3 Ways to Save on Safari in South Africa

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3 Ways To Save on Safari in South Africa - how to get a luxury safari on a backpacker's budget

An African Safari is pretty high up on many bucket lists, but unfortunately it can also break the bank.  I quickly realized after I had found a great deal on an Etihad flight to Johannesburg, that doing a budget safari was no easy task.  Here are a few tips to help you save on safari, even if you’re on a backpacker budget.  (*hint* read to the end and find out how, with a bit of research, flexibility, and cunning (if I do say so myself) I was able to book an all inclusive luxury safari lodge for around $150/night, a savings of over $500/night!)

Sleep among lions on a budget South African Safari

1- Camp

If you don’t mind roughing it,  there are camp sites offered inside Kruger Park starting at around $20 if you bring your own tent or around $40 for a furnished tent or hut.  Of course this is far from the all-inclusive luxury safari experience, but when you fall asleep to the sound of lions roaring outside of your tent, who cares.  This is a perfect choice for anyone on a tight budget or those just wanting a more “natural” experience.  From here you can either self-drive around the park, or book game drives directly through Kruger.

African Rock Lodge in Hoedspruit, South Africa is the perfect spot to stay for a self catering visit to Kruger National Park

2- Stay Nearby and self-drive

For the first few days of my African adventure, I stayed at the lovely African Rock Lodge in Hoedspruit.  Hoedspruit has plenty of game reserves to explore in it’s own right, but if you’re looking to do Kruger, it is very easy to rent a car and self-drive.  There is a conservation fee of about $20 to enter the park, but that’s small change compared to the cost of a guided game drive.  The roads in Kruger are well marked and easy to drive and there is plenty of wildlife to be seen, even for a novice bush guide like me.

Doing a self-drive through Kruger National Park is a great way to save money and pretend you're a bush guide!

3- Shop like a local

You’ve made it to the end, and this one is my favorite!  The South African Rand is not very strong in comparison to the Dollar or Euro.  This is great news when a bottle of wine costs $3, but not so great news when you see that every hotel and safari company has a separate rate for South African residents and tourist… SO FRUSTRATING!  However, there is a way around it that can save out beaucoup bucks!  Purchasing deals from local discount sites usual circumvents the need to prove your residency.  This is a trick I use for activities everywhere I travel by searching local Groupon sites.  However South Africa has their own site called Daddy’s Deals (my credit card company did not love that purchase!) that, much like Groupon, has rotating daily deals on things like activities and more importantly accommodations.

Enjoy a luxury stay in the middle of the bush at Moditlo Lodge in Hoedspruit. South Africa

The selection of hotels and lodges changes all the time, but by using Daddy’s Deals and joining their club (which is optional but saves you even more money!) I was able to book 2 nights an all-inclusive 5 star lodge for two people for 4999 Rand (about $350).  Normal price at Moditlo Lodge is around $350 per person per night, so I ended up saving over $1000, not to mention living like a queen for a few days.  3 amazing meals and 6 hours of game drives a day = totally worth it!

Stays at Moditlo River Lodget in Hoedspruit, South Africa include 2 action packed game drives per day!

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27 thoughts on “3 Ways to Save on Safari in South Africa

  1. It’s incredible how much you saved in South Africa! You have very useful advice for anyone planning on traveling there. And who would have thought they would have something comparable to groupon, we use them all the time here and save a bundle. Thanks for all the good tips!

  2. LOL about your credit card! Thanks for these tips- so useful!

    • Mags

      haha, yeah. I was flagged for possible fraud and had to explain what it was to Chase.

  3. Sab

    Wow, these are great tips… I always wanted to go back to SA but thought it would be too expensive to do a safari again. But your guide showed the opposite! Thanks for sharing!

  4. You can tell I haven’t been on safari yet when I ask do you want to self-drive? Is it safe? It really is a bucket list destination and you really bagged some bargains and looks like you had an awesome time. Great tips!

    • Mags

      Self-drive in Kruger is quite safe. The roads are paved and well traveled and there are strictly enforced speed limits. The only “downside” is you might get stuck for a minute if a large animal decides to hang out in the road for a while.

  5. planning a trip to SA next year so this will come in really handy. How safe is Self drive there considering we will be with kids? Cheers

    • Mags

      I had no problems with the self drive (even on the left side of the road 😉 ). The drive from J’burg to Kruger could be quite windy and mountainous, but once in the parks the roads were perfect!

  6. I can’t believe how much loot you saved with Daddy’s Deals — a resource I’d never heard of before. Great tips, and I wish we’d read this article before, since we had wanted to do a safari for our honeymoon, but had to change plans because it was too expensive!

  7. This is on my Bucket List~ Thanks for showing me that this IS an affordable adventure. Daddy’s Deals looks like something I need to dive into, thanks for the tips!

  8. When I grow up, I want to walk in Mags footsteps. You have so much fun and adventure.

    • Mags

      HAHA. It was exhausting. 2016 was quite a year, 2017 has big shoes to fill.

  9. These are great tips and that is so cool you were you’re own novice bush guide!

    Daddy’s Deals, such an interesting name, but we’re planning a trip in Feb for a few weeks and haven’t decided on the location yet, we’re still debating, if a Safari trip wins, totally using this tip 😀

  10. Love your description on the benefits of tent camping…not sure if hearing a lion outside my tent would be a benefit…haha!
    Great tips on self driving or using the “groupon” type site. Another tip, even if you aren’t staying in one, find a local hostel, they often have really cool deals for the “poor backpackers” that anyone can use. I have found many a tour guide there too.

  11. This will sound like an echo – These are great tips!!! Amazing what a lot you saved! So much to splurge on otherthings once we save like this. The trip seems so doable.

  12. Fantastic tips! We went the camping route while in Kenya and Tanzania and honestly I really enjoyed it probably just as much as I would have a luxury option – we may not have been sleeping in comfort every night, but there were elephants drinking from our water tanks, and animals wandering through the sites, it was the most incredible experience … and a lot cheaper too 😀

  13. Always thought that these safaris cost the bomb and we would need to part with a fortune. However, you have exploded the myth and made us realize that this is within our reach. Great pointers to optimize costs.

  14. I would love to camp. Looks beautiful. I hope I can do something like this soon.

  15. These are such good ideas!! Going on an African Safari Tour is definitely on my list. I’ll get there somehow! Thank you for this!
    http://littlewanderess.com

  16. Love your picture with the giraffe photobomb. Wonderful tips for slicing the costs of expensive African safaris.

  17. Holy crap! That price drop from almost $5k to $350!!! I wouldn’t mind staying in a tent, but my husband and me decided that for out of the country no hostels or anything like that. But for the united states I would like to try to do hostels and campgrounds. I stayed in hostels when I went to Europe in 2013, and they aren’t bad. We just decided that when we start traveling we want to be as comfortable as possible unless we are back packing! Great tips! I enjoyed reading this!

  18. Thanks for the tips guys! Its always been nice to have an affordable vacation.

  19. I’d never thought to check out local Groupon type sites. What a great tip!! I’ll definitely be looking for deals through them from now on.

  20. Daddy’s Deals sounds really good though a bit of an odd name. LOL Was that picture of the furnished tent only $40 per night? That is impressive.

  21. These tips are fab Mag – especially the Daddy’s Deal bit!

    I should try something like this with other destinations too!

  22. I did a safari in Tanzania and was surprised by the huge cost difference between camping and lodges. I think it’s more exciting to camp anyway. We could hear wildebeest near our tent in the night!

  23. […] that I felt the need to work for free to share it with you gorgeous folks.  That and I got such an amazing deal on the hotel that I sort of felt like a robbed […]

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