Booking Safaris on the Spot

A monthlong African safari for $1,800--or less--including air can be yours if you're willing to gamble

Compare those figures to what you'd usually pay for the same tour from home. If you buy in U.S. dollars through their Web sites, African Routes (africanroutes.co.za) peaks at $1195, as opposed to Long Street's $418, and Nomad (nomadtours.co.za) is $975, as opposed to $350. Which Way is marked from $612 to about $975 from African Safari Consultants of California (866/733-4263; classicsafaris.com). Worldwide's "Southern Sun" ($572 on Long Street) is hiked to $840 if you buy it from its British agent (worldwideadventure.net). Dragoman (011-44/1728-861-133, dragoman.com) sells its "Great Southern Safari" Cape-to-Vic Falls trip for $1003. And Drifters (011-27/11-888-1160, drifters.com) sells one for $2170. Its camps are nicer but hardly worth another thousand dollars. And you'd still have to pay for airfare.

After gathering opinions from some just-returned travelers, I paid a paltry $350 for 21 days with Nomad, a homegrown company that (unlike the British operators) keeps profits in South Africa, where they can do some good. I spied on bathing elephants, sledded down sand dunes, narrowly avoided an angry hippo in Botswana--for less than $17 a day, food included! Even adding airfare from America, costs were only about $58 per day for three-and-a-half weeks of African exploits. A month in the African bush for $1,500! Follow my advice and it can be done.

Long Street, in central Cape Town, has its own Web site (longstreet.co.za) and hosts several of the city's more hurly-burly hostels. Of its travel shops selling last-minute spots on overland trips, One World Travellers Space (309 Long St., 011-27/21-424-0777) has proved to be especially reliable. Other good sources include Adventure Village (229 Long St., 011-27/21-424-1580, adventure-village.co.za) and Detour Travel Shop (234 Long St., 011-27/21-424-1155, detourafrica.co.za). Most local hostels also sell the trips.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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