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South Africa Budget Safari Tours

South Africa offers excellent value for money budget tours and safaris. It is a country that offers relatively low-cost accommodation, dining out and other travel facilities at very high quality. South Africa is also a wonderfully diverse country to explore on a budget. The 2,700km / 1,680mi coastline is varied and consistently scenic. Wildlife-viewing opportunities range from the classic Big Five territory of Kruger and Pilanesberg to the whale-calving grounds of the Western Cape. For those who like culture, Cape Town combines historic museums with art galleries and music venues. Prehistoric highlights include the hominid fossils of the Cradle of Humankind and mysterious rock art of Drakensberg Mountains.

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1-20 of 40 cheap tours, packages and holidays to South Africa

7 Questions About South Africa Budget Safari Tours

Answered by Philip Briggs

Why should I choose South Africa for a budget safari?

“South Africa is exceptionally well-priced by any standards. Its network of 19 national parks and numerous lesser wildlife and nature reserves offers endless opportunities for affordable yet rewarding wildlife viewing, hiking and exploring. The 19,000km2 / 11,800mi2 Kruger National Park is unique among Africa’s top safari destinations for being the continent’s best destination for budget safaris, including self-drive. This includes 21 affordable rest camps and campsites and a network of sealed roads suited to a 2WD. Other wildlife reserves well-suited to do-it-yourself or other budget safaris include Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, Pilanesberg and Addo Elephant. Outside the national parks and reserves, the country supports many backpacker hostels, campsites and other affordable good-quality accommodation. ”


What is included in a budget safari in South Africa?

“If you book an organized budget safari package, most costs will usually be included in the price quoted. That means all road transport between reserves, as well as game drives and guides and park fees. Meals should also be included in the price, along with tea, coffee and, possibly, drinking water. Other types of drinks, including alcohol, are excluded. Tips are also excluded, so check what is expected with your operator before you leave and carry enough cash to cover it.”


How do I avoid the crowds on a budget safari in South Africa?

“It is easy to get away from the crowds in South Africa, especially if you self-drive. Even in Kruger, the popular southern half of the park has many little-used dirt roads suited to adventurous travelers. The unfashionable half of the park north of the Letaba River has a wilderness feel that will appeal greatly to travelers who want to get away from it all. Elsewhere, the country has a wealth of minor reserves. You will feel like you have these to yourself. It helps to travel during the southern hemisphere winter (May to September), especially if a safari is your first priority. This is the low season but also the best time of year for wildlife viewing in most Big Five reserves. ”


What are the pros and cons of a self-drive budget safari in South Africa?

“Aside from traveling around by bus, a self-drive trip is the most affordable way to see South Africa. It allows total flexibility in terms of day-to-day itinerary planning, especially if you carry a tent (you won’t need to book accommodation far in advance). My partner and I opt to self-drive in wildlife reserves where possible because it allows us to explore at our own pace, to have control over how far we drive each day, and to take our time at animal sightings. We feel closer to nature and to the wildlife, without the presence of a guide. For some, the presence of aircon and heating in a closed car might also be an advantage over the more exposed nature of the open vehicles used on most guided safaris. There are some downsides to a self-drive safari. You will need to deal with any car repairs yourself. You are probably less likely to spot lions, leopards and other well-camouflaged animals than experienced guides with sharp bush eyes. ”


Can you describe a typical day on a budget safari in South Africa?

“The typical routine is to rise with the sun and grab a quick cup of coffee or tea. Then you head out on an early morning game drive and return to camp for a late breakfast or lunch. Afternoon game drives start at around 3 PM and continue until sunset. This routine may change on days where you travel from one campsite to another. Either way, the day usually ends with a few beers around the campfire, a simple bush dinner, and an early night for the dawn start. Game drives usually focus on the first two and last two hours of daylight. These cooler times of the day provide the best chance of seeing lions, leopards and other predators on the move. These times also offer the best light for photography.”


What type of accommodation can I expect on a budget safari in South Africa?

“Budget accommodation within national parks and reserves typically comprises one or more rest camps that offer a selection of clean, simple and affordable huts and chalets, as well as camping facilities for those with their own tent. These amenities are partially aimed at the budget-conscious local market and priced accordingly. Camping is usually the cheapest and most flexible option. If you book a cheap South Africa safari with an operator, they will mostly likely supply tents and bedding. Self-drivers would need to bring their own. Almost without exception, campsites in South Africa’s parks and reserves are equipped with self-catering kitchens (bring your own cooking implements). There are also barbecues, and clean ablution blocks with hot water and flush toilets. Huts and chalets usually have en suite bathrooms and toilets. They will also have private barbecue facilities and in most cases a kitchenette and fridge. Many rest camps also have restaurants and/or small grocery shops, but this should be checked in advance. Other budget options include private guest houses, B&Bs and backpacker hostels, but these are usually located outside national parks and reserves.”


What are the typical costs of a South Africa budget safari?

“With a bit of care, a couple could probably get by on less than US$100 per person per day on a self-drive safari. A South Africa budget safari booked through an operator will be somewhat more expensive and prices typically start at around US$150 per person sharing per day. A relatively affordable option for travelers wanting to see a few parks and reserves is to join an overland truck tour that covers South Africa and neighboring countries such as Namibia and Botswana.”


South Africa Safari Reviews

4.6/5 715 Reviews
Lizzie Williams  –  
South Africa ZA

Lizzie is a reputed guidebook writer and author of the Footprint guides to South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

South Africa is rightly celebrated for its magnificent natural beauty and excellent choice of parks

South Africa has a wonderful range of landscapes, a near-perfect climate, and the choice of destinations, activities and itineraries is virtually inexhaustible. Aside from its beautiful coastline and cosmopolitan cities – both of which I...

Full Review

Anthony Ham  –  
Australia AU

Anthony is a photographer and writer for travel magazines and Lonely Planet, including the guides to Kenya and Botswana & Namibia.

South Africa: World-class Safaris

South Africa is one of my favourite places to go on safari, with all the necessary ingredients for a wildlife experience that will begin your enduring love affair with the continent. Primary among these ingredients is the wildlife....

Full Review

Alan  –  
South Africa ZA
Reviewed: Jul 14, 2021

South African parks are affordable compared to Botswana and Zimbabwe. The big five look the same any where in Southern Africa so decide why added expense and four extra days of travel with petrol costs make it worth while. If you are in...

Full Review

Candee  –  
United States US
Reviewed: Apr 24, 2020

Our trip to South Africa and Jamila Lodge in the Welgovenden Game Park was a trip of a life time! Sandra Nicol at Traipsing Through Africa made it all happen with the upmost care, excitement and precision. Sandra contacted me and...

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D. K.  –  
United States US
Reviewed: Apr 24, 2020
Absolutely fabulous!

Our safari to Madikwe Game Reserve was spectacular. We saw more wildlife than we could have hoped for; the accommodations and food were outstanding. Our guide went out of his way to show us all that he could. I hope to come back and spend...

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Jacqueline Landry  –  
United States US
Reviewed: Apr 14, 2020

Wildlife was amazing! Guide should not operate at night with lights! It’s not natural and destroys the ambiance and natural beauty of the park. The guides should announce how much time to spend at a stop & when we are headed back! No...

Full Review