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Cheap safaris: Up-close wildlife encounters from Africa to Yellowstone

The word “safari” suggests herds of big game and vast, African plains – along with the expectation of a rather expensive holiday. But epic wildlife encounters can be found all around the world; and with a bit of careful planning, they may cost less than you’d think, whether it’s by travelling off-season or taking advantage of favourable exchange rates. 

African adventures

With the Namibian dollar (and the South African rand, to which it is pegged) currently trading at 22 to the pound (compared to 11 a decade ago), trips to southern Africa are more affordable than they have been in years. Fly-drive itineraries are the most cost-effective when it comes to seeking lions, cheetahs, rhinos, elephants and more. A Caracal Self-Drive Safari from Expert Africa (020 8232 9777; expertafrica.com) costs from £2,132pp including flights, 14 nights’ accommodation, car hire and some meals. 

Rickshaw Travel (01273 322 399; rickshawtravel.co.uk) has a two-night trip to South Africa’s Kruger National park from £115pp, which can be incorporated into a longer itinerary. It includes a guided game drive and accommodation in a traditional rondavel hut.


Big cat diary

The Brazilian real has also dropped against sterling, and travelling in the shoulder season opens up further savings. Naturetrek (01962 733051; naturetrek.co.uk) has a 12-day Just Jaguars group tour to the Pantanal wetlands, where big cats are the star attraction (if you’re lucky), alongside anteaters, capybaras and caimans. The last trip of the year (departing 4 November) coincides with the start of the rainy season, and consequently costs £500 less than the same holiday in dryer months. From £3,595pp with flights, transfers and full board.


Wild west

Summer in Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, is a time of big crowds and sky-high prices. But as temperatures dip and the crowds wane, it becomes cheaper to visit. All of the American Big Five – that’s wolves, bears, moose, elk and bison – are here; and although the bears may be sleeping in winter, it’s the optimal time to find wolves. 

Windows on the Wild (020 8742 1556; windowsonthewild.com) can package a 10-night Wolves and Wildlife in Winter safari from £2,425pp, including flights, transfers, room-only accommodation and animal-spotting excursions.


You Yangs Regional Park, Australia

Burn bright

India always offers good value, plus your best chance of spotting wild Bengal tigers. Two hotspots for these predators are Bandhavgarh and Ranthambore National Parks, both of which feature in the Eye to Eye with the Indian Tiger itinerary from Gane and Marshall (01822 600 600; ganeandmarshall.com). Hidden among the parks’ forests and grasslands are tigers, jackals, sloth bears and sambar deer, any of which can be spotted on game drives or jungle hikes. The 10-day trip costs from £1,695pp and includes flights, transfers, accommodation, most meals and a range of guided activities and tours.

Wildlife walkabout

An Aussie animal encounter needn’t entail a long trip to the outback. The Koalas and Kangaroos in the Wild day tour provides an authentic outdoors experience without straying far from the city. The tour takes in the natural beauty of You Yangs Regional Park, an hour west of Melbourne, where a wander through woodlands and meadows ensures sightings of emus, koalas and grey kangaroos, all in their natural environment. 

The trip costs from £111pp (including transfers, hotel pick-up and lunch) through Responsible Travel (01273 823 700; responsibletravel.com).


  • More about:
  • Safari
  • You Yangs Regional Park
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Kruger National Park
  • Ranthambore National Parks

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