I've always been under the impression that you'd need to have a minimum $5,000 budget to enjoy a safari in Africa. Is that true? How far from the United States is Africa anyway? If you fly all the way across the globe to get there, how can we stretch our days and experience a long stay? When is the best time of year to go? What airlines fly direct or with the least stops? So many questions and time to get some answers.
Photo by: Fine Art America
Photo by: DestinationTravels999
We decided on South Africa and specifically: Johannesburg, Kruger National Park, and Victoria Falls area.
Specifically, we easily decided on spending 75% for the Big 5 (Safaris) + 25% Victoria Falls = 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed
June 15 - July 1
Tour: $2,700 pp
Airfare: $1,560 pp
Total: $4,260 pp
– Spotting Big Five in Kruger National Park
– Gazing out across Victoria Falls
– Track rhinos in Matobo National Park
– Discover less-visited Zimbabwe
– Experienced Safari Experts
– Gear (just bring a sleeping bag and pillow)
– Nicely Planned Itinerary
*Flight: ~18 to 21 hours
*Tip #1: It was cheaper to fly out of Washington than New York.
*Tip #2: If you can't travel non-stop, maximize your vacation during your layover (if time and your budget permits, of course). For example instead of a 2-hr layover in London we opted for a flight schedule that had a 13-hr layover so we can enjoy London for the day. I also read the article about the 10 Busiest Airports in the World - and How to Survive a Layover. Peruse through the article! I learned London Heathrow Airport offers massage services and you can even book a room at the Yotel Cabin to lounge at.
May 29 - June 26
20 Days in Safari Tents: $602.77 pp
3 Days of Airfare Travel: $1,004.30 pp
4 Days / 3 Nights Victoria Falls: $699.27
4x4 Rental: $500 pp
Total: $2,806.34 pp*
*Extras: Food, Gas, and Excursions (Bush Walks, Evening Game Drives, etc.)
What we gained from planning it all on our own:
– Virgin Atlantic had a nice, long 13-hour Layover in London before touching down in Johannesburg to explore there, too!
– 7 More Days in Africa
– Flying to Victoria (instead of a drive) gave us more time there and we're staying in a Azambezi River Lodge
– For a Photography Enthusiast, the freedom to explore and take our time in all parts of Kruger National Park (said to be the size of New Jersey at 2,000,000 hectares or 4,942,107 acres) in our 4x4 SUV will be priceless!
** Ultimately, it does help that we're traveling as a pair.
Tip on Flights to Africa: If you have some flexibility, playing around with dates for airfare can save you $500... like we did. Factor in South Africa's Public and School Holidays. For example, we initially thought to end our trip at Victoria Falls but the flight from Johannesburg was double the expense the closer to the end of June to travel.
June Weather in South Africa: Low 40°s to High 60°s (bring warm clothes... layer, layer, layer)
Has the zoo, in your neighborhood, ever enticed you to have a sleepover at the zoo? Their ad says, "Would you like to experience safari camping without having to travel to Africa?" I know they're really asking kids to ask their parents to make this happen but how about us grown ups?!! I've personally only slept in a tent 2x in my life so far. Both times were only overnight and for a surfing adventure - to have the sounds of the waves as you sleep and wake. It was awesome!
We've narrowed down 4 Rest Camps within Kruger National Park to rest our heads and hunker down in Safari Tents.
Tip: We're booking our trip 9 months in advance and some of these Safari Tent options were already sold out for the dates we initially had in mind. Plan and Reserve Early!!! I remember visiting Lonely Planet's Africa Guide and checking out availability of hotels recommended - those were already sold out... 9 months out!! Wow.
I created this map to visualize where we're sleeping, how long it would take to drive from one rest camp to another, and what sights are typically seen in the area of the rest camp. Maybe we can time it perfectly to get in on an evening game drive at the next rest camp?
It's going to be an adventure in itself driving on the other side of the road and some of the rental cars are manual, too. It's good both of us know how to drive a stick shift! Now deciding on a compact or SUV 4x4? Compact is more affordable and you don't have to worry about gas expenses as much. But, an SUV is much taller and can view over high grassy areas while in the park. Plus, the 4x4 aspect allows you to visit parts of the park dedicated only for those with 4x4 capabilities. Hmmmm. Don't really want to feel like this: