African safaris can cost upwards of US$1000 per person per day – but don't scratch them off your travel wish list yet. There are ways to see the big five and more on a budget, if you know where to look.
This extract from our new title, The Best Things in Life are Free, reveals destinations where the wild rewards vastly outdo the price tag.
Big five safari – South Africa
Kruger is one of the world’s greatest parks – the Big Five are all here, along with an extensive cast of other safari species. Independent access is a breeze, camping options are plentiful and there are 19,485 sq km of incredible landscapes.
Walking safari – Tanzania
Think of a thousand hippos sharing a mud bath and you’re on the right track. The park comes to life in dry season (August to October). Camp in nearby Sitalike and share the armed guide fee (US$20 per group).
West African safari – Ghana
Known for its elephants, the savannah also hosts buffaloes, kob, baboons, warthogs and numerous bird species. Share the park’s vehicle hire (US$20 per hour) with others to make it more of a bargain. Budget accommodation too.
Namibian safari – Namibia
The desert-like environment around the massive Etosha salt pan is captivating, but it is the wildlife that frequents the waterholes here that make it one of Africa’s best parks. Great roads mean small rental cars are an option, and camping is possible.
Etoshanationalpark.org; Etosha National Park, Namibia; US$7.
Cycle safari – Kenya
Beneath the basalt cliffs of this volcanic landscape are zebras, giraffes, impalas and other iconic species. Large carnivores are rare, however, so it’s possible to spend a day walking or cycling; bikes can be rented nearby for an additional US$6. Camping is available.
Okavango Delta mokoro safari – Botswana
Being poled through the Okavango Delta in a dugout canoe is one of Africa’s greatest, and most expensive, experiences. However, Old Bridge Backpackers offer self-catered camping options ranging from US$70 (one day) to US$140 (four days).
South African safari
The coastal town of St Lucia is on the doorstep of two great parks: iSimangaliso (isimangaliso.com) and Hluhluwe-iMfolozi (hluhluwegamereserve.com). The latter is a classic Big Five destination, while the former hosts both land animals and aquatic ones. Budget safaris and accommodation available.
St Lucia, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa; from US$40.
Tracking gorillas – Uganda
The value of sharing a glance with a gorilla in the wild is something that can’t be quantified. Visit Bwindi during low season (April, May and November) and permits are US$350 instead of US$600. Permits in Rwanda are US$750.