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What does a South Africa safari cost?

Table Mountain in Cape Town

Going to South Africa on safari?
Get ready to count those coins. . .

I have written a few articles on safari pricing about each country we sell. But it’s probably the hardest to estimate a typical safari cost in South Africa . However I am up for the challenge, so here goes! 

WHY is it so hard to estimate safari costs in South Africa?

In a nutshell, it’s because South Africa is not just a safari destination. It offers so much interest for other traditional holiday interests. Fantastic beaches, wonderful scenery, cosmopolitan cities, mountains to climb, wine to drink and so forth.

But the safari nights are usually the most expensive nights. And so how much of your holiday is ‘’on safari’’ does affect the overall holiday cost considerably. But there are many other factors at play here which differ from other safari destinations:

• There is a much wider variation in price across all the destinations and hotel standards.

• There are plenty of Options for your mode of travel and this has a big impact.

Safari costs in South Africa

Guide to Typical Nightly Safari Costs in South Africa

As your time is short, I am giving our crib-chart below. But read on for further explanation…

Caveat – these prices are more fluid than other destinations. So I give them only so as a broad sense of what a modest budget, medium and generous budget may look like…

But our itinerary design skills also play a big part.

We give a typical price per night for a holiday factoring in the cost of travel, park fees, game drives and other game activities. But they exclude the international flights, as obviously that depends on where you are travelling from. And whether it’s Business or Economy…

Ballpark Per Person Price per Night Affordable hotels & lodges  4* Hotels & LodgesLuxury Hotels & Lodges
Self-drive plus short safari (2-3 nights)$175-$200$225-$350From $350 up
Mix of Scheduled tours & Private transfers & short safari$225-$275$275-$400From $400 up
Privately guided tour plus 3-4 nights on safariUnlikely$325-$450From $450 up
Privately guided tour + longer safari (5-6 nights) or off-the-beaten Track Unlikely$375-$500From $500 up

So if you want to come for 12 nights on a privately guided tour with 4 nights on safari and staying in premier accommodation (4+ star), you are probably looking at $325 per night upwards, so $4,000 plus per person.

  • South Africa is priced in Rands. We have given Dollar prices so that you can compare across other African destinations. But, given currency fluctuations, these prices fluctuate.
  • Typically these prices assume that 25-30% of your nights in South Africa are on safari (on a Fully Inclusive basis). So the prices above are LOWER than our safari nightly prices. But higher than our Cape Town hotel prices, for example.
  • We also give a Price from for luxury accommodation. As, believe me, the sky is the limit if you want to go big in South Africa!

Mode of Safari is more important than Seasonality

The South African safari price chart is different from other destinations. Here seasonality is MUCH less of an issue than mode of travel.

Low Season –The strange anomaly in South Africa is that the best time for a Safari is actually our Low Season for the rest of the country. Thus the safari nights don’t change in Low Season. AND overall prices are a little lower. Go Figure! Expect to pay 10-20% less between May and July and 5-10% less between August and September. (Broad estimates only!)

What factors affect the cost of a South Africa safari?

ImportantLess Important
Mode of TravelTime of Year
Level of Hotel & Lodge (eg Luxury, Premier)Safari Circuits
Number of Nights on Safari 

Magical African Moments

Cost of Various Modes of Travel

Along with how many nights you have on safari, and Quality of the Hotels & Game Lodges, this is one of the biggest drivers of your safari cost. Let’s assume that you fly to the wildlife area and then transfer in. As this is the most common.

So we are talking about how you choose to travel in the REST of your trip…

Privately Guided

This is the most expensive, especially if there are only 2 of you. Our vehicles and guiding standards are highly regulated. Plus the driving distances are long. So your guide will need to stay overnight with you which is an extra cost.

Generally Private Guiding is more than people imagine. It is certainly more expensive than in many other developing countries you may have visited.

Mix of Privately Guided/Private transfer & Shared Day Tours

If you want to be guided, this is a good way of saving costs. Do some shared day tours (with a max of 6 or 7 people) whilst you are staying in Cape Town when many people want to see the same things. Then do private touring (and transfers) when that’s the only option. Usually when you are in country areas.

Another tip is to use some country lodges which include activities in their area. Then you travel between them using private transfers. This saves you money as there’s no need for multiple days of private touring (and thus paying for your guide’s accommodation as well).

Self drive for the non-safari element

This is very common for our European clients. (Actually the majority). But much less common for our North American clients. (Australian and Candian clients – to use VAST national stereotypes – lie somewhere in the middle.)

But if you have self-driven in Europe, then you should be comfortable doing it in South Africa. And it has a massive impact on the cost of getting around. It may allow you to upgrade your accommodation standard for the same nightly budget?

Or mix it all together, start with a night or two of guided tours, experiment with a few days of self-drive in the country areas. Throw in some private transfers for some long drives. Fly-into your safari destinations. Putting together the right mix is where a safari designer – such as us – can help massively.

All-inclusive South Africa safaris?

Unless every night is on safari, your South Africa holiday is unlikely to be all-inclusive. Only safari nights tend to be all-inclusive (or as we call them Fully Inclusive FI or Full Board and Game Activities FBG). Elsewhere the norm is for hotels to be on a Bed & Breakfast basis or sometimes possibly Dinner, Bed & Breakfast.

That’s because South Africa has some superb restaurants. Believe me, you don’t want to be tied into eating at the hotel restaurant in Cape Town. Just because you wanted to have all meals included upfront. You’d be missing out on some amazing foodie experiences!

So typically a 12 night itinerary in South Africa may include breakfast every day, 5 or 6 dinners and some lunches, (mainly on safari)

In summary….

  • Consider preferred mode of travel
  • Consider time of year
  • Give us a budget to work with
  • Try to have longer stays (to take advantage of long stay offers)

HEARTFELT PLEA – Please give a Budget Range!

But probably the BEST thing you can do to save money is to give your safari designer a sense of your budget.

Sounds counter-intuitive perhaps?

But actually it makes sense. If you give a budget then it is human nature for our designers to try to rise to the challenge! Our consultants get more creative to come up with ways of saving money, without compromising on the quality of the safari holiday. So you end up getting more bang for your buck.

They are also more motivated because they know they are on the right track. (It is soul-destroying for us to do a holiday quote. And then find that the budget is HALF what we had assumed!) Getting to a sense of budget is what this article is designed to help you with!

In conclusion, a South Africa safari holiday offers superb wildlife and all-round holiday wonderland. So it is worth aiming for a decent budget for it.

We hope this article has helped!

‘What is the typical safari cost in South Africa’ is written by Cedarberg Africa

Cedarberg Africa is a specialist tour operator and safari designer for Southern and East Africa. We’re a family-run company who’ve been around for 25 years. We offer 16 different countries in Africa. Given our volume of business, we make our money through specially negotiated rates with the safari camps. So you will get the benefit of our 1st hand experience. And at a fair but competitive price. Contact us now….

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