The cost of a lion

How much is seeing a lion in the African wilderness going to set me back in 2018?  It depends on where I go.  Current figures indicate that seeing a lion in the Serengeti National Park (Tanzania) is likely to cost three times what it would to see a lion in the Kruger National Park (South Africa).

I documented the big cost differential between the Kruger and other African safari options four years ago (see the links to the right). As I plan another trip to the Kruger in a few months, I wondered if those numbers have changed.

The answer is no.  Despite rising costs all over Africa, going to the Kruger remains a relative bargain.

Two other self-drive parks of note are Etosha in Namibia and Hwange in Zimbabwe, but the Kruger is far larger and far better designed for the DIY safari tourist.  Unlike the big game parks of Equatorial Africa (Kenya and Tanzania), visiting the Kruger never required a guide since it opened in the early twentieth century.

Serengeti Lion dark-skinned male (2)
Which lion is in the Serengeti, and which is in the Kruger?
Hint: There are are no paved roads in the Serengeti.  The Serengeti lion (top) costs $693/day to see while seeing this Kruger lion costs a mere $239/day.

Regular readers know I am enamored with sub-Saharan Africa. I love the people and the game parks of Africa. This all started in 1991 when I lived and worked in South Africa, and I have been going back ever since. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I have visited the Kruger National Park in northeastern South Africa, a wilderness area of 7.523 square miles, which is about the size of New Jersey.

Comparing late September/early October, 2018 costs for a ten day safari to the Kruger versus ten days during the same period to the Serengeti in Tanzania, I first looked at airfares.  Air in economy from Raleigh (RDU Airport) is about a wash:  Flying to Johannesburg and then 50 minutes more to the beautiful gem of an airport at Skukuza (SZK) in the Kruger National Park runs about $1753.  Fares to Kilimanjaro (JRO) airport, which is the gateway to the northern Tanzanian safari town of Arusha, are about $1775.

No real variance there.

The big difference comes in the per person costs once in Africa, to wit:


(Accommodation, rental car and fuel, food and drink)  


(Safari package @45% discount, car to/from airport, tips & drinks)

The Serengeti is 2.9 times more expensive than the Kruger using these numbers.

And this is based on single occupancy in the Kruger (average $113/night) versus double occupancy on the Serengeti safari.  Kruger accommodation per person per night cost would drop from $113 to about $65-70 if two shared the spacious rondavels in the Park, making the South African trip even cheaper.

Furthermore, government fees in Tanzania to safari companies taking clients to the Serengeti and nearby Ngorongoro Crater, always steep, have risen dramatically recently. Because the additional government tourist fees are difficult to pin down on a per person basis, I was not able to calculate those into these comparisons. Thus, the actual gulf in prices is higher than what I depicted.

The wildlife in both places can’t be beat, and the Serengeti can boast of its annual migration of two million wildebeests and zebras unlike anywhere else on earth.  Just the same, the Kruger can be plenty interesting, as, for instance, this recent news story about lions in the vicinity who devoured a poacher, leaving only his head.

I am excited to be going back to the Kruger again!

Ngorongoro Lioness (1)
Hmm, poachers taste good!

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