Africa is undoubtedly the world’s prime destination for stunning landscapes and a face-to-face encounter with nature’s wildest beasts. To make sure you book the right safari package for your travel style and needs (and considering an African safari tour cost), here are a few things you need to keep in mind:
Focus: What kinds of animals do you want to see? How luxurious do you envision your accommodation? Are you looking to discover a national park on a four-wheeler or on your own two legs? Do hiking, mountain trekking or canoeing sound like exciting activities to tackle post-animal watching? Will you be traveling alone, with a partner, or with children? Deciding on exactly what you want to get out of your African safari is the first step to ensuring you book the right one for you.
Go Local: Do you really think it would be a good idea to book a safari with a tour operator that has never left Europe or America? Probably not! Going local when booking your safari not only guarantees you’re getting the best deal but it can also get you a sweet price (did you know the South African Rand, Botswana Pula and the Tanzanian Shilling are devaluing as we speak?).
Check Reviews: We can learn a lot from each other’s experiences, and customer reviews are excellent for just that. Before giving the green light to your tour operator to complete your booking, take a look at websites like TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet forums and even travel blogs to read up on others’ experiences with a particular guide or tour company.
Philanthropy: While you’re helping the local economy in an African country by choosing to go local with your tour operator, you might as well take it one step further and book your safari with a company that uses a part of their profits to give back to the local community as well. Many tour operators use your hard-earned dollars to support wildlife conservation in Africa, so you will have plenty of choice.
Best Time to Visit
The ideal time of year to venture off into the African wilderness depends on your destination and on what kinds of animals you want to view. As a general rule of thumb, however, the best time for game viewing is during the dry season (running roughly from April to October) as this is when animals gather at water holes most often and grasses are shorter, making it easier to spot wildlife. The rainy season (December-April) in general is to be avoided, as animals take shelter from the rain and the lush forests will make it harder to spot them.
This doesn’t mean game-watching is non-existent at this time, however. The wet season is actually ripe with bird watching opportunities at Serengeti National Park and Kruger National Park, for instance. And, due to the sheer abundance of wildlife, most parks offer excellent game-watching opportunities year-round.
African Safari Tour Cost – And Where To Go
Now that you’ve decided on how you will be traveling, what kinds of activities interest you and what types of animals you’re looking forward to gawk at, it’s time to take a look at some of the available destinations and some options for safari packages available:
[Note that although we did our best to ensure the accuracy of the costs at writing in early January 2016, prices might change over time.]
Serengeti National Park (Tanzania)
When you dream of the quintessential African safari, you dream of Serengeti National Park. Luxurious tent lodges, infinite grassland plains, and an incredible concentration of predators are just some of the things you can expect. Its main attraction is undoubtedly the Great Migration: the incredible sight of up to 2 million wildebeest, 200,000 zebras and 350,000 gazelles on the move for fresh grasslands. But game-viewing is excellent year-round and the park’s size provides endless possibilities to explore new trails and regions.
Book it: See the very best that Tanzania has to offer on Safari Gamewatchers’s incredible 6-day safari through Lake Manyara National Park and Serengeti starting from just $1546 per person, or indulge yourself in a luxurious safari getaway at Serengeti with Nomad Tanzania for $7900 per person.
Masai Mara National Reserve (Kenya)
[Related link: Kenya Safari – Facts About Kenyan Parks]
Kenya is arguably the most sought-after safari destination in Africa, and Masai Mara is its most famous reserve. Named after the Masai people who inhabit the area and the Mara River which flows through the reserve, Masai Mara borders with Tanzania’s Serengeti Park and is essentially a continuation of the latter, forming the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem. Game-viewing among the gently rolling grassland of the reserve is excellent year-round, but from July to November is when you can witness the infamous wildebeest migration.
Book it: &Beyond offers an incredible 8-day safari package complete with a walking safari in Laikipia, two nights at Masai Mara, and all-inclusive luxury accommodation starting from $5300 per person. For a more budget-friendly option, check out Africa Point’s 4-day safari where you’ll get to see the Big 5 for just $900 per person.
Chobe National Park (Botswana)
[Related link: Four Must-See Parks in Botswana]
Located in the northwest region of Botswana, Chobe National Park is most well-known for its 50,000 massive elephants. The park is also home to an absurd concentration of game, including the famed Big 5. What makes Chobe so special, however, is the diversity of activities you can experience within it. From the remote area of Savuti to the popular Chobe Riverfront, you can drive yourself through the dry lands, embark on a river safari, indulge in a sunset boat cruise and spend the night camping under the stars.
Book it: Get two for one with Gamewatchers Safaris as you spend 5 days discovering the gorgeous Victoria Falls and Chobe National Park with game drives and plenty of activities starting from $985 per person. For a luxury Botswana experience, discover the country’s greatest national park on an 8-day adventure with Africa Point starting from $4,430 per person.
Special mention: Audley Travel, the UK’s top travel agent, hosts a Mobile Camping Expedition where your small guided group will explore the wonders of the Okavango Delta for 9 days. From £3,065.
Kruger National Park (South Africa)
[Related link: Everything you wanted to know about the Kruger Park]
With the highest wildlife variety in Africa (over 140 mammals and more than 500 bird species live here), Kruger National Park is where you will find all of the Big Five in giant herds: buffaloes, elephants, leopards, lions and rhinos. The park is one of Africa’s most popular ones, especially because of its accessibility and excellent road infrastructure that enable safe and rewarding self-driven safaris. In the rainy season, birdwatching is at its peak.
Book it: See all that South Africa has to offer with African Safari Co.’s 8-day adventure through Kapama Private Game Reserve (in the Greater Kruger Park area) and lively Cape Town complete with breathtaking coastal drives and a wine tasting session from just $1860 per person. Alternatively, combine your wildlife safari with a romantic island getaway starting from $5173 per person with &Beyond.
Hwange National Park (Zimbabwe)
With a ridiculous amount of wildlife, Hwange National Park is home to over 100 types of animal and some 400 bird species. But what makes this national park truly special is its sheer concentration of elephants: around 40,000 tuskers roam the wild grasslands of Hwange. Close to the stunning Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park is also one of the most budget-friendly safari destinations on the continent.
Book it: Africa Point runs a 6-day safari with a visit to Victoria Falls and plenty of game activities at Hwange, starting from just $1380 per person. If you want more, add in a little luxury and a safari at Mana Pools National Park for 10 exciting days starting from $6140 with African Safari Co.
Our Recommended Tour Operators
We totally get it if you want to continue exploring your options. After all, the information we’ve provided you with is only a (very brief) summary of what’s available out there. There are plenty of other national parks that are worth visiting in Africa and a number of other companies that provide all kinds of safari packages for all budgets and travel needs. So, if you want to keep browsing, take a look at our list of recommended tour operators.
They are some of the best in the business, and they’re giving back to their local communities in order to guarantee the sustainability of Africa’s incredible and fascinating wildlife.