Safari experiences can be very different.
At one end of the spectrum there’s the twelve-in-a-dozen safari offers typically found in the shiny brochures one picks up at your local travel agency. These brochures usually limit themselves to a few guided tours in the most known African countries (did someone say "Kenya"?). However, in an attempt to keep the price as low as possible, some very drastic choices have been made. Choices which may have a very negative impact on your safari experience. For starters, such itineraries often limit the most expensive portion of your trip (the days actually spent in the bush) to a minimum. Also; the accommodation selected will often be outside park boundaries (animals are most active in the early morning or just before sunset, that is not the time you want to be on your way to/from your hotel ). Or they might choose accommodation that cannot guarantee a minimum comfort level. Or you might end up in the wrong type of vehicles; like mini buses where you will feel like a sardine in a can, and where you have to take turns peering through a little window, to take a picture of a lion far away from the road. Or they opt for safari-days in the national parks (where there are often too many vehicles and where you can not go offroad) instead of private parks. Or they use any combination of the above tricks. Any self-respecting eco-tourist will find little value in this kind of trip.
At the other end of the spectrum are a few over-marketed private lodges (or groups of lodges), often well-known because they were pioneers of the "private safari" concept, and there they are now reaping the benefits. They are in top areas like the Okavango Delta in Botswana, or the Sabi Sands private reserve bordering Kruger National Park in South Africa. And they are all lodges with name and fame, and therefore definitely on the expensive side.
By now, some of the owners of these lodges (we can call them pioneers because they really are just that) have started up several lodges and developed a real safari empire. If you shop with them, they will propose itineraries that consists mostly of their own properties. But even if they put one of their less popular and more affordable lodges in your itinerary; the total cost of your trip will remain rather high.
It almost seems like there is no middle ground between these two extremes. But that is not the case at all! Yes, you can have an amazing safari where you do not have to deal with the crowds in a national park. And no, going on a safari in one or more private reserves does not mean you have to break the bank. There are plenty of affordable private reserves and -lodges out there. The only reason why this part of the safari-spectrum is less known on the northern hemisphere, is because the marketing budgets of these middle-class lodges are much smaller than the budgets of their bigger counterparts.
So many lodges are unknown and unloved. And yet, they often offer amazing safari experiences, equal to what you’d get at a top-lodge. But there’s more; these unknown lodges are often the main (if not only) reason that some regions remain wild or are re-wilded. Most of these lodges are struggling with occupancy levels, and that is a shame. The Africa Bug wants to change this situation, and puts these lodges in the spotlight. After all, it’s because of them that it is possible to have a fantastic safari experience without having to dig too deep in your pockets.
Here are some sample trips to various destinations in southern Africa.