Africa on the Cheap: Budget Safaris in Kenya

As safari destinations go, Kenya pretty much sells itself: the Masai Mara National Park, East Africa's premiere wildlife destination, is situated on the northern edge of the Serengeti Plain. The vast terrain—savannah, forests, rolling hills, and waterways—supports an expansive animal population: lions, leopards, cheetahs, wildebeests, and zebra, while Lake Nakuru in the Great Rift Valley lays claim to more than half of the world's 5 million pink flamingos and also serves as a sanctuary for the endangered black rhino. To the southeast, the watering holes dotting Amboseli Game Reserve under the snow-capped Mt. Kilimanjaro attract elephants, rhinos, lions, giraffes, and countless bird species—and these spots are only three jewels in Kenya's richly studded safari crown. Budget travelers intrigued by the Kenya's wealth of wildlife, however, should not be discouraged by the high-end price tags of most package trips. Sure, getting a ticket to Africa ain't cheap—not to mention the costs of lodging, transportation, guides, and food. Still, if you're keen on Kenya, there are ways to enjoy one of the world's best wildlife experiences without breaking the bank.
First of all, forget about Abercrombie and Kent. Do your homework and surf the web—there are numerous smaller (yet reputable) companies out there with reasonable deals. Those with flexible plans can take advantage of unsold space or last-minute cancellations at a discount. Some outfitters offer markdowns on groups of six or more, so round up friends and family to fill out your party. And while on the virtual prowl, hunt for affordable airfares—the plane ticket will make up a large chunk of your trip cost.
While you'll want to be aware of migratory patterns, off-season and shoulder-season safaris provide solid animal action for less. If you don't mind brief afternoon thunderstorms breaking up the blue skies, the rainy months (April-May and November-December) make for good safaris. Green-season visitors see fewer fellow tourists, lots of exotic birds, the blooming of the savannah, and baby animals among the herds. Opt for a trip of at least five days or you'll spend most of your time traveling between gateway city and parks and reserves. An itinerary covering a smaller area allows you to spend less time in transit as well as less money.

Published: 4 Jun 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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