One of the first questions I get from people I meet is, “How much does a Safari cost?”
While this is a normal question, I feel like replying with another question: “How much does a car cost?”
Obviously this depends on the car. A Kia is not the same as a Porsche. I understand why some people may be shocked at the price of a Safari, but as my friend Judy said after she got back from her first trip to Kenya:
“The most amazing trip I’ve ever been on. I plan to be on the next one. I can’t recommend it enough. Luxury mixed with adventure! What a way to go.” Judy P.
Since returning from the Peace Corps, I now design custom Safaris for my “Travel with a Purpose” Club in Laguna Woods, with Jim Holden, as my expert on Africa.
The key word here is “Custom.” My Safaris are tailored to specific themes, (for example, a writers’ retreat, a culinary Safari experience, or an elephant conservation Safari.)
I think the main reason some people balk at the price, is that they compare a Safari to places they’re familiar with. Africa cannot be compared with a vacation in Hawaii, Paris or Tuscany.
Africa is an experience, not a typical vacation.
Let me explain. One of the main reasons people travel to Africa, is to see the wildlife, especially the BIG 5.
There are several components that make a wildlife experience spectacular: the guides, and in particular their knowledge, the vehicles they use, and where they take you. The knowledge of the guides can make or break your overall Safari experience. If you travel on a budget Safari with a large group of 16 or more people, you won’t get the same level of interaction with your “personal and professional” guide as when you’re on an exclusive Safari with no more than 6-travelers per vehicle. On my Safaris, you’re able to ask many questions about the wildlife, and learn facts you didn’t know about leopards, elephants, zebras, hippos, wildebeest and more.
I find that most people expect comfort while on Safari. They want a nice hot shower, a flushing toilet, electricity, delicious meals, and drinks. There is now way you can take an Uber to a restaurant or a fast food restaurant while in the National Parks or private concessions, so everything is included when you stay in a lodge. All the food and beverages have to be flown, or driven in, and kept refrigerated in the lodge. The local staff are trained to cook and plate the food by Chefs and serve meals that appeal to our western palate. They offer a variety of meats, fish, vegetables, desserts, and fresh baked items, on a daily basis. This, as well as the laundry, soft sheets and towels, and all the other amenities we’re used to, obviously adds to the cost. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the average cost of a Safari today is $1,000/person/day. This cost also includes all activities as well as flights between countries in Africa.
I’ve done cost comparisons of hotels in my area, Laguna Beach, as well as in similar accommodations in Paris, London and Rome, and the cheapest room at one resort is $950/night. This does not include any meals or drinks, or activities, or shows, unlike what you would get on a Safari. Basically nothing other than the room and a 15% tax is included in my Laguna Beach area hotel.
Of course, just like a Motel 6, for $66/night, there are budget Safaris where you’ll be staying in cheap accommodations, like the tent below on the left. There’s nothing wrong with that, if you’re happy to stay in a tent with a bush toilet and a bucket shower. I’ve stayed at the Serengeti Bushtops camp on the right, and those are the smaller lodges that I like to offer to my “Travel with a Purpose” groups. Another advantage is that these smaller lodges hire and train people from the local villages and part of what you’re paying for goes towards supporting local communities, schools, books, teachers’ salaries and wildlife conservation efforts. Most tourists don’t realize that by going on Safari, they are actually contributing towards those sustainable causes, offering employment opportunities and education to the people in neighboring villages, including the Masai in Kenya.
Most people who travel to Africa for the first time, like the women on my recent “Travel with a Purpose” trip to Kenya, have no idea what to expect. They are blown away by the quality and presentation of the food. We have a wonderful “Foods of Africa” trip to Madikwe, South Africa, with an award-winning Chef, Nico Verster, who will be cooking for us and showing us plating techniques. He is co-owner of the beautiful Jamala lodge.
Since I have way more to say, please check out next Sunday’s blog post. Your comments and shares, are always appreciated.
Also, I am proud to say that I was interviewed in the OC Register and so were some of the woman on my recent trip to Kenya. You can read the article by clicking here.
Continued in (Part 2) next week