Where to go on Safari – Eastern vs. Southern Africa

Oryx on the Etosha Pan
Oryx on the Etosha Pan

Oryx on the Etosha Pan

Africa Regions SafariIn doing research before my trip to Africa in 2011, I had three things I was looking for in a safari park.

  1. I wanted to see lots of animals
  2. I wanted to travel as independently as possible
  3. Price

Although animals would be a major factor in our trip, we also wanted to see some other famous sights in Africa, like Cape Town, Victoria Falls, Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar and/or Lake Malawi. We didn’t want to travel from Cape Town to Nairobi, so early on we decided to visit either southern or eastern Africa.

We ultimately choose to visit Etosha National Park in Namibia, Chobe National Park in Botswana, and South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, (along with Vic Falls, Lake Malawi and Cape Town) mainly because we could do them independantly, but just as importantly, they were a fraction of the price of the Kenyan and Tanzanian National Parks.

African Safari Park Price Comparison

*Entrance prices are per person, per day.

Park Country Entrance Fee
South Luangwa Zambia $25
Etosha Namibia $10
Chobe Botswana $14
Serengeti Tanzania $50
Gombe Tanzania $100
Kilamanjaro Tanzania $60
Amboseli Kenya $60
Lake Nakuru Kenya $60
Meru Kenya $50
Tsavo East Kenya $50
Tsavo West Kenya $50
Maasai Mara Kenya $80

The difference in price for entry fees across Africa is stunning. For my wife and I to visit Maasai Mara in Kenya, for example, we’d have to spend $160 per day just to get in the gate! In Etosha National Park, we spent a total of $160 for eight days of entry fees.

At Chobe National Park, we paid $320 each for a two-night, three-day camping safari that included all our food, four game drives, two river boat trips and all park fees. For similarly priced safaris in Kenya and Tanzania, I found the following prices.

3-Day Maasi Mara $605

5-Day Budget Camping Safari Arusha and Ngorognoro Crater $702

Maybe there are better prices to be had, and if so please let me know in the comments section. To me, the scenery of southern Africa was stunning even without iconic Kilimanjaro and we saw all the major animals, often in huge herds. I can’t really see how eastern Africa could have been better.

Zambia and Botswana are friendlier than Kenya and Tanzania

We finished our trip with three weeks on Likoma Island in Malawi (which is awesome, by the way). Malawi borders Tanzania and Zambia, and is a regional crossroads for travelers. We met dozens of people who had visited eastern Africa and some that had been to both regions.

Universally, they felt like the people in eastern Africa were not very friendly and there were hassles and cons aplenty. Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe had some of the nicest people I’d ever met. Everything in those countries was straight-forward, with no hassles and only a minimal amount of haggling needed at times. Namibia and South Africa were easy to visit also, but I have to admit that the Namibian people were not so friendly. Actually they were mostly rude.

Southern African Parks are less visited

I cannot find any data on this, but I am quite certain that the Tanzanian and Kenyan parks get more visitors. (I should note that the famous Kruger Park in South Africa can get crowded as well). We rarely shared animal sightings with other vehicles in any of the three parks we visited and we hit Etosha and Chobe during the end of peak season. We arrived in South Luangwa on Nov. 1 and our camp, the very popular Wildlife Camp, was mostly empty. We were even upgraded to a Chalet for free!

In summary, the southern African parks are cheaper, less visited and friendlier than those in Kenya and Tanzania and the wildlife is just as abundant.

Now you can’t say that I never told you anything.

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Have you been on safari in Africa? 

Have you been to Kenya and Tanzania and have something to add? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Related Articles

1. My Favorite Island in the World – Malawi’s Likoma Island (Planet Bell)

2. Choosing Your Destinatioin – Southern vs. Eastern Africa (Timeless Africa)

13 Comments on “Where to go on Safari – Eastern vs. Southern Africa

  1. I’d love to go on safari someday so you’ve really given me food for thought! Are places like Botswana safe to travel through though? Seeing as they’re not as well known?

    • Botswana is very safe. I think the crime rates in the cities of Zambia and Namibia are similar to those in Kenya/Tanzania. The countryside areas are very safe all around.

  2. I went on Safari in Tanzania in 2006. I agree, the culture was rather aggressive (think Egypt) and it wore me down. I don’t want to call people unfriendly – but I did have a couple of unpleasant run-ins in Zanzibar: one little boy told me to go f@#% myself when I said I didn’t need a guide, and one matatu driver refused me service and told me use the pricier tourist shuttle. Zanzibar was much harder than Arusha. I do think the way of doing things varies a lot from country to country. I spent two months in Rwanda that same summer, and in general Rwandans were mild-mannered and pleasant. Rwanda is definitely worth a short visit.

    • That is a good tip on Rwanda. I have heard good things about it.

      You’d be hard-pressed to find people nicer than those in Zambia-Malawi-Botswana-Zimbabwe. Thanks for the feed back on Tanzania! I have heard your feelings repeated before.

  3. Thank you for this post, very interesting. I was thinking of Namibia but I thought was very expensive… I went on Safari in Tanzania in 2011, Katavi National Park, the cheapest in Tanzania. We travelled independently (from Burundi, I was working there) and it was crazy but still probably the biggest adventure in my life.

    http://michiphotobooth.com/tag/tanzania/

    • Namibia has gotten much more expensive in recent years. However, the prices have come with much improved facilities at the park. $10 per day to enter Etosha is still a great deal, but some of the trips to Sossusvlei are extortionate.

      Overall, Chobe is probably the best deal in Africa, even though Botswana in general is expensive.

  4. Great post Jeff! This is just the information we’ve been looking for – and you provided it all in one hand place. Thanks so much. We lived in Khartoum, Sudan and went on safari twice in Kenya. Fortunately we had great, friendly experiences both times, but it’s been several years ago. Now we’re looking forward to using your info to head south. All the best, Terri

    • I hope you find it useful. You can’t go wrong visiting the Namibia/Zamibia/Botswana parks.

      How was living in Khartoum? I bet that was interesting.

  5. Pingback: A Tale of 4 Lions Kills | Planet Bell

  6. Interesting informative post and written in very well.
    thanks for sharing the impotent information about Africa wildlife and Africa national parks with entry fee.
    but I have also complete information about Indian wildlife and Indian national parks if you want to explore its then please visit on my blog.

  7. Pingback: 12 Popular Destinations I Have Little Interest in Visiting | Planet Bell

  8. Maybe we will visit Africa this year – and yes, scuba diving will be included on our travel package 😉 Your review on their reserve park is very interesting. I will check Namibia as an option as well. Many thanks!

    • Indah, if you haven’t been to Africa yet, it has to be at the top of your list. The number of animals is overwhelming. Definitely go at the end of the dry season!

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