Why are African safaris so expensive? Spilling the tea on Africa’s luxury safari industry

Embarking on an African safari is the ultimate dream for many avid travelers, promising unforgettable experiences amidst the breathtaking landscapes and incredible wildlife. Now add one extra word to that and you’ve got yourself the ultimate bucket list holiday: an African luxury safari – combining not only the inherent natural beauty of Africa, its wildlife and its people, but also lavishly and tastefully decorated lodges, boasting the most spectacular views over the untouched surrounding landscape, exclusive access to thousands of hectares of privately managed and pristine wilderness areas, the finest wining and dining experiences, topped off with first-class safari guides and hospitality service that will blow your head off.

The one question we most often get asked about such African luxury safaris? What is the cost of indulging in such a luxurious escape and why are African safaris so expensive? With this blogpost, we delve deeper into the answers to those questions... We’ll unravel the factors that contribute to the cost of luxury safaris in Africa and provide insight to help you plan your dream getaway in full transparency of where your money goes.  

Unlocking the Mystery: Understanding the Cost of African Luxury Safaris

In 2024, the cost of African luxury safaris ranges between $1,500 per person, per night and whatever your wildest dreams will conjure up (pun intended!). The most common benchmarks in between these two extremities are $3000 and $ 5000 per person, per night. Generally speaking, these are the 4 broad categories of luxury safaris.

The four broad price categories of an African Safari. Credit Wild Wonderful World.

Where you sit in between these four categories of safari budget, depends largely on a few factors: your chosen destination, accommodation, transportation, park fees, activities, quality of safari guides and hospitality services, and additional bells & whistles. Here’s the long and short of it:

The connection between exclusivity, luxury and cost of an African safari. Credit Wild Wonderful World.

1. Destination

The country and region within Africa you choose for your safari adventure greatly impacts the overall cost. Botswana, and especially the Okavango Delta, is one of the most coveted and therefore expensive safari destinations. This is largely due to the remoteness of the region and associated costs of operating lodges in a remote setting. In addition, the need for charter and helicopter flights to reach your very own private oasis also contribute to a higher price point for your safari holiday. In Botswana, prices per night for a stay at the top luxury lodges, or exclusive mobile tented camps, range between $1,190 and $4,850. Up in East Africa, the classic safari destinations of Kenya and Tanzania, home to the Great Migration also comes at a price, one reason being high demand. Rates per night for luxury accommodation in East Africa will vary between $775 and $4,495.

South Africa, on the other hand, still offers fairly accessible luxury safari options, mainly due to the fact that it is one of the few safari destinations that does not charge in USD – they still price in South African Rands, a currency that offers an attractive exchange rate to overseas visitors. Rates for luxury lodges range between $680 and $2,890). South Africa's well-established commercial internal airline network, road network for ground transport and concentration of lodges in productive wildlife areas also help decrease the cost of travel. Highly productive Private Game Reserves bordering the Kruger National Park like the Sabi Sands for instance, are a top-choice amongst many luxury safari travelers.  

Singita Boulders Lodge in Sabi Sands, South Africa.

2. Accommodation & Exclusivity

From lavish tented camps to opulent lodges, the choice of accommodation plays a significant role in determining the cost of your safari. Expect to pay more for exclusive and luxurious lodging options, with the cost increasing in accordance with remoteness, luxuriousness of decor, exclusivity of the game reserve and size of the traversing area. Cost per person/night is inversely related to the number vehicles/hectare and number of rooms available: the less guests a lodge has chosen to accommodate, the higher the cost/night. In return for that higher price point, you get exactly that: a more private, more exclusive, more unique experience.

3. Duration and Season

The duration of your safari and the time of year you choose to visit also affect the cost of your dream holiday. Peak seasons tend to be pricier due to higher demand, while shoulder or off-peak seasons generally offer more affordable rates (sometimes up to 50% less). And lower prices aren’t the only perk of traveling out of high season: less tourists means more exclusive safari experiences await! Herein lies the value of working with a trusted safari travel advisor like Wild Wonderful World: trusted connections and in-depth knowledge of not only the safari tourism landscape, but on-the-ground experience and knowledge of the huge variety of African safari destinations in themselves, ensures that you can create your dream luxury African safari at the absolute best value for money.  

4. Inclusions & Activities

Most safari packages are all inclusive of your accommodation, meals, beverages and standard safari activities. Some packages include additional perks such as private guides, exclusive experiences, and all-inclusive amenities, which can contribute to a higher overall cost but offer exceptional value. As we have seen with the increase in bucket list safari requests like gorilla trekking, hot air balloon experiences and helicopter flips: the more exclusive the safari activities, the higher the price tag. Beware to check package inclusions – often where you see a lower price for a similar destination, it is because it does not include things like beverages and game drives, which will add up extremely quickly on a pay-as-you-go basis. We recommend pre-paying for as much as possible before travel to avoid any unexpected and costly surprises.

