Budget: Self-Drive Safari

We wanted to give you an idea (and figure it out for ourselves) of how much our self-drive safari cost. We knew that it would take us above our $100/day budget, but we figured that it would be worth it.

Total Cost of 25 day self-drive safari: $5,599.36

Throughout the safari, we used South African Rand, Botswana Pula, Namibian Dollars and US Dollars. We used the current exchange rates.

We divided this cost down into the following categories:

 

Transportation: $3785.89

 

The transportation includes the cost of our Bushlore Truck Rental ($3001.00), gas ($685.99), various road fees, and a ferry.

 

Accommodation: $860.25

We were actually quite shocked at the expense of our accommodation. We used our truck company to help us pre-book many of our campsites because we knew it would be high season for safari. We decided that it was a good choice for some of the parks in Botswana, but was probably a bit unnecessary for Namibia. We also found that the parks in Botswana were outrageously expensive, even though we were just camping. For example, there were park fees of about $28 per day. In addition to the park fees, we paid for camping. The camp grounds within the national parks are all private and they are amazingly expensive. You pay per person and they cost $50 per person, per night.

 

Activities (This includes all park and entrance fees): $448.73

These are the park fees mentioned above. They were much more expensive in Botswana than they were in Namibia.

 

Alcohol: $55.97

We purchased 2 boxes of wine for our camping and also purchased a couple of beers here and there in the lodges.

 

Food: $261.35

This mostly consisted of groceries for camping. However, we did end up breaking down and buying a few meals along the way.

 

Miscellaneous: $42.51

We purchased maps for all of the major parks. Again, the Botswana prices were much more expensive than Namibia. We also had to pay for the bathroom in a couple of places.

 

Souvenirs: $17.53

Our safari was 25 days, so this cost averages $223.97 per day. That definitely blows our budget. However, the good news is that because it was at the beginning of our trip, we did pay our deposits for the truck and accommodation prior to leaving. Therefore we feel as if we didn’t actually pay it now… Or at least that is what we are going to tell ourselves.

Self-Drive Safari, Week Four

We’re not sure we will have Internet access while on our safari, so we’ve scheduled a few posts like these to automatically go out.

During the final week of our safari, here is where we are planning to be:

Day 22 – July 29

We leave Sesriem and start our long haul back to Joburg. Tonight we stop in Keetmanshoop, Namibia at the Mesosaurus Fossil Camp.

Day 23 – July 30

A very long day of driving – all the way to Kuruman, South Africa where we spend the night at the Red Sands Country Lodge.

Day 24 – July 31

We will drive almost all of the way to Joburg, stopping about an hour away. No camp booked yet, but we are expecting to stay somewhere near Magaliesburg.

Day 25 – August 1

Explore the Cradle of Humankind archeological park, where there is a visitor center and a cave where ancient hominids were found,. Once done, we drive to Joburg and return our truck to Bushlore – hopefully in one piece! 🙂

Self-Drive Safari, Week Three

We’re not sure we will have Internet access while on our safari, so we’ve scheduled a few posts like these to automatically go out.

During the third week of our safari, here is where we are planning to be:

Day 15 – July 22

We spend the day exploring Etosha National Park in Namibia, again spending the night in Halali Camp.

Day 16 – July 23

Another full day in Etosha and a night in Halali.

Day 17 – July 24

We leave Etosha and head to Twyfelfontein, spending the night in Abu Huab camp. Hopefully we have some time this day or tomorrow to explore some rock art in the area.

Day 18 – July 25

We drive to the coastal town of Swakopmund, spending the night at Alte Bruck.

Day 19 – July 26

We drive from Swakopmund to the town of Solitaire staying at Solitaire Guest Farm.

Day 20 – July 27

We drive to Sesriem and and explore Sesriem Canyon. We spend the night in the campground here.

Day 21 – July 28

Another day in Sesriem which we will use to explore Soususvlei.

Close Encounters!!

We have had the privilege of seeing many animals on our safari. Keep checking for a post with our best pictures, but there was only one experience that qualifies as a close encounter. We had been warned that evening scavengers might visit our campsites at night. Indeed, one did.

One evening, we were relaxing by the fire, only one hour after the sun went down. We had made the mistake of leaving our trash bag out on the picnic table in camp. We heard a clatter and saw a shadow steal the trash bag. We thought it was either a baboon or a hyena! We were nervous and retreated to our truck where we waited awhile. After seeing nothing, we came back out and saw that the trash bag had only been knocked to the ground. We put it in the proper receptacle and returned to the fire.

A few minutes later we heard another noise, turned our heads and saw a full grown hyena loping through camp!! He was probably only 6 feet away from us and the fire! Needless to say, we were a little scared! Granted, he looked quite startled as well as we pointed our flashlights at him. We did decide to retreat to the car again though… The whole thing was too fast for a photo, unfortunately!

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Self-Drive Safari, Week One

We’re not sure we will have Internet access while on our safari, so we’ve scheduled a few posts like these to automatically go out.

