Continuing on from the first edition of this blog, today we discuss knowing your budget before starting to plan your safari holiday as well as accommodation options.
How Much Can I Spend?
Knowing your budget (cheap/expensive) is vital before you start the planning process
Most people understand that safari isn’t really a ‘cheap’ holiday and that you need to fork out for this ‘once in a lifetime’ holiday. Certainly there are package holidays in the likes of Kenya where you can see the animals from large safari buses packed with other tourists or back packer trips across Africa, however, if you are looking for a memorable holiday which will remain with you for the rest of your life, you should be prepared to pay for it.
That said, however, you can still experience 4 or 5 star luxury and an exclusive 4×4 safari experience at a reasonable price. It really depends on the time of year your travel in, whether you do a fly in safari or not and which country and region you select.
Many people we speak to are shocked at the prices of some safari lodges and camps and the reaction is understandable but it is important to remember the cost of actually running these camps / lodges in the middle of nowhere. There are hefty park fees which need paid to conserve the parks; food and drink have to be flown in or driven long distances; camps and lodges often have to pay towards the upkeep of nearby bridges and airstrips and many also support their local communities. This is done through building schools and hospitals and much of the money you pay goes towards community tourism, ensuring that this protected land remains preserved for generations to come.
It is easy to see then that the more remote the camp, the more expensive it is. What you are paying for is the privilege of having that vast wilderness all to yourselves. Don’t be afraid to call up a specialist who will be able to guide you on what prices you should expect for various times of the year, types of accommodation and regions. For a safari consultant to put together itinerary ideas for you, having a budget to work within is absolutely vital because of the wide range of choices on offer. It also helps you as it is very easy to get carried away by all the incredible options on offer.
What Type of Accommodation do I Want to Stay in?
Know what type of accommodation you would be comfortable with but be open to new experiences
People are often put off by the idea of a safari because they worry about things such as insects or snakes and whether staying in a tent will keep them safe from wild animals etc. These are legitimate concerns and certainly something you need to discuss with a specialist.
There are a wide variety of accommodation options available whilst on safari. Most often it is budget which determines which option you choose however it is important to know the experiences you get from each. Ask yourself would you feel more comfortable surrounded by brick walls with air conditioning and fences or have you dreamed of falling asleep under canvas to the sounds of the African bush right outside? You need to choose something which you will be comfortable with. A good safari expert will have personally visited a variety of lodges and camps and will be able to explain to you the full experience first-hand.
Safari lodges are different from camps. On the whole (although there are many exceptions) lodges are larger than tented camps but offer more amenities such as swimming pools, shops and perhaps a choice of restaurants, just like a large hotel. These lodges range in luxury from 3 or 4 star to 5 star deluxe. Whilst it is not always the case, generally within East Africa and the likes of Zambia or Botswana, the lodges are less luxurious than their tented alternatives. The opposite is true in South Africa where tented options are not really the norm and some of their lodges are the ultimate in luxury.
Being safari enthusiasts we would have to say that tented camps and bush camps are the perfect way to experience the African bush. There is nothing more exciting than sleeping under canvas and there is no need to compromise on comfort. Most ‘tents’ consist of large bedrooms and bathrooms including all the modern amenities that you would expect in a luxury hotel. These camps are not normally fenced and all manner of animals can move through the camp, making for some very interesting sounds at night. From the start you will be briefed on the dos and don’ts by the staff and once you have spent a night in camp you will start to feel safe and very excited by any sightings in or nearby camp. If they are willing to jump out of their comfort zone you will not be disappointed.
Also popular are semi permanent tented camps or ‘mobile camps’ which are best used where seasonal migrations are the focus for game viewing for example during the wildebeest migration in the Serengeti.
In conclusion ‘luxury’ is as much about experience as material extravagance. With a ‘rustic luxury’ ethos many of the camps may appear to be more expensive than their decor suggests but what you are paying for is the remoteness, the service, the guiding and the overall wildlife and wilderness experience.
Photo credits: And Beyond, Wilderness Safaris, Elephants Plains Camp and Robin Pope Safaris