Botswana is proud to boast excellent safaris to see big game and predators in a diverse range of landscapes, from the rocky Tuli Block, to the grassy plains of the Kalahari desert, or the lush banks of the Chobi river. One of the big draws aside from the wildlife and scenery of Botswana is its exclusivity. The country has focused its safari tourism by greatly limiting visitor numbers to private concessions, for high income, low impact tourist presence. This typically means a high-end experience in the wilderness at 5 star lodges. The signature Botswana luxury experience is what you’ll generally see when searching about Botswana safaris. However, there are plenty of mid and lower budget options available via public campsites, mid-range tours, cheaper lodges or self-driving. So, in this article we’re going to have a quick look at the Botswana safari prices and options for you to consider. Please bear in mind that prices are ballpark estimates from the time of writing.
The more popular the destination, the more expensive it will be - places like Okavango Delta and Chobe Riverfront are typically pricier. Prices are also seasonal and this varies between the parks, so for cheaper prices aim for low season or the shoulder - you may not see quite as much wildlife and the weather might be hot or rainy, but you could save thousands of dollars! See our “When to go on Safari in Botswana ” article for more information. Also, don’t forget to add the cost of international flights to your trip cost, as they are usually not included in tour prices.
Much of Botswana is made up of private concessions, land leased to safari companies. These exclusive parks contain high-end lodges and camps, and are usually reached by light aircraft or helicopter. This is the true luxury safari experience, plush 5-star accommodation in the wild, great food, great service, private guides and tours with very few other guests (some camps have as few as 5-10 “rooms”. But for this you will be paying top-dollar - Botswana has the most expensive camps in Africa. Typically luxury travellers book tours in Botswana with everything pre-arranged and will stay in private concessions, although of course you could arrange it independently - just be aware that exclusive lodges in Botswana have very limited visitor numbers, so book well in advance.
A male cheetahs after a successful kill the day before - they were marking territory and looking for a place to sleep. Photo by Shawn
Expect to pay at least $600-$1500 a night per person at most luxury lodges, although there are even more expensive lodges going up to over 2000 dollars a night! Prices are usually inclusive of safari tours, food, etc. Then add on costs for light aircraft hops between camps, which could be in the ballpark of around $500 per person (flights tend to be 100-300 dollars per trip). On average you should budget at least $700-$1000 a day per person for a luxury Botswana safari experience - and quite a lot more if you want the highest-end lodges. Allow additional costs for luxury activities such as hot air balloon rides, boat tours, helicopter trips and so on.
Be aware that the lodge experience can feel a little tame for some travellers. If you’re worried about things being too comfortable, ask providers and lodges about more adventurous options - it’s still possible to find a good balance between the two whilst still getting 5 star service.
Mid-range is a relative term when talking about Botswana and some travellers may balk at “mid-range” prices. There are high quality all-inclusive private lodges which still offer a fair amount of luxury in the ballpark of $400-$600 per person per night. Again if going for private lodges, you may have to pay extra for transport between camps if they aren’t included in a package price (road is cheapest, although not many camps have road access, and flights are much more expensive).
Buffalos of Botswana seen in Botswana, Okavango delta, camp Little Mombo. Photo by Linda
Small group package tours fit into the mid-range budget. Typically you will travel as a group and stay at the same lodges or camps, but usually get private rooms. You will share guides and transport. Group tours are usually bought through tour providers and there are hundreds to choose from - although they are usually all-inclusive, look out for extra costs such as transportation and extra activities (these can be expensive, helicopter rides for example are around $500 per person). These group tours can range between $300-$600 per person per night and are a good option for travellers on a lower budget who want a more social experience and a bit more adventure. A mid-range tour of this type will still be quite comfortable with mostly high quality accommodation.
Mobile group tours hop between parks and use campsites and cheap lodges, travelling using safari buses or mini buses. You may stay at public campsites, and you might have to erect your own tents - but good meals, activities, a guide and support staff (driver, cook etc) will be included. The mid-range mobile tours are more luxurious than the budget options: facilities, accommodation and services will be of a higher standard, as well as smaller group numbers. Expect to pay between $250-$500 per person per night. These are arguably a more authentic and adventurous experience than luxury tours but with the downside that there will always be people around.
Botswana is well known for its exclusive safaris. Photo Credit
The easiest budget option for Botswana is to join a budget group mobile safari tour. These are very similar to the mid-range mobile tours but group sizes are usually larger, accommodation more rustic (standard tents, food more basic and less activities will be included in the price. The cheapest tours will have you helping out with the day to day camping logistics, simple stuff like erecting tents, doing the washing up and so on. Expect to pay $150-$300 per day. Sometimes not all meals are included (although food is cheap) and there may be other small surcharges as well. If you aren’t bothered about luxury, don’t mind being social, but still want an organised tour, this is a good option. These kind of tours are usually popular with younger travellers, with older travellers leaning towards the more luxurious options. I did a budget mobile safari like this in Tanzania and it was a lot of fun, whilst still getting to see a lot of great wildlife.
Another budget option is to self-drive. You’ll hire out a 4x4 and tackle the parks by yourself, staying in campgrounds. There are specialised 4x4s with tents on the roof which you can stay in overnight, or you can hire or buy tents and camping gear to take with you. You will need to buy fuel, pay for campsites and park entry fees, buy and cook your own food and organise your own itinerary. The rewards are the freedom to explore the parks at your leisure and a true adventure. It’s also very cheap compared to a standard safari, especially if you share with 3 others. Expect to pay on average around $100-$250 a day to cover everything. Note that this is not a choice for the faint hearted, you need to be confident in your driving ability and close encounters with wildlife! The Guardian has a great writeup of a Botswana self-driving safari and it sounds like a real adventure!
A Wildebeest seen at dawn in Botswana. Photo by Phil
Finally is the uber-cheap option, to go full backpacker style and arrange everything yourself, staying in campsites and local towns and paying for transport and safari trips or guides separately. Some parks allow you to explore on foot, but not all, so check in advance if you don’t want to have to hire vehicles. If you have your own tent, camping is very cheap. Placing a budget on this option will be very variable depending on the kinds of activities you choose to do, but as a base you can pay as little as $100 a day, and a lot less if you’re just paying for camping, food and transport. Obviously you will need to do plenty of research to plan your trip around the limitations of your budget, pick up some guide books and look forward to a exciting experience!
We hope we’ve opened your eyes to some other possibilities beyond the super-luxurious Botswana safari that is so well promoted. Whilst the luxury option is a fantastic experience, you can still see just as much incredible wildlife and sights with cheaper options, although you will sacrifice that privacy and exclusivity a little. But a more rustic and adventurous experience is perhaps more in-keeping with the wild surroundings of Botswana, and why let money stand in the way of some of the safaris to be had in Africa? For more information and advice on Botswana safaris, please check out our other articles on the site, and whatever your budget, we know you will love the Botswana safari experience! You can find more information on safaris in Africa, especially in Tanzania and Kenya on our blog page.