How much does an African safari cost?

An acacia tree in silhouette in front of an African sunset

When planning a safari, one of the most common questions is “How much does a safari cost?” I also regularly hear “Is it possible to go on an African safari on a small budget?” Well, never fear. We’ve got all the information you need to plan your safari right here! 

This post splits out a typical safari budget for the most common wildlife destinations in Africa, as well as across the world. We also describe the factors and considerations that impact the price you can expect to pay, as well as those all-important hidden costs you might not have thought to save for. 

Typical Safari Costs by Destination 

The tables below show what a guest might expect to pay per person per night, depending on the service level you choose in each country. You can see a full explanation of my service level grades further down the post, here

Botswana

A Botswana safari may be considered one of the most expensive safaris in the world, but it’s also one of the best. 

Home to incredible safari destinations such as the Okavango Delta and Chobe River, the wildlife sightings are second to none, but it’s the Botswana hospitality that makes it really special.

Average cost per person per nightMinimum cost per person per nightMaximum cost per person per night 
Budget277 USD266 USD300 USD
Mid Range573 USD510 USD616 USD
Luxury1240 USD920 USD1440 USD
Super Luxury2548 USD2134 USD3133 USD

Prices are based on the ‘from’ prices for a low-season stay, when booked with Go2Africa

Kenya

One of the most traditional safari destinations in this list, Kenya is on the bucket lists of many travellers. The country’s Masai Mara national park is one of the best places in the world to see big cats, while Amboseli is home to the largest population of African elephants too.

As wildlife tourism is one of the most important revenue streams to the country, lodges here can afford to charge their worth. Make sure you know how much to budget per night using the table below. 

Average cost per person per nightMinimum cost per person per nightMaximum cost per person per night 
Budget129 USD84 USD213 USD
Mid Range393 USD332 USD435 USD
Luxury747 USD475 USD935 USD
Super Luxury995 USD953 USD1076 USD

Namibia

You’ll have plenty of opportunities to see the Big 5 in Namibia’s famous game park at Etosha, but what makes this country really special is the unspoilt and sandy landscapes of the Namib desert and Skeleton Coast.

Like its southern African cousin, South Africa, Namibia is a more budget-friendly option if you’re looking to try a safari for the first time or are simply trying to save those pennies. Of course, high-end lodges are still available if you want something a little more luxurious. Find out more about what to budget below.

Average cost per person per nightMinimum cost per person per nightMaximum cost per person per night 
Budget106 USD79 USD125 USD
Mid Range241 USD171 USD299 USD
Luxury409 USD397 USD433 USD
Super Luxury684 USD535 USD951 USD

Rwanda

A country famous for its opportunities to see gorillas in the wild, Rwanda may not be the most traditional safari destination, but it is one of the most biodiverse. Volcanoes National Park is home to over 600 gorillas as well as plenty of other rainforest species you won’t find in other countries.

Rwanda has a smaller range of safari lodges available in a more concentrated space. As a result, prices may be a little higher than in other areas of the African continent. Work out your ideal budget in the table below.

Average cost per person per nightMinimum cost per person per nightMaximum cost per person per night 
BudgetTBCTBCTBC
Mid Range435 USD125 USD1,070 USD
Luxury588 USD378 USD740 USD
Super Luxury1,822 USD1,039 USD2,150 USD

South Africa

With tourism contributing a huge amount to South Africa’s income, there’s plenty for visitors to do here. From adrenaline activities on the southern coast and wine tours in the valleys, to incredible wildlife sightings in the east and north, South Africa is a dream destination for many.

It’s also a budget-friendly holiday for first-time safari goers, families and those after a bargain. Though luxury experiences are available (and incredible with it!), there is also a good variety of cheaper lodges to choose from here. See below for more budget information.

Average cost per person per nightMinimum cost per person per nightMaximum cost per person per night 
BudgetTBCTBCTBC
Mid Range232 USD77 USD334 USD
Luxury454 USD211 USD792 USD
Super Luxury1575 USD874 USD3380 USD

Tanzania

Home to the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania is an extremely popular location for an African safari. Lucky guests have the opportunity to spot all of the Big 5, with viewings of the big cats being especially plentiful.

Despite the high demand, Tanzania is still a reasonably expensive destination, also thanks to the high number of luxury lodges on offer. Work out what to budget using the table below.

Average cost per person per nightMinimum cost per person per nightMaximum cost per person per night 
BudgetTBCTBCTBC
Mid Range403 USD124 USD845 USD
Luxury849 USD265 USD1800 USD
Super Luxury1671 USD1080 USD2501 USD

Uganda

Primates fans are in for a treat in Uganda. Like Rwanda, Uganda safaris are focused on the country’s population of gorillas living in the Impenetrable Forest of Bwindi. Chimpanzees, vervet monkeys, colobus monkeys and many other species are just as exciting to see. 

