We will this summer be spending 13 nights in Tanzania (Selous, Ruaha and Northern Serengeti). I already booked this trip in September last year. As we are a family of five we would not have been able to fit this trip in our budget if we had waited much longer. One of the places has 8 furnished tents, the other one only 6 and for our family I already need two of them.
By booking early I also managed to get a discount between 20% and 50% on the published rates of the camps due to combining two new camps in Ruaha and Selous where there was in 2012 an introductionary promotional offer which they extended to our 2013 reservation. This offer is no longer shown on their site in 2013. In the third camp in case you stay longer than 4 nights a discount of 20% applies to the entire booking. Safari is of course not a cheap holiday but there is a fine line between it being still more or less affordable and it becoming outrageously expensive.
In addition, Tanzania offers child discounts for children under 16 years and not 12 years as is the case in most other African countries. In two of the camps where we will be staying, one child stays for free and the two other ones pay 50% of the promotional adult rate. If we had travelled as a couple at the published rates it would have costed us more than what we are now paying for our family of five.
What eats my budget are the internal flights as here the full rate for five people applies. If you are on a budget you should be able to combine the Ruaha and Selous parks. Flying from Ruaha over Arusha to Kotagende in the northern Serengeti is probably a stretch but I absolutely wanted to see the wildebeest migration away from the crowds on the Kenyan side of the Mara river. There was thus not really any alternative to flying to get to the northern Serengeti.
For our international flights, we are flying with Ethiopian airlines, which turned out the cheapest option as we wanted to plan in a stop-over in Ethiopia and Ethiopian airlines does not charge more if you are flying out from a different airport. The multi-destination ticket (1) Brussels-Dar-Es-Salaam (2) Kilimanjaro-Addis Ababa (3) Addis Ababa-Brussels was not more expensive than a return flight to the same destination in Tanzania.
We picked the parks in the south as we have travelled already the classic Northern Tanzania safari circuit in 2011. The parks in Southern Tanzania are not crowded which is a big advantage. Those of you that have read already some other of my blog posts know that the sight of a lion being surrounded by 20+ safari vehicles in the Masai Mara or Serengeti during high season is not my definition of a true wilderness experience. In addition Selous has the highest density of the endangered African wild dog. With my luck with wild dogs it probably won't happen that we see them but there will be more enough other wildlife around and hopefully I will come back with some good photographs.