What does “value for money really mean” when it comes to a safari?
Well the simple answer is that when it comes to Africa, it doesn’t mean it is cheap! Mid-range safari lodges can cost $1,000 per person per night and so feeling like you are getting good “value” can be as elusive as a leopard. Planning a trip that you walk away from feeling like you got great value for money is one thing, feeling like you would have paid so much more for the experience you just had because it was that good, is entirely what we aim to achieve with our tailor-made holidays.
We recently planned a trip for a family of 4 celebrating a 70th birthday to Tanzania and managed to get what we think is exceptional value for money. The holiday started with a night in Arusha pre-safari, 5 nights on the Northern Circuit in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, and a final 5 nights on the Southern Circuit in Ruaha and Selous. We wanted to give a varied experience that was both authentic and had little touches of luxury, especially when it came to fantastic guiding and wonderful in-camp service, and we know that can come at a premium! We took advantage of some of the circuit rate offers available with Nomad and Asilia camps, and we combined this by choosing the last week of May before peak season in the North, which coincided with the lower rates in June in the South. In addition, we picked companies that waived solo supplements for the first single room in the group booking. The result was we saved the family a little over £14k versus the exact same trip 4 weeks later. Yes there is a small chance of rain in the North, but as the weather is rarely reliable these days, we (and they) felt it was worth the risk, particularly as the vehicles have pop-up roofs so they can be closed should a little rain come over for an hour! The safari itself wasn’t what anyone would call cheap, but it goes to show what a little planning and a lot of knowledge can achieve and we know for a fact that they will love it!
Here’s my top tips for chasing the bang for the buck:
Top Tip 1
Look at shoulder seasons – yes we know it is “supposed” to be the best during peak season, but honestly a couple of weeks either side of peak season will be just as good and sometimes more than 30% lower in cost. Being clever about the itinerary can mean huge savings, which we always suggest using to go for longer.
Some of our favourites shoulder seasons to look out for:
Botswana is great in May and June plus you can combine a visit with Victoria Falls and the water levels are still good
Namibia - we love June and October
Kenya and Northern Tanzania (Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire) – January and February experience a short dry season making them a great option and far less busy than peak season
Southern Tanzania (Ruaha & Nyerere) - these parks reopen in June after the rains with off season rates
South Africa – October and April are both great weather and low rates
Top Tip 2
Take advantage of free nights – some lodges offer a stay 4 pay 3 special, or the equivalent 25% off if you stay 4 nights or more and this is the best way to maximise your time on safari, and make the most of the cost of flights to get there. You’ll still need to pay the park fees for the extra night, but these are minimal compared to the cost of the accommodation and for just a little extra, you get a lot more back. They aren’t always applicable in high season, but this means there is even more saving to be had by going either side of those peak months.
Great free night offers:
Ol Seki in the Masai Mara, Kenya offer a stay 3 pay 2 which we love
Nasikia Camps offer a range of stay and pay offers depending on which camps you use and by combining Tarangire with the Serengeti you can really benefit here
Selous Safari Company offer a fantastic stay 4 pay 3, stay 7 pay 5 and even stay 10 pay 7 rate across three of their properties in the Southern circuit of Tanzania which also includes their beach property on Fanjove Island
&Beyond offer a stay 4 pay 3 at Kleins Camp and Serengeti Grumeti River Lodge in Tanzania, and at Kichwa Tembo in Kenya’s Masai Mara – these are lovely upmarket properties that then cost the same as the next class down once the offer is applied
Elephants Eye Tented Camp - Book 3 nights in Hwange and get 2 nights free at Ilala Lodge in Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls Safari Lodge / Club in Zimbabwe – Stay 3 pay 2 in March when the water levels are high and mighty
Cape Grace in Cape Town, South Africa – 25% discount on stays of 5 nights or more meaning you get a stay 5 pay 4!
Top Tip 3
Snap up a circuit rate offer – now these have to be seen to be believed sometimes! Many safari lodge companies own multiple properties and they have fantastic circuit rate offers available if you stay in more than one of their camps, so some careful planning can mean you get much more time on safari for your budget than if you had used different camps which would eat up your budget on far less days. These are particularly good when you want to stay for an extended period of time across more than one camp, as the long stay rates kick in throughout the circuit.
Awesome circuit rates:
Nomad – stay 5 nights or more at a combination of Nomad’s camps to unlock special offers and curated circuits
Asilia properties offer up to 15% off when you stay 5 nights or more at any combination of properties in Tanzania
&Beyond – Fly Me Round Botswana and Fly Me for a Fixed Price in Botswana or South Africa are two offers that & Beyond have packaged for you that mean you can save over a whopping 30% on packaging it separately, and by combining with a shoulder season rate can mean even further savings
Natural Selection offer 20% discount when you stay 5 nights or more at any of their camps in Botswana
Top Tip 4
Look out for honeymoon offers – a lot of properties offer a huge discount if you are on your honeymoon (and yes you have to prove it) which can allow you to enjoy significantly more time on safari!
Honeymoon offers not to miss:
Savanna Lodge in the Sabi Sands, South Africa offer 50% off for one partner
Ol Seki in the Masai Mara, Kenya offer 50% off for one partner
Lemala Camps offer 50% off for the bride and a first night 'on us' for the groom for a minimum 5-night-stay across their Northern Tanzanian camps
The Saruni Collection in Kenya offer 50% off for the bride when booking more than 4 nights in the Masai Mara and Samburu
Kwando Safari camps in Botswana – up to 75% off for the bride and the groom can still benefit from long stay offers
Top Tip 5
Search for solo travel offers - whether this is a small group tour without a single supplement or a safari camp that doesn't charge a premium for solo travellers, they do exist and can save 30%. These can change all the time, so let us search these out for you and we'll do our best to find you a good deal!
Top Tip 6
Look for camps with great child rates and those with extended age ranges. Some camps and lodges consider children over 15 to be an adult, but others go up to 19, which with a 50% rate reduction can make a big difference to a family.
As you can see, there's a lot that goes into planning an African trip and whilst we would always try to work to a comfortable budget, we may also suggest spending a little to get an awful lot more bang for your buck!
We hope to see you in Africa soon!