How Much Will an Africa Trip Cost?

If you have to ask the question…

No doubt making a trip to Africa is costly. First, there’s the cost of getting there. Flights from Europe are less expensive than flights from the United States, but it’s not unusual for the basic roundtrip to and fro to cost US$2000-3000 in economy, US$4000-6000 in business. 

From the US, United flies directly to Africa now from Newark, and Delta does the same from Atlanta. But those are very long flights, which means you probably want to book in business class so that you have seats that fold into flat beds so you can sleep. I strongly recommend that on these overnight flights you sleep immediately after the first meal is served, and then schedule your wake up for several hours prior to landing. Doing so tends to knock out the usual jet lag. 

So we’re already off to an expensive start, and that is just getting from continent to continent. You’ll almost certainly have additional flights within Africa to get where you want to be. For example:

  • Masai Mara — arrive in Nairobi, fly a safari link to your camp.
  • Botswana — arrive in Johannesburg, fly to Maun or Kasane, maybe even fly another leg to camp.
  • South Africa — arrive in Johannesburg, fly a safari link to your camp.

You may also need a “hotel night” upon arriving in Africa because of the way flight schedules work, and that will run anywhere from US$100 to as much as you want to pay ;~).

As for camps, the pandemic and now inflation are making per day costs hard to pin down. But my current take on the usual per day safari costs:

  • US$750 to US$900 a night — budget camp. Be careful with booking things in this price range. The accommodations will be more sparse, they may be further from the “action,” there may be charges for “extras”, the guides might not be as experienced, and so on. Many of the budget opportunities also tend to pack the vehicle, which inhibits good photography. 
  • US$1000 to US$1300 a night — mid-level camp. Generally you get better accommodations, food, and guides, plus fewer up charges (if any), plenty of attention, and usually fewer people to a vehicle. 
  • US$1500 and up a night — luxury camp. Accommodations, food, and drink will be as good as you’ll find anywhere, there are rarely any up charges (laundry is done for free, for example), and you can also often request a private vehicle and schedule of your own choosing. You’ll have a very experienced and top-level guide. Expect to be paid a lot of attention to and pampered.

In Botswana, which I know very well, I’ve identified over 100 permanent camps and dozens of mobile operators. You tend to get what you pay for. The highest priced camps are indeed luxury experiences, many including things you might not expect, such as spa services, as well as Internet service. These camps are almost all fly-in ones, too, which triggers an extra cost. I’ve now been to over two dozen of these permanent camps, and they range from solid basics to beyond-your-expectations. But the permanent camps are almost all in my mid-level and luxury categories.

Some operators will give discounts (typically via “extra day(s)”) for lengthy bookings. It doesn’t hurt to ask. 

You can also save some money by paying attention to season. However, if you’re getting an off-season rate, it’s for a reason: you’re off season! Typically off season in Botswana means the hottest part of the year or the wettest. The primary safari season in Moremi, for example, is May to September. That said, I’ve now added December and April to my trips there, and been quite pleased with the experience. Only I tend to get wet ;~).

Another cost to consider is tips. Most of the people you’re interacting with rely upon tip money to get beyond life’s basics. In Botswana, I tend to recommend budgeting US$10 day for staff, plus US$10 day for your guide, who will generally be with you most of the time and helping you plan what you do and when.

Thus, for seven days of actual safari in Botswana you book yourself, you might end up with:

  • US$6000 flight costs 
  • US$150 hotel costs
  • US$7000 camp costs
  • US$140 tips

That’s US$13,290, which is approaching US$2000/day. That would probably net you a very nice, though short, safari experience. 

You can book Botswana camps with a number of consolidated (multiple camp) operators. I can recommend these:

Make sure that you identify that you’re a photographer and wish a private vehicle, if available. Some may have an up charge for that (and for weight allowance on internal flights), but it’s worth it. 

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