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How to Go on a Safari Holiday in South Africa on a Budget

Castle Free Author

No, a safari doesn’t have to cost as much as your yearly rent! Natalie Mulvaney, travel blogger and avid explorer, shares her tips for a South African safari on a South African budget.

With some of the world’s best safari destinations right in our own backyard, South Africans should be spending half their lives in the bush. But it often feels like we’re totally priced out of 'safari' holidays by international visitors.

 

Now, with international travel and border regulations more of a hassle than ever, it’s time we locals made the most of our natural wonders and learned how to go on a safari on a budget. Because yes, it is possible!

 

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Just because you’re opting out of the five-star package doesn’t mean you need to completely rough it. There are lots of hacks and tips you can use to make every one of your safari dreams come true, so read on to find out how you can go on a safari holiday in South Africa without maxing out your credit card.

 

Travel Smarter: Where to Go

The Kruger National Park gets all the glory when it comes to South African safari destinations. But if you’re not based in the north of the country, just getting there can completely blow your budget. Look closer to home to find a game reserve or national park that’s accessible by road, so you don’t have to book a 40-minute flight for the same price as an international ticket.

 

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Western Cape

In the Western Cape, you have easy access to Sanbona Wildlife Reserve and Gondwana Game Reserve, which are every bit as beautiful as the Kruger, even though they offer a completely different landscape.

 

Kwa-Zulu Natal

In Kwa-Zulu Natal, Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park offers you the opportunity to see all of the Big Five while Ithala Game Reserve’s accommodation ranges from rustic to five-star.

 

Gauteng + Limpopo

The northern provinces have access to the Pilansberg Game Reserve and Welgevonden Game Reserve, which both offer the opportunity to see the Big Five and some *beautiful* landscapes.

 

Make the Most of the Off-Season: When to Go

You may have heard that winter is the best time to visit the bush, since the trees lose their leaves, making the animals easier to see. But don’t let that put you off visiting out of season.

 

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During the 'shoulder season', when families are busy with school and international travellers are not in destination, you can find great deals at some of the best safari destinations and properties in the country.

While the winter season has its benefits, the rainy season makes for beautifully lush landscapes, evening thunderstorms and swollen rivers – perfect for elephant swims to escape the heat!

 

Book Smart: Visit Property Websites First

While you can find some great deals on booking websites, it’s always worth visiting the website of the property, lodge or reserve you plan on visiting first to check for any deals, packages or discounts. You can sometimes find local rates too!

 

And if you find a property or lodge that you really like the look of but is slightly out of your budget, it doesn’t hurt to reach out directly and ask whether they have any local rates on offer or discount deals planned.

 

Self-Drive Savings: How to Get There

One of the best ways to save is by booking your trip to lodges or parks that allow self-drive safaris. Most luxury properties include game drives as part of their package, but more affordable destinations tend to be national parks, where you have the option to drive yourself around the bush.

 

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The most important things to remember when on a self-drive safari are to stick to the speed limit, don’t go off-road and practice moderation when enjoying a sundowner. It’s never okay to drink and drive, not even in the bush. Might I recommend a Castle Free instead?

 

DIY Luxury: Make Your Experience Feel More Luxe

One of the best things about a luxury safari is the sundowner stop. Typically, the property will pack a variety of snacks like biltong, nuts and dried fruit, along with some drinks, in a cooler box to enjoy at a scenic spot. And there’s no reason you can’t prepare the same for yourself.

 

Package your snacks in cute containers and bring a picnic blanket with your cooler of drinks. Find a designated picnic spot (remember not to get out of your car outside of these spots) and create the luxury sundowner setting of your dreams.

 

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Travel Tips

1. Around sunrise and sunset are the best times to view animals, as they tend to avoid the heat and seek shelter in the shade during the heat of the day.

 

2. Remember to pack a flask of coffee and some rusks for sunrise game drives! There’s nothing quite like an early morning coffee in the bush.

 

3. Don’t leave home without a headlamp and a pair of binoculars.

 

4. If you want to feel the part, dress the part. There’s no reason you can’t wear your dream safari outfit, even if you’re not staying at your dream five-star accommodation!

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