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Budget Safari Tips for South Africa

A guide to making your money go further on Safari

The global recession has led to an increasing number of visitors from overseas looking for budget safaris in South Africa. In response, we have seen more and more budget safari lodges becoming available, as well as an incredible number of special offers being introduced to the marketplace, and this has now made wildlife viewing in South Africa more accessible for many more visitors to the country.

In order to get the most from your safari budget there are a number of number of key points to keep in mind.

Followng a giraffe on a safari in South Africa.Find A Good But Inexpensive Safari Lodge

Staying at a private safari lodge will give you a better chance of seeing big game at close quarters than you will have on a self-drive safari, therefore we would always recommend staying a night or 2 at an inexpensive or budget safari lodge if you can afford to.

If you stay a couple of nights at a safari lodge, you will be taken out by an experienced guide and tracker who will be able to identify and explain the animals and can drive off the road network to get closer to some animals than is usually possible on a self-drive. The guides are also in radio contact with other vehicles to help find elusive species such as leopard which are very difficult to track down independently.

The quality of food, lodges, guides, and wildlife can vary greatly amongst less expensive lodges, so you should always try to get independent advice from a good safari specialist or a travel forum.

Go In The Low Season

If you are flexible on your dates, and your safari is the main reason for choosing South Africa for your holiday, then consider going in the low season if you can.

Prices at most safari lodges are up to between 30% to 40% cheaper over this period and this is also arguably the best time of year for game viewing in the Kruger area, as the animals are more reliant on rivers and waterholes as it is the dry season, and therefore easier to find, and they are also easier to see as the vegetation is not as thick.

Low season in South Africa is May to September, and this is driven by the weather in Cape Town (which is the single most popular destination in the country).  This means that you should keep in mind that whilst this is the best time for animals and weather in the northern regions, it is the cooler/wetter winter period in Cape Town.

Male lion roaring in from of self-drive vehicles in Kruger.Look Out For Special Offers At safari lodges

People looking for a serious bargain on a safari lodge should keep an eye out for special offers where you can get either free nights at a safari lodge, a discounted rate on your safari, or where staying at a safari lodge also entitles you to a free stay at a hotel in Cape Town or elsewhere. These are generally only available from the more expensive lodges in the low season (May - September) but do offer exceptional value.

Drive Yourself In A National Park

This is definitely the least expensive option and the freedom of driving yourself around one of South Africa's great reserves such as Kruger or Hluhluwe-iMfolozi is intoxicating and highly recommended if you have the time.

Having said this, it is important to be realistic about what you might see on a self drive safari - you will be restricted to the road network, you have to find the animals yourself, and you also have to identify the species and their behaviours for yourself - if the animals are 200 meters away from the road and you are not sure what they are because you cannot see them clearly this can be very frustrating!

Self-drive can be great fun, and is certainly less expensive than staying at a lodge, however many budget-conscious travellers will spend a night or 2 in a relatively inexpensive lodge before venturing out on their own.

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