Yearning for a safari destination I can't afford
I'm at my computer staring at the email before me, chocolate soy milk in one hand. The email is from a South African lodge in the Western Cape promoting a special for South African residents.
Curious, I read on. I've been craving a bush escape since the start of the pandemic, and this mail could have not come at a better time.
The mail reveals that the 5-star establishment has opened a new camp with special rates for South Africans.
The camp is situated on a picturesque shaded riverbed and opened during the summer months.
I read on, my appetite for a safari getaway aroused.
The mail states that it's a 2-night guided walking safari experience with all meals beverages and activities included.
Sounds like a fantastic deal, I say to myself. Then, I see the price.
It's R4000pp sharing per night, and guests will have to stay a minimum of 2 nights. That means I would have to cough up R8000. As I may not want to travel alone, I will need a further R8000, and that excludes flights, transport to the lodge and other travel costs. The two-day trip would easily cost more than R25 000, considering the high flight prices recently.
The astounding rates are almost equivalent to an international holiday to some exotic location. I'm not the only one who believes that lodges in South Africa, who usually caters to an international market, are too expensive for domestic travellers.
There's been an ongoing debate on social media over prices of local vs international destinations.
Some, including me, would always end up choosing the one that offers the most value, which in this case may be a trip to Bali, Thailand, Mozambique or even Dubai.
Time to shine
As local travellers are wary about venturing abroad, most are seeking domestic experiences. When local travellers choose destinations, they yearn for great experiences at affordable prices.
That's where the South African tourism sector comes in.
I understand that lodges like the above need to stay afloat every month. They need to pay their staff, take care of their monthly expenses including conservation levies, all while trying to make a profit in a Covid world. With international travellers, their key source market, staying away due to the pandemic, many are struggling to keep their doors open.
However, I also believe that some lodges need to reevaluate their offerings to cater to the domestic market. What appeals to an international traveller may not appeal to a local traveller.
They ought to find ways on how to make a profit while taking care of domestic travellers, a market that could potentially help many tourism businesses get back on their feet.
There are options
Research is your friend when it comes to spotting great deals. I found that while some lodges are out of many South African price range, there are plenty of budget-friendly safari getaways I can enjoy, most of which are all-inclusive.
Like 4-star graded Mongena Private Game Lodge at Dinokeng Game Reserve. Travellers can enjoy a fully inclusive one night stay for R1760pp, which includes all meals and two activities.
Or for those who do not want to enjoy the benefits of staying at a private game reserve but can't afford the hefty price tag that comes with it, Mattanu Private Game Reserve offers day packages. Guests pay R450 per person, which includes a morning or afternoon game drive, choice of a buffet breakfast or 3-course dinner.
A quad biking game viewing experience costs R495pp, which includes your choice of breakfast or dinner.
Before you get overwhelmed by the price tags of some lodges, try to research similar options at lower prices. The right deal is out there, it just requires a little research.