Planning a Private African Safari – Is it Worth it? What to know…

The Coronavirus has everyone in the travel industry clamoring to recommend private safaris. But what is a private safari? It sounds expensive – does it have to break the bank?


Some private safaris are incredibly expensive. Alternatively with the right planning a private trip could cost less than a normal safari!


Safaris by themselves tend to be pretty exclusive experiences… unlike large hotels and resorts most safari camps and lodges are small with 2 to 10 rooms. These are typically spaced 100 to 500 feet apart. So far so good as to privacy and social distancing!


Private safaris mean different things to different people and this is often based on the size of each persons bank account (or accounts).


A very high net worth individual might fly his or her family to Africa aboard his/her own jet and then use a smaller aircraft to fly around within Africa. In Africa we would arrange your stay at uber exclusive properties such as Ol Jogi in Kenya. Taking up to 25 guests, but yours for private use with only 4 guests, you have 90 square miles of Big 5 wildlife and wilderness all to yourself. Everything will be based on your preferences and at your own pace… the chef, who used to cook for the Rothschild’s, will cater to your personal tastes and activities will be scheduled as per your desires… and at Ol Jogi make sure to enjoy a massage every day as all spa treatments are included – their Hammam is incredible by the way! We would make all the inter-Africa arrangements including private aircraft transfers, pilot / guide arrangements, accommodations, activities and such. This may include rooming for child minders / security and aircraft storage. For guests who want to stay at Ol Jogi, but don’t have their own aircraft, a great option is to fly aboard Kenya Airways non stop service between New York and Nairobi. We meet you upon arrival and whisk you away to Ol Jogi – this makes for a great week long family getaway!


Ol Jogi, Ol Jogi Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya
Costs: From US $3,000 per night per person based on 4 guests. Additional guests at lower rates. This is lower cost than a good number of Africa’s most luxurious safari lodges / camps and you get a completely private uber luxury experience – including all spa treatments as well! No brainer – come here with friends and family and stay a week!


In another scenario a wealthy group of friends might fly first class to Dubai aboard Emirates and then board a private Airbus AJC319 and fly off to Africa for 10 days. The aircraft has 10 suites, a 12 person lounge with bathroom, and in the back a second bathroom with shower. This is a great aircraft for covering long distances as it allows you to move around more than you could aboard a traditional business jet… Within Africa this aircraft would be used to fly between major airports and smaller aircraft and helicopters could be used to take clients to special attractions such as the Masai Mara to see great wildebeest migration, to go gorilla trekking in Rwanda, to tour the world’s largest waterfall – Victoria Falls, or to explore the Okavango Delta or wildlife rich Sabi Sands. At each location we would book exclusive use safari homes, villas, camps and lodges so you can do as you want, when you want. Property such as Singita Serengeti House (have the Serengeti to yourself!) and Tswalu Tarkuni (set in South Africa’s largest private game reserve – owned by the Oppenheimer’s) are great examples of high end exclusive properties.


Singita Serengeti House, Singita Grumeti Reserve, Tanzania
Costs: From US $1,750 per person per night based on 8 guests / US $2,100 per person per night based on 4 guests. Again a great value for your own private Serengeti uber luxury experience.


Tswalu Tarkuni, Tswalu Reserve, South Africa
Costs: From US $1,300 per person per night based on 10 guests. With most non private safari camps and lodges starting at close to US $1,000 and many costing much more, this is again a great value for one of Africa’s most exclusive experiences.


Save time – A private plane will save you a lot of time… As an example transferring from the Masai Mara in Kenya to Singita’s Grumeti Reserve in Tanzania on a scheduled transfer might see you stopping here, there, and everywhere to pick up and drop off guests. It could take 3 to 4 hours of your day. Flying private you could be there in just over an hour.


Private pilot or private pilot / guide – Aboard your private chartered plane in Africa you might just have a pilot and enjoy activities with each lodge’s and camp’s guides or we can arrange a pilot who is also a professional safari guide who would lead your trip throughout.


