If you've dreamt of going on an exotic African safari but thought it was out of your budget, think again. It is possible to embark on the journey of a lifetime, as long as you invest the time to plan and research. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Research Your Flight Options
Airfare to Africa is never cheap, but if you plan in advance, compare websites, and save up some miles, it doesn't have to break the bank. As with any international travel, the sooner you book, the cheaper it'll be. Prices tend to increase at the three month mark, so start your research as early as you can. Some websites to check are Travelpirates.com, and Wow Air.
Choose a Private Guide Over a Tour Company
Safaris are usually the most costly part of an Africa trip and vary wildly in terms of services and inclusions. Though a private guide may sound like it would be the more expensive option, in fact, the commercialized, packaged tours are usually more. A private safari guide can tailor the experience to your interests, provide any and all transportation, give lessons about the culture, and know the ins-and-outs of the parks. They're usually also locals, so you're supporting the community (over a corporation), another win-win. One highly recommended guide in Tanzania is Daniel Joseph. While most people have their sights set on the Serengeti, his services can also include three days of safaris at three different national parks (Ngorongoro, Tarangire, and Lake Manyara). These are a bit more off-the-beaten path, and you can see just as many exotic animals for far less dough.
Forgo the Luxury LodgeWhile luxury lodges may be a necessary part of the experience for some, if you’re trying to save money, the first night can be spent at an inexpensive hotel near the airport or another convenient location where your guide can scoop you up. If you do want a nicer spot to bed down, don't stay directly in the parks or towns. If you do your homework, there are plenty of lodges that are gorgeous and cost a fraction of what the popular ones do. One great location with amazing food, staff, and vibes is Burudika Manyara Lodge in Lake Manyara, which ranges from $50 - $140/night.
Go on the Offseason
You may be worried that you'll see less animals in the offseason, but there are still plenty of creatures to witness year-round and less people, which means better photos for you. Peak months include January-February, July-August, and the end of December, while high season includes March, June, and September-early December. April and May will be your cheapest months due to unpredictable rains, but the migration is never completely predictable. Here's a quick guide to what you can expect to see when in order to minimize your risk.