In the 1900s safaris where an African hunting expedition. Gone are those days. Most of Africa’s wildlife isn’t where it used to be. In 1960 there were about 100,000 black rhinos alone in Africa today, there are about 5,000 left in the wild.
Today’s safaris are designed with conservation in mind. Africa’s wildlife and eco-system is very fragile and can only accommodate a certain number of visitors. To ensure that the balance is maintained the number of visitors have to be limited one way of doing that is by charging high prices.
High prices also help with conservation as most of the revenue collected is put back into sustaining the eco system.
Most African countries have a tourism policy that promotes ‘high price-low density’ to protect fragile ecosystems from mass human traffic the way Uganda charges $ 700 for a gorilla permits and Rwanda charges $ 1500 for their gorilla permits with only 96 permits available each day in Rwanda.
When there is little to no infrastructure, things cost more everything airports, highways, railway lines and even hotels. Transporting goods and services to remote areas is more difficult and therefore more expensive.
Case in point the Okavango delta in Botswana is only accessible by small planes or boats which makes getting there more expensive than say the Kruger National Park in South Africa which you can drive to.
Some of Africa’s best safari lodges and camps are in total wildeness. Staff usually live on the lodge’s premises, which means all meals, laundry, accommodation, uniforms, toiletries, entertainment, transport and medical attention has to be provided.
In addition, many camps offer services like private butlers, babysitters, private guides, birding experts and complimentary laundry, which means additional staff. Then there is the supplies to the lodge which is everything from Food, drinks for visitors, toiletries and more. And this is before we consider ‘behind the scenes’ staff like builders, maintenance men to ensure the generators keep working, anti-poaching units and housekeeping.
Bushcamp Company in Zambia pays for scouts to conduct anti-poaching patrols.
Why are Botswana safaris so expensive
There are other factors that make safaris in Botswana more expensive than in other African countries.
Botswana is a very popular safari destination and its popularity means that there is high demand for accommodation. This in turn drives up prices as these lodges have a limited capacity.
Another factor is that Botswana has a policy of high prices for low numbers. The thinking behind this policy is that by charging high prices, they will discourage mass tourism and protect their fragile ecosystems.
Botswana also has a lot of infrastructure costs. Building and maintaining roads, airports, and other infrastructure is very expensive but it is also one of the richest countries in terms of mineral wealth in Africa. Almost 70-80% of export earnings are attributed to diamond mining.
It therefore does not need tourism foreign exchange like other countries in the region and can focus more on quality than quantity.
When you add up all these factors, it is not surprising that Botswana safaris are some of the most expensive in Africa. But for many people, they are also some of the best.
Accommodation Options On Safari
While on safari you will often be spoilt for choice when it comes to accommodation. However, this is not always the case. In some remote areas, there may be only be one or two lodges or camp.
One reason for this is because before most of these lodges and camps are created an environmental impact study has to be conducted. This is to make sure that the development will not have a negative impact on the surrounding environment.
The process often leads to less structures being approved and therefore a higher demand for the few that are available.
This is one of the reasons why accommodation in the Okavango Delta is often more expensive than elsewhere.
Tented Camps and Luxury Lodges
Some of the most luxurious accommodations are to be experienced while on an African safari. Tented camps and luxury lodges often come with a high price tag but they offer an incredible experience.
These accommodations are in some places all-inclusive which means that your meals, drinks, and activities are included in the price. This can make for a very relaxing safari as you don’t need to worry about budgeting for extra costs.
Also there are all kinds of amenities from Wi-Fi, to swimming pools and spas.
&beyond bateleur camp is a prime example of a luxury tented camp
-Tents with private plunge pools
-Private game drives
Mfuwe Lodge is arguably the best place from which to explore all that South Luangwa has to offer.
-Tents with private plunge pools
Cost per night $630 per person
Flatdogs jackalberry tree house in South Luangwa National Park Zambia sits atop a raised platform and accessed by a flight of steps, this tree house provides guests with complete privacy as well as stunning views.
Cost per night $500 per person
Sanctuary Olonana is an exceptional luxury safari lodge set on a private stretch of the Mara River in the heart of Kenya’s most famous game reserve.
Peak Season rates: $ 1250 per person per night.
Sanctuary Swala Camp is located in a secluded area of Tarangire National Park, one of the most exciting and least visited parks in the country.
Peak Season rates: $ 1,040 per person per night.
