Want to do an African safari on a budget? Here are my tips for finding cheap safaris in South Africa.
Before visiting South Africa, I did extensive research on safaris.
Going on an African safari has always been a dream of mine. So when I finally booked the flight to South Africa, I felt nothing short of ecstatic.
The most important factor in my safari research was, of course, the cost.
How do I do an African safari cheaply? I wanted the real safari experience. But I didn’t want to spend a fortune.
I knew it must be possible to do an African safari on a budget without sacrificing quality.
Can you do an African safari on a budget?
I found that yes, you can definitely do an African safari on a budget. Safari day tours are the cheapest and easiest way to book a safari. And they are still amazing!
After two months in South Africa, I did two safaris and talked to many other locals and tourists. I’ve been able to gather some insight into safaris and how to make them affordable.
In this article, I’ll highlight general tips for researching and planning budget safaris.
I’ll also mention a couple of great safari companies, including the ones I used.
Keep in mind, I am focusing on South Africa because that is where I was traveling. I can’t say much for other African countries, though I’ve heard that Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Rwanda, and Kenya are great places to do safaris.
(All the prices are South African Rand converted into USD, so the exact cost may vary depending on the exchange rate).
How To Do An African Safari On A Budget
You can do an African safari on a budget by booking the right type of safari. First, I’ll cover the details of the different types of safaris you can choose from. Then I’ll recommend some companies to use for your South African Safari.
Types of African Safaris
The main types of safaris are multi-day safaris, single-day game drives, and self-drive safaris.
Multi-day safari packages usually include accommodation, food, and game drives.
These are generally really expensive, so I ruled them out straight away in my own research.
But if you are willing to dish out a bit of money on an epic adventure, a multi-day safari is the perfect opportunity.
The Cheapest Multi-Day Safaris
The absolute cheapest two-day safaris in South Africa I could find are listed on Get Your Guide.
The cheapest two-day safari experience from Cape Town is $365 at the Garden Route Game Lodge.
There are other multi-day safaris on Get Your Guide for anywhere between $300 and $500. That’s still pretty cheap for a few days of African wilderness and outstanding customer service.
The Best African Safari On A Budget: Full-Day or Half-Day Game Drives
I recommend a one-day game drive for those who really want to save money on their African safari.
If you are renting a car in South Africa, you can drive yourself to and from the game reserve to save the cost of getting picked up and dropped off again.
If you don’t have a car, make sure transfers are available before you book your safari.
Most full-day or half-day game drives consist of a 3-4 hour drive through the area with a knowledgable guide, and either lunch or dinner.
Looking for single-day game drives can sometimes be challenging because many private game reserves require a one-night stay.
If it isn’t clear on their website, which is often the case, just call or email and ask if they offer one-day safaris without accommodation.
The Half-Day Game Drives I Booked
I found my first safari on Get Your Guide: the Aquila Game Reserve full-day safari experience for $158.
It was only “full-day” because they drove us to and from Cape Town which was 2 hours each way, but I didn’t have a car at the time so it was perfect.
The second-day safari I did was Schotia Game Reserve near Port Elizabeth which cost roughly $100.
It was cheaper because we drove ourselves for most of the way, and we got a discount because we paid in cash.
Self-Drive Safari: Another Great African Safari on a Budget
Another great way to save money on a safari is to drive yourself through the park.
Saving money and having flexibility is the greatest perk of driving yourself.
The biggest downside is a lack of knowledge about animals.
Some people who did self-drive safaris said they had trouble finding animals on their own. Plus it’s cool to hear all the fun facts about the animals from your local guide.
Addo Elephant Park near Port Elizabeth is home to over 600 elephants and around 20 lions. This is a very popular place to drive your own car for very cheap. The entrance fee is only about $18 per adult, and you are almost guaranteed to see lots of elephants.
Safari Info for Kruger National Park
There is also a self-drive option at Kruger National Park. This is the biggest game reserve in South Africa and one of the biggest on the whole African continent.
All you have to do is pay the $25 entrance fee, and you are free to roam around.
The park is so big that you may want more than one day to see it all. You can camp if you’re brave enough, or there are tons of accommodation options in the park.
There is a great hostel on the southern border of the park where you can rent a dorm bed for $11 per night at Kruger Inn Backpackers.
Located in the northeast corner of the country, Kruger National Park is over 7,000 square miles (roughly the same size as Wales) and stretches into Mozambique.
Because of its size, this is the closest you can get to the actual wilderness in South Africa.
Does real wilderness still exist in South Africa?
I learned that it’s extremely rare, even impossible to see wild animals just roaming around in South Africa.
The country is so developed that most of the land is owned by someone, therefore most wild animals are kept in private game reserves.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it means that someone is looking after the animals and protecting them from poachers.
Most game reserves are spacious and full of greenery, and none of the animals are held in captivity.
Sometimes lions are kept in a separate, fenced-off area to prevent them from eating everything else in the park. Old and sickly or injured animals are let into the lions’ domain to keep the circle of life going.
(If you thought I could write this article without a Lion King reference, think again.)
The Best Tour Companies For Doing An African Safari On A Budget
Sometimes even budget travelers like to have someone else organize tours for them.
I’ll recommend a couple of tour companies that help travelers organize safaris, for those who want extra assistance.
Lots of travelers start their trip in Cape Town so hopefully, these tour companies can help you guys out.
Are budget safaris worth it?
Budget safaris are 100% worth it if you choose a tour that has great reviews. I booked two budget safaris in South Africa and absolutely loved each one.
Sure, a day or half-day game drive isn’t as immersive as a multi-day wilderness experience. But even just a few hours in the proximity of Africa’s incredible creatures is truly magical.
Any traveler visiting Africa shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to see the unique wildlife. Yes, even all you frugal budget travelers out there.
Some things are worth spending a little money on, and a safari is one of them. Luckily, a safari can be done on a budget, and I hope this article was helpful.
Best Travel Insurance for South Africa
Before traveling to Africa or doing a safari, make sure you have good travel insurance.
Coming in close contact with wild animals can be risky, and at least having emergency medical coverage in Africa is wise.
I used Squaremouth Insurance for my trip to South Africa and I highly recommend them. They have a helpful live chat to answer any questions, and they have lots of different plans at affordable costs.
Do you need a visa for South Africa?
You often don’t need a visa for a visit less than 90 days. But it does depend on your nationality and your reason for visiting. I like to use iVisa.com to check visa requirements.
To read about my other South African adventures, check out:
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