If you have always been thrilled to visit Africa for safaris, you have probably wondered Why are African safaris so expensive? At the end of the day, many people change their mind just because they can’t afford to go on such expensive trips.
African safaris are so expensive due to lack of physical infrastructure in the continent, high-price-low density tourism policies of countries, high staff to visitors ratio, less flights going to Africa, conservation fee aimed to protect safaris and all inclusive nature of packages. But it’s possible to reduce this cost.
Why Are African Safaris So Expensive
Here are the reasons which makes African Safaris Expensive.
Lack of Excessive Physical Infrastructure in Africa
Traveling across Europe, the US, and Asia is always a fascinating experience that doesn’t necessarily have to break the bank.
The well-developed infrastructure in these regions boasts an array of airports, highways and railways lines, hotels, and much more, all competing for your buck, ultimately keeping prices down. With the ever-bustling tourist activity in these areas, economies of scale have got to play their part, right?
But unlike the well-maintained infrastructure in Europe and the US, Africa’s road and air networks are somewhat limited, with only a few airports and airstrips that accommodate light aircraft serving remote areas of the continent. This means your trip will always be exclusive, custom-tailored, and never overcrowded.
The lack of infrastructure, limited airlines, and few transport options in Africa add to your travel costs. But on the flip side, private operators are available to provide bespoke chartered flights, road transfers, and day tours. Sometimes, the only option may be a single airline operating a route on specific days of the week, but the luxury you’ll enjoy will more than make up for it.
Planning and executing an African safari is a complex and time-consuming process. This is due to a number of factors, including the need to secure permits, book accommodation and transportation, and hire guides and staff.
Another important reason for expensive African safaris is the complicated logistics involved in organizing and executing any safari. From finding and booking the best campsites to transporting guests safely through rugged terrain, everything must be well-planned and executed smoothly.
Not only this, but many African destinations are located far from major cities, so travel costs can quickly add up. Plus, experienced guides and drivers with in-depth knowledge of the land and wildlife are necessary for an enjoyable and safe safari experience, which also comes at a cost. All of these factors, combined with the high demand for African safari experiences, drive up prices and make them a luxurious but expensive experience.
When you finally reach your safari lodge or camp, you’ll feel as though you’re a world away from anything metropolitan. In this remote location, these camps have to do everything for themselves.
Each and every single supply, from rice to beer to soap to mattresses, has to be hauled over thousands of miles of bad roads and carried across rivers on large ferries.
Sometimes it can even take as long as two days to transport everything by car, which makes logistics hard and African safaris expensive.
High-Price Low-People Tourism Policy
Many African countries have a tourism policy that promotes “high price-low density” to protect fragile ecosystems from mass human traffic. This means that there are limits on the number of tourists who can visit certain areas, which drives up the cost of safaris.
Many African countries have implemented a tourism policy that aims to protect their fragile ecosystems from excessive human traffic.
As a result, there are limits on the number of tourists who can visit specific areas, which can drive up the cost of safaris. This policy, known as “high price-low density,” is undoubtedly a crucial measure to ensure that natural resources are preserved for future generations.
However, it does come at a cost, making it harder for tourists to afford this exceptional experience. Despite this, those who do choose to embark on an African safari will undoubtedly leave with unforgettable memories and a new appreciation for the stunning landscapes and wildlife of Africa.
High Staff to Visitors Ratio Makes Africa Safaris Expensive
Qualified and knowledgeable guides enhance the quality of your safari experience. In fact, the staff of a holiday destination can make or break your trip.
In many travel places around the world, you might not interact with many staff members beyond a bellhop or concierge, but at Africa’s safari camps, you’ll find staff-to-guest ratios as high as 5 to 1 or even higher.
Most staff members live right on the premises, where they receive accommodations, meals, laundry service, uniforms, toiletries, and even medical attention. Plus, many camps provide extras like private butlers, birding experts, babysitters, and private guides, which requires even more staff.
And that’s not all – behind the scenes, you’ll also find maintenance men, builders, anti-poaching units, and park rangers, all ensuring that your trip is perfect. Some lodges even employ gardeners to provide the chef with fresh, just-picked ingredients! Believe it or not, all of this must be taken into account to ensure a top-notch holiday experience, which makes African safaris expensive.
