8 Tips to Save Money When Planning Your African Safari

As we all know safaris are not an inexpensive way of enjoying a holiday or vacation. So I thought it might be helpful to discuss some ways to save money when planning your safari to get the best value for your money. An ill-planned itinerary often results in a more expensive safari due to hidden costs that add to the price but don’t add much to your enjoyment. Here are eight tips to help you to save money.

Eight Tips to Help You Save Money on an African Safari

Lions taking a drink1) Travel out of Peak Season
Make good use of the varying seasons if you are flexible as to when you can travel. You can save a lot of money if you travel in what is perceived to be ‘low season’ and yet in many cases the area is as attractive as in High Season.

A classic example is a safari in South Africa. The best game-viewing period is May to August/September. This is the dry season. There is less surface water around and the vegetation is sparser so the animals need to come to the rivers to drink and are more visible. This happily co-incides with South Africa’s traditional low season from May to August so many of the lodges find themselves a little emptier than the busy summer period and so offer low season special rates or longer stay rates such as ‘stay four nights for the price of three’.

Another example is in the Okavango Delta. The delta floodwaters start coming in from late May/early June and are at the best between July and October. Prices increase dramatically at the beginning of July in consequence. However in a normal year, (as floodwaters vary from year to year), many lodges can have good floodwaters (and therefore a convergence of game) from mid June onwards so late June is an excellent time to save money without compromising on your enjoyment.

Lodge2) Get a group together and stay in one place for a week
Another tip is to take one safari lodge exclusively for a week with a group of friends or family. This can be terrific value for money and we could suggest a couple of different options in the Eastern Cape or the Welgevonden, both malaria-free.

3) Watch out on how much you travel around Southern Africa
If you visit many different parts of Southern Africa, this not only results in high flight costs but also extra transfers to and from the airport, often extra stopover nights sometimes in airport hotels or cities in which you have no interest in visiting. Our travel consultants constantly weigh up the uniqueness of an area with the associated costs of getting there. Often we can suggest an equally attractive area that does not require an extra flight or en route stopover.

Transportation4) Transportation and how you travel around
This is a big one! The cost of your holiday will vary extensively depending on how you travel around the country. On safari we use either road transfers or light aircraft transfers. The latter are obviously more expensive but they are quicker and sometimes unavoidable due to the terrain.

The real money-saving occurs if you are opting for some general touring as well as a safari. There are various ways of traveling – using a rental car, take transfers and day excursions, taking an escorted tour or taking a private driver/guide. Assuming the accommodation you chose was exactly the same, a self-drive holiday will be the least expensive, followed by mixing transfers and scheduled tours, followed by a private tour for a small party of 4 to 6 followed by a private tour for just 2 people.

Self-drive holidays are the most cost-effective, and often you can stretch your money by opting for self-drive so that you can still stay in the best hotels.

Enjoy Your Vacation5) Give your chosen safari operator an idea of your target budget
Sometimes our clients are reluctant to give us a target budget for their holiday in case this is used merely as a starting point and the proposed safari is even more! However, in our experience, giving an accurate budget usually results in the best value as our consultants will search around for the best deals to keep within your budget, and invariably we work harder to make sure that you get the best value for your money.

A target budget also helps us identify when your expectations may not match your budget – early on in the safari planning process. The choice of safari camp has a big impact on the cost of your African safari and the price range is huge. With no budget guideline, we may suggest a safari that is much more than you want to spend, leading you to question whether you want to come to Africa at all, or to question whether we are the right company for you.

Finally, as we’ve got years of experience, we can advise you on which expensive hotels and lodges are worth every penny and which ones can be substituted if necessary. If you have a set budget, try to tell us which lodges are non-negotiable, if any, and then we can choose the rest on the basis of best value for money.

6) Use long-stay rates to your advantage
Our sixth point is a simple tip – consider booking several nights with the same hotel or lodge group as some of them have long stay rates or ‘stay for 4 pay for 3′ deals and others have so called ‘circuit’ rates rewarding you with better rates if you stay with their sister hotels. Many of these deals are not advertised on the web so ask your safari operator.

7) Plan ahead
Throughout Southern Africa, and in South Africa in particular, we have long-standing relationships with great-value lodges. But as the most popular are also small and intimate, demand inevitably exceeds supply so it really pays to book 10 to 12 months ahead.

8) Beware of Brand Names
Finally, and somewhat contentiously, if you are keen to save money, beware of the brand name. Just as you pay more for Brand Name jeans, so with hotels and lodges. As safari specialists, we book the well-known lodges but we also know of wonderful places that are not as well-known and which choose to spend less money on marketing!

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