If you love wildlife and the great outdoors, there is perhaps no better holiday than an African Safari. The perfect place to get up close and personal with some of the world’s most magnificent creatures, without subjecting yourself (and the poor animals) to inhumane zoos, the African bush is still abundant with free-roaming creatures, and viewing them in their natural habitat is nothing short of wonderful.
No longer an activity reserved for the rich and famous, African Safaris are now available to suit every budget, and while there is nothing quite like staying in a luxury safari lodge in Sabi Sands, a tented camp in the Serengeti, or your own private island in the middle of the Zambezi River, you don’t have to spend a fortune to go on safari.
In general, there are 2 types of safari holidays. The first is a fully escorted trip, whereby game drives with an experienced guide are included in your stay, and the second, more economical option is to self-drive. Here are the main differences between the two…
Escorted African Safaris
Whether you are heading to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana or Tanzania, if you have booked a fully escorted African Safari, your days will be spent with an experienced guide who is knowledgeable about the flora, fauna and local wildlife.
Experienced at tracking animals and clued up on local ‘hang outs’, trained safari guides know what they are doing when it comes to searching for the Big 5, and so your chances of spotting them are high. When you do spot a herd of elephants or a pride of lions, your guide will tell you how to react and most importantly perhaps, what not to do, and so it is definitely the ‘safer’ option.
A typical day on safari includes two game drives (early morning and evening) in open top vehicles and guided bush walks in the afternoon. As you are looked after by an experienced guide, you can sit back, enjoy the view, take photos, and enjoy ‘sundowners’ in the middle of the bush, so it’s a relaxing and stress-free experience – but it comes at a price. A night in a luxury safari lodge on a fully inclusive basis will set you back around $300 per person per night.
Self-Drive African Safaris
If your budget cannot quite stretch to that, you could book a self-drive safari in one of Africa’s larger reserves such as Kruger National Park, and combine it with accommodations outside the reserve, which are generally much cheaper at around $70 per person per night on a Bed and Breakfast basis.
However, if you are renting a car, you need to read the fine print carefully as most insurance policies will not cover you when taking a car into such an environment, and if you do reverse into a thorny bush (seen it before!), or get used as a scratching post by an elephant, it’s going to cost you dearly…
Spotting the local wildlife is not as easy when you are self-driving as you cannot go ‘off road’, but if you take it in turns to drive and keep your eye on other safari vehicles (that know what they are looking for), you should still see plenty of animals during your self-drive adventure.
Ultimately, it all comes down to your budget and your expectations. If you want to have an authentic safari experience (for your honeymoon, for example), it’s worth saving up for a couple of nights in a luxury lodge, but if you just dream of seeing wild animals in their natural habitat, the self-drive safari could be for you.