If you’re thinking about going on a Safari in Kenya, you’ll want to know the cost. The price of a safari varies depending on the time of year, the type of safari, and the company you go with. Being in Kenya, I have done extensive research into the different safari companies and packages available, so I will provide you with a comprehensive guide to help you understand the total cost of your dream African Safari.
Let’s first understand what Safari is.
What is a Kenyan Safari?
A Kenyan Safari is a type of vacation that allows you to explore Kenya’s amazing wildlife and nature. This can include game drives, bush walks, bird watching, and more. Depending on the package you choose, you may also enjoy boat trips to Lake Victoria or other locations in Kenya.
More than 137,000 visitors from the United States arrived in Kenya in 2021, which is more than any other country according to data from Statista.
Safari tours in Kenya have become increasingly popular among American travelers, proving to be very profitable for tour operators. In fact, one tour operator told us they stopped offering camping options when the US market opened up.
The prices charged by tour operators in Kenya are targeted specifically for travelers from Europe and North America and they are considerably expensive. I am among mid to high-income earners living in Kenya and still find most safari packages quite expensive.
How much does a Safari in Kenya cost?
On average, a 4-day safari in Kenya costs 2000 to 3,000 US dollars although higher mid-tie packages could go as high as $5,000 all-inclusive. Reasonable budget options come in at around 1700 dollars, while those looking for a luxurious option may have to spend up to 10,000 dollars.
In our latest circuit covering Amboseli, the Mara and Lake Nakuru the whole trip cost us $2800 for a 4-day trip. I had a great time at AA Lodge and at the magnificent Lake Nakuru Lodge. In Mara, we stayed at Osero Camp. I thought we got a really good deal, about $1400 per person for the entire 4-day period!
I have seen blogs quote 10,000 US for a 10-day average safari trip that’s not even regarded as luxurious. I struggle to believe that most Safari-goers are forking out $1k a day as this is just exorbitantly high.
To save you the hassle, I’ve summed up how much a Kenyan Safari costs and what to expect from different types of tours. As someone who’s lived in Kenya all my life and visited many popular national parks here,I can say with authority that these are top-notch recommendations.
Kenyan Safari costs for family of 4:
Kids are always half-price or generally discounted so if you’re looking for a family safari, your cost will be substantially less. A 4-Day African Safari for a family of four could start from as low as $6,500 all-inclusive and can go up to $8,000 or more depending on the level of luxury you are looking for.
If you have 1 kid, then you can expect to pay around $4,500 for a 4-Day African Safari. You should also factor in additional costs such as flights, drinks and souvenirs.
Kenyan Safari cost solo traveler:
For the solo traveler looking to explore Kenya on a budget, then you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,100 to $2,500 for a 4-Day Safari. This depends on the level of accommodation and activities you are looking for. The $1100 range is for those that try to use campsites in the National Parks or private campsites such as ours to reduce the high cost of booking lodges and hotels within the Parks.
Here are key cost items to Understand true cost of Kenya safari
A safari van is the main mode of transport for your Safari and it typically includes a driver/guide, a spotter (a guide who looks out for wildlife from the roof), fuel, and all other transportation needs. The cost to hire a safari van ranges from $150 -$200 per day depending on the size and type of vehicle.
Many newer safari vans, from 2010 models and up, charge around $300. This can be very misleading to customers who don’t realize that the condition of the car is not always stated upfront. For example, we recently visited the Mara in a very slow-moving Toyota Landcruiser made back in 1979. Most safari tour operators will avoid disclosing this information about older cars beforehand so they can continue making higher profits off of unsuspecting tourists.
Make sure you have a good understanding of the state of your safari van. Can the roof really pop? Is the AC working? Do you need music and does the van have speakers? Get these questions from your guide before making the booking.
Some Kenyans have a reputation for not maintaining their vehicles because they claim that taxes make it too difficult. I see where they’re coming from.
Luxury vans with air-conditioning, speakers and roof-top tents will significantly increase the cost of your safari. There are not alot of roof-top tents in Kenya but if they were, those are the models deserving $300/day.
If you rent a van that hasn’t been converted into a camper yet, I believe that paying $150 to $200/night is fair. If you book a converted camper van with has more amenities such as cooking gear, be prepared to pay upwards of $350/night and still be reasonable because you are providing what would typically cost money at a lodge.
Since we cater mostly for budget travelers, let me note here that we’ll allocate $200 for transport/van hire.
The next big fish to fry is a place to stay while on your Safari.
There are nearly double the number of accommodations catering for safari-goers as they were 10 years ago and the sector has grown immensely in the last five years before COVID hit in 2019.
Your accommodation choices range from camping to lodges, resorts, hotels, and tented camps. There are so many lodges and in fact, most safari-goers pick camping when they miss out on a booking at a lodge, especially during peak season.
