When you plan a safari in Africa it is important to find the trip that suits your budget and that gives you the best experience for what you can afford. In total I have spent more than a year on safaris in Africa and I have seen all types of trips. From rough-and-ready camping to luxury lodges and mobile tented camps. Here I compare five different wildlife safaris in Botswana, each of them offering different game viewing opportunities for different budgets.
8 days from CA$1,012
The bottom line: very low-cost camping trip but what you pay is what you get - game viewing is limited, you work during your holiday, pay as you go for activities, and sleep on a mat on the floor.
Accommodation: camping. As you do not sleep inside national parks, you enter and leave the park with other vehicles.
Who will this tour appeal to: 18-to-30-somethings. This is a fast, fresh, and fun adventure that never slows down, made for young, budget-minded travellers.
What is different: An essential part of this safari is participation. The group is usually divided into small groups and given different tasks which change on a day to day basis, from kitchen duty group (helping in prepare meals and clean up afterwards), the packing group (sets up all tables and chairs outside) and the cleaning group (which cleans the truck).
Staff: On this tour, you will be accompanied by two guides who will function as group manager and leader, cook and driver. They will provide information on the places where you are travelling, offer suggestions for things to do and see and introduce you to local contacts.
Transport:24 seat passenger truck; good height but not with guaranteed window seats Group size: maximum 22, average 18 travellers
Itinerary notes: optional game activities keep the brochure price low. This is artificial however as who would go to Africa and not do the game activities? There are long drives through bush country, which means actual time spent game viewing is limited to two half days in Chobe and an overnight camping trip in the public areas of the Okavango.
9 days from CA$3,141
The bottom line: paying more than the G-Adventures trip gives you added comfort, more inclusions and no chores. Game viewing is still limited.
Accommodation: Hotel (2 nights), Lodge (3 nights), Basic Lodge (3 nights). As you do not sleep inside national parks, you enter and leave the park with other vehicles.
Who will this tour appeal to: travellers who do not want to spend too much money but are looking for a certain degree of comfort but who like road trips
Staff: as with G-Adventures, you will be accompanied by two guides who will function as group manager and leader, cook and driver. However, Intrepid adds local guides where more specific knowledge will add to the enjoyment of the places you are visiting, especially when tracking and identifying game
Transport: 14-seater van without guaranteed window seat Group size: maximum 12 travellers Itinerary notes: There are long drives which means the time for game viewing is limited, although you get more of it than with G-Adventures. Intrepid makes up for lost time by visiting a private concession and remoter areas which means fewer people and better game viewing. Most game activities are included. Due to flight connections you will need to add a night in Victoria Falls and perhaps two if you want to engage in any of the adventure activities on offer.
Botswana Safari 14 days from CA$3,895
The bottom line: a decent safari for those wanting to camp at a very good price
Accommodation:11 nights full-service camping, 2 nights in chalets. All bathroom facilities while camping are shared. Four nights inside national parks and two nights in the Okavango are spent on private campsites with a portable toilet and shower tentwhich means you get away from other travellers.
Nights outside the national parks you stay in public campgrounds with communal ablution blocks and other facilities such as swimming pool and restaurants. As with G-Adventures and Intrepid this means you enter and leave the park with other vehicles on those days.
Who will this tour appeal to: people who do not mind roughing it just a little bit. The camping is quite comfortable, what with camp beds with mattresses, all camping equipment and camp chairs supplied.
Transport: safari vehicle without guaranteed window seat
Group size: 4-12 Itinerary notes: as with G-Adventures and Intrepid, Exodus' foray into the Okavango Delta is not in a protected area, which means there is some game but also human habitation. Exodus adds the Makgadikgadi Salt Pan, an area famous for its baobabs, expansive views and sunsets. On the way back from VicFalls to Maun Exodus takes you through the wildlife corridor formed by Chobe, Savuti and Moremi, where you get five full days of game drives.
9 days from US$4,530 in low season to US$8,030 in high season
The bottom line: arguably the best ultra-small-group safari we know.
Accommodation: Six nights in an intimate mobile tented camp set up on private campsites inside the national parks. The camp consists of a dining gazebo and three spacious expedition dome tents (4 x 4 mtrs), comfortable beds, separate en-suite bathroom (3 x 3 mtrs) with toilet and hot bucket shower. The last two nights are spent in one of the &Beyond lodges in the Okavango Delta where you can round off your Botswana journey in luxurious surrounds and experience a mix of water and land activities.
Who will this tour appeal to: people who love glamping and getting a true wilderness experience in the spectacular African bush.
Transport: open-sided safari vehicle with guaranteed outer seat, light aircraft
Group size: minimum 2, maximum 6
Itinerary notes: a butler, housekeeper and chefs prepare the most scrumptious pan African menus. Eight days of incredible game viewing in Botswana's best game parks as well as on a private concession in the Okavango Delta, accompanied by some of the world's best safari guides. Victoria Falls is an easy add-on.
11 days from US$6,866 in low season to US$10,267 in high season (classic rate); US$11,519 in low season to US$20,074 in high season (deluxe rate)
The bottom line: the ultimate safari in luxury, accompanied by some of the world's best safari guides.
Who will this tour appeal to: those who want to stay in luxury, travel just with their own partner, family or group of friends and travellers who want to tailor their itinerary to their wishes without the constraints of a set itinerary and fixed departure dates Transport: small aircraft for transfers between lodges; shared open Landcruiser-style vehicles with guaranteed outer seating for game drives at the lodges
Group size: limited to your own group. Game drive vehicles are shared, typically between 4-6 people
Itinerary notes: stay in luxury throughout. As the itinerary can be completely tailored, you can choose to extend or shorten your stay in any location, or add different areas as you see fit