Well-spent vacation time and money are the pursuit of every savvy traveller. But booking a Kenya/Tz migration safari can be confusing. Itineraries vary, and rates range from $3000 to upwards of $10,000 for an average 10 night safari. I am often asked, “Why such a huge variance? What is the best itinerary?”
Think: timing… accommodation…location.
The biggest driver. Optimum wildlife viewing is during the dry months of July-Sept when the lack of rain forces plainsgame to migrate long distances in search for pastures. Predators are at their most active. The short grass makes it easier to spot wildlife. The drama that unfolds is unrivalled. The world treks to Kenya and Tanzania during this time, and the finite supply of accommodations is often sold out by April. During this period, rates increase by as much as 80% over the non-peak rainy months.
Results from extensive online shopping and quote-gathering for an August 2013 safari (excluding international airfare):
- Value/budget: USD2000-3500pp – basic camp-style accommodations and meals, often with shared bathrooms.
- Mid-range/standard: 3500-5500pp – comfortable permanent tented- and lodge-style accommodation and full meals.
- Luxury: USD7500pp and up. Luxurious tented and lodge accommodations, fine dining; valets, chandeliers in (tented) bathrooms etc.
Accommodation rates are also affected by location.
The closer the accommodation to the migratory path, the higher the pricing. Certain locations’ higher pricing is due to remoteness, inaccessibility, and versatility. For instance, a basic mobile-tented camp in the remote north-western corridor of Serengeti costs more than a lodge with manicured lawns in Central Serengeti because the former can set up shop closest to the migratory path.
The safari portion is on an almost all-inclusive basis. Accommodation, meals, game drives, activities and often alcoholic beverages are included, as opposed to “bed and breakfast” basis of the non-safari portion. What initially seems expensive is in fact good value considering you do not spend anything more other than items of a personal nature (tipping, curio shop purchases etc)
Finally, who is organizing your trip? Who is accompanying you?
A group formed in the country of tour origin by an knowledgeable independent tour leader may be a win-win for little or no extra charge compared to what you’d pay travelling alone or in a smaller group. Independence from a tour op combined with group bargaining power can pay off in:
- better pricing
- a better range of accommodations. Tour ops make money by booking accommodations owned by the same hospitality group, giving you a cookie-cutter experience. Worse, you may not be in the right location at the right time.
- group-meets before you plonk your deposit or jet off.
- a bonus is if the tour leader travels with you…think more cross-cultural interactions, and faster handling of problems that arise on the ground. Want to visit a lakeside village off the itinerary? Tour leader can arrange. Rooms given away? Tour leader to the rescue. Guides dissuading you from a full day game drive because of xyz but in reality seems like they want time off? Tour leader will intervene on your behalf if necessary. Flights, internal transfers, lost luggage, health issues in the middle of an unknown country…who you gonna call? Your tour leader.
Oh wait…she’s right there with you!
Questions? Ask away! shilkee 26 at g mail dot com