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Safari vehicle in the bush.
Safari glossary
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Planning your safari:
Quality and price
The thumb rule when comparing safari tours to Kenya or Tanzania is that you get what you pay for. Don't expect high quality at a low price.

There may be relevant differences between safaris priced the same. You may find that one safari has small groups staying in basic standard lodges, while the other has large groups staying in lodges of higher standard. One may have a tour leader speaking your language, the other not. One may visit two parks, the other four. Which one do you prefer?

Kenya vs Tanzania
Tours to Kenya cost less than those to Tanzania. To us, Tanzania clearly offers better safaris than Kenya, though, based on better safari atmosphere, larger parks, and better wildlife, scenery, chances of seeing the Big Five and safari/game driving concept.

More about where to go

Included in the price
Any safari, irrespective of which travel company or tour operator you travel with, has to include certain arrangements or components, or there will be no safari. For example, if there is no vehicle included, you can't travel to the parks.

These necessary components are:

· Return flight to East Africa.
· Airport transfer from the airport on arrival, and to the airport on departure.
· Safari vehicle with driver guide.
· Accommodation.
· Meals.
· Park entrance fees.

These components are included in virtually all packages sold by serious travel companies and tour operators. If they are not, you will have to pay them yourself on location.

Return flight to East Africa
Flying to East Africa with European airlines such as KLM or British Airways costs more than flying with African airlines, such as Kenya Airways or Ethiopian Airlines.

More about flying to Africa

Airport transfer
On most safaris, airport transfer means being picked up and driven from or to the airport in a safari vehicle, minibus or bus.

If airport transfer is not included, taxis are available at all airports. Shuttle bus services are available at most airports, and cost less than taxis.

Safari vehicle and driver guide
Safaris in 4WD Land Rovers or Landcruisers usually cost more than safaris in minibuses, as they cost more to buy and operate. Tour operators that spend more on new vehicles, maintenance etc cost more to travel with, but have more comfortable and reliable vehicles. They also tend to attract and employ the better driver guides.

Better accommodation means higher price. But be aware that international hotel chains may overprice their East African hotels and lodges to protect their high quality brand. Kenya and Tanzania are poor developing countries, and it's just not possible to deliver the same top level of quality, services and reliability as in rich parts of the world.

Be aware of the difference between tented camps (where you stay in big tents equalling hotel double rooms, sleep in normal beds, have a private bathroom and have your meals served in a restaurant) and camping (where you sleep in a sleeping bag in a small tent, share basic or simple hygiene facilities with other campers, and cook and eat under fairly primitive circumstances).

More about lodges and camps

General statements on meals are difficult, as the quality to some degree depends on the chef and kitchen staff; a middle range lodge may have a splendid kitchen. But stick to the thumb rule, and don't expect more than you are paying for.

More about eating and drinking

Park entrance fees
To enter a park, a park entrance fee has to be paid. The fees vary from park to park, and range from USD 20 to 100+ for 24 hours. There are reduced fees for children. The fees are the same irrespective of which travel company or tour operator you travel with.

Safari vehicles crowding up to watch a trophy animal.

Not included
Some foreseeable costs/expenses are rarely or never included in the tour price, for example visas, beverages, tips, laundry and travel insurances.

Other small costs, for example for visiting a Maasai village, costing about USD 10 per person, may not be included in some tours, while it's included in others.

When departing from certain airports, for example Zanzibar International Airport (ZNZ/HTZA), you have to pay a departure tax. The tax can only be paid by you in person after checking in, so it can't be included in the tour price. You should expect your travel company to inform you of this tax before booking, though.

More about visa and passport
More about money and currency

Lodoare Gate, the eastern entrance into Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Low prices
A low tour price may mean that you have found a good tour (good value for money) or a poor tour (too little money for good value). Compare tours, not just prices, and you'll find out.

Extremely low prices should raise suspicion. You may be lucky to have found some kind of special offer. But more likely, the low price has something to do with quality.

A travel company or tour operator can't reduce tour prices very much without reducing quality, as expenses have to be covered. Some expenses can't be reduced at all, and are the same for all operators, for example park entrance fees.

