8 Unique and affordable safaris from around the world
Originally the term safari was coined as a word to represent an overland journey. This was often referred to as a trip within Africa. Today however, the term safari has grown to represent any trip, whether overland or not, that involves the observation of wildlife in its natural environment. Safaris have also grown to vary in duration and price. Many of the original tours were only available to wealthy ‘explorers’ who wanted to scope out an area for future existence or hunting. Nowadays, prices accommodate all budget levels, allowing for easier access to the destination of your choice.
There are many different types of safaris to choose from, some take you into waters full of marine wildlife, while others take travelers along rustic hikes through sand and mountains. Of course there are still many classic safaris available that lead straight into the heart of Africa. With any safari that you take, remember to keep your eyes open and camera ready.
This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated to reflect 2018 prices.
1- Sri Lanka
Our first destination is a little known island nation found in the northern Indian Ocean just south of India. Due to its location, Sri Lanka processes the highest biodiversity in all of Asia and a climate that consists of tropical forests, mountains and rolling coastal plains. Here you can view the Sri Lankan Elephant, wild boar, anteaters, leopards, deer, sloth bears and more.
Leopard Safari, Yala National Park
There are two length options available for the Leopard Safaris, one that is one night/two days or one that is two nights/three days. For the shorter safari, your first day will include a ride in the 4WD Jeep to the park entrance. After arriving in the park, you’ll be driven to your campsite where you’ll be welcomed to your own bedroom and bathroom at Eco Team Mahorra.
That evening you’ll take part in a safari ride around the park and then come back to a campfire dinner. The next morning will consist of another safari during dawn, your best chance to see male leopards. You will then return back to camp for your departure.
- Price Range: Full-day safaris start around US$80 per person, including US$28 national park entrance fee
- How to get there: You’ll fly into Mattala International Airport (HRI) and then it’s best to hire a car to take you to the park, which is about 40 minutes away.
2- Costa Rica
Situated in the southern portion of Central America, this wildlife rich country serves as a beacon for both adventure seekers and wildlife enthusiasts. Costa Rica, which only represents about 0.3% of the world’s land mass, harbors an astonishing 5% of the world’s biodiversity. It’s hard not to find wildlife in every direction that you look and safaris here not only give you a closer look at both the flora and fauna but also allow for a better understanding of why Costa Rica is such a naturally colorful and diverse country.
Jungle Tom Safaris, Tortuguero National Park
Located on the northeastern section of Costa Rica just inland from the Caribbean Sea, travelers will find a plethora of wildlife waiting for them on Jungle Tom Safaris. Tortuguero itself is a small fishing village nestled in among the trees that line the river shores. On this tour, you have the chance to view different species of monkeys, caiman, water birds and sea turtles.
This particular safari allows for different activities coupled with a night’s sleep in a hotel. The first day includes lunch, an optional walking tour of the town and museum, and dinner. After dinner, you’ll go on ‘the night tour’ which consists of a boat ride and a beach walk where you look for Green Sea Turtles (July to October) as they are nesting. The next morning you’ll wake up early for a boat tour through Tortuguero National Park. Here you’ll explore the lagoons and hidden canals while keeping your cameras ready for action shots of the monkeys above. After the morning safari, you’ll return back to the hotel.
- Price Range: US$125 per person (does not include lunch and dinner). Park entrance and turtle nesting fees are also not included but can be purchase on the island for $15 and $30 respectively.
- How to get there: Fly into San Jose International Airport (SJC) after which you’ll have the option of driving or taking the bus to La Pavona. Once there, a boat will be available to drive you to the village.
This landlocked country located in East Africa isn’t talked about as much as Kenya or South Africa and instead remains relatively unknown to safari seekers. Uganda holds a vast amount of wildlife for being such a small country. Here you’ll find the elusive Mountain Gorilla, lions, elephants, leopards, cheetahs, monkeys, birds of all kinds and many, many more. Safaris here are made even more interesting due to the ever changing landscape riddled with various bodies of water and its equatorial location.
Gorilla Tracking, Virunga Mountains
If you’re looking for a once in a lifetime, unique tour that you can brag about to your friends, then the Gorilla Tracking Safari is for you. In April, May and November of each year, you’ll have the chance to take a 3 day Gorilla Tracking Group Tour within the boundaries of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This safari takes visitors through the mountains of southwest Uganda where sleeping accommodations await you after your adventures.
Day 1 includes a drive through what is referred to as “the Switzerland of Africa” where you’ll view the Virunga Mountains, bamboo forests and plantations. You’ll then stop at a restaurant for lunch (not included in safari price) before heading to Mutanda Lake Resort for the night. All rooms include a private bath and views from your own veranda. The next day you’ll hike into the forest, following a wildlife guide in search of a gorilla family. Depending on the day, tracking can take from 2 hours to 7 hours. Once a gorilla family is located, travelers get to spend an hour watching them from a safe distance. You’ll then return to the lodge for a goodnight rest before heading back to town the next day.
- Price range: US$1290 per person
- How to get there: To enter the country you’ll fly into Entebbe International Airport (EBB). From there a car will need to be hired or rented and driven to Kampala. The morning of the tour date, a safari guide will pick you up at Mugenga, Kampala.
