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Planning an affordable African safari
June 4, 2018, 2:42 pm
An African safari is something that everyone should experience at least once. It offers the chance to let go of the pressures of everyday life and embrace instead the primal call of the wild. It is a chance to see unique flora and fauna in its natural habitat; and to find yourself uplifted by the breathtaking scenery of the African savannah. It is a popular myth that African safaris are only available to the wealthy - the truth is, with a little careful planning, there is no reason why this once-in-a-lifetime experience has to cost more than any other form of international travel.
Choose your destination carefully: The first step to booking an affordable African safari is to choose the destination that best suits your budget. South Africa and Namibia are both well suited to the budget traveler, with great infrastructure for self-drive safaris, camping safaris and overland tours.
Use a local operator: No matter where you go, local tour guides, safari companies and accommodation options typically offer better rates than international companies. In particular, choosing a local operator can be a great way to keep costs reasonable for those that have their heart set on East African destinations like the Serengeti or the Maasai Mara.
Join a group safari: Group safaris come in all shapes and sizes, from minibus tours tailored to mature travelers to social backpacker excursions with well-known overland companies. Group safaris are a great option for two reasons. Firstly, they are cheaper than private tours, allowing you to split the cost of accommodation and transport while also granting access to group rates for park fees and guides. Secondly, they can be a wonderful way to meet other travelers and make lifelong friends.
Opt for a self-drive safari: Those that prefer a little more freedom should consider a self-drive safari, whereby you rent a vehicle and drive independently to your chosen game reserves. The pros are manifold - you can tailor your itinerary to suit your interests, and change it whenever you like. You decide when to stop for photos, which routes to take within the reserve, and where to stay at night. Many self-drive vehicles come with a rooftop tent, keeping the cost of accommodation to a minimum as well. Drawbacks include the lack of an expert local guide. You also need to choose a destination with safe roads and safari parks that allow self-drive vehicles - both of which abound in South Africa and Namibia.
Compromise on accommodation: No matter what kind of safari you choose, compromising on accommodation can help to reduce costs dramatically. Look out for a budget hotel near the park gates and arrange day trips into the reserve.
Travel during the low season: In Africa, the low season usually coincides with the rainy season, when prices for safari tours and accommodation fall dramatically. Low prices are not the only incentive for traveling during this time, however. The rains bring with them lush landscapes and fewer crowds, and often coincide with baby season for many of Africa's famous herbivores, as well as the year's best birding.
Focus on a single game reserve: Many people visit several different game reserves in order to see the widest range of habitats and wildlife possible during their time in Africa. However, choosing just one park and spending your entire vacation there is a great way to cut down costs on domestic flights, vehicle rental or transfers. 
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