Other travelers might fly business or first class to Africa and then charter helicopters and private planes to various safari destinations. There are many exclusive safari homes, villas, camps and lodges – and some are a great value… Chonwge River House in Zambia’s Lower Zambezi is an architectural masterpiece. With 4 or 6 guests costs are about the same as staying at a normal safari lodge or camp… with more guests prices work out to be even lower so you save monies!


Chongwe House, Lower Zambezi, Zambia
Costs: From US $800 per person per night based on 4 guests with exclusive use. Incredible value for your own private safari experience – all meals, activities, guiding…


6 is the magic number – With 6 guests the cost of a private charter is about the same as flying aboard scheduled flights. With more guests you save. Multiples of 6 also work well also as most safari vehicles which take 6 guests… 7 if you sit someone up front next to your guide.


Not traveling with a group of friends or family? Even a traditional safari can be tweaked to be much more private on a budget.


In East Africa, where their are extensive road networks, you could do a road based safari. You head out in your own private guide and safari vehicle for however many nights. The downsides are that on this kind of trip you would typically need to stay at larger hotel properties which are closer to the public main roads as opposed to the more remote wilderness areas… you also suffer hours of endless bumpy roads and locals looking to sell you things at every gas and bathroom break. For wildlife viewing you would pop your head out of the rooftop hatch. Most clients prefer to sit as opposed to stand for wildlife viewing so open vehicles (which are not used on road based safaris) are preferred. Lastly city based guides who lead these trips don’t know what is going on in each area like the guides who live at each safari camp / lodge. Overall a private driving safari is OK but not the ideal experience.


A better option would be to join one of the two 8 day private flying safaris we are offering in East Africa for 2021 – one to Kenya and one Tanzania. 2 to 9 guests can enjoy exclusive business class comfort and convenience aboard their own private 9 seat executive-class Cessna Caravan. Trip costs range from approximately US $12,000 per person for two guests and drop to around US $7,000 per person with nine guests. Pricing includes accommodations, meals and drinks, exclusive flights within Africa, activities, transfers, and park fees. Guests will also receive fast-track airport experience, butler service at all of the properties, private safari vehicle while on safari, as well as only one check-in and check-out during the journey – a luxury, stress-free experience, that enables guests to enjoy direct transfers, avoid multiple stops on busy scheduled regional aircraft and maintain a high level of privacy during safari. These trips can depart on dates of your choosing for a few as two guests. While at the safari properties there will be other guests however you will have your own private safari activities, vehicle, and guide.


Another option would be to fly commercial to say Cape Town, South Africa. We would meet you upon arrival and transfer you by private vehicle to a small boutique hotel where cleanliness is a much higher priority than at a large touristy hotel – and there are far fewer guests. During the day, the same guide who met you at the airport, would take you on private tours. Then you fly commercial to your safari destination, say Botswana, for example. At camps like Khwai Tented we can arrange a private guide / vehicle for $500 a day – that is $250 per person for a couple or US $125 per person for a family of4! A total bargain… we can also arrange private dining. If you feel the need to be social you can mingle with other guests in the camp’s main areas or by the pool…


Khwai Tented Camp, Khwai Reserve, Botswana
Costs: From US $380 per person all inclusive.


When to book? The most popular exclusive use safari houses, villas, camps, and lodges are often fully booked more than a year in advance… ideally you should plan 2 years in advance.


If you would like to learn more call me in Seattle – I am happy to share my insights! Call toll free 1 800 461 0682 from within the USA / Canada and on 425 222 4060 international.


Be careful out there – due to the increased interest in private safaris many companies are marketing “private” trips that aren’t really private at all – they are group trips with up to 12 to 20 guests staying at “private camps with private flights”… not sure how hanging for 10 days with 20 people you have never met before is private but…


Stay well,


Ian Proctor
Ultimate Africa President
“I first visited Africa in the late 1980s. I came face to face with a wild elephant, and fell in love with being on safari! I made it my goal to create an African travel company that was all about authentic wildlife experiences. Many years later we are one of the top African travel companies in the Americas – known for arranging custom safaris to East and Southern Africa; personal trips, no cookie cutter stuff.”

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