Possible reasons for lower prices:
· All predictable costs are not included in the tour price. (See Included in the price above.) You will have to pay these costs after arriving in Kenya or Tanzania.
· The safari is shorter than those you compare it to.
· The tour is during low season (mainly April and May), when both flights and safaris cost less. There may be a lot of rain during this season.
· You're not flying with a major European airline.
· Accommodation and meals are simple. You may be camping, not staying in more comfortable lodges or tented camps.
· The group is large.
· The tour doesn't have a tour leader, but is guided in English by the driver guide.
· The tour operator has lower expenses due to less investments in vehicles, maintenance and staff.
· The tour operator has lower expenses due to efficient organization, good deals with hotels and lodges, etc.
· The tour is a scam. The tour operator may not even exist, but wants you to pay upfront when booking. Avoid this by booking with established travel companies and tour operators.

More about local tour operators

High prices
A high tour price may indicate a special or more exclusive safari, or that you are paying too much for a normal safari. Compare tours to find out.

Possible reasons for higher prices:
· The safari is longer than those you compare it to.
· The tour is during peak season. Both flights and safaris cost more during (approximately) 15 December to 10 January, and 1 July to 10 September.
· Accommodation and meals are high quality.
· The group is small. It may even be a private safari, where you and your party make up the group.
· Local travelling is done by air, not by road.
· The tour has a tour leader.
· The tour operator provides quality services.
· The tour is overpriced.

Cutting costs
Safaris cost a lot. The return flight to Africa, accommodation, safari vehicles and driver guides, park entrance fees and tour leaders all add up.

Below are some ideas of how you may reduce expenses.

Return flight to East Africa
Flying Kenya Airways or Ethiopian Airlines costs less than flying European airlines such as KLM or British Airways.

When going to Arusha in northern Tanzania, you may save money by not flying to Kilimanjaro (JRO/HTKJ), but fly to Nairobi (NBO/HKJK) and continue from there to Arusha by shuttle bus (USD 25 one way, departing from the airport). We ourselves prefer to avoid these shuttle services, though, because of safety concerns; speed is often too high, considering the narrow road and the poor paving.

Low season
The rainy season during April and May is a low season, which means lower prices. You may want to avoid travelling these months, as rain may spoil your safari. But with some airlines and lodge companies, the low season also includes June, when the weather is usually much drier. A good place to go in June is Serengeti in Tanzania, as the migration may still be found in the park.

Transfer hotels
If you need to spend some night in Arusha or Nairobi in connection with international flights, you can stay in quite a basic hotel.

Fill vehicles on tailored safaris
On tailored safaris, your party carries all costs, including the vehicle costs, which are set and don't vary with the number of passengers. If you can fill empty seats by adding more people to your party, the safari cost for each one of you will be lower.

Shorter safari
A safari is an expensive activity. Cutting one day from the safari may finance two or even three extra days on the beach after the safari.

Chartered airplane on a bush airstrip.

Increasing costs
If you don't mind increasing costs to get an even better safari, there's a lot you can do.

There are many high quality or luxury lodges and tented camps in both Kenya and Tanzania. Some are very small and exclusive, set in the middle of the bush for an intense safari experience. Some have superb comfort, service and food, etc.

Safaris by air
Flying to and between parks is much faster and more comfortable than travelling by road.

More about safaris by air

More exclusive parks
Safaris in Selous and Ruaha in southern Tanzania cost more than in northern Tanzania or Kenya, and mean going to parks with fewer visitors. There are even more remote parks where you can have good and exclusive safaris, for example Katavi and Mahale Mountains in western Tanzania.

Balloon safari
Balloon safaris, starting from USD 400, are offered as add-ons to safaris in Masai Mara and Serengeti. The balloon flight lasts for 1–1,5 hours, but including flight preparations and a champagne breakfast in the bush after landing, it's close to a half-day activity.

More about balloon safaris

Private guide
When going on a private safari (i.e. not travelling in a group), you may hire a private tour leader or guide to guide you in the bush and handle practical matters, allowing you to relax and enjoy your holiday. A guide who speaks your own language may be very nice if you travel with children who don't speak English, or who you don't expect to understand the broken English spoken by most driver guides.

More about guides

More days on safari
Few packaged safari tours are longer than seven days. By tailoring your safari, you can get it any length you like. Just be aware that longer isn't always better. Seven days is quite enough for a first safari. After that, you may need to absorb all new impressions you've had in the bush.

More about shorter and longer safaris

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Page updated 18 February 2009