For those wanting to see the Big 5, sightings in Uganda aren’t quite as plentiful as in other countries, but this makes them even more exclusive. Find out more below.

Average cost per person per nightMinimum cost per person per nightMaximum cost per person per night 
Budget35 USD23 USD45 USD
Mid Range167 USD65 USD291 USD
Luxury365 USD114 USD640 USD
Super LuxuryTBCTBCTBC

Zambia

Aside from the incredible opportunities to spot wildlife in Zambia, there is a lot to keep visitors entertained. Though a landlocked country, two of Zambia’s most famous attractions are water-based – the spectacular Victoria Falls and the Zambezi. Make sure you visit both while you’re in the area!

Like most other African destinations, Zambia can be a relatively expensive place to go on safari, but there are still bargains to be found. Discover what you can expect to spend in the table below.

Average cost per person per nightMinimum cost per person per nightMaximum cost per person per night 
BudgetTBCTBCTBC
Mid Range545 USD337 USD790 USD
Luxury755 USD445 USD1090 USD
Super Luxury977 USD595 USD1400 USD

Zimbabwe

Like its northerly neighbour, Zambia, Zimbabwe offers a range of natural wonders to see alongside its wildlife. Head to the border to view the thundering Victoria Falls, or Mana Pools and Hwange National Parks for game-rich safari sightings. 

There are many tour companies that operate in Zimbabwe for the budget conscious, as well as lots of higher-end options for those with more to spend. Have a look at the table below for a guide.

Average cost per person per nightMinimum cost per person per nightMaximum cost per person per night 
BudgetTBCTBCTBC
Mid Range425 USD188 USD700 USD
Luxury499 USD235 USD790 USD
Super Luxury989 USD405 USD2065 USD

What Impacts the Cost of a Safari?

If you are considering a safari, but want to know how to keep costs down, it’s helpful to understand the aspects that contribute to the overall cost. 

Where you go 

As you’ll have seen in the tables above, the price per night can vary greatly between destinations. This can be due to demand, the availability of lodges or simply, like any other type of travel, some countries are cheaper than others. 

That said, even within countries the price of destinations can vary between game parks and private reserves. So even if you find one park in Kenya too expensive, try another, lesser known park, and you might be surprised at the value. 

When you go 

Again, rather expectedly, prices vary with the seasons. In peak season when demand is high and the wildlife viewings are plentiful, prices are high to reflect this. 

The budget-conscious should consider visiting an area in the low season to enjoy cheaper prices. However, they should also be aware that some lodges and national parks close in the rainy season to allow the environment to regenerate without human intervention. 

Most destinations also have what is known as a ‘shoulder’ season, to reflect the period of time between the peak and off-peak seasons. This is where an excellent balance of value and exceptional wildlife viewing can be found, and is often our preferred time of year to visit Africa. 

Quality of service

You’ll notice I’ve included four different service levels in my safari budgets. Because, believe it or not, you get what you pay for! An explanation of the different service levels is given below:

  • Budget – On a budget safari, you’ll probably be sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag, and have to use the forest as your toilet. Some tours may call this ‘overground safari’ as you’ll likely be transferred between various national parks and campsites on a coach or bus, which then doubles as your safari vehicle. 
  • Mid-range – Mid-range safaris are likely to offer a slightly more comfortable tented option, with furniture, flush toilets and warm water provided by the lodge staff whenever you need it. 
  • Luxury – Luxury lodges offer rooms more like city-based hotels than other options. Guests may still be in canvas tents, but they’re likely to be in permanent camps with fully functional bathrooms, housekeeping and communal areas offering restaurant-quality food and service. 
  • Super Luxury – With a super luxury option, you can expect ridiculous levels of luxury. Think: personal butlers at your beck and call every hour of the day, champagne included with every meal, helicopter transfers… the works. 

How long you go for

The longer you go for, the more you’ll pay. However, you may find your per-night price gets cheaper when you stay for longer. This is because the lodge has longer to prepare for another guest to arrive in your place. So it may seem counterintuitive, but it’s always worth staying in one place for longer rather than switching between lots of lodges in quick succession to find a good deal. 

Other Costs You’ll Need to Consider When Booking a Safari 

It goes without saying that your per night price isn’t the only money you’ll need to consider when planning a safari. Transport, visas and sustenance also need to be budgeted for. 