High Conservation Fee is Another Reason Behind Expensive African Safaris
Safari lodges and camps have been built with land and wildlife conservation in mind, especially in private game reserves and conservancies. It takes ongoing effort, investment, and resources to preserve land and wildlife, including anti-poaching units. When you stay at one of these campgrounds, your experience provides a valuable contribution to conservation programs while supporting local communities.
Most importantly, your stay provides critical employment opportunities for local communities, reducing the need for dangerous poaching practices. By visiting African national parks, game reserves, and conservancies, you not only have the opportunity to enjoy stunning landscapes and unforgettable wildlife experiences but also to make a meaningful contribution to the conservation of these precious ecosystems.
These types of fees make African safaris expensive.
All-Inclusive Nature of Packages Make Safaris Expensive
If you have been trying to plan your African safari, you must have heard the term “all-inclusive safari.” All-inclusive safaris mean just about everything! Your daily rate covers not only your accommodation and all meals but also snacks, standard drinks, and a myriad of exciting game-viewing activities. And since most safari camps are located in remote areas, they need to provide you with everything to make your stay comfortable.
Admittedly, the cost of accommodation on a safari can seem a bit steep at first. But when you compare the price with what you get at a typical hotel (which usually just includes breakfast), suddenly, it makes a lot more sense. Also, you don’t have to worry about spending extra money on all the things that are included, which means you can just relax and enjoy your stay.
But whenever you are booking an all-inclusive safari trip, always ensure to ask your tour operator what type of expenses they will bear and what will be left upon you. This way, you are sure that you will not be charged more down the road during your safari journey.
Factors on Which Expenses of African Safaris Depend
The cost of an African safari can range widely depending on various factors, including
Some African countries are more expensive than others.
Here is the list of African countries based on the affordability of their safari trips:
- South Africa
- The Gambia
- Burkina Faso
Time of year
The peak season for safaris is during the dry season, which runs from June to October. If you travel during the wet season, you can save money on accommodation and flights. (But remember that you may not find many animals during the wet seasons.)
Type of accommodation
There are a variety of accommodation options available, from luxury lodges to basic campsites. The type of accommodation you choose will affect the cost of your safari.
In a 5-star safari lodge, for example, you will find the following facilities (and that come at a cost). Here is a quick overview of what you can expect at a luxury safari lodge.
Overview of Luxury Safari Lodge
Africa’s luxury lodges can go as fancy as you want. Accommodation in such lodges include:
- Spacious, well-appointed rooms or suites
- Private balconies or decks overlooking the wildlife areas. They can range from modern designs to more traditional African decor.
- Most lodges also have en-suite bathrooms, and some even offer private plunge pools.
Luxury lodges usually offer high-quality cuisine, often combining international and local flavors. This might include a variety of dining experiences, from formal dinners in the lodge’s dining room to bush breakfasts or picnics.
These are typically led by experienced guides and trackers, often in open 4×4 vehicles. Most lodges offer two game drives per day – one early in the morning and another in the late afternoon.
Guided Bush Walks
These walks allow you to get even closer to the African wilderness, learning about the smaller wildlife and plants that you might not see from a vehicle.
Many lodges have viewing decks or hides for watching wildlife at close quarters. Some even have waterholes nearby that attract a variety of animals.
These can include:
- Swimming pools
- Spa facilities
- Fitness centers
- Libraries and lounges.
- Some luxury lodges also have shops where you can purchase local crafts or necessities you may have forgotten.
Concierge and Travel Services
These services can help you plan your day, book additional activities or excursions, or assist with travel arrangements.
Given the nature of safari travel, many luxury lodges offer laundry services to their guests.
Luxury lodges often have partnerships with local communities for cultural visits, supporting local schools, or conservation initiatives.
Depending on the lodge, these could include hot air balloon rides, horseback safaris, night game drives, bird-watching trips, or even photographic safaris with professional photographers.
Some lodges offer private guides and vehicles for a more personalized safari experience.
And all of this comes at a cost. But it is important to remember that these costs are completely avoidable. You can stay at a 3-star safari lodge and still have a perfect safari (as your primary purpose is to explore the wilderness out there and not relax in your bedroom) during your African safari trip.
Length of the trip
It goes without saying that the length of your safari trip will result in more expenses.
