What constitutes good value for money on safari?

Great question. You need three things to be there: good accommodation, good safari guides, and a good safari area (game reserve). These combine to form the best quality safari. How to judge? Search for reputable safari tour companies. Ask them dozens of questions - especially these three - and they should be able to answer them quickly and to your complete satisfaction. If not, keep keep searching.

What do we base our tours on, at MB Safaris?

Our criteria are as follows: game viewing that impressed us; engaging safari guides; all in-lodge comforts and conveniences; genuine hospitality; good food; smooth connections to lodges, airports and meeting points. And an authentic sense of Africa. We insist on this - and we recognise it when we find it.

Why choose a private safari lodge?

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To avoid the traffic in this picture - which you can expect if you do a self-drive safari in Kruger.

The National Parks like Kruger are very popular. Many of the camps are large. This often translates to busy roads and, at times, many vehicles at one viewing. State-owned lodges or camps offer self-drive in closed vehicles, OR larger, open game drive vehicles with guides (up to 22 guests), and there is no off-roading permitted. At all. Policing such a large area is impossible, and there are regular reports of bad driving and dangerous behaviour by self-drive visitors.

What are the other reasons?

Private lodges are situated in private game reserves ie. usually not in state parks. Kruger and Addo are state parks. Some private lodges are in the Kruger Park; these lodges have concession rights for the exclusive use of their guests - the general public may not drive here. All safari lodges we book for our clients are private. Private lodges are small and exclusive.

A major difference between state camps and private lodges is the style of game drives: private lodges offer smaller, open vehicles (about 6 - 8 guests on each) and the ability to go off-road. Each vehicle is guided by a qualified game ranger and his tracker.

Why do private safari lodges cost more?

  • The lodges are small and exclusive.
  • They offer superior comfort and service, and quiet, private game viewing on small open vehicles.
  • Staff to guest ratios are high: there are more staff members than guests.
  • They have enormous overheads.
  • Conservation fees are charged by the game reserve - from visitors and lodge owners alike.
  • Road maintenance and lodge running costs are ever-spiralling in developing countries.
  • Extra anti-poaching staff is now needed to fight armed poachers.

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Lodge owners are passionate about Africa's dwindling wildlife. Pretty much every cent you spend on your safari goes back into the game reserve or its surrounds.

Safari lodge operators in general are actively involved in the upliftment of local rural communities through schools and clinics. Safari guests are also invited to join in. (See Pack for a Purpose.)

Luxury or mid-level? What's the difference?

**** Mid-level is comfortable. Let's call it 4-star. On safari you'll get sturdy tents or rustic chalets, comfortable beds in clean rooms, generous private en-suite bathrooms, good service and food from friendly staff; and game viewing quality will depend on location. A good safari operator will know and advise.

***** Luxury is a step up: good beds and fine linens, interesting decor and airy suites with verandas, large en-suite bathrooms, sophisticated finishes, great service, well-stocked bar, pool area, curio shop, Internet, aircon in-suite where possible, great food, nice extra touches like additional outside showers, turn-downs and pillow chocolates. It's 5-star but better! With excellent game viewing.

****** Ultra-luxury is exactly that:nsumptuous bush palaces with crystal and silver tableware, Persian carpets, enormous suites, full bathrooms, private splash pool per suite, luxurious finishes, good artworks, gourmet meals, bathrobes and slippers, binoculars, exclusive curio shops, and lots of small extras. With excellent game viewing.

When should we book?

Aim to book a safari well in advance. This is important. Safari lodges are very small, so they fill up fast. The average size is 10 rooms.

When is the best time to go on safari?

It depends where you want to go. Any time in Kruger and Victoria Falls. Botswana prices are very seasonal; great value is to be had in mid and low seasons.

What on earth is a 'Meru' tent?

It's a big, sturdy, canvas-sided double room/tent. You can stand up in it. It has either two full-sized, regular beds in it, or a King size double bed; space to walk around it, a small dressing table, chair as well as a cupboard for your clothing. At the back of the tent, you'll find a private en-suite bathroom with all modern conveniences.

Why are the internal flights so pricey?

It's simply this: the smaller the plane, the more it costs, per capita, to run the flight. Most scheduled flights to the game reserves operate with small planes (40 - 100 seats). Charter flights and air taxis take 6 to 12 passengers.

Is it safe to travel on safari?

Yes. The safari areas are found mostly in the southern and eastern parts of Africa, which have modern airports and good onward connections. To give you a sense of scale, the Kruger National Park is the same size as Holland. Etosha National Park is even bigger than Kruger Park. Botswana is the same size as France.