A walk with rhino at Londolozi Varty Camp, Sabi Sands South Africa.

5. Sustainability

Last, but certainly not least in our book: community inclusion, honest and transparent eco-values and corporate responsibility of the lodge or lodge collection.  In today’s day and age of greenwashing, fancy marketing language, explosion of so-called eco-lodges and stunning imagery, it is harder than ever to see the forest through the trees. Despite what it may look like on the surface, lodges and lodge collections who truly uphold conservation values as the core guideline of their business model are few and far between. However, a true commitment to these values often comes with an additional cost, as running a luxury lodge with a long-term vision is constantly in need of re-investment of profits into the upholding of values and principles, for the benefit of future generations.

To be a true custodian of the land, investment back into the wildlife and communities living on and around wild spaces, as well as the conscious management of the wilderness areas under their care, are essential. Knowing you are contributing to these initiatives provides a reassurance that you have invested in more than just a safari: you’ve invested in the future of our wild spaces – so that they will be here, not for years, but for centuries to come.

Preserving highly-endangered species like the African Wild Dog involves investment in conservation and preserving wild spaces needed for them to roam. Photo &Beyond Tengile River Lodge.

The Wild Wonderful World Difference

Each and every safari that you book with Wild Wonderful World generates sustainable funding for our conservation: 20% of proceeds from our safari bookings are donated to the Wild Wonderful World Conservation Fund.  

The Wild Wonderful World travel agency covers all administrative expenses and overheads of our conservation charity, in addition to funding conservation projects across Africa. This is money coming out of our pockets, not yours! We guarantee that when booking a safari with Wild Wonderful World, you are not spending any more than the going rates for your chosen destination and lodges.  This contribution enables our conservation charity to operate a 100% donation model: 100% of donations received to our Conservation Fund goes directly into buying research equipment, veterinary supplies, and response on the ground. This unique and sustainable funding model reassures our donors that their funds actually reach the conservation projects that are making a real difference on the front lines.  

Our team is also heavily involved in our conservation work, volunteering their time to contribute to and find new exciting conservation projects that make a real difference on the ground. Visit our conservation page to learn more about the difference we and our travelers have made in wildlife conservation! We only work with responsible travel partners when planning your safari. Our travel advisors are always ready to assist you with sustainability information about your chosen lodges and destinations, helping you to navigate the often confusing and treacherous waters of green-washing and false advertising of “eco” lodges.

The Wild Wonderful World difference: creating a sustainable and closed loop funding system. Credit Wild Wonderful World.

Tips & tricks to get the most “Bang for your Buck” on safari

If you’ve got big dreams, high standards but not quite the wallet to match, we’re here to help you out!

1. Consider booking your once-in-a-lifetime safari with a group of friends or family. Not only is a safari the perfect opportunity to deepen your relationships with your loved ones, travelling in a group opens up opportunities to book out an entire camp or a large family villa. Shared transfer vehicles and charter flights reduce the cost per person, allowing you to profit from exclusive luxury at reduced prices.

2. Visit lesser-known destinations or choose off-peak travel dates to take advantage of discounted rates and fewer crowds. Flexibility with travel dates and accommodation allows for last-minute deals and special offers. “Stay-4-Pay-3" offers can significantly reduce the cost of travel, and most of these will only be valid in off-peak or shoulder periods. Well-informed travel agents TEAM will be able to advise you on the best periods to travel, based on your budget.

3. Working with a trustworthy travel advisor, who has proven experience with designing customised and personalised safari tours in Africa, is one of the best ways of ensuring you get the best deals, at the best luxury lodges! We help you to set a realistic budget and prioritise experiences based on your preferences, whether it's wildlife viewing, cultural encounters, or luxury amenities. Having been in this game for quite some time, we also advise you about additional expenses such as international airfare, travel insurance, gratuities, and souvenirs when planning your safari budget. No nasty surprises come your arrival to Africa! Well-connected travel advisors will also ensure that you will not pay a cent more compared to booking direct. Time is money, and not only will you be able to take advantage of all the best offers, you are also saving yourself countless hours of researching, phoning around, or solving any issues that may arise whilst you are already on your holiday.  

4. Opting for group tours or joining scheduled departures can help reduce costs by sharing expenses with fellow travelers. Explore some of our upcoming small group journeys here:

Embarking on an African luxury safari is an investment in unforgettable memories and unparalleled experiences. By understanding the factors that influence the cost and implementing savvy planning strategies, you can embark on your dream safari adventure without overspending. Whether you're witnessing the Great Migration in Tanzania's Serengeti, marvelling at the majestic landscapes of Botswana's Okavango Delta, or encountering the Big Five in South Africa's Kruger National Park, the magic of Africa awaits, ready to be explored no matter the size of your wallet.

So, dare to dream big and embark on the journey of a lifetime – your African luxury safari awaits!

Written by Evelyn Poole

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