Is it possible to do a safari on a budget? I used to think exploring South Africa and traipsing around in a Land Rover to find lions, zebras, and giraffes was a trip-of-a-lifetime that would cost $10,000+. Turns out, one can go on safari for as little as $128 a day, including safari, lodging, and meals!
Now, I must confess, my recent trip to South Africa was sponsored. However, while I was there I did some research to find out what affordable options might be available (so I could come back to visit and take my friends!). What I discovered is that South Africa actually does live up to its tourism board’s headline … “It’s Possible!”
While there are plenty of options for luxury safaris, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to realize this dream. Check out my travel tips for a budget-friendly safari below.
GETTING TO SOUTH AFRICA
Flights will probably be your biggest budget expense, but with some advance research and planning you can discover some cost savings. Typically, round trip airfare to South Africa runs between $1100 and $1400 per person, but I have found them as low as $735 per person.
Here are some helpful tips for flights:
— TRAVEL DURING THE OFF SEASON: Summertime in South Africa is considered the off-season and since it’s winter in the US, who wouldn’t want to escape the cold to visit an exotic destination?
— WATCH FOR DEALS ON AIRFARE: Sign up for email price change alerts on FareCompare.com and check TripAdvisor.com. Also, follow South African Airways on Twitter and Facebook for regular updates.
— USE SKYMILES: South African Airways is a Star Alliance Member, so you may use sky miles earned on participating US carriers.
While in South Africa, I stayed in the quaint little town of St. Lucia located on the edge of iSimangaliso Wetlands Park. Located near the coast, wetlands, and several game reserves, a town like St. Lucia is ideally situated to experience every type of animal safari activity imaginable including half-day and full-day guided all-terrain vehicle tours as well as kayaking, snorkeling, boating, night safaris, and turtle watches.
For an example of safari pricing, Heritage Tours has single day safari excursions ranging from R310 to R785, roughly the equivalent of $40 to $105 US dollars. They also have a pretty affordable multi-day package with their Hluhluwe 3 Day Big 5 Safari which includes 2 nights lodging, meals, and three full days of animal viewing safari excursions such as a sunset boat cruise in St. Lucia estuary, night safari drive, game drive through Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve, visit to Cape Vidal, and snorkeling all for R2990 which is equivalent to about $389 US dollars.
FOOD & LODGING
There are plenty of affordable options available for accommodations. When you have your destination picked, search for local B&B’s and lodges as the prices tend to be reasonable, breakfast is usually included, and the innkeeper will be able to provide you with advice on the local area. While in St. Lucia, we stayed at the Umlilo Lodge which averages $72 a night per person. There are also camping options available at the wetlands park.
When it comes to food, you definitely won’t go hungry in South Africa. From baking bread over an open fire and enjoying a ‘braai’ or barbeque with the locals, to dining out at some of South Africa’s popular eateries such as Braza or Moyo, you’ll find delicious local fare at reasonable prices.
SAMPLE ITINERARY AND COST PER PERSON
Disclosure: This is for information purposes only. Costs may vary due to exchange rates and prices below do not include taxes and service fees.
$ 1000.00 – Round-Trip Flight from Washington (Dulles) to Johannesburg (JNB) with connection to Durban (DUR)
$ 140.00 – Airport transfer to St. Lucia
$ 1020.00 – 5 Day/4 Night Exploration Safari Package
Highlights: 4 nights in 4 star lodging. Most meals including breakfast and dinner at the lodge with a traditional South African barbeque lunch in the bush. Big 5 Safari in Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve. Safari drive in Isimangaliso Wetlands. St. Lucia Estuary Boat Tour to see hippos. Night Game Drive, Visit to Cape Vidal with optional snorkeling.
$ 144.00 – Two additional nights stay at Umlilo Lodge for first and last day of trip to rest after flight,
visiting town of St. Lucia at leisure, etc. Breakfast included.
$ 75.00 – Additional meals on your own outside of 5 Day Package
$2379.00 – TOTAL ESTIMATED COST PER PERSON
See! It’s nowhere near $10,000+ to experience an authentic South African safari. With all of those savings, consider adding an extra week to your trip and visiting Cape Town and the winelands! The examples listed above are based on actual tours and lodging I experienced while in South Africa. Looking for something different? Take a peak at South African Tourism’s list of packages and deals as well.
Interested in going? Here’s some links to flights, tours, and lodging to get you started.
South African Airways: www.flysaa.com
Heritage Tours And Safaris: www.heritagetoursandsafaris.com
iSimangaliso Wetland Park: www.isimangaliso.com
Umlilo Lodge: www.umlilolodge.co.za
St. Lucia Tours: www.stlucia.co.za
EuroZulu Tours www.eurozulu.com
South African Tourism: www.southafrica.net
Moyo African Restaurant: www.moyo.co.za
Adventure Travel Mentor says
This is great information, and I love the photos.
Andi of My Beautiful Adventures says
These are such awesome tips! I hope everyone puts this on their Bucket List!!!
Its awesome to see the pictures that you captured while out on Safari with us. Kind regards
Awesome info and great pictures! It’s always been a dream to do an African safari, but dreams can often be expensive. Have you done safaris anywhere else besides South Africa? My best friend is from Uganda and we want to travel there after we graduate college.
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Love this write up–I dream to go to South Africa and do the safari’s… so I’m glad to see that it doesn’t have to be a 10k+ visit which is what I always thought it would be!
joie t. says
What an informative post! Never even thought a trip to S. Africa COULD be 10K+! But great to know how I can dwindle the cost down! Found this so useful I’ve bookmarked it and emailed it for future reference! Looking forward to more travel tips and stories! THX!
Stay in the national parks and drive and hike yourself. 28 days, 8 of these in Capetown, through Garden Route, Natal, Drakensburg, the Karoo, staying at parks, B&Bs and midpriced hotels, including meals, rental car, flight from western US, the total was about $6,000.00 per person.
Wow! So you stayed for almost a whole month for around $6,000? That’s not bad! I loved the Garden Route, it’s so beautiful. Next time, I definitely want to spend more time there.
Anna | The Blonde Banana says
Wow, thanks for all the affordable tips! Now time to start planning my trip…
No problem! Feel free to ask if you have any questions while you’re planning. I’d be happy to point you in the right direction.
Hello Rachelle Lucas, i like your good post. The information is good. African safari on a low budget will be beneficial for the people who wants to take a tour to travel. Thank you.
Safari with Family says
Always appreciate people who debunk the idea that you have to be uber-rich or save your entire lifetime to go on safari. A few years later and it still seems to be true about South Africa and budget-minded safaris. I’m also planning a safari for my young family. Our children are 9 and 7. I’ve heard that South Africa is also a great choice for family-friendly safaris. Can anybody out there confirm that? Any advice would be appreciated.