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How to plan an affordable South Africa safari

See the Big Five AND save some pennies

South Africa is an incredible experience for both first-time travellers (who’ll get a taste for the whole continent) and seasoned safari-goers (there’s always something new to discover) alike. It also has a huge range of accommodation, which will be music to the ears of anyone looking for a great deal – after all, more options always means more competitive pricing. It’s also one of the only major safari destinations that doesn’t charge in dollars, and paying in the local currency almost always helps to keep costs down. So if you’re planning a trip to this animal and adventure packed country and looking for a good deal, read on to find out how to plan an affordable South Africa safari.

Take a road trip

South Africa is an excellent place to visit for an epic road trip! From the Drakensberg Mountains in the east and the wilderness of the Waterberg region in the north, to the arid beauty of the karoo and the famous coastal views of the Garden Route, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to self-drive adventures. The other excellent benefit to driving yourself is that you’ll undoubtedly save some money! Flying to game reserves can sometimes add unwanted costs, but if you’re willing to hop in a car instead, you’ll be able to cover large distances on your own four wheels and save some pennies. If you decide to drive the Garden Route, you’ll find a host of safari options once you reach the Eastern Cape. In the north, Joburg to Kruger is a five hour journey by car or you can instead head west instead and up to Madikwe and the Waterberg. With a little bit of forward thinking, you can really save on travelling costs in the long run (more money to spend on lovely lodges!), which is what it’s all about when you’re planning an affordable South Africa safari.

Garden Route
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Plan an affordable South Africa safari

Look past the usual list of characters

One of the most famous parks in Africa, we wouldn’t be surprised if Kruger was the first word from your lips when considering a South African safari. The park has a footprint the size of Switzerland and a larger variety of wildlife species than anywhere on the continent – including, of course, the famous Big Five. It’s no wonder that it tops most travellers’ lists, and the good news is that its size means it can house a wide variety of lodges matching all sorts of different budgets. Other excellent options can be found in the private game reserves of nearby Hoedspruit too. We’d also recommend exploring some of the lesser-known reserves – there are some excellent deals to be had if you fly under the radar… As we said before, Madikwe and Waterberg are great choices in the north. In Kwa-Zulu Natal, look to the smaller reserves such as Hluhluwe–iMfolozi or Namibiti and in the Eastern Cape you can save some money (but still enjoy some excellent animal spotting) in Addo and Samara game reserves. There are certainly bargains to be had and we’re very happy to help you find these hidden treasures.

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Plan an affordable South Africa safari

Go in search of unusual wildlife

You’ve probably heard of the famous Big Five, those iconic animals that every safari goer hopes to spot up close or through their binoculars. This quintuplet of creatures can be found in many reserves across South Africa, but they’re not always the most affordable to visit and can sometimes become busy with everyone searching for the same beasts. In the arid Karoo, get up early and go in search of everyone’s favourite little creatures, meerkats! These friendly, chattering mammals are always entertaining and an early morning adventure out to see them can help you learn about their sociable lives. From the arid desert to the sea, why not take some time to visit Hermanus in search of whales? A visit between June and October will almost guarantee sightings of magnificent humpback and southern right whales.

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Plan an affordable South Africa safari

Travel in shoulder season

Travelling in shoulder season is one of the best ways to save money on almost any safari and those willing to face slightly less predictable weather will be rewarded with less busy reserves and save a penny or two to boot! Between April and June you’ll find it’s off-season across pretty much all of South Africa and there are some excellent safari deals around. Northern game reserves are coming to the end of their rainy season and the lush vegetation is starting to thin out – meaning a better opportunity for animal sightings! You might still experience a rainy shower here and there, and you’ll need to pack for some cooler nights, but if you can do that you’ll be rewarded with excellent rates and quieter parks. Cape Town is very much headed into it’s wet and wild winter (which actually extends from April to August) so again you’ll find some wonderful deals if you don’t mind a little rain. And when we say ‘winter’ we don’t mean anything like the freezing drizzly days you’ll find in the Northern Hemisphere – this is Africa after all!

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Plan an affordable South Africa safari

Stay longer, pay less

You’ll find this special offer across many safari lodges on the continent and South Africa is no exception! Plenty of spots will reward you for spending more time with them by offering stay longer deals – usually pay for three nights and stay for four. It’s a great way to save money and also explore an area in more depth. It can be tempting to limit time in lodges so you can zip about and see as much as possible, and whilst we love a multi-stop adventure as much as the next person, there’s something lovely about taking the time and enjoying one spot. Not only will you take more safari drives but you’ll also have a chance to explore some of the lodge’s other delights – sunbathing on a deck overlooking the reserve or taking a dip in the plunge pool, anyone? At the time of writing, Fugitive’s Drift in KZN is running both a stay 3 pay 2, and a stay 4 pay 3 offer, and Chitwa Chitwa in the luxury Sabi Sands has a stay 4 pay 3 as well as a stay 5 pay 4 offer running. If you’re looking to combine some time in the winelands with your safari (and why wouldn’t you?), Le Franschhoek Hotel & Spa is also offering a stay longer deal. Special offers change all the time but there is almost always something running so be sure to chat to our sales team about the deals you could make use of.

Cape Winelands
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Plan an affordable South Africa safari

Explore all lodge options

Whilst you might have heard of the luxe Silo and Mount Nelson hotels in Cape Town or Singita Boulders Lodge in the Kruger, they unfortunately might not always fit in with your budget. Don’t despair though, for South Africa has an astonishing array of options when it comes to places to stay and you’ll almost always be able to find an alternative that works with your wallet. In Cape Town there are so many other options aside from the high-end. We love boutique hotel Mannabay for its incredible views across the city, Welgelegen for its trendy, homely charm and new kid on the block Labotessa for city-centre chic. In the Kruger, we love nThambo Tree Camp and Garonga Safari Camp, Madikwe serves charm with its Thakadu River Camp, and in the Eastern Cape you’ll find Kariega Main Lodge and Amakhlala Woodbury Lodge more than delightful. All fit well into a range of budgets and leave out none of the perks. You can also use our site to find yourself some safari steals; just head to the lodge finder and use the search bar on the left hand side to filter by destination and then simply order the search by ‘price (low to high)’. You can also design your trip using one of our itineraries (swapping out regions, lodges and countries as you fancy), which you’ll see all offer ‘on a shoestring’, ‘mid-range’ and ‘luxury’ options. Have a go and see what you can build!

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