Demystifying safari specials - how to get discounts of up to 70%

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Hi there! For a bit of context I’m Oliver, a cofounder of Safari.com.

I’m pleased to announce the launch of a new website and blog over the past few weeks. And as my seminal post I thought I'd talk about two things I'm very passionate about - safaris and specials.

Myself and my cofounder, Ric, have always been passionate about good prices. While we don't mind paying top dollar for high quality, we've never liked overpaying. In an age of high information, being sure you're getting a good deal on a purchase is key.

The safari landscape is a cacophony of different pricing strategies, filled with nuances, different payment policies, blockout periods etc.
To understand any landscape needs a working model which captures at the least the structure of the terrain.  So that’s what I will endeavour to do!  Let’s talk about some of the most common categories of specials in the safari landscape.

The VIP room aka SA resident specials

Here you have to be part of a group of people. Typically it’s a discounted rate to resident South Africans. This can often leave a sour taste in foreigners minds (understandably so, given I’ve experienced this frequently as a foreigner in places eg Mauritius). To combat this lodges may add an additional constraint like needing to be a SA resident and arrival date being short notice.


Some classic examples on the entry-level luxury side of this are Kapama and Simbavati.

Elephant drinking from the pool at Kapama River Lodge
Elephant drinking from pool at Kapama River Lodge

Simbavati Hilltop Lodge
Simbavati Hilltop Lodge

It's rarer to see this with the very high-end lodges, but not un-heard of, as in the case of the Dulini collection specials who also have an SA resident promotion.

Dulini River Lodge
Unit and private pool at Dulini River Lodge

Last minute specials

These involve bookings for travel within the next 3/4 weeks. One sees how it makes sense for a lodge. Any additional rooms sold at check-in go almost directly to the bottom line.  It also requires enough flexibility from travelers, that others don't feel any sort of unfairness or bitterness towards others who manage to take advantage of it(as with resident specials!).

Our favourite special here is Leopard Hills in the Sabi Sands. Leopard Hills typically costs in excess of $1.1k per person per night - it's far up on the high end safari side of things.  We're talking private plunge pools with rooms having an elevated view over the surrounding Sabi Sands. The short notice special entitles one to book and travel within the next 4 weeks, to secure a 65% discount!

Leopard Hills Game Reserve
Private plunge pool from Leopard Hills

Just remember, if there was a superhero who found superhuman discounts this would be their staple with atagline that read “with great discounts comes the need for great flexibility”.

Stay/pay deals

The savings here are usually more modest but one doesn’t have the restrictions of the previous examples, ie. they'll be available for a longer period and availed to any traveler for bookings at any point in the future. Stay 3, pay 2 would be staying for 3 nights and only paying for 2. This is where this category maxes out , ie. an effective 33% saving.

The most common is probably stay 4, pay 3 for a 25% saving.

There’s no shortage of lodges employing this strategy so it's certainly something to always look out for, but the most interesting I've seen is from the Singita safari brand. Probably the biggest high-end safari brand in the US traveler market. East Africa Singita lodges in Tanzania have a stay6/pay5 and Singita's Kruger park lodges products have a stay4/pay3 deal.  It makes sense they'd use this conservative discounting strategy (if any at all), for the same reason that you don't see iPhones being sold with a 50% discount.


Singita Lebombo
View from the deck at Singita Lebombo


Singita Mobile Explorer Camp in Serengeti
Singita Explorer Camp


"Special" occassions

The pun was unintentional, I promise I'm not that cringey haha. The most common example I’ve seen are promotions to attract honeymooners. Usually implemented as 50% off for the bride, giving an overall saving of 25%. Interesting that it's never for the groom 🤣

I personally stuggle to understand these because the saving is in line with a modest stay/pay but the targeting seems obscure - the number of recent brides at any moment is faaaar smaller than the number of people travelling (who could take advantage of a stay/pay deal).

Honeymoon Safari at Dulini Lodge
Private pool at Dulini River Lodge

So there we have it - my first blog article.

I always find phrases like "best price guarantee" can be a little hollow. Hopefully this sort of content goes an extra step in showing tavellers we care deeply about finding them the best prices for their safaris, without sacrificing on quality.

I'm always weary of projecting though - just because I'm passionate about promotions, doesn't mean everyone else is!  But I plan to write more articles on this topic if well received.  Happy holidays everyone!

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