Safari has been on many bucket lists and for very good reason. It is something completely different to see animals interact with each other in the wild. Certainly very different than any zoo experience. My first time on safari was certainly an experience of a lifetime. I choose to get a budget safari in Tanzania because otherwise visiting safari parks can get very expensive. I wouldn’t regret it, but if you go for a budget safari, your experience will be widely different from regular or luxury safari.
What to expect from a budget safari in Tanzania?
First of all, you need to realize how much does it cost to go for safari. Budget safaris have a very low price and are great for the backpacker, who wants to see wildlife. But let’s make one thing clear. And that is – what is the main difference between Luxury safari, that is perhaps the best-known one and budget safari.
Budget safari vs Luxury safari – the main differences
Did you imagine that you will spend the whole day driving in the national reserve and watching exotic dangerous animals and after this amazing ride, you will go to a hotel where you can see elephants from your windows? So that would be a luxury safari. I think it is a great thing to do, but if you are on a tight budget, you might not afford all of it.
What is a luxury safari?
If you go on a luxury safari, you will get picked up on an airport and the company will drive you to their base camp that is usually somewhere close to the reserve filled with animals. Does the camp sound bad? In this version, it definitely isn’t. In fact, you will have very luxurious accommodation with a view of nature. You will get all-inclusive food, so you don’t have to stress about what to eat the whole day. Your group will have their own guide that will be there for you in any game drive and will usually show you even some secret places. Sometimes these camps have their own swimming pool. So really, you cannot ask for more. If you do ask for more, your prayers will be heard because you are paying for everything. So why not?
All of this sounds perfect, doesn’t it? I bet it does. Now comes the harder part. And that is the cost of this kind of trip.
If you travel off-season in time of the rainy season (which suck due to heavy rain) you will get prices around 4000 euros per 6 day safari.
The prices in the main season when you can see the animals easier can go all the way up to 7000 euros per 6 days safari.
What is a budget safari?
Did your wallet hurt once you saw these prices? I bet it did. That is why I get into budget safari. Which is a bit different. Of course, you will have a guide and will be driving in the park as much as possible. Even the whole day. You will also get food three times per day, but it is not going to be the food of your choosing. It is just going to be something to fill your empty stomach. Besides that, there are some extra things that you should count on.
You might need to join a group of other people
A lot of people would think that they would get their own driver and enjoy the ride. A lot of budget safaris are needed to reach the full capacity of the car. Which means that you will likely get in a group of other people.
Nothing is ever a sure thing
Let me give you an example. When I booked my safari, I knew I was supposed to go to Tarangire Park and Lake Manyara. Instead, we went to Tarangire and Ngorongoro. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mad or anything like that. But you might not be sure about which park you will go to.
Accommodation isn’t nearly as pretty
You will still be in camps because that is just the easiest thing. But those camps are not going to be in the middle of the national reserve or somewhere very close to it. You will get a tent where is just bed and nothing else. Which means that you can be very cold during the night. Especially if you are around Ngorongoro, where the altitude is quite high.
Alright so now we know that budget safari are with other people and might not be as well-organized as other ones and accommodation aren’t the most comfortable. But in all honesty, I went through it and it was just great. Budget safari is here for anyone who just wants to have the experience and doesn’t care about other things.
The cost of it meets the services that are offered. For two days you would usually pay 500 euros. It all depends on which park are you visiting in Tanzania. Budget safari in Tanzania for 5 days with Serengeti park, which is the most expensive one, cost around 700 euros.
When we are talking about budget, you should also consider giving tips to your guide and possibly to a cook. That is usually around 20-30 euros per day.
And even though it might feel expensive, you need to count on the fact, that you are not paying just for the driver but also for entry fees to the park, accommodation, and food. All in all, it is not that bad.
Is there some mid-range safari?
Of course, not everything is black and white. And so it is not like there are only luxury or budget safaris in Tanzania. You can find some midrange prices as well. That usually means, that your accommodation might not have the best view or your hotel won’t have a swimming pool. There will be only a simple kitchen and not a buffet every day.
If you want some sort of mid-range safari in Tanzania, count with prices around 170 euros per day which would include decent lodge somewhere around the park and good food and of course guide and tickets to safari parks.
Where to book a budget safari in Tanzania?
Budget safari Tanzania – That is the company that I went with for my safari. They offer all kinds of tours from 2 days in two different parks to 5 days safari. You can also choose whether you want a private tour or a shared one. And you will get prices from 480 USD to 980 USD, depending on which parks are you visiting and the length of your trip.
African Overland tours – This specialized company is offering long tours around Africa for very budget prices (58 days road trip from South Africa to Kenya for 2800 euros? Hell yeah!). But if you are looking for a budget safari in Tanzania that would last only a couple of days, you can find here a couple of options as well. The cheapest one is for 4 days and costs 1200 euros.
