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)

Favorite Animal Photos from Africa

Here are my favorite photos of African animals from our trip to southern Africa last year. These photos were taken on safari in Etosha National Park, Namibia, Chobe National Park, Botswana, and South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.

In Namibia, we rented a two-wheel drive car and spent a week driving around Etosha National Park. Animals congregate at the waterholes and spotting wildlife is very easy. Learning how to drive a stick-shift with the steering wheel on the right, or British side, was a challenge. We stayed in the center of the national park at Halali camp where each evening we watched the as animals congregated at the floodlit waterhole.

In Botswana, we took a three-day/two-night camping safari that included two boat trips on the Chobe River. All the animals in the area congregate at the river at the end of the dry season and the amount of wildlife was mind-blowing.

Lastly, we visited South Luangwa national park in Zambia where we had hippos, elephants, baboons, mongoose and monkeys all wandering in and through our camp. On our last outing, we had the luck to have a close encounter with a pride of lions with four young cubs.

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