When visiting a national park or game reserve, you will have to pay what is called a conservation fee. This is a fee that goes towards the conservation of the area.
The price of these fees can vary depending on the country and the park but they are usually around $30-$50 per day. In some cases, they can be more expensive. For example, the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania charges $80 per person per day.
A part from the park fees charged per person there are also vehicle fees charged depending on the size and weight of the vehicle.
Conservation fees are generally included in the price of safari packages.
Tips and Gratuities
While tips and gratuities are not mandatory, they are often expected and when you considered that it is recommended that you tip a tour guide $20-$30 per day and a game ranger $10-$20 per day, these can quickly add up.
Its always advisable to take out travel insurance when going on safari. This is because medical care in remote areas can be very expensive. If you need to be evacuated by air ambulance, the cost can be upwards of $10,000.
Some safari companies will require that you have travel insurance before you to book a trip with them.
Also should you need to cancel your trip after paying for it, your travel insurance may cover you for some of the cost.
Health and Vaccines Requirements
Depending on which country you are travelling to, you may need certain vaccinations. For example, if you are travelling to certain parts of Tanzania, you will need to get a Yellow Fever vaccine.
The cost of vaccinations can vary depending on your country of residence and which vaccinations you need.
Most African safari travelers are from the United States, Europe and the far East. With the distances involved, flights to Africa are not cheap. The cost of an air ticket from JFK to Nairobi, for example, can be as high as $2,000.
However, there are ways to get around this. Many airlines offer discounts if you book your flights several months in advance. There are also times when its cheaper to travel, such as during the shoulder seasons.
Another way to save on flights is by using air miles or points from credit cards.
Conservation Efforts By Camps And Lodges
Some the money earned from guest on safari goes towards local conservation efforts. These efforts help to ensure that the wildlife and their habitat are protected. Many safari camps and lodges have their own conservation programs which they fund.
&Beyond, which runs 29 lodges on the continent has a partnership with Africa Foundation to work with the leaders of villages around its properties. The company also supports land and marine life by relocating rhinos and other endangered species to habitats with a low risk of poaching and, most recently, secured three island properties where they can support monitoring and research efforts.
&Beyond also runs a Rhino Conservation Program in South Africa where they use some of the money earned from guests to help fund anti-poaching initiatives as well as rhino conservation projects.
In Mozambique &Beyoud Vamizi’s conservation team is responsible for one of East Africa’s longest standing turtle monitoring programs.
Serena hotels also have a number of conservation initiatives which they fund through the money earned from guests. These initiatives include supporting local communities, protecting wildlife, and conserving energy and resources.
Other conservation initiates include:
The Safari Collection – In partnership with the MARA PREDATOR CONSERVATION PROGRAMME that funds research, education and training to help reduce human-wildlife conflict have a conservation car based at Sala’s Camp Masai Mara daily to monitor the big cats in the isolated southern sector of the reserve. It collects data on their movements and sightings are passed on to the Mara predator conservation programme.
The Safari Collection has also been engaged in eye clinics, school programmes, dental clinics for communities within the areas where they have their camps and lodges and the Grevy’s zebra emergency feeding programme. A program that was designed to save the rare Grevy’s zebra from starvation. It continues to be one of the key conservation initiatives that The Safari Collection is involved in.
Singita – Their programs focus on restoring ecosystems and re-establishing corridors linking protected areas.
They also work with the Malilangwe Trust’s Nutrition Programme that gives young school children porridge everyday. This kids who come from poor backgrounds often go to school on an empty stomach.
Asilia Africa – Asilia Africa’s positive impact in the communities and conservation areas in which they operate is a result of their Community & Conservation Fund.
Wilderness Safaris – Their Community & Conservation Fund is used to finance a number of different projects in the communities and conservation areas where they operate. These projects include:
– Health care
– Water and sanitation
– Conservation initiatives
– Livelihoods projects
Some of the specific projects that they have funded include:
– A mobile health clinic in the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park in Botswana which provides health care to the local communities
– A school in the Okavango Delta which provides education to children from the local communities
– A water project in the Kunene Region of Namibia which provides clean water to the local communities
– A conservation project in the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve in Botswana which is working to protect the elephants in the area
– A livelihoods project in Zambia which is helping local communities to develop sustainable livelihoods
These are just some of the many reasons why African safaris can be so expensive. However, it is important to remember that the money spent on a safari goes towards supporting conservation efforts and local communities. So, while it may be expensive, an African safari is also an investment in the future of the continent.