Murchison Falls Big 5 Safari
With this 3 day African safari, you’ll have the chance to see the ‘Big 5’. These are the 5 species of wildlife that top most traveler’s lists when visiting the continent- lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and the Cape buffalo. There is also the chance of seeing other wildlife such as warthogs, giraffes, gazelles, and cheetahs.
On the first day of Murchison Falls Big 5 Safari, you’ll be taken for a hike around Murchison Falls with an option mini hike over to view Uhuru Falls. You’ll then travel to your camp from the night on the south bank of the Nile. Day two consists of a ferry crossing and a 4 hour game drive through the Nile Delta area of Murchison Falls National Park. After that you’ll enjoy a lunch back at camp before departing for a 3 hour boat cruise at the base of the falls. The last day of the safari offers up the opportunity to track and learn about rhinos in the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary before heading back to town.
- Price range: US$380 per person
- How to get there: Once entering the country by flying into Entebbe International Airport (EBB), you’ll need to hire or rent a car and travel to Kampala. The morning of your safari, you’ll depart from Red Chilli located in Kampala.
Australia is unique in that it is both a continent and country. What further makes Australia both interesting and a highly sought out destination is its abundance of ‘odd’ creatures and landscapes. This large country harbors many creatures that are endemic, meaning they can only be found in this one part of the world. Luckily some of these creatures can be found on the safaris listed below.
Fraser Island, Queensland
Important note: This tour is no longer available. There are however, other similar tours if you're interested in visiting the area.
If you’re looking for a day out but want to make sure it’s full of adventure, then this one day Fraser Island Safari should work out to be just prefect. The tour includes a trip to Lake Birrahbeen, Eli Creek, a 75 mile beach, the Central Station Rainforest, Maheno Shipwreck and the Coloured Sands. Note- Itinerary is subject to change depending on the weather conditions and the tides.
Included in the tour is morning tea, a picnic lunch and fruit basket along with water. Just make sure to keep your food close as there are dingos that live in the area.
- Price range: US$154 per person, US$110 per child, US$445 per family
- How to get there: You’ll fly into Brisbane International Airport (BNE). Once you have landed you have the option of renting a car and driving north (about 3.5 hours) to the Kingfisher Bay Resort Barge.
Muiron Islands, Western Australia
From 7:30am to 4pm, travelers will partake in exploring the waters and reefs around the Muiron Islands. Due to its location, the waters thrive with an abundance of sea life including but not limited to- manta rays, dolphins, humpback whales dugongs, turtles, sharks, potato cod and more. If you have an underwater camera of any kind, make sure to bring it as there will be lots of opportunities for pictures.
Included in the the Muiron Islands Snorkel Safari is a buffet lunch to help you recharge along with afternoon teas, cool drinks and a relaxing dip at a local snorkeling spot.
- Price range: US$190 per adult, US$105 per child
- How to get there: You’ll fly either Skywest or Qantas into Learmonth via Exmouth Airport (EXM). Once there, you can hire a taxi to take you to your accommodation.
5- New Zealand
Located in the southwestern portion of the Pacific Ocean to the south of Australia, New Zealand comprises of two islands, North Island and South Island. Both islands attract international visitors due to their variety in both climate zones and wildlife. On land one will find snow topped mountains, forests, cliffs and beaches. In the water, a visitor will have to chance to swim and dive with dolphins, whales, sea turtles and a large arrangement of fish species.
Dolphin Swim, Bay of Islands
Important note: The swim safari tour is no longer available, however, there are other tours available through the same company. You can find those by clicking the link below.
If you love dolphins and watching them in their natural habitat, then Dolphin Swim Safari will give you just that. For a full day (7:30am to 8pm), you’ll be guided through the Bay of Islands on New Zealand’s northernmost tip where you’ll cruise around the waters and relax on the white sand beaches.
The bay itself includes over 140 islands and an abundance of marine wildlife including jumping dolphins that can be witnessed from the any viewpoint of the boat. Here you'll get to witness the daily activities of the numerous dolphin pods as if you were a scientist on an exploration expedition. A boxed lunch is also included in the safari.
- Price range: US$260 per adult
- How to get there: You can fly directly into the Bay of Islands at Kerikeri Airport (KKE) or fly into an international airport on the North Island of New Zealand and then drive to the Bay of Islands.
The Far North, Auckland
The Far North Safari is not for the faint of heart. For 6 days, travelers will hike through different landscapes with an average of 4 to 6 hours of physical activity each day. If you’re looking for cozy nightly accommodations, then this isn’t for you as you’ll be camping in a tent every night.
If you are an adventurous traveler and love being outdoors 24/7, you’ll be rewarded with beaches, kayaking, fishing and forests. You’ll also spend some of your time riding around in a mini bus along the packed sand beaches. If bad weather greets you on any night during your safari, the guide will look for alternate accommodations that will keep you dry. Meals are covered in the price and vegetation meals can be prepared if necessary.
- Price range: US$1,095 per person
- How to get there: Fly into Auckland International Airport (AKL) where you’ll start your hiking adventure.