Why do safaris seem so expensive?
Whether people come right out and ask this question or not, we know that this is something that is on every guest’s mind. We are very passionate about the issue and explaining why it is that we work with the lodges & camps that we do. We hope you will read what turned out to be a short essay on the topic!
To start, we work directly with the lodges and their office staff when we book your safari, so we are not re-selling someone else’s package, which would mean layer upon layer of extra fees that don’t provide our guests with any value. So, we can honestly say that the money you spend on your trip is going toward your experience on the ground.
These are the main drivers of a safari sticker price that at face-value that can be quite a bit more expensive than a luxury hotel in New York City.
*Remote locations. The lodges and camps you visit are in very remote parts of Africa. The logistics required to keep the lodges running daily with food deliveries such as fresh fish or supply replenishment’s like soaps and shampoos.
*Complex lodge operations. Apart from regularly replenished materials, maintaining a lodge in a wild environment is an extraordinary feat by the local staff. Fresh water and plumbing, vehicle maintenance, staff transportation and accommodation. On top of this, the lodges typically maintain their section of the park or game reserve: grading roads, repairing damage from weather and elephants, clearing brush and low-hanging branches to protect guests as they drive in open-air vehicles. Finally, lodges look to maintain a “light footprint” and have programs to conserve water, energy and overall impact on the surrounding environment.
*Conservation efforts. The lodges with whom we work are “in it for the long-haul”. Knowing that the budgets of their local governments are often insufficient to protect wild environments for generations to come, many invest in their own anti-poaching teams, support researchers from local universities that study wildlife concerns, or offer conservation grants.
*Community development efforts. The lodges with whom we work understand that to have a sustainable operation, they must be viewed positively by their local communities (who may otherwise think that the reserve would be better used for grazing cattle or agriculture). Communities are supported through job training, education, and sometimes nutrition/feeding programs & healthcare. These efforts extend to hundreds if not thousands of people, creating an impact that is much broader than the lodge’s own piece of property.
*Guides, trackers, and staff development. The lodges with whom we work are committed to their people and support career paths for, and the well-being of, their staff. Guides and trackers are supported to continue their study to obtain higher levels of expertise and certifications through the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA). Staff have access to pension funds and healthcare.
*Your experience on safari. Finally, all of these factors come together to support an experience for guests that is safe, comfortable, exciting, enriching and often, life changing. On a typical day on safari, you will have the opportunity to take a morning and evening game drive, and often, a midday walk before lunch. Your guide will often have dinner with you to talk about the day’s experiences. This means that your guide spends eight or more hours with you, personally infusing your experience with their professional knowledge and insights.
“If I have ever seen magic, it has been in Africa.”-John Hemingway
When we sketch this out with a “back of the envelope” type of calculation, where one:
* Starts with the base of a very nice hotel room
* Multiplies by fairly extreme factors of remoteness and complexity
*Adds expenses for conservation, community, and staff development
* Considers the value of the many hours of daily, professionally guided activities
(perhaps a poor parallel, but consider 2 rounds of golf per day at a renowned resort course and a personal caddy)
*And the priceless value of your presence adding to the protection of large tracts of land throughout Africa.
Most guests do feel that the safari sticker price is well-matched to the experience.