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How to Plan an Affordable Safari

Save those pennies for an extra night in the bush!

It might be a once in a lifetime trip, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend your life savings on an African adventure, despite what it sometimes feels like! We’ve spilled the beans on how to plan an affordable safari and keep costs down without forgoing comfort, style or any of the iconic experiences you see in the films. Read on – and then start planning your safari with Timbuktu today!

Zambia - Affordable Safaris
If you keep your eyes peeled for special offers, you could be sipping on tea and coffee in the bush (rather than your desk!)

1. Keep your eyes peeled for special offers

Special offers in the safari industry aren’t always that easy to find, but they do exist (promise!). At Timbuktu, we work with safari companies with camps and lodges across different regions and countries – if you combine two or more in the same trip, a discount on the nightly rate is usually in store. If you’re lucky, they might throw in a couple of free internal flights or transfers too, which can all add up to big savings (that we then pass on to you) and a very affordable safari.

The Hide Zimbabwe - Affordable safari
Enjoying sundowners with friends at The Hide in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

2. Travel in a group

The best way to avoid that chattering safari know-it-all on the game drive? Fill the vehicle with your friends. It might not always be practical, but it’s certainly a good way to plan an affordable safari. So, if you have friends who’ve been thinking about a trip to Africa for months or there’s a special occasion coming up, we can look at group deals for you. Private houses instantly become attractive if you’re travelling in a group, and taking over an entire camp will get you a very competitive rate. You might also be able to save a few pennies chartering a private plane – and claim excellent bragging rights for travelling in style!

Virunga - Affordable safari
Spotting gorillas in Rwanda, just a short hop from Kenya’s Masai Mara

3. Don’t cram too much into one trip

It’s always tempting to add more destinations to your ever-expanding trip – but this is also where costs can add up. Internal flights in Africa are very expensive and the more stops you add, the more flights you’ll have to take. For an affordable safari, focus your efforts on one or two neighbouring countries where the transport links are good – Kenya and Rwanda, or Zambia and Malawi for example. In East Africa, low-cost airlines have also started to pop up; search for them on flight-comparison websites and watch the prices drop!

Kruger - Affordable safari
Chilling with a cocktail in the pool, watching the Kruger locals stroll by

4. Choose your destination carefully

At Timbuktu, we like to think that we could find an affordable safari  in any country, but the fact is, some countries are just more expensive than others. Botswana is right at the top end of the luxury market, and harder-to-get-to places like Rwanda and Zambia can also be expensive (those pesky flights again). Try Zimbabwe for an off-the-beaten-track and totally genuine safari experience that won’t break the bank, South Africa for easily accessible, good-value lodges and Tanzania for a classic safari at a very good price.


Take advantage of the quiet periods to get up close with some incredible animals, like these cheetah in the Masai Mara

5. Think about the time of year

Just like everywhere in the world, countries in Africa have a ‘low season’ when travelling can be much cheaper. The low season often gets a bad reputation (weather, no animals, too difficult to travel), but generally if the weather is going to be terrible and the animals are all hiding, a camp won’t be open. It can, in fact, be one of the best times to travel with no-one else for miles around, carpets of emerald-green grass and lots of babies springing around the plains. Generally, good deals can be found in East Africa in March, April and May and in Southern Africa, in May/June and November. Check out our When to Go travel guide for all the insider information on what’s happening, when.

Benguerra - Affordable safari
Finding ways to spend more time on the beach at Azura Benguerra whilst saving pennies!

6. Don’t limit your time!

It might sound like a bit of a contradiction when you’re trying to plan an affordable safari, but sometimes travelling for longer is a good thing. Many properties have ‘long-stay discounts’ – stay 4 nights, pay for 3, and stay for 7 nights, pay for 5 sort of thing – particularly at the beach and coast. It might not necessarily save you any money, but more nights relaxing on the beach, cocktail in hand for the same amount of pennies? Yes please! At Timbuktu, we’ll always let you know about specials that are running, but please also ask us for more information if you’re interested.

Selous Tanzania - Affordable safari
You might need nerves of steel to plan a last minute trip but there’s plenty of relaxing once arrive somewhere like the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania

7. Can you jet off instantly?

If you’re prepared to pack a bag and head off to the nearest airport in a matter of weeks, you can take advantage of last minute offers for a truly affordable safari. Usually released six weeks before travel, these offers can save you big bucks on really fantastic trips – it’s not just the bargain bin here! Bear in mind that there might be last-minute cancellations from others too. This can be a good way to travel during the most popular times of Christmas and Easter – but you’ll need nerves of steel to bear the suspense…

Mana Pools Zimbabwe - Affordable safari
Just jump in and plan it, you could find yourself walking with giants in Zimbabwe.

8. Take a deep breath…

As Nike would say: just do it! A safari really is an experience of a lifetime and one you’ll never forget. Keep your budget in mind but stretch it as far as you can and you won’t regret it. At Timbuktu, you can add different lodges to your trip and create as many as you like to really get to grips with price comparisons and savings. Remember also that most safaris are all-inclusive and activities, food, most drinks and all the little extras (laundry) are already included so spending when you get there really is a minimum.

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