The True Cost of An African Safari
Updated: Apr 21, 2020
An African Safari is an absolute bucket list experience for many. Whether seeing the Big 5 for the first time, enjoying a walking safari, gazing over Africa's vast landscapes or simply enjoying the fresh air, it is a once in a life-time experience!
There was once a time when a safari was an affordable experience, however over the last decade, things are not exactly what they used to be. This is a direct result of a massive rise in park entry fees, high demand for accommodation and the increase in positive conservation efforts.
That said, do not worry, a safari is still possible for all budgets!
The true cost of your next safari will depend on the following choices:
1. Country of Travel
2. Length of Safari
3. National Parks
4. Comfort Levels
5. Safari Activities
6. Private Guided Safari vs Self Drive
Safari Destinations Explained
In order to understand and compare safari prices, let's start by having a look at reasons why one would travel to the following safari destinations in both Southern and East Africa.
Serengeti - The True Lion King destination. Vast landscapes with animals covering the horizon. The highest population of lions in Africa and of course the Great Wildebeest Migration.
Ngorongoro Crater - A volcanic crater filled with hundreds of different animals living side by side. A great place to find all of the Big 5 in a single safari.
Tarangire - The Place of Giants where one can enjoy massive herds of elephants as they roam amongst the thousand year old Baobabs trees.
Lake Manyara - Diverse landscapes from soda lakes to mountainous forests. Home to rare tree climbing lions.
Masai Mara - Iconic green vistas displaying rolling hills and animals for as far as you can see. Great for predator sightings and the sheer abundance of animals.
Amboseli - The iconic park where elephants take front and centre in front of Africa’s highest peak, Mt Kilimanjaro.
Queen Elizabeth - Chimpanzees, tree climbing lions, lakes, forests, rivers and valleys. A true gem for diversity. Offering a wide variety of alternate safari activities.
Murchison Falls - Experience powerful waterfalls, landscapes show-casting palm trees scattered over rolling green hills and straddled by the Nile River. Animals include chimpanzees, lion, leopard and the rare shoebill stork.
Kidepo Valley - One of Africa’s most remote parks known for a true off the beaten track safari and lion prides becoming regular residents on top of rocky outcrops.
Moremi - Wildlife reserve accounting for a quarter of the Okavango Delta. The reserve comprises of forests, lagoons, floodplains and islands. Well known for leopard and wild dogs sightings.
Chobe - The reserve is a dense animal paradise. In dry season animals reside by the Chobe waterfront allowing for easy sightings as animals come down to drink. Great for a boat safari.
Savuti - The sandy paradise is home to powerful prides of lions, off the beaten track safaris and both wild camping and exclusive lodges.
Central Kalahari - This is a hardcore off the beaten track reserve. Tough conditions but rewarding and unique sightings.
Mana Pools - The ultimate wildlife paradise lying on the Lower Zambezi River and well-known for its many predators and its unguided walking safaris. Not for the faint hearted - guided is recommended!
Hwange - Largest Park in Zimbabwe with a healthy population of elephants. Home to both predators and prey alike. Well-known for its wild dog sightings and its proximity to Victoria Falls.
South Luangwa - Home of the walking safari, this beautiful National Park offers everything needed for a special safari. Remote lodges and unique sightings will be found here.
Lower Zambezi - This Park is situated on the Zambezi River and offers absolutely breathtaking views. Watch as elephants come down to drink and predators prepare for the hunt.
Kruger - The easiest self-drive safari and home to the Big 5. World Class National Park that is great for first time safari goers. Offers everything from budget to exclusive lodges.
Kgalagadi - This is an off the beaten track safari that rewards people with patience. Known for its rolling red sand dunes and impressive black maned lion.
Addo Elephant - Small National Park home to the Big 5. Easily self drivable and located at the edge of South Africa's well known Garden Route.
Etosha - This is a one of a kind park, offering a completely different experience across the different seasons. A good place for a first time Big 5 safari experience and to spot the highly endangered black rhino.
Types of Safari
Once you have an idea of your perfect destination, the next step is to define your ideal comfort level. There are countless options out there, for the adventurous to the ones wanting a little bit more pampering, ranging from camping up to all-inclusive private fly-in safaris.
1. Self Drive Camping
2. Self Drive Budget (Backpackers)
3. Overland Large Group Camping
(up to 20 persons)
4. Overland Large Group Accommodated
(up to 20 persons)
Good Value for Money
5. Small Group Budget Safari (2 to 7 persons)
7. Self Drive Mid Range Accommodated
Expensive and Exclusive
9. Private Tour – Exclusive Accommodation
10. Private Fly In Safari – Exclusive and Intimate
Now that you have a better picture of the different safari destinations and comfort levels, we can determine the REAL costing of your next safari.
By going back to the safari basics, we can get a better idea of countrywide costs. For this, we will analyse the following: park entry fees, camping and vehicle entries.
Safari destinations (listed from most expensive to least (in $)
The above table is a guideline on costs and as you can see, there is a major difference due to comfort and travel styles. A budgeted self drive camping safari in Botswana with all vehicles, equipment, food and sundry supplies will cost you around USD 150 per person per night, but you may stay a stone throw away at Botswana's most luxurious camps costing you around USD 3,500 per person per night.