Finding Your Best Affordable Experience
Updated: Jan 7
Why are some Safari Operators Cheaper or more expensive than what we offer? While it's a good idea to shop around and compare quotes before you buy, it helps to make sure that you know what you're getting.
We are going to focus mainly on #krugerparksafaris - since we are ground operators in Kruger, with our own guides and Open Safari Vehicles, we have been operating in the Kruger National Park since 1999.
However, most of these tips and pointers apply just as well to safaris anywhere in Africa. In the Kruger National Park, there are only a handful of quality, established ground operators. Over the years, we've seen a lot of operators come and go, and we know there are plenty of "Kruger Park Safaris” to choose from. They differ in price and they differ in quality.
# 1: Why Are Some Safaris Cheaper or More Expensive?
Some safari companies seem to offer cheap Kruger Park safaris - and sometimes even #cheapsafaris are an excellent choice as we try to cater for all Budgets especially now after Covid 19. As with all things in life, you get what you pay for, and there is always a reason something is either Cheap or Expensive?
First check what exactly is included: In some cases, the price excludes things like your return transfers from Johannesburg, or your daily conservation fee (park fees) in Kruger. We include that in our pricing as we believe in a quality safari for everyone. Many Kruger safaris don't include the return transfers from Johannesburg in their initial quote or website pricing.
Perhaps the camp/accommodation is not inside Kruger Park itself: All of our Kruger National Park Safaris stay within the Kruger National Park using their accommodations except on our Unique Safaris which may use a combination of both private Lodges and the Kruger National Parks accommodations. A number of "Kruger Park Safaris” we know of are actually based outside the park, at a cheap "safari lodge" or even at cheap accommodation in a nearby town.
If the accommodation is situated outside, you'll be entering Kruger Park as a day visitor, subject to queues at the gate, or getting off to a late start (the early part of the day is the best time for game viewing). Staying within the Kruger Park allows you an earlier time of game viewing. We know of "Kruger Park Safaris" which are based almost an hour from the nearest gate, and a multi-day itinerary includes only one day visit into Kruger. Yet it is marketed as a Kruger safari.
To save costs, some cheap operators tend to use entry-level, inexperienced guides on minimum wage, some of whom may not have a good command of English. Highly experienced guides, which Nhongo Safaris utilizes, cost more.
Third-party booking agents or resellers marketing the "Kruger Park Safari" may not have any knowledge of the accommodations or tour itself, having never done an inspection or site visit, and are perhaps not familiar with the area as a whole. Be careful of safaris which are vague about what accommodation is used and where it’s actually situated.
Some operators will offer the bare minimum on their safari experiences where others will add in some extra activities like a bush walk and/or sunset/night drive.
Lastly, some lodges and operators offer deals that are only available to locals. If you've seen a very good deal online, check the fine print to make sure it's available to everyone, for all dates and seasons, not just to local residents or during low season. We have priced our safaris to cater for Local and International Visitors alike with no Low, High or Mid-Season pricing.
# 2: Is it Authentic?
Perhaps the trip is advertised as a "Kruger Park Safari" but is it actually based in the Kruger at all? Will you actually overnight there? Does the tour offer more than a single day visit to the Kruger Park? Or does some of the #gameviewing involve visiting a wildlife 'sanctuary' where the game are kept in fenced camps? In our opinion, such tours cannot in good conscience be sanctioned as a "Kruger Park" safari.
# 3: What is the Quality of the Guide/s?
Ask anyone who's been on safari - from a first-timer to a seasoned safari goer - what is the single most important ingredient for an unforgettable safari, and you're likely to hear, "the guide". An experienced, #enthusiasticguide with excellent people skills, great English and a wealth of wildlife knowledge commands a much higher guide fee than an inexperienced, entry-level guide with only basic bush knowledge. This price difference is reflected in the tour price. Reviews on TripAdvisor and Google can give you a feel for the calibre of the guide you're likely to get. A top quality safari guide can be a huge difference between an awesome or negative experience.
# 4: Does It Matter Which Operator I Book With?
Unfortunately, as with most industries, there are excellent, reputable operators and there are some unscrupulous agents. A wildlife safari is a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. You don't want to be left high and dry with no recourse if anything should go wrong. It helps to do some research to determine which ones are worth their asking price. Things to consider:
Read their online reviews on TripAdvisor and Google and see how what they offer compares to ours.
How carefully do they listen to and respond to your requests? A good Operator should answer you within two to three hours of sending your request. Do you get the sense they have read and understood your requirements? Or simply sent you a standard, cut-and-paste reply?
Do the consultants have detailed, first-hand knowledge of the places or trips they're recommending?
Exactly what is excluded and included? Very Important to read these carefully.
Are they willing and able to respect your budget, or are they always pushing you to spend more? Some operators only deal with a specific lodge group, or only with expensive, luxury lodges where they can earn more.
Are there any hidden costs, e.g. credit card surcharges, booking fees, conservation fees or entrance fees, and so on?
Very important - are they properly insured and do they offer financial protection? Will you get your money back if the company fails?
Do they belong to respected tourism authorities or industry associations in their area of operation?
# 5: Shouldn't I Just Book Everything Myself?
Yes you can, but you'll be putting yourself to a whole lot of extra work. Booking with a good operator won't cost you a penny more; in fact, we are often able to save you money on accommodation rates. We know which are the easiest, most affordable ways to get from A to B, where there are detours and poor roads. We can advise you on things like where you should allow for extra time between places, what the baggage allowances are, what you should pack and where the best places are that are most suited to what you're looking for in a dream safari.
Also, if you book yourself you'll need to pay many individual suppliers separately. Some of them may be slow to respond. And you have no recourse or protection if anything goes wrong. It helps to have someone in your corner to negotiate with suppliers on your behalf.
# 6: To sum up, booking with us gives you peace of mind because:
You'll get the best rates.
You enjoy full financial protection (through SATSA in South Africa) with us being a member.
There are no hidden extras.
You'll get insider, first-hand destination and safari advice from our friendly, knowledgeable, well-travelled consultants we have a 24 hour dedicated WhatsApp number for any emergency or information that you may require while visiting South Africa.
You can turn to someone if anything goes wrong and you know it'll be followed up on.
You'll get a handy, detailed travel guide to inform you about what to expect; with advice about a range of issues like tipping, safety and money; information on what to bring;
You'll be able to enjoy a seamless, organised safari where all the hassles of planning and booking have been taken care of for you.
Nhongo Safaris strives to offer top quality and memorable safaris at affordable prices for budgets to suit all ranges. With a dedicated and very knowledgeable team, Nhongo Safaris is ready to assist and take you on your dream #wildlifeadventure.
As the saying goes: "The only man I envy is the one who, has not been to Africa, for he has much to look forward to" - Richard Mullin