Do I need a visa?

You will have to check. Each safari country has different requirements.

Is it safe in an open vehicle and in the camp?

Yes. BUT ... if you disregard safety instructions, you take serious risks. You will get a security briefing on arrival. The safari lodges we use take your safety very seriously. A night watch for your added peace of mind is common.

What about malaria?

This depends on the area you visit. We will advise whether or not you are going to a designated malaria area. Malaria pills come in many offerings, so check with your doctor or travel clinic before you depart on your safari, to find the most suitable. We'll also provide tips on how to avoid mosquito bites.

What is a boma?

example graphic This is a boma. Huge fun! It's an enclosed, secure outdoor area where dinner is served in dry weather. The top is open to the stars. In the middle, a camp fire sets the scene. It's the best!

After dessert and coffee, pull your chair up to the fire to finish off your wine. It's the perfect way to end a day in the wilderness.

There is nothing like the feeling of being in the boma; and just wait till the storytelling to begins.

What injections, if any, do I need?

It depends where you're going to. Some areas are within the Yellow Fever belt and you will need a jab (it will last you your lifetime). Discuss this with your GP or clinic or physician. Some visitors voluntarily do a Hep-A-B-typhoid vaccination.

Is tipping included?

No, it's not. It is common practice to tip the game ranger and tracker at the end of the safari; the amount depends on your satisfaction level. There is no "averge" amount, no matter what anyone tells you.

Why are most safari tours all-inclusive?

The fact is, you are going into the wilderness, and there are no restaurants or shops in the vicinity.

What about animal ethics, such as hunting?

Hunting, especially canned hunting, cub petting, and walking with lions are an ABSOLUTE NO-NO for us. Be very careful. Check here if your precious ones are thinking of volunteering. There's some horribly unethical stuff going on with wild animal breeding, lions in particular. Botswana has outlawed hunting entirely, and is Africa's leading light in safari ethics. For the moment, anyway. There is talk that may change.

What do I take with me on safari?

We'll advise you in good time, before you start packing. It's part of our service.

How do payments work?

Payments work as follows: A 30% tour deposit secures the booking. Add to this the cost of internal airfares where necessary. Full settlement of the tour is due 60 days before your safari begins. Payments are by SWIFT transfer (wire transfer) so nothing can fall between the cracks. Safer for everyone.

Why are solo travellers charged more?

Single travellers pay more because they are not sharing the cost of a room with another traveller. In addition, single travellers will pay double the price of a land (road) transfer, because the minimum charge for such a service to a private lodge is normally based on two travellers.

Will I be spending any extra?

Bar bills are generally not included in tour prices at the mid-level range. At luxury level, local wines and beer and soft drinks are often included in the package. Each safari lodge has its own small curio shop where credit cards are accepted. They sell safari clothing, other safari items and lovely things to take home. Keep space in your suitcases! Laundry is sometimes offered as a free service; check first.

How much cash and/or local currency must I bring?

Don't hesitate to bring US dollars, Euros, AU dollars, Swiss francs or GB pounds - in fact all hard currencies are gladly accepted in the game reserves as gratuities. Buy as little local currency as necessary - the buy-sell gap is enormous. Credit cards are accepted virtually everywhere.

Can I do some good on my visit?

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Thanks for asking, and yes! Just before you start packing for your journey, look up Pack for a Purpose, and find out if your safari lodge has linked with a local school as their community effort. Most do. Bring some school stuff for kids in the rural (safari) areas, and hand it over to your lodge/s. Then you have some space for taking your curio purchases home.

Why choose us?

We pick lodges that stand out from the herd. Our expertise is based on decades of searching for safari excellence, which we love to find ... and share. And we know how important it is to get you there quickly, comfortably. Details matter.

A good honeymoon choice?

Not just good - the best. A safari is one of the most memorable journeys any couple can embark on.

Is choosing a safari as simple as it looks?

example graphic Well, not always. There's quite a lot that is not explained on safari websites. For example: the size of the reserve, who else shares it, how many other vehicles may use your area for game drives, and so on. It's complicated, and not as interesting as leopard portraits ... and yet, important. We have this info.

Be sure to compare apples with apples when getting safari prices. Remember those add-ons: Park fees, bed levies, gate fees, transfer fees to the lodge, and flights to the game reserve.

What are the next steps?

Simple. Just drop us an email.

Marianne Birrell Safaris ~ creating & delivering dream safaris.