Thankfully, we’ve given a guide for each of these additional costs below. 

International Flights

Unless you are lucky enough to live in a safari destination, you’ll need to pay for international flights to reach it. 

Prices for these vary greatly, owing to the distance you’re travelling, whether or not the flight is direct, the date you’re travelling, the taxes owed in your place of origin and the service level you choose for your flight. 

Keep costs down by choosing an economy flight, redeeming any air miles you may have collected, opting to fly mid-week and being flexible with routes. 

Sky scanner is a great place to start when planning any flight. 

Internal/Domestic Flights 

Of course, once you reach the international airport, you might still be far from your final destination. 

Most safari destinations have dedicated airlines with fleets of small planes that are able to take off and land on runways in the middle of game parks, such as Safarilink in Kenya and Mack Air in Botswana. 

Other destinations like South Africa have more established airports close to game parks, meaning the choice of airlines is higher. You may be able to find a good deal as a result. 

Visas 

Depending on the agreement between your country of origin and your destination, you may need to arrange visas in order to legally enter. 

Take a look at the foreign office in your country for more details. The British Foreign Office (FCDO) website can be found here.

Transfers

If you don’t need to fly to reach your final destination, you may still need to stump up for road transfers. 

In South Africa, Ashtons is a great choice to move between Johannesburg and Hoedspruit (the gateway town to Kruger). This minibus is relatively cheap but it does take a while to reach your final destination. 

Look out for other minibus or transfer companies in the destination you’re staying in, and you may find a good deal! 

Food & Drink on Certain Board Basis 

Depending on the board basis of the lodge or accommodation you’re staying in, you may need to budget extra for food and drink. 

Most safari lodges include food and house drinks in your nightly rate, but imported drinks like champagne, cocktails or other premium spirits may require an additional charge upon checkout. 

Again, this cost completely depends on where you are staying, so make sure you fully understand what the additional cost for this may be before booking.

Tips

One of the largest expenses that many safari goers forget is the tips. Tips are an entirely personal choice, but customary in most safari lodges. The amount can vary depending on the service received, who you are tipping and where you are, but as a guide to tipping on safari:

  • Guide – 5-10 USD per person per day. 
  • Tracker – 5-10 USD per person per day.  
  • Butler – 5-10 USD per person per day.
  • Lodge staff – Each guest may give up to 10 USD per day to the lodge staff as a whole. 
  • Transfer drivers – up to 5 USD, depending on the journey length.
  • Restaurants – 10-20% of the total bill.

Accommodation Before/After 

After arriving in a foreign country, the internal flights to reach your final destination don’t always work out time-wise. For this reason, you may also need to budget for hotel accommodation either before or after your safari. 

For example, when we first arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, we opted to spend our first night in Eka Hotel before our early morning flight to Amboseli National Park the following day. Equally, on the way back home, we opted to stay at Nairobi Tented Camp ahead of our flight back to London. 

In Johannesburg, we have stayed in both Safari Club and City Lodge at O.R. Tambo Airport ahead of international or regional flights. 

For the best deals with free cancellation, visit Booking.com.

Safari Gear

Though you will be able to wear most of your own gear when heading on safari, there may be a few items from the ultimate packing list you are missing. 

For example, if you don’t already own a beanie or a sun hat, you might regret it when you head out on safari. Equally, if you’re prone to insect bites, you might want to buy some Craghoppers Nosilife clothing ahead of your trip. 

Check out my dedicated guide on what to wear on safari for more information.

Gifts & Souvenirs 

Many safari lodges have little souvenir shops from which you can buy trinkets to remind you of your trip. You’ll often find clothes, accessories, home decorations and more in these shops. 

Owing to the monopoly these lodge gift shops have in the wilderness, souvenirs can be expensive. You may be able to find similar products for cheaper in airport shops, but if you spot something you really want, I recommend buying it right away.

Extra Special Activities

Though game drives and nature walks are often included in the cost of your safari, you may be tempted to upgrade your experience. Of course, this totally depends on what is available at your safari lodge, so it pays to do your research. 

Consider saving up for a spectacular hot air balloon trip over the plains in Kenya, or a scenic helicopter flight over the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Bush breakfasts, al fresco lunches and candlelit dinners may be available in your destination and may incur an extra cost. Boat trips or private game drives can also require additional cost, so make sure you budget for these extra special activities if you’re desperate to try any.

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So there you have it – the very complicated world of budgeting for a safari! We hope this post has proven that you’ll be able to find a safari destination and lodge no matter what your budget, even if you have to save a little to get there. Just be warned: once you go on one safari, you’ll want to go back!

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