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  • By Gretchen Richter de Medeiros

"South Africa was far more expensive than any other country"

I hesitate to include a budget report about South Africa, as it was the only country where we stopped being independent travelers and hired both a travel agent and a safari company. Determining a plan for Africa took longer and was more difficult, somehow, than the other countries on our itinerary. Perhaps this was because Africa felt more unknown and dangerous than South America and Europe. (Read my blog post “South Africa: we are already looking forward to the day we return” for more details.)

Subsequently, South Africa was far more expensive than any other country and is not easily broken down into the categories I normally report on. That being said, a financial accounting of our trip would not be complete without sharing what information I do have about expenses in South Africa.

Part 1: Cape Town and Driving the Garden Route (stopping at Stellenbosch, De Hoop Nature Reserve, Hermanus, The Little Karoo, Knysna, Addo Elephant National Park, Port Elizabeth), 20 days.

Lodging, Car Rental, Transfer, & Some Meals, a.k.a. what we paid the travel agent: $14,243.

Additional costs during this time fell mostly under the categories of transportation and education Our transportation expenses ($1,306) covered gasoline for our rental van, highway tolls, and a flight from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg at the end of our road-trip.

As for education ($1,090), we splurged on a wide variety of amazing, mostly outdoor experiences. We hired a fun and knowledgeable guide to take us on an all-day historical tour of Cape Town, including an unforgettable afternoon visiting Langa, a Black African Township. Also in Cape Town, we visited the Two Oceans Aquarium, hiked through the Kirstenbosch botanical gardens, got emotional touring Robben Island, and made an emergency visit to a travel clinic to deal with a vicious flu. (Okay, that last item falls under “medical” not “education”, $185.)

Along the Garden Route we laughed at African Penguins on parade, visited an Ostrich farm, took a sunset cruise through Knysna Lagoon and into the Indian Ocean, zip-lined high in the canopy of the Tsitsikamma forest, and visited a primate sanctuary. Our road-trip included a spectacular 3-days/2-nights stay at Riverbend Lodge, a luxurious private reserve near Addo Elephant National Park.

In addition to education and transportation, we spent $1,204 on food, $433 for additional lodging expenses, and $226 on “other” (which included spa facials for the girls in honor of Bella’s 16th birthday).

Part 2: Johannesburg & Kruger National Park, 9 days

All-inclusive: $10,115

I couldn’t possibly tease out individual expenses for our safari in Kruger National Park. It began with a night in Outlook’s guesthouse in Johannesburg followed by a long drive out to the world-renown game reserve. Once at the park we lodged at three different rest camps, Satara, Lower Sabie and Berg-en-Daal; each had its own style and personality. Our private field guide, Bretton, took us on twice-daily game-drives, filling our hearts and minds with animal facts, park anecdotes, and heart-breaking poaching statistics. He also made two big meals a day, one after each game drive.

By the time we piled in to the van to return to Johannesburg, we’d seen more animals than we could count, including all of the Magnificent Seven (the Big Five + Cheetah and Wild Dogs), a terrifying Black Mamba, Hippos, Giraffes, brilliant birds, and Hyenas (and many, many others, Kruger is home to 800+ species of animals). The price of the safari was worth so much more than food, lodging and transportation: we’d been thrilled, awed, inspired and saddened, we left filled with gratitude and a desire to return.

Was South Africa expensive? No doubt. Could we have done it cheaper? For sure. Would we do it again? In a heartbeat.

Budget Report: South Africa

Total Cost: $28,802

Days: 28

Cost per day: $1,028.65

Cost per person per day: $205.73

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