An African Safari Experience that Won’t Break the Bank

I’ve always wanted to go on an African Safari. For a long while, I’ve dreamt of riding in a big Land Cruiser with a brown safari hat on, camera in hand, on the lookout for wild animals. I’ve dreamt of being stopped in the road by a massive African elephant, and of watching lions nap together under a tree. Unfortunately cost played a major factor in turning these dreams into reality.

Affordable isn’t usually the first word that comes to mind when people think of safaris. According to Travel and Leisure, the average safari is $800 – $1,000 per person per night! Unfortunately, because safaris have gotten such an expensive rap, people are hesitant to plan one. It was certainly a deterrent for me even though a safari was at the top of my travel bucket list. How in the world could I afford that?! Or even stomach spending so much money?! Determined to find a more affordable option, I decided to conduct further research and price out some options. End result: I found an affordable option within budget at the Greater Kruger National Park Area in South Africa!

And just last December, I’m happy to report that my family and I were able to experience an incredible  South African Safari without draining our bank account!

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For more information about my research, the safari package, and pricing, please see the information I have compiled below:

How did I begin my research?

First I searched on Kruger National Park and the variety of safari experience options available. The big question typically ends up being whether to stay inside Kruger National Park or in a Private Reserve in the Greater Kruger Area. Both have their benefits. Let me outline them here:

(*Note: There are no fences between the Greater Kruger Area and Kruger National Park, therefore the animals roam freely between the two)

 Kruger ParkPrivate Game Reserve (Greater Kruger Park Area)
Lodging Simple and affordable. Small range of options. Wide range of options from tents to luxurious rooms.
MealsSelf cater or eat at camp restaurants.Meals are catered and included in pricing.
RoadsPaved Roads. Vehicles must remain on paved roads. Mostly dirt roads. Off-roading allowed.
DrivingSelf Drive; Guides can also be hired. Guides radio with each other and provide a higher likelihood of seeing animals. Guided Drives. Included in pricing. Guides radio with each other providing a higher likelihood of seeing animals.
SizeMassive area to exploreLimited area to explore
Flexibility Can self drive park from sunrise to sunsetGuided drives are at designated times of the day (usually early morning and afternoon/night drive)
CostTypically less expensiveCan be more expensive with guides, meals, and options for luxurious accommodation.

After weighing the pros and cons of both, it was decided that staying in a private lodge would provide more bang for the buck. I liked the idea of having a guide, the ability to go off-road, and catered meals. I know what you are thinking right now…. but didn’t she say affordable?! Yes! I was able to find a reasonably priced package at a private lodge. Keep reading….

On the Safari Bookings website, I submitted an inquiry about a South African Safari package. A lady from Kruger Park Tours responded quickly and provided some available options based on my requests and dates. One of the available options, a 4 day / 3 night safari package at the Tremisana Lodge in the Balule Game Reserve, was a great fit (ill go into details about the package below). Best part about this package: It included guided safari drives around Greater Kruger AND a day drive in Kruger National Park. Best of both worlds.

This guy snuck into the lodge for a drink of water!

What was the itinerary?

The package began with Viva Safaris picking you up from your hotel (needs to be in Gauteng) or from the Johannesburg Airport to take you to Tremisana Lodge, located in the Balule section of Kruger Park. In our case, we did not utilize this service. We rented a car and drove to the lodge ourselves so that we could spend a night at Blyde River Canyon, very close to Kruger, after the safari.

The Tremisana Lodge included fifteen chalets, each with air conditioning, hot water, and working toilets. There was a swimming pool in the center, a bar area with wifi, and a game viewing area (where breakfast was served) overlooking the Dam. After getting settled in at the lodge, the first activity was a 3hr sunset drive. Once the sun set, the guide used spotlights to search for nocturnal animals. The package also included  a Bush Braai (braai = barbecue) dinner on the first night at the Marula Tree Boma.

The second day started bright and early with a bush walk led by an armed guide. Thats right, on foot in the African bush. The walk lasted a few hours and then it was time for brunch back at the lodge. You were given the middle part of the day to relax before the next activity, a 4 hour game drive later in the afternoon/evening.

The third day was dedicated to traversing Kruger National Park in an open Gameviewer with a guide. The drive was divided into two sessions, with a break for lunch in the middle. This was a great day for us. We spotted two lions lounging under the trees, and saw various elephants, giraffes, zebras, and rhinos.

The last day began with an early morning game drive followed by breakfast at the lodge. After breakfast it was time to pack up your bags and check out of your chalet. On the way back to Gauteng, the transport service makes a stop at Three Rondawels and the Blyde River Canyon. You arrive back to your hotel in Gauteng later in the afternoon. If you are flying somewhere else straight from your safari, you can arrange the transport service to drop you at the airport.

Three Rondawels

How much did the package cost?

The package was R8995 per person sharing (R9995 single). At this time, the exchange rate from South African Rand to American Dollars was 13 to 1, therefore for 4 days the total for one adult was ~$690, or $173 per day inclusive of lodging, food, and guided safari drives. Children under age 12 were R5095, making them only ~$390 for 4 days, or $98 per day including all the above items as well.

For total trip pricing purposes, lets say you want to stay another 4 days (2 days prior to safari, and two days after). Here is a rough estimate of the total costs:

Hotel (4 nights)$400
Meals$120 ($30 per day)
Activities$200
Safari$690
Misc.$100
Total$1510

*This pricing was for 2016/2017 late December / early January timeframe (summer in South Africa).

Airfare is not included in the above pricing, and plays a major factor in the cost of a trip. However, with a little early planning, it is possible to earn a free, or reduced flight, through credit card miles. I was actually able to secure a my flight to South Africa from the United States for FREE with credit card miles. Click here for more details on how.

Thats $1510 total costs for a week trip to South Africa, inclusive of a 4 day / 3 night package safari.

I understand reasonable pricing varies between individuals, so if the above pricing is too expensive, consider camping inside Kruger Park and/or self-driving to lower the costs.

Hopefully you’ve found this information helpful and have reconsidered planning that dream safari! If you have any questions or need any help while conducting research or planning a trip, please feel free to reach out. I would be happy to provide my thoughts and assistance!

To see more photos from my South African safari experience, be sure to check out my Instagram page HERE!

5 Comments

  1. I loved that you were able to do this dream trip on a budget!! I’d love to do an African safari one day – it’s sooo high on my bucket list but I’ve always benched it for the future (because $$$). Thanks for giving me hope that I can do it without bankrupting myself 😀

  2. What a helpful article! I’ve always dreamed about going on a safari, but I must agree with you – most safaris appears to be rather expensive! I’m glad there’s budget alternatives out there as well! xx

    1. Thanks for the comment! So happy you found the article helpful! Excited to spread the word that not all safaris cost an arm and a leg!!

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