THE COST FACTORS IN CHOOSING A SAFARI

 

In almost all itineraries, safari is the most expensive component of a trip to southern Africa. Various factors play a role in one's choice of safari destination and, for most people, cost is one of the many criteria that influence this important decision.

Below is a comparison chart of rough costs for safari in southern Africa's four major 'big game' safari countries - South Africa (Kruger Park), Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

These are not exact quotes, they are rough guidelines for comparative purposes.

Within Botswana and South Africa camps/lodges exhibit a fairly wide price range, which is indicated by the quotes for mid-range and 'top of the line' properties.

Camps in Zambia and Zimbabwe are more clustered around an average rate.

The costs quoted are per person sharing (single travelers almost always pay a single supplement of between 30-50%) and are fully inclusive, starting and ending at the airports listed.

Rates include charter flights, accommodation, meals, activities, laundry, park fees, services of a professional guide, and (in most cases) drinks. Scheduled flights to and from the starting and ending points are not included.

The costings are based on travel in peak season. Where applicable we also list off-peak periods and approximate cost savings during these time frames.  

Cost Comparison Chart - Based on current rates for 3 - 4 star accommodations.  For five star safaris and hotels ask for a quote.

 

South Africa (Kruger)
Starting and ending: Kruger Airport

Botswana
Starting and ending: Maun Airport

Zambia
Starting and ending: Lusaka Airport

Zimbabwe
Starting and ending: Victoria Falls or Harare Airports

3 Night Safari

US$2,320 to US$3,855

US$3,430 to US$4,696

US$2,770

US$1,950

5 Night Safari

US$3,895 to US$7,355

US$4,925 to US$7,132

US$3,860

US$3,220

7 Night Safari

US$4,860 to US$9,535

US$6,136 to US$9,950

US$5,015

US$3,650

9 Night Safari

US$5,730 to US$11,965

US$7,390 to US$10,920

US$5,990

US$4,180

Off Peak Periods

N/A

Jan-Mar (cost saving of roughly 30%)
Apr-Jun, and Nov (cost saving of roughly 20%)

Nov-Mar (cost saving of roughly 20%)

Jan-Mar (cost saving of roughly 20%)
Apr-Jun, and Nov (cost saving of roughly 7%)

 ANALYSIS

The explanation for cost differences between safari destinations, and between camps/lodges within the same areas, is multi-faceted and complicated. The safari market in southern Africa is highly competitive and driven by supply and demand, there are very few pricing anomalies.

Below we list some of the factors that are behind the cost differences between destinations as well as individual camps/lodges. By their nature, these generalized explanations are fairly crude and we would be happy to elaborate in more detail regarding specific cost differences between individual camps/lodges.

* Concentrations of high profile game (especially predators and/or the 'Big Five'). This is a sine qua non for any safari destination, and the most consistent factor influencing pricing.

* Camp/lodge experience. The level of style and luxury in accommodation, the quality of food and service, facilities and amenities, ambience, and attention to detail. The more expensive properties invariably excel in these elements of the overall experience.

* Wilderness and exclusivity. As a rule, the larger and more private the concession/reserve, the higher the premium. Botswana (where private concessions are typically 100,000 acres or larger) is the most prominent example of this model of 'low volume / high value' eco-tourism. The lower rates in Zambia are, in large part, a reflection of the absence of private concessions.

* Guides. Many factors influence where guides want to work, but two of the most important are concentrations of game and remuneration. Inevitably, the best guides want to work at the more high end lodges/camps.

* Remoteness. The further from civilization a camp/lodge, the more expensive it is to supply and operate, and the higher the access costs for guests. This is most evident in Namibia, home to some of southern Africa's most remote camps.

* Convenience. Camps/lodges with private airstrips that are close to camp offer increased convenience due to shorter transfer times between the airstrip and camp. This means less time in transit and more time on safari or relaxing. Such airstrips, in addition to being expensive to build and maintain, are desirable to guests and attract a premium.

* Political perceptions. The biggest factor influencing the discounted rates in Zimbabwe is the negative perception surrounding the government of Robert Mugabe. Without doubt this regime has had a very negative impact on the lives of local Zimbabweans but, as a safari destination for foreign visitors, the effect has been almost imperceptible.

Read more about choices of travel and safaris   >>

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