Safaris are intimate experiences that bring you back to nature and allow you to connect with the untamed, primal wildlife that roam the plains, savanna’s, and wetlands. If you’re hoping to safari, then here are some tips on how to safari in South Africa, on a budget!

Elephant back rides at Botlierskop Private Nature Reserve (C) TravelGround

1. Day Safari

If the price tag of most safaris has you gasping in shock, and wondering if selling your car, kids, and kidney would just manage to cover the costs, you’ve clearly been looking at the wrong venues.

So stop looking at all-inclusive 5* bush stays, and instead, start looking at going on a day safari. Choose between intimate walking safaris, scenic horse-riding safaris, or consider going on only a game drive with an experienced ranger.

Most South African game reserves allow day visitors, but the below are arguably three of the best:

Horseback safari at Botlierskop Private Nature Reserve (C) TravelGround

Pilanesberg National Park, North West

Time: 09:00 – 17:00
Contact: 087-820-0020

Pilanesberg National Park is set within an ancient volcanic crater that is home to a vast variety of flora, fauna, and bird life. Some of the numerous animals to be seen include the Big Five, springbok, red eyed bulbul, and hyena. With options for self-guided or guided game drives, game walks, and even balloon safaris, you’ll definitely get your fill of primal beauty here. Find out more.

A lion and his mate seen at Aquila Game Reserve (C) TravelGround

Aquila Game Reserve, Western Cape

Time: 09:00 – 15:30
Contact: 0861-7373-783

Just under 2 hours from Cape Town, Aquila Game Reserve offers choices between horseback safaris, quad bike safaris, combo safari’s, game drives, and self-guided tours. The Big Five, hippo, and giraffe roam the reserve, which is also filled with numerous bird species. Find out more.

Giraffe herd at Botlierskop Private Nature Reserve (C) TravelGround

Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park, KwaZulu-Natal

Time: 06:00 – 16:00
Contact: 035-590-1555

Established in 1895 the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park is the oldest proclaimed natural park in Africa, and with a full day safari option at R850 per person, including meals, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better option for spotting animals which include the Big 5, cheetah, wild dog, impala, hyena, and warthog. Find out more.

Budget Safari at Eden@Marloth (C) TravelGround

2. Self-Catering Stays

So you want to hear the lions roaring at night, or watch the zebra and wildebeest commune side by side at a water hole? You and I both! An accommodation within a game reserve is your best bet (but please be aware animal sightings in game reserves can never, ever be guaranteed).

If you’re not after a 5* experience, but a budget one, complete with moths and mozzies flittering over your head at night as you enjoy a braai, and rustic blankets for the cold nights, you should consider:

–          [email protected] offers a stay within Marloth Park, for R350 an apartment. Their unit can take four guests, provides basic self-catering equipment, linen, and towels. Please note you’ll have to bring your own cleaning aids.

–          Molopo Lodge is set within the Green Kalahari on the boarder of South Africa and Botswana. They offer cosy accommodation from R250 per person, and offer at an additional fee game drives, with the possibility of Big 5 sightings.

–          Botlierskop Private Game Reserve is a more luxurious option for accommodation. There is a wide range of additional on-site activities for guests and day visitors which include elephant back rides, horseback safaris, walking with African lions, and 4×4 game drives.

Wildlife seen at Eden@Marloth (C) TravelGround

3. Optional Extras

If you’re sorted with a great accommodation, and have paid for your safari choice, start looking at what else you can do on-site to make your stay more luxurious, for a small additional fee. Be choosy with these indulgences as they can add up quickly!

–          Check if there is an on-site restaurant, and if so, book an intimate dinner.

–          Are there beauty therapists on-site, and do they offer in-room massages? If so, definitely book one!

–          Will staff, by prior arrangement, spread rose petals on the bed, and provide champagne, chocolates, and bubble bath?

–          Is there a honeymoon suite you can upgrade to at an additional fee?

Don’t be afraid to ask if management can provide certain items, to make your stay more comfortable, intimate, romantic, or quirky.

Please do follow up with staff before your arrival to ensure your requested item(s) will still be provided, and don’t forget to bring your camera, and an extra memory card!

Some other safari posts you may find useful include what not to do on a safari, what to expect from a safari, 5 malaria free game reserves, 20 safari scenes that will have you booking yours today, and what to pack for a safari.

What tips do you have to plan a cost-effective safari?