Looking at the price tag of the average African safari is enough to make most people think going on this bucket list adventure is only a pipe dream: $800 to $1,000 per person per night. Add in the cost of the flight from the U.S., and it becomes even more of an impossibility. But the good news is, more affordable options can be found. While they won’t fit into a shoestring budget, they are a lot more doable, at less than $300 a night, especially if you go in the off-season, generally considered between May and September – Africa’s winter is the opposite of North America’s, falling in June, July and August.
Samara Game Reserve, Eastern Cape, South Africa (Prices & Photos)
Visit Samara Private Game Reserve off season and you can stay in the luxurious Sibella suite in the Karoo Lodge for about $170 per person per night. Located in scenic Camdeboo National Park, you’ll enjoy spectacular views as well as the chance to spot cheetah, black and white rhino, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, buffalo, huge herds of eland, and even the rarely sighted aardvark. There are no large predators like lions, as the reserve focuses on cheetah conservation. Karoo Lodge is housed within a renovated farmhouse, while the suites are standalone cottages located nearby. Each one has an outdoor shower, fireplace, air conditioning and a spacious bathroom along with a private covered patio that’s ideal for stargazing and sipping your morning coffee while taking in the gorgeous vista.
Elephant Bedroom Camp, Samburu Game Reserve, Kenya (Prices & Photos)
Elephant Bedroom Camp is a rustic-chic camp with 12 tents set under lush palms – and rates are just $200 a night for a luxury tent suite. This intimate, exclusive safari camp in Samburu National Reserve sits along the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River, allowing guests to be at one with nature. The tents are set on a raised wooden deck with a plunge pool, and all include electricity as well as bathrooms with showers. The camp also happens to be visited regularly by elephants and other wildlife that enjoy lying under the shade of the trees. An open-front lounge tent with cozy armchairs and sofas are ideal for relaxing and taking in the view, as are the hammocks hung between the trees on the riverbank. The camp also has regular visits to a local village where guests can learn more about Samburu culture and witness a little of Samburu life.
Shindzela Bush Camp, Timbavati Private Nature Reserve (Prices & Photos)
This camp is made up of eight simple tents – and, while they aren’t luxurious, they are comfortable, include an en-suite outside bathroom and start at $266 a night. As they overlook the riverbed that frequently hosts elephants, buffalo herds and other wildlife, you’ll get a front row seat of all the action too – tent 6 is said to be the very best. The unfenced camp is open to all sorts of wild creatures big and small, including the animal it was named after – Shindzela means honey badger in the African Shangaan language. The camp offers game drives as well as walking safaris, with an emphasis on understanding the wild environment and viewing animals in their natural surroundings. Excursions take place in the early mornings and late afternoons, allowing guests to enjoy time for relaxing in the camp in between activities.
Black Rhino Game Lodge, Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa (Prices & Photos)
Head to the Black Rhino Game Lodge in Pilanesberg National Park and you can stay in one of 18 detached suites that overlook a popular, busy waterhole frequented by buffalo and elephant, from about $150 per night per person – that includes three outstanding meals and two game drives each day. All suites are air-conditioned and include TVs, mini-bars, large bathrooms and an outdoor shower. The private game viewing decks are perfect for taking in the scene and the tranquility as well as for bird watching. There are guided Big 5 game walks as well as open vehicle 4×4 game drives, along with a restaurant, bar, and three plunge pools.
Gomo Gomo Lodge, Kaserie Private Reserve, Hoedspruit, South Africa (Prices & Photos)
The Gomo Gomo Lodge is an intimate camp that includes a number of luxury chalets and outstanding game viewing within the magnificent Klaserie Private Reserve. Rates start at about $160 per person during the off season and include accommodation, game drives, bush walks, and three meals a day. There are lots of opportunities for sighting lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino, as well as many other mammals and bird species in their natural habitat. Viewing is provided in an open 4×4 vehicle with a Shangaan tracker. In between activities, you can relax on the patio under the shade of a century-old Weeping Boer Bean tree or take a refreshing dip in the swimming pool. At night the camp becomes a spectacular African wonderland with its kerosene flares creating a unique African safari type of ambiance.
Sausage Tree Tented Safari Camp, Balule Private Game Reserve (Prices & Photos)
Located south of the Olifants River in Balule Nature Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger, this tented camp is an ideal blend of personal, professional, comfortable and rustic. While rates are a bit steeper than some of the others, about $215 per person per night, those rates do include all meals, en-suite safari tented accommodation and two game drives per day where you’ll have the chance to view buffalo, elephant and lion. The spacious tents are set on thatched platforms and include air conditioning. From the open-air dining deck, you can enjoy lunch while watching a wildebeest or an entire herd of impala take a drink from the watering hole. If you want to enjoy a relaxing swim, a low bar opens from the lounge onto the pool.
Kwa Maritane, Pilanesberg Game Reserve (Prices & Photos)
Kwa Maritane is located within the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, the fourth largest reserve in South Africa, and its rates start at about $280 per night. Located on the slopes of an ancient volcano, deep within Pilanesberg National Park, it makes an ideal base for exploring Africa’s Big Five, more than 360 bird species and the rich diversity of its indigenous fauna. Adults can enjoy stargazing and guided bush walks or bird walks while younger family members take part in the Junior Ranger programs. Rooms offer modern amenities and the property also features a trampoline, tennis courts, two swimming pools, a children’s pool with a slide and a playground. There’s also a game viewing hide, connected to the lodge by a tunnel, where you can relax and watch the animals drink at the waterhole.
Isibindi Zulu Lodge, Isibindi Game Reserve, Rorke's Drift, South Africa (Prices & Photos)
This picturesque lodge pays tribute to Zulu culture and is set among the forests and grasslands of the Isibindi Eco-Reserve. The Beehive Suite starts at just $130 a night and is inspired by traditional Zulu architecture, with floor-to-ceiling thatched rooms intricately woven with local thatched grasses, keeping the room cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Private balconies offer awe-inspiring views over the Isibindi Eco-Reserve. The reserve is home to an abundance of plains game, including giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, a variety of antelope and many smaller species; both morning and evening game drives and walks are offered.