One thing that became abundantly clear when we started booking our trip to Kenya is that African safaris don’t come cheap! Since it was our honeymoon, we were already planning to splurge a little (and we saved more than $40k by trading points and miles – more on that in a later post!) – but nothing had prepared me for the four-figure per person, per night price tag that most luxury camps listed.
Fortunately, we came across a few secrets that enabled us to afford the experience of a lifetime in a spot few get to see.
1. Go in the off-season.
We got married at the end of April, and left for our honeymoon the first week in May. The choice of an April wedding wasn’t just about escaping the Texas heat, though. It also helped us save big on our honeymoon. May is the green season in East Africa, following the March/April rains. June marks the start of both high season and the Great Migration, where more than a million zebra and wildebeest follow the grass from the Serengeti north into the Maasai Mara. We knew May meant missing this natural wonder, however it allowed us to take advantage of low season pricing while getting the weather of high season. (And we still had zero issues spotting amazing game in May.)
For our chosen camp, Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp, green season rates are 35% lower than high season rates with greater availability. 30-50% discounts were common in the off season across other camps we researched, so even if Cottar’s isn’t within your budget, you can still take advantage of this timing. Not all camps operate year-round; check operating schedules before picking a favorite.
2. Book full board.
A few blogs we read said to stay at a hotel or lodge in a nearby town and hire a driver for self-guided game drives. It seems like it could save a fortune. Two challenges with this. First, the math doesn’t work out entirely. A driver can run you $200pp per day, and then you’re also paying for meals, drinks, and lodging and you couldn’t take advantage of all the amenities offered by full-board camps like swimming pools, sundowner cocktails, and spa service. Second, the few drivers we came across were not equipped with 4-wheel drive vehicles or knew the land well enough to locate animals easily.
3. Inquire about discounts.
Cottar’s offered a few different specials during off-peak dates, in addition to the reduced rates. We could choose from a percent off the bride’s fees for being honeymooners, or one nights free for every two we paid for. We quickly swapped our stay to six nights instead of our originally envisioned five because who says no to a free stay in a place like this?? It equated to another 33% discount. If you’re doing the math, we’ve now saved 45% off the nightly rate (a savings of more than $450pp per night). I’ll take it!
4. Choose your dates based on flights.
We evaluated award options and modeled the trip out in a few different directions (Rwanda first, Kenya first, etc.), before we contacted the camps. We chanced upon a flight that cut our travel costs TO Kenya by more than $300 per person, and invested that money in staying at the camp we had lusted over in our initial research. The flight prices vary based on dates and routes; use Google Flights to find the best option for you.
Is it an affordable destination in the same way Poland and Hungary were last year? No. Was it made more feasible once we could reduce the cost by almost half? Absolutely.