If you use a travel agent, they will charge a commission, which will add to the cost of your safari. (But travel agents can also help you in cutting costs at various places since they are experienced people).
Private safaris are more expensive than group safaris. Joining a group can help you reduce costs.
Type and Number of Activities
In addition to game drives, you might want to include activities like hot air balloon rides, walking safaris, night drives, or cultural village visits. Each of these will add to the overall cost.
Meals and Drinks
Some safari packages are all-inclusive, covering all meals and sometimes even drinks, while others may include only breakfast, leaving you to cover the cost of other meals.
Tips for guides, staff, and occasionally community visits can add up, so you must include this while making your safari budget. (Until you are absolutely sure you won’t tip anybody)
Many national parks and reserves charge daily conservation or park fees, which contribute to wildlife conservation efforts. These fees vary by country and sometimes by park.
This includes both the cost of getting to Africa and moving within the country. International airfare is a significant part of the cost, and in-country transportation can also be expensive, particularly if charter flights to remote safari camps are involved.
Visas and Travel Insurance
Depending on your nationality, you may need to pay for a visa to enter the country you’re visiting. Travel insurance is also a must-have, and the cost will depend on the coverage level.
How To Plan an Affordable Safari Trip?
But when there is a problem, there is a solution. The good news is that you can plan a cheaper African safari trip, if you do the things right:
Here is how you can do it:
Choose Your Destination Wisely
Some countries and parks are more affordable than others. For example, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Kenya tend to be more budget-friendly than Botswana or Tanzania. Within countries, National Parks often have cheaper fees than private game reserves.
Travel in the Off-Peak Season
Most safari destinations have a high season (usually when wildlife viewing is at its best) and a low or “green” season. Traveling in the off-peak season can significantly reduce the cost of your trip, and you’ll still see plenty of wildlife.
Book a Package After Proper Research
Many tour operators offer package deals that include accommodation, meals, and game drives. These can often be cheaper than booking everything separately.
Traveling in a group and sharing costs can make your safari more affordable. Look for group tours, or if you’re comfortable with them, consider joining a group as a solo traveler.
Camp Instead of Staying in a Lodge
Many national parks and reserves have campgrounds, and some even have basic cabins or tents for rent. This can be a more affordable option than staying in a luxury lodge.
Choose Drive-Yourself Safaris
If you’re confident in your driving skills and navigation, you can rent a vehicle and do a self-drive safari. This is most common in South Africa and Namibia. However, keep in mind that you’ll miss out on the knowledge and skills of a trained guide.
Limit Your Time on Safari
Instead of spending your entire trip on safari, combine a few days of game drives with time in less expensive areas. For example, you could visit the beaches of Kenya or the Winelands of South Africa.
Book in Advance
Some safari operators offer discounts for booking far in advance. This can also help you secure spots in more affordable lodges or campsites that book up quickly.
Avoid Extra Activities
Activities like hot air balloon rides, helicopter tours, and private game drives can add a lot to the cost of your safari. Stick to the included activities to keep costs down.
Choose Local and Direct Operators
If possible, book with local tour operators directly. They often have better prices than international travel agencies.
Remember, while it’s important to save money where you can, don’t skimp on important aspects like safety and respect for wildlife and local communities. Also, a well-planned safari has to be ethical, so you must not ignore that aspect during the tour.
African safari operators have to take care of a lot of things which makes these trips expensive. But it is also important to listen to the other side of the story, as seeing the wildlife in their backyard is not as easy as it seem. At the end of the day, the money that you spend make your African safari trip worthy.
Bariki was born and raised in Tanzania, the land of the magnificent Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Manyara wildlife parks. He grew up surrounded by Africa’s natural beauty. Visiting his grandpa in Moshi Kilimanjaro, at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, provided him with early exposure to wildlife and the natural world.
As a technology and human rights blogger, he has always been passionate about writing. With many relatives working in the tourism industry, he has stayed abreast of the industry’s successes and challenges, which led him to write about African safaris.
Now residing in the USA, Bariki is using his firsthand knowledge to help foreigners plan their dream safari in Africa. At Posire, he shares his expertise on everything you need to know about planning a safari, from choosing the right destination to the best time to go and what to expect during your adventure.