To break this down:
Moderate private game lodges – between $275 and $475 per person per night
Premier private game lodges – between $500 and $1,100 per person per night
The top private game lodges – between $1,100 and $2,200 per person per night
These are vast ranges so you can see why it is so hard to give any estimates!
Our Safari Season is our Low Season
The best time for a safari is in the dry season which is our winter time. But many people come to South Africa in our summer – to escape their winter cold. So the greatest demand is actually from October to March.
Thus South African safari lodges don’t put UP their prices in their peak game-viewing time. They generally keep them the same year round. (And in fact in the Eastern Cape and Madikwe, they are often lower during May to July). Plus they often offer long stay specials during the safari season.
Elsewhere in the country, the price of hotels and lodges come down between May and August or September. So you have a bizarre situation where safari prices are 10% to 20% lower during the peak safari season! Go figure!
Safaris are in Rands
South Africa safari prices are in our local currency, Rands. Whereas other countries are priced in Dollars. Given our current economic status, you get more ‘bang for your buck’ in South African Rands. So yes, that does mean that a safari holiday in South Africa is cheaper than a safari in poorer countries such as Malawi or Zambia. (A common misconception!)
Mode of Travel
We cover this is detail in our South Africa safari price article. But in a nutshell, you have more choice in how you travel around the country. Many people choose to self-drive in the scenic parts of the country for example. This wonderful flexible mode of travel is also much less expensive than having a private guide, especially for 2 people.
Our South African article shows you some typical nightly price estimates by mode of travel.
Much of the above applies to Namibia. Except overall the prices per night are higher (by around $100 per person per night), as the distances to travel are greater and there is less competition between hotels and lodges. The big difference is that Namibia DOES have a peak safari season in terms of price which aligns with the rest of Southern Africa – July to October.
Setting a Reasonable Safari Budget
We have an ulterior motive for writing all these articles. It is good for us if some of our clients know how much it is likely to cost. And it will help them to set a reasonable budget for their safari.
Plus it will also help them to consider ways to bring down the cost of the safari if they realise that their budget doesn’t stretch to what they want.
So please give us an idea of your budget at the planning stage (excluding the international flights). Contrary to popular belief, it is likely to save you money as we work hard to meet your expectations.
How much is a Safari in Botswana, Zambia or Zimbabwe?
These are more expensive safari destinations for four reasons:
1) Nearly every night is ‘on safari’. There is no fascinating city like Cape Town where you’ll want to spend a few days. Nor is there a beach or mountain resort where you can relax (at a far lower cost).
2) The cost of reaching these more inaccessible lodges is higher as it is usually involved light charter flights
3) The best safari season is clear (July to September). So everyone wants to go there at that time. So the safari camps often raise their peak season prices dramatically. It can be 2 or 3 times the price to stay in the Okavango Delta in August versus March for example
4) Plus it’s priced in dollars, as I mentioned earlier…
Factors affecting Southern Africa Safari Prices
The major factors which affect the safari cost are:
- Predominantly – the time of year
- Whether you use a safari circuit – We usually recommend using camps belonging to the same safari company as they offer lower nightly prices the longer you stay. If you want to pick out individual camps, be our guest, but it can push up the price quite a bit.
- Access – distance from the nearest airport. Can you only get there by charter flight or can it be reached by road? So you’ll spend less per night if you can combine Victoria Falls with the Zambezi National park, Chobe or Hwange. All of which can be reached by road.
- Mode of Safari – do you want a fly-in safari or would you look at a mobile camping safari in order to keep the costs down?
Safari Pricing in East Africa
Kenya and Tanzania lie somewhere in the middle between Zambia and Zimbabwe, but less than Botswana! East African camps and safari lodges are rarely as amazingly good value as in South Africa. But nor are they as eye-wateringly expensive as some of the top Botswana camps.
The moderate prices given above are nearly always for scheduled departure tours. We only offer the ones using good quality lodges. (So you may see some lower prices out there. But you get what you pay for!)
Though the majority of nights are on safari, many people do choose to add on some beach time. which often brings down the average nightly cost.
The park and concession fees are a significant factor, especially in Tanzania. This makes it harder to plan a tailor-made safari to meet a challenging budget. So many costs are fixed that no amount of searching for a less expensive camp will make that much difference.
This means that the best way to save money on safari in East Africa is to join a scheduled departure group safari. Yes, you sacrifice some flexibility. But in return you get some camaraderie and a much better price. (Or you find another couple to join you as private tours for 4 people are more or less the same price as scheduled tours.
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