Taking an African wildlife safari is an adventure that will keep you fascinated and at the edge of your seat.
It is an amazing experience to take luxury safari holidays, but they mainly cater to tourists who have a quick vacation for a week and then return to their high paying office jobs.
That being said, there are some ways to save money on an African safari and less expensive ways to still see wildlife in their natural habitat while in East Africa.
Note: If you have your own car, or a friend that is willing to drive, expenses will immediately be greatly reduced. This might be difficult, so I’ve focused on tips to save you money if you don’t have your own vehicle.
Here are some tips on how to save money on an African Safari!
1. Find a Group
You will usually pay for the entire vehicle (usually a van or land cruiser, 5- 8 people) if you arrange a safari, so coordinating a group is vital for saving money on transportation costs. Search around and look for other travelers in your similar situation.
2. Flexibility – Don’t Book in Advance
Booking a safari outside of the country from an internet travel agent is the most expensive way to take a safari. Having time and flexibility to work things out without booking in advance is the first and foremost way to save money on an African safari!
3. High Season / Low Season
There is quite a significant difference in price on safaris in Kenya from high to low season. Even though low season sounds good, be careful, because your chances of seeing African wildlife might decline. Possibly look at taking a safari on the edge of low season, just before high season begins.
For more information on high or low season take a look at the Kenyan Advisor.
4. Go to National Parks that are Close
If you are in Nairobi, think about going to Nairobi National Park, located right on the outskirts of town. It’s a good place to see wildlife and you won’t have to drive far or spend the night there.
5. Park Entrance Fees are Paid Per Day
Since you pay per day, try to make the most of a single day. Drive around for as long as possible, especially at the peak times of seeing wildlife (early morning, late afternoon).
To see the latest entry prices for National Parks have a look at these websites:
6. Stay Outside of the Park
Search for accommodation outside of the national park. Usually prices for hotels or camps inside the park are quite pricey. On top of that, you will right off the bat need to pay at least 2 days of park entrance fees. There are often cheaper accommodation options right outside the gates of the park.
7. Go Camping
Some national parks will offer options to stay at tented camps or even pitch your own tent. This can save quite a bit of money as many of the hotels are very costly. Camping in Africa is quite an adventure too!
East Africa Flava offers a number of camping options, but there are also opportunities to do things yourself! Hells Gate National Park in Kenya is one of my favorite places to go self-service camping!
8. Eat At the Driver’s Canteen
Safari driver’s and hotel workers need to eat too, and they aren’t dining on the expensive menu of Western food and snacks at the hotels. Poke around the hotel grounds and you will surely find some great local food at local prices (usually in the back, workers quarters)!
9. Bring Your Own Food / Drinks
Food and drinks are amenities that can be quite overpriced as they are necessities and there’s not too many options while in a National Park. Some safari packages will include food, but if not, a great way to save some cash is by bringing your own.
10. Hire a Matatu (Kenya) / Dalla Dalla (Tanzania)
Yes, those rowdy public bus vans that cruise through the streets of East Africa bumping obnoxious tunes might be willing to take you on a safari! Know how much it would cost at a tour company, have a rate in mind, and have a friendly talk with a driver!
Note: Works better for close national parks. Ex: If you are in Nairobi, going to Nairobi National Park.
11. Less Famous National Park = Less Price
Everyone wants to go to the famous Maasai Mara, Serengeti, or Ngorongoro Crater. What a coincidence that these parks charge some of the steepest prices. Though they are famous for correct reasons (high concentration of wildlife, wildebeast migration), there are other parks that offer parallel wildlife spotting. Consider Tsavo West, Samburu, Meru National Park, Amboseli, or Nairobi National Park in Kenya and Mikumui, Selous, Ruaha or Tarangire in Tanzania. Do your research!
Here’s a pretty good list of National Parks and Reserves:
If all else fails…
Become a Resident or Citizen
Not too easy, but resident and citizen prices are usually a fraction of tourist prices. If you have a job in East Africa, you might be a resident!
African Animals are not restricted to designated national parks. Animals can be seen all over the countryside and just driving outside of the cities, you have a pretty high chance to see some wildlife. Don’t expect too many cats, but elephants, giraffes, and gazelles are common!
I wish you the best of luck on your African Safari and hope you can save some money!
If you go to Kenya be sure to look at these 101 Things to do in Nairobi!