Group or Private Safari: Which One Best Suits Your Travel Style?
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It’s a cool morning in the African bush.
Your group is bustling – busy gearing up for a full day of game viewing. While you wait for the others to prepare, you sip your cup of coffee and quickly check the day pack to see whether you have all your essentials. Everyone is excited and happily conversing with each other despite the early hour, knowing that a day of unforgettable moments is right ahead.
That’s how your morning may unfold on a group safari in Africa.
Alternatively, you get a gentle wake up call in the form of a knock on the door and a hot cup of coffee. In the comfort of the lodge, you catch a glimpse of the sun’s rays peeking through your windows. Your breakfast is ready in the eating area and as you dig in, you review today’s adventure itinerary with your guide.
This is how you’re likely to start your day on a private safari tour. Usually, this means that you have plenty of flexibility and go through the day at your own pace. You also have the option to make alterations to the itinerary and ask for additional stops. Following breakfast, you check your day pack quickly and prepare for another adventure in the African savannah.
Indeed, there are quite a lot of things you need to take into account when planning a safari in Africa.
Opting between a group and private safari is one of those choices that require thorough research before deciding what’s best for you.
That’s why, in this article, we’re sharing insights on:
- the differences between group and private safaris,
- the advantages and disadvantages of both,
- the types of travelers that may benefit from each.
What is the difference between a group and a private safari?
A group safari is when you are part of a group of people traveling together on the same set itinerary.
This means you do not have any control over your safari experience. However, you will have the opportunity to meet new people and possibly make some friends along the way.
During a private safari, you have full control over your experience. You usually decide where and when to go, for how long you want to stop in each destination, and even how much time you want to spend taking photos.
Essentially, you get to make all the decisions and your tour operator will help to make them happen. Other than your guide (and/or your driver), the only people who will be with you are those you’re traveling with.
What should you know about a group safari?
Photo credit: Wildlife Oasis Tours
In general, group safaris are marketed as a cheaper alternative to private safaris. They are suitable for those on a budget, and for those who travel solo and want an African adventure.
Group safaris typically have a fixed date of departure and itinerary. There’s little to no flexibility and if the minimum number of participants is not met, there’s a risk of cancellation or rescheduling.
A group safari can be as small as 2 people and as large as 80. However, it’s important to ask what type of vehicles are used for game viewing.
In most cases, your mode of transportation will be various types of jeeps. And if all seats are filled, there is a good chance you won’t be able to always get the window seat.
With that being said, be prepared to compromise - a lot.
In the best-case scenario, you’ll get along with the others in the vehicle and become good friends. But there’s always the possibility you may end up with people with some habits that you may find difficult to tolerate (talking nonstop, hogging the window seat, etc).
Everyone in the group has to agree for something to happen and that includes the bathroom breaks. That’s also true if you want to stay longer to take photos of the wildlife. And while you may want to linger longer to enjoy the beautiful sunset, maybe others want to already be back at the camp to eat dinner.
When it comes to lodging, you’re likely to be staying in group lodging or camps, unless you pay extra for a single supplement.
What should you know about a private safari?
Photo credit: Enjanga Tours and Safaris
Generally speaking, a private safari is considered the pricier alternative to the group one. That’s because freedom and flexibility come with a higher price tag.
By choosing this option, you will get to decide everything about your trip: from how long you want to stay in each park, to what parks you visit, and where you sleep. Your safari operator will offer suggestions, but you are also free to suggest options, too.
You are in control of everything. You decide where you want to splurge, whether it is on a swanky accommodation or a sundowner experience. Or you may want to go on a hot air balloon safari.
Best of all, you have the safari vehicle to yourself. If you happen to travel with your family or friends, you will be in the same vehicle with people you know and are comfortable with. All the stops are tailored to your needs and yes, you can linger long enough to take plenty of photos of that majestic lion sleeping in the shade.
»Read more about group and multigeneration travel
Usually, you are guaranteed both an experienced driver and a great guide to point out all the animals and birds you may encounter.
The accommodation is intimate. You can either choose a private room – from the lodgings suggested by the organizer – or book an entire lodge for your party.
When it comes to private safaris, you also avoid cancellations or rescheduling risk due to the minimum requirement of participants. It just needs to be you (your party) and your guide for the safari to take place.
So, which one shall I choose?
Photo credit: Spurwing Tourism Services
While we gladly share suggestions, ultimately, this is a question only you can answer based on your needs and preferences.
If it’s your first safari and your college days are a thing of the (distant) past, we recommend you opt for a private safari.
Couples traveling for their honeymoon (or anniversary), as well as families will also benefit from the flexibility, freedom, and intimacy of private safaris.
On the other hand, if adventure is your middle name, you are on a budget, and love to be surrounded by other people, a group safari will likely fit you best.
Do note that although group safaris are marketed as being more affordable than private ones, should you want to upgrade your experience and pay for a single supplement, you’ll quickly realize that the price may not differ too much from a private safari.
Once you’ve done your research, whichever safari you choose, the most important part is to embrace it and savor the experience.
Ready to explore the African landscapes and catch a glimpse of its wildlife? Book one of the budget safaris in Africa and make those dreams a reality!