Kruger National Park: What to Expect from a Budget Safari
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One of the biggest and most prevalent misconceptions about safaris is that they are all expensive. But that’s not necessarily true.
At Kruger National Park in South Africa, it is very much possible to experience an unforgettable safari without breaking the bank.
Two of the main items that influence the price of a safari are the accommodation and transport during the game drives – which have a tendency to be pricey. But rest assured, that there are great ways that help you keep the cost down by selecting budget options that make a safari friendlier to the wallet.
However, it is just as important to be well informed about what to expect when you select a budget safari in Kruger National Park.
Here, you’ll find insights on the factors that will help you understand the differences between an affordable safari and other types of safaris (e.g: luxury safari) and thus help you decide on the package that best suits your needs, preferences, and budget.
What’s included in your safari package?
As opposed to planning a safari on your own, opting for a safari package usually means that most of the expenses, such as accommodation and meals, are already covered.
That said, it is always good to clearly understand what the package encompasses because, depending on what type of safari you choose, certain items that you may assume are included, in reality, are not.
Below is a general guideline as to what you can expect from the different ‘levels’ of safari packages:
The transfer to and from the airport may or may not be included in the safari package. Make sure to ask the safari organizer for details. The accommodation, some meals, a guide, the safari vehicle, and the park fees are most often included.
The transfer to and from the airport is most often included in the price. The accommodation, meals, a guide, the park fees, and the safari vehicle are also included.
The transfer to and from the airport is included and, in some cases, it may be a charter flight directly to one of the park’s airstrips. The accommodation, meals and refreshments, guide (and sometimes a spotter), the safari vehicle, as well as park fees are also included. In fact, luxury safaris often offer an all-inclusive experience.
The great news is that, in general, staying in Kruger National Park is relatively affordable, but the overall cost largely depends on the types of accommodation.
From fenced tented camps to luxury lodges, you can book a safari in Kruger National Park that includes 1 to 3 stars accommodation (and the budget to match the amenities).
There are four main things to consider when choosing your accommodation in Kruger National Park:
Accommodation Comfort Level
You can choose from a variety of level of accommodation, including luxury tented camp, a mid-range luxury lodge, or a budget safari lodge.
If you are on a tight budget when deciding on accommodation, it is recommended to check the amenities offered in advance, including (but not limited to):
- Hot/cold water
- Guarded /un-guarded (for security purposes)
- Fenced /non-fenced private reserves
- Shared /en suite (private) bathroom
- Electricity availability from 5 pm to 10 pm
Generally speaking, a dome tent is more affordable than a lodge; just like setting your own tent is cheaper than booking a room in a lodge. With that being said, the price does depend on the luxury level of the accommodation type and it won’t necessarily be expensive because you chose a certain accommodation type. For example, staying in a luxury tent can come with a heftier price tag than staying in a standard room in a budget lodge.
Note that the price of accommodation is greatly influenced by the travel season. When you travel outside of the high season, the price for the accommodation tends to be lower.
The best time to visit Kruger National Park is during the dry season (April to September), which also coincides with the low travel season, thus ensuring more affordable prices.
It is often more affordable to stay just outside the park as there are plenty of cheaper accommodations available. Within the park, a dome tent without electricity inside is the most budget-friendly option.
Transport during game drives
When deciding how much you want to spend on a safari experience, keep in mind that the type of transportation you choose for the game drives matters.
The closed safari van or van with a pop-up roof may seem like a safer option than an open vehicle, but they don’t offer the experience people expect to have on a safari.
In a closed vehicle, it’s more difficult to see the animals and surroundings and you are usually in a larger group. Also, a window seat is not guaranteed which means that though you may be able to get a glimpse of the animals, you may not get that awesome photo you are hoping for.
Many organizers provide large group buses or overland trucks as options for closed vehicles, which tend to cover huge distances in a short amount of time.
Mid-range to Luxury
The open safari vehicle, or an open 4x4 wheel drive, is the most popular option which is open but roofed.
Ideally, there are only a few other people in the car with you, so you are likely to be seated comfortably and be able to easily see the animals. You’ll have a good view of the surroundings from any of the seats in the jeep and that makes it easier to take photos, too!
The private concessions and private reserves organize game drives with smaller groups of people. The drives are offered in open safari vehicles or open land rovers. They are allowed to go off-road and do night drives. Do note that going off-road is not allowed in the National Park. Another plus is that you get both a guide and spotter, who tracks down the animals, on the tour with you.
It’s well known that one of the most cost-effective ways to see Kruger is to do an overland group trip. Since this is a budget-friendly way to discover the National Park, the downside is that you will spend a lot of time on the road.
The number of people in a group safari ranges from small (max 8 persons) to big (up to 40 persons). As you’ll pay the group price, you will travel with other people to and from the airport and also on game drives. While the total number of the group doesn’t really matter, make sure to check the maximum number of people per safari vehicle.
When you book a private safari, you can ask for a private experience. This means that you and your travel companions will be the only ones in the vehicle.
The transport during this type of game drives is usually smaller and often in open vehicles. Private safaris are very suitable for families (especially if you are traveling with young children) or groups of friends traveling together. In general, you can expect to pay more for a private safari than a group safari.
Which safari is best for me?
When it comes to choosing the ideal safari, ultimately, the answer depends on the combination of your needs, preferences, and budget.
The good news is that whatever your budget and preferences are, there’s a vast selection of great safaris to choose from.
From camping to luxury lodges, day time game drives to night drives, Kruger National Park can accommodate everyone’s wishes and you are guaranteed to have an experience you won’t soon forget.
Even if you’re on a tight budget, you can still experience an amazing budget safari in Kruger National Park but as previously shared, it’s always good to have a clear understanding on what to expect from the safari package you selected. So be sure to ask detailed questions to the organizers before you book. The more informed you are, the more likely you are to land on a safari excursion that is best for you.
Hero photo credit: Derek Keats
Excited to go on a safari in Kruger National Park? Then choose one of these jeep safaris and enjoy the trip of a lifetime!