An African safari is still one of the most sought after holidays of them all and also one that is traditionally the most expensive – always one of the most out of reach. Historically the jaunt of the bougeois upper classes, who came out in their droves to hunt big game in the sweet grasslands of the Masai Mara and Serengeti (indeed the term Big 5 comes from those early hunters – lion, elephant, rhino, giraffe, zebra were all taken in stock), there are those that still come to Africa with their license to kill (and those, of course, who don’t). These days you are more likely encounter yummy mummies with Stella McCartney casuals and slick city types with BlackBerries in the great plains of Kenya and Tanzania.
But it doesn’t have to be all Tarquins and Isabellas, nor do you have to stay in over the top eco lodges with 24 hour service and infinity pools. This is a guide to the best budget African safari for everyone:
Do it yourself safari
The best way to keep costs down is to do it yourself. Don’t be put off by the thought of marauding lions and laughing hyenas on the prowl. Renting a car and driving yourself to the various National Parks is easy to do (though stopping for a picnic is generally not advisable). I would recommend South Africa for any self drive holiday, as the roads are good and the national parks are cheap, in comparison to Tanzania and Botswana. It will be more expensive to stay in lodges and camps within the national parks but if you can afford the fees to stay in the park, it is worth it.
Join an adventure travel company on a group tour. This is a sure fire way to meet new people and get to grips with the country you’re visiting a little more. You might camp wild in the open bush and listen out for the sounds of lions in the night. Or eat brai the famous African barbeque after a long game drive. It’s also a great way to get closer to the local people.
Become a volunteer
If you really want to get under the skin of a country, why not volunteer? You could teach in a local school, stay with a local family or even get closer to the animals on a wildlife project. Some Adventure Travel groups offer you the chance to help out at elephant orphanages and assist researchers at big cat sanctuaries too.