We’ve all seen the pictures, beautiful people gazing wistfully out over the open savanna teeming with wildlife, a luxurious tented camp in the background, everyone holding a glass of champagne and nothing but smiling, content and happy visitors (and staff) everywhere.

These pictures do represent real life and there are definitely camps dotted about where luxury and champagne are the order of the day, along with eye-watering price tags. If you are one of the lucky few who can enjoy this type of holiday, then all power to you, for the rest of us though, well let’s just say we have champagne tastes but a beer budget!

The question is then, can you enjoy a wildlife safari tour on a budget?

The answer to this age-old question is…hell yes!

Our tips to enjoying a wildlife safari on a budget trip

Tip #1 – Accommodation

South Africa has a huge number of wildlife parks and usually they all offer a range of accommodation types to suit various budgets. So when you starting to plan your trip, ask about the different accommodation options that are available.

Ithala Ntshondwe Camp

Ithala Ntshondwe Camp

We usually book our guests into Hilltop Camp at the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve. There is a budget option available, and the only real difference is that instead of having a TV in your room, you’ll have to go without on the budget package (is that really a hardship?).

We also offer a great deal if guests are happy to rough it for a night or two, so instead of sleeping in chalets, you’ll sleep in a tent (not the camping type tent, these are far more luxurious) and instead of eating at the local restaurant, you’ll have to make do with a braai (it’s South Africa’s favorite past time anyway!).

You can usually save even more by staying outside the parks. From bed and breakfasts to upmarket backpackers, there’s usually cheaper options than staying in the park itself.

Although we don’t feature them on our website, we at Country and Coastal Touring do offer alternate budget tours, just use our contact form to find out more.

Tip #2 – High or Low Season Options

Here in South Africa resorts typically change their pricing structure according to the time of year. There is a “low season” and a “high season”. Usually low season means you’ll get a better rate than at high season.

Views in Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve

Views in Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve

In South Africa your seasons are…

  • low season – beginning of May through to end of September
  • high season – October through to end April

Not all resorts, lodges or hotels stick to the exact same schedule, and these some may not even offer seasonal rates, but it is worth asking when doing your research if there is a high/low season rate you should be aware of.

Tip #3 – Travel with a Group

One way to definitely cut costs is to travel with a group. We’ll often recommend to our potential clients that they reach out to family and friends and see if there are any others that would want to join. Sharing travel costs definitely makes things cheaper.

Ohlanga School where Nelson Mandela cast the first free and fair election vote

Ohlanga School where Nelson Mandela cast the first free and fair election vote

Many young people on finishing high school or university look to enjoy a gap year – spread the word to your mates, paste a note on the local notice board or even start a Facebook group; let people know your plans and you’ll be amazed how many will want to join.

This is especially true if you’re a solo traveler since nearly every where you go you’ll be charged a “single supplement”. It’s also a great way to meet new friends and enjoy experiences with others.

Lastly, most tour operators will offer a discount of sorts for larger groups.

We have a number of lodges on our books that are designed for larger groups in mind, and they are always cheaper per person than what a couple or a small family would pay.

Tip #4 – Eating Out Costs

Some national parks like the Kruger National Park and the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve will have eateries inside the park. It makes life a lot more convenient for visitors, no having to bring in everything that you want to eat. On the flip side of the coin, these restaurants tend not to be cheap.

Enjoying a Traditional South African Braai

Enjoying a Traditional South African Braai

One way to save money is to not eat at the restaurants. Most of the parks are surrounded by towns from you can buy all the fresh ingredients you want. Almost all accommodation options have an outdoor braai (barbecue) and some offer self-catering with pots and pans etc. With a little planning you can definitely save a lot of money by simply cooking simple meals for you and your family.

And while we’re on the subject of eating, most accommodation sites offer breakfast, so instead of spending money on lunch, our advice is to fill up at lunch and then just have dinner (not strictly speaking the healthiest option though).

Tip #5 – Book Your Safari With A Driver and Guide Tour Company

This is a tip which may not at first seem like a budget beating tip – book you next safari with a tour company that will supply a tour guide who will act as a driver as well.

Enjoy an open vehicle game drive in the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve

Enjoy an open vehicle game drive in the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve

So where is the saving with this option? Well first off the vehicle. Flying into game reserves is an expensive option, it’s far cheaper to drive one of the international airports (King Shaka for example). But then of course the hire car isn’t going to be cheap. But, a driver/guide from a tour company will be – sometimes a great deal cheaper!

As an added bonus the guide will help throughout your trip, possibly even do the cooking, point out animals, arrange accommodation, the whole nine yards!

In fact, we’ve worked it out that the costs associated with the guide (the days pay as well as accommodation) still works out cheaper than a self-drive, and if you factor all that we’ve mentioned above, the savings would be significant!

That’s all folks

That’s our 5 tips to enjoy a wildlife safari in South Africa on a budget, but it’s certainly not the only way to save money. There are some great travel blogs out there that offer great advice on how to save money on safari tours, it’s definitely worth taking a bit of time to read up.

If you wanting to receive more information about any of the wildlife tours we offer as well as their budget friendly options, simply get in touch using our convenient contact form and we’ll be happy to help.

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Categories: Safari