The price for a lodge room per night ranges from $150 to $600, whereas the cost for a tented camp spot per night is only $80 to $200. Also, if you already have your tent and camping gear with you, it will cost less than $20 to access National Park or Reserve campgrounds. Although camping is typically the least expensive option and should be preferred by most Kenyans on a budget when vacationing outdoors, Gen-Zs prefer glamping because it offers more amenities and convenience.
Glamping is a form of camping that typically involves luxury accommodations with comfortable beds, air conditioning, and even private bathrooms. Glamping sites usually cost at least $100 per night.
If you are on a super-tight budget, we also try to plan accommodations for our guests who would rather sleep in regular guesthouses or hotels targeting regular Kenyans as opposed to tourists. On average, you can expect to pay about $30 for a foam 6×5 bed with clean sheets in a good hotel. The challenge is finding these hotels closer to the Parks and Reserves. Reach out to talk about budget accommodations including camping at our campsites.
I’ll go ahead and allocate $150 for lodging in our budget safari trip for a total of $350 for both transport and lodging although this could go as high as $450.
If you opt to rent a converted camper van that we offer, you pay $0 for accommodation and only $300 which brings the total to $300. This is significantly lower than the $450 price so far for budget travelers using premium lodges and highly-priced safari vans.
Next on the list of expenses that make up the daily cost of going on a Kenyan Safari are the fees to pay including the entry fee cost and the various activities you’d want to do in the parks. Some Conservancies, for example in the Mara Triangle offer activities such as fishing, hot air balloons, and walking safaris.
Vehicle entry fees:
Parks and conservancies have a vehicle entry fee but this is often covered by the company offering the vans.
Park entry fees:
Travelers pay the park entry fee and this is per person and not per vehicle.
The normal park entry fee for most parks and reserves in Kenya (not including the Maasai Mara) is 800 Kenyan shillings per person per day ($7 USD). Maasai Mara and Amboseli charge higher, 1200 shillings and 800 shillings respectively. For non-residents, the daily rate is $70, while East African residents pay Kes 1200 shillings.
If you plan on a 4-day safari, with 2-days in the Mara, 2 days in Amboseli and one day in Lake Nakuru that will come to;
- Masai Mara: 4*1200 = 7200 shillings
- Amboseli: 4*800=4800 shillings
- L. Nakuru: 4*800 = 4800 shillings
Total cost of park entry fees = 16,800 Kenyan Shillings ($160)
In order to avoid any complications, make sure that your travel agent factors in all of these potential costs. If you work with a Safari operator that is licensed by KTB and has an account with KATO, entrance into the parks will be much simpler as the park fees can just be charged to the tour operator’s general KATO account. This way, you won’t have to spend a lot of time waiting in line.
If you are traveling solo, we recommend that you join our group safaris or private tours. We offer discounted rates for students and family bookings as well.
The game drive costs are typically in the range of $40-$90 depending on the duration and type of game drive.
Food is another important factor to consider when deciding on a safari in Kenya. Most safaris include meals at the campgrounds or lodges you stay in, but it’s also important to account for any additional food costs. Depending on your budget, you can opt for basic buffet-style meals for around $25 USD
Are Luxury Safaris Worth it?
Luxury safaris offer the following extra to justify the higher prices:
– Luxury accommodation in tented camps or lodges with all modern amenities and services.
– Private game drives and private guides to ensure a personalized experience.
– Meals are typically better quality than those offered on budget safaris.
– Access to more exclusive areas of the parks and reserves.
– Additional activities such as hot air balloon rides and night game drives.
I find luxury safaris very worth the price if you can afford it as they are more exclusive in terms of game drives, accommodation and activities. The cost for a luxury safari will range from $1,500 to over $3,000 per person depending on the duration of your stay and other extras included.
Although there’s nothing quite like a luxury safari, I believe that you could get a similar level of comfort from a mid-range safari. It’s more budget-friendly and will still be an amazing experience. If cost isn’t an issue for you, go ahead and choose the luxurious option because it’ll be unlike anything else you’ve ever done.
Are Safaris arranged by travel agents cheaper than privately arranged safaris?
While tour operators get some discounts from hotels and van-hire companies, they do not necessarily translate to cheaper safaris. Tour operators often add a markup to their services, so the total cost may be more than what you would pay if you organized your own trip.
By privately arranging your safari, you can give up some of the luxury such asr high-end lodge accommodation, or opt for a simpler camp. You can also save money by avoiding expensive game drive activities such as hot air balloon rides and night safaris. On the other hand, private travel usually requires more effort and knowledge on your part, so if you’re looking for convenience it’s best to stick with a tour operator. That’s where we come in to get you your ideal safari planned out.