During the first week of our safari, here is where we are planning to be:

Day 1 – July 8:

We will pick up our truck at the Bushlore office, and drive to the campsite at the Waterberg Wilderness reserve.

Day 2 – July 9

We cross into Botswana and head to the Khama Rhino Sanctuary.

Day 3 – July 10

Drive to Makagadikgadi Pans National Park. We will spend the night at the Khumaga campsite.

Day 4 – July 11

Drive through Maun and into Moremi Game Reserve, spending the night at the Third Bridge campground.

Day 5 – July 12

We will explore more of Moremi, then head just outside the park to spend the night at the Khwai community camp.

Day 6 – July 13

We will spend another night at Khwai community camp, so we will have the day to explore more of Moremi

Day 7 – July 14

We leave Moremi and head north to the Savuti area of Chobe National Park. We will spend the night at the Savuti reserve camp

Planning Our Self-Drive Safari

Why Self-Drive?

When setting out our overall itinerary, we decided that we wanted our first stop to be South Africa.We also know we wanted to do some sort of safari to see some of the amazing wildlife and sights that Africa has to offer. But what kind of safari should we do?

First, we had to figure out where we wanted to go. Some people just go out to Kruger National Park in South Africa. While that sounded like an excellent destination, once we saw pictures of places like Sossusvlei and Victoria Falls, we decided to focus on getting to both Botswana and Namibia out of Johannesburg.

A quick glance at the prices or the luxury guided safaris let us know that was a no-go. Another option that a lot of “backpackers” do is to do a group “overland” tours through a large tour operator. This would have allowed us to see a lot the highlights, but the downside seemed to be to us that we wouldn’t be able to set our own pace.

Then, we stumbled across a blog by Traveling 9 to 5 about a self-drive safari. Intrigued, we looked into this further and thought it sounded pretty cool. You rent a truck with camping equipment and drive yourself on your own itinerary. This seemed like it would allow us to see exactly what we wanted while not breaking the bank. So, we started planning for this option.

Picking a Truck

There are many operators in Johannesburg that will rent you the standard self-drive safari vehicle: a four-wheel-drive pickup (always white for some reason) with a tent mounted on top and camping supplies included. We wanted to find a good deal, but also wanted to go with someone that seemed responsive to our concerns.

We got quotes from a few different places, then made a spreadsheet to compare their daily costs, insurance options and other fees. In the end, we went with Bushlore. Their costs were on the lower end of the spectrum, and they were very responsive in answering questions. From their selection of trucks, we chose the Toyota Hilux with Safari Camper.

Choosing the Route

The next step was to figure out where the truck was going to take us. July is part of the high season for safaris, so we couldn’t afford to dawdle. Conveniently, Bushlore offers a service to help plan the itinerary and book accommodations along the way. So, we got in touch with the booking department and started making plans.

The agent came up with a day-by-day plan and quoted us a price to book the whole thing. However, we felt like we needed a little more information. First, we mapped out the itinerary ourselves to see if the number of days could be condensed. Then, we researched all of the proposed campsites (cross-referencing against Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor, of course) to see if any of them could be booked by us directly.

Our first attempt at mapping out the destinations

Our first attempt at mapping out the destinations

It required a little back and forth, but eventually we settled on a route and cost with the agent. We came up with a 25 day itinerary, which doesn’t allow for a lot of downtime but hopefully won’t be too hard to get done. It turned out that it was easier and almost as cheap for Bushlore to book the campsites for all but one of the destinations…

The Time We Wired Money to Africa

The website for Etosha National Park in Namibia seemed petty straightforward, and the price they were requesting for a campsite was about half of what Bushlore quoted. So,we decided to try and book it on our own. Things seemed to be going pretty smoothly until it got to the whole payment part of it.

We had thought we could pay by credit card, but it turned out the only option was to wire money. We hadn’t really done that before, so it took a little figuring out how to even do that. It was tough to even figure out if we were sending it the right place – the way it was supposed to work was that we wired to an account in the US that is associated with a foreign exchange company that would then send the appropriate Namibian dollars to Etosha.

We were a little scared that somehow this was a scam (and trying to explain that we were attempting to wire money to Africa while talking to representatives of our bank felt a little silly), but by this point we were in deep enough that we decided to just send the money anyway. If we ended up losing it, it wasn’t going to be the end of the world and would be a good lesson learned. We were getting a little nervous because it took Etosha quite a while to email that they received the payment… but they finally did (after close to 3 weeks)! Hopefully when we show up there, they will still remember that…

 

After telling everyone how flexible we want to be on our trip, it feels strange to have planned out the first month in such detail! We’re just hoping that all of this up-front planning will help make this self-drive safari go as smooth as possible. Look forward to more posts in the future about how close we can stick to this plan 😉

Learning Something New Everyday!

Did you know that a braai is a BBQ grill?

Did you know that an ablutions block is a bathroom?

I didn’t. But now I do! At least they are in South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana.

We’re getting close to having our plan put in place for our self-drive safari! (More details to come)