Zaita tours – Another company that also claims to have a budget tours for safari. Even offers whether you want to have a lodge safari or camping safari. However, they didn’t put a price on their website so it is harder to compare them. But once you ask, you will see how affordable they are and what they can offer.
Is there anything cheaper?
Yes! There is a cheaper safari. The ones that I mentioned are about staying somewhere overnight. But if you cross out accommodation and possibly some food, you will get even cheaper prices. Which means that you will have to go to one-day safari.
If you are planning to go for that, count with 120 dollars per day. At the same time, you will probably need to get a hotel in Arusha, because that is the closest place to all the national parks.
My experience with a budget safari in Tanzania
I went for safari for the very first time in Tanzania. Tanzania has a big variety of national parks, some of them are notoriously known, like Ngorongoro crater or Serengeti. Either way, there is a lot of them. I guess if you are not on a tight budget, you can spend a week or more on visiting all of them. However, I was on a budget. Thankfully, there was a solution.
Because I choose to go for a budget safari in Tanzania, I got to be with a group of people who I didn’t know before. Either way, we all were at the same age and understand each other, so it was really nice.
First day on safari
Our first day started in Tangerine national park. Even though my tour said I was supposed to visit Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro. But I didn’t really mind too much, because I had to change a day to go to safari. My flight got delayed the day before, so the safari company organized for me another day and I didn’t need to pay anything extra. Which was really nice.
So anyway, We arrived in Tangerine around 12 o’clock, which is when our safari started. There were already a lot of people at the gate, going around and eating lunch. Because most of us were on safari for the first time, we kept asking our driver to stop at every animal. Later on, when we were tired of zebras, we were fine with just driving around them.
On our first day, we managed to see all kinds of animals, but from the big 5 we saw only herbivores – so elephants and buffalo. Tangerine was super interesting mainly with all the baobab trees around us. When it was around 4 o’clock, it was time to head to the place where we were accommodated.
Night in the tents
Now, because we did travel on a budget, we also choose the cheapest accommodation. Which in this case meant to sleep in tents on the border with Ngorongoro. Here is a thing. I was warned about being cold by the tour company before, but I didn’t think it could be that bad. But it was.
Sleeping in the tent was certainly a great adventure. It got dark very soon and soon after, it also got very cold. So it was quite an adventure to go for a shower when you cannot see too many things around.
The sleeping tent seemed very comfortable, there was a bed in it, so I didn’t have to sleep on the ground. But it had some flaws. Mainly the cold. And I really wasn’t prepared to have warm pajamas with me. At the same time, it was quite windy, so I didn’t sleep too much. But hey, it was cheap and the meal was good. So for one night, it really wasn’t too bad.
Second day in Ngorongoro
On my second and last day, we went to promised Ngorongoro. Ngorongoro is quite high – around 2000 meters above sea level, so it can get really cold in the morning. But at the same time, it is perhaps one of the most beautiful parks in Tanzania. It is a relatively small area, so you will see, how easy it is to get crowded here.
But it is also a good opportunity to see a lion here if you are not going to Serengeti. We manage to see two lions. At that point, there were a lot of cars around us. But that is something that will always happen in places like this. Ngorongoro was absolutely stunning, and we saw quite a lot of vegetation and life around here.
And in the end, I had to switch cars to go back to my hotel in Moshi. But what I really like about this tour, was that even though everything was on a budget, I was very well taken care of. And I didn’t need to worry about anything. Which is nice, especially when you are going on safari for the first time.
What to pack?
Take warm clothes – If you read my experience, you know that I cannot stress this enough. Especially if you are sleeping outside.
Don’t forget your headlamp. Sure, mobile phones are cool, but have you ever tried a good old headlamp? If you are sleeping in a tent, it could be good to have one.
Take binoculars with you. My mother in law borrowed me one, so I was covered. But some members of our group didn’t have one and it was harder for them to see animals that were further away.
Bright clothes are a must. And by bright I mean khaki or green. Here is the thing – some flies prefer to sit on darker or very colorful places. So, if you take your dark clothes, not only you might get too warm during midday, you will be also bitten.
Tips and rules of safari game drive
Going out of the car is a no-no! You probably know this, and your driver will probably tell you that as well. In the car, you are like canned food for some animals. So going out is a big risk and forbidden in most of the places in any national park.
Go in the morning. If you want to see a lion in action, go to safari in the early morning. Of course, all animals have a different time when they are active, but there is a big chance, that if you see a lion in the afternoon, it will be very similar to any house cat. Just sleeping.
Make sure you know where you are going. I don’t mind changing Lake Manyara for Tangerine. But there were some members of our group that did mind it. If you want to visit a specific park, make sure you ask about it.
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