Exploring Africa: The Pros and Cons of Booking a Private Safari

Africa feels like home to me. I've been to several countries, immersed myself in local issues, learned more about rich cultural heritage, and experienced breathtaking wildlife and incredible landscapes. Africa has always been a dream destination for adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike, and for good reason! What better way to experience the raw beauty of this continent than embarking on a safari? While group safaris are a popular choice for many travelers, we recently opted for an alternative that promises a more personalized and intimate experience- booking a private safari. I'm going to dive deep into the pros and cons of opting for a private safari so that you can make the best decision as you embark on exploring Africa.


Exploring Africa: The Pros and Cons of Booking a Private Safari

pros and cons of private safari

It was a dream of mine to go on safari and thankfully, about ten years ago, after a vision trip with NGO World Vision, I was able to extend my trip with our group and go on a few day-long safari in the Masai Mara. One trip wasn't enough, and since I was exploring on my own {without my husband and with a group of friends from church}, I knew I wanted to come back one day with my guy and explore this land that I so quickly fell in love with.

Visiting Uganda and learning about everyday life and the struggles of the people really opened my eyes to the benefits of international travel and stepping out of my comfort zone. 

Read more:

My Trip to Uganda with World Vision
One Month Later: A Reflection on My Trip to Uganda

My first safari experience {alt title: All the Swahili I know I Learned from Lion King}

We stayed at &Beyond Kichwa Tembo and this is a recap of my first safari experience
Part 2 Safari in Masai Mara

We made plans to visit for our 25th wedding anniversary. Safari costs have skyrocketed in recent years and as we planned, there was a chance our trip wouldn't happen. My husband worked with a local travel group and managed to plan the whole three-week adventure on a more realistic budget. Traveling privately, versus with a group was important to us. 

Read more about our anniversary trip:

The Ultimate Safari Packing List
Planning a Hot Air Balloon Safari Over the Serengeti 
The Pros and Cons of Going on Safari in the Rainy Season
Everything You Need to Know to Prepare for Gorilla Trekking in Africa

Let's dive into all the things that we considered as we decided to book a private safari for our most recent safari experience in Africa.

The Pros of Booking a Private Safari


1. Personalize Itinerary

One of the most important things for us, was being able to customize our own itinerary according to our preferences. Maybe you are keen on wildlife photography {and even if you aren't there is something about safari that makes you think National Geographic will be calling!}, birdwatching, or cultural immersion, a private safari will allow you to tailor every aspect of your journey to suit your interests. You can choose which destinations you want to visit, the activities you want to participate in, and even the pace of your safari, making it a truly unique experience.

Our itinerary ended up being a mash-up of about three different trips and experiences. We knew how difficult Africa was to travel to, and we have lots of places on our bucket list of travel, so we wanted to see and do all the things on our visit, and not leave a single thing out! Traveling privately allowed us to do that.

2. Exclusive Wildlife Encounters

With a private safari, you'll enjoy exclusive access to wildlife sightings without having to share the experience with a large group of tourists. Your knowledgeable guide will focus on fulfilling your specific interests and can take you to more remote and less-visited areas where you're more likely to encounter elusive species in their natural habitat. 

We would often start our day by giving a wish list of wildlife we wanted to spot and our guide would do his best to meet our needs. Through our questions, our guide also started to learn about the animals we enjoyed spotting {babies!}, and he could give us more information and a deeper experience to find and spot those animals and have those encounters. 

3. Flexibility and Freedom

Unlike group safaris that adhere to fixed schedules and itineraries, a private safari provides you with the flexibility to adapt your plans on the go. You can linger longer at a particular sighting, explore off-the-beaten-path locations, or indulge in impromptu experiences without being constrained by a rigid timeline. This freedom allows you to make the most of your time in Africa and seize every moment of adventure as it unfolds.

4. Personalized Service and Attention

Another advantage of booking a private safari is the level of personalized service and attention you'll receive throughout your journey. From the moment you arrive, you'll be greeted by a dedicated team committed to ensuring your comfort and satisfaction. Your private guide will not only share their expertise about the local plants and wildlife, but they will also cater to your individual needs and preferences, whether it's photography tips or any special requests.

5. Intimate Cultural Experiences

Beyond the remarkable wildlife, Africa is a continent rich in diverse cultures and traditions. A private safari gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in local communities and engage with indigenous peoples on a deeper level. 

We had two guides in two different countries and both were local and incredibly knowledgeable about the local customs and traditions. They provided insight into dowries and day-to-day living as well as information on traditional tribal customs. 

With a private group tour, you can also participate in activities since you are generally a smaller group. This might mean that you have the opportunity to participate in a traditional tribal ceremony, visit a local market or dine with a Maasai family in their village. These authentic cultural experiences will help you foster meaningful connections as you learn more about Africa's heritage.

The Cons of Booking a Private Safari


1. Higher Cost

Perhaps the most significant drawback of booking a private safari is the higher cost compared to group 
tours. I get it, I'm on those deal websites too and get emails about deep discounts on group safaris all the time! They seem almost reasonable. 

On a private safari you will have exclusive use of a vehicle, guide, and accommodations, so private safaris tend to be more expensive, especially if you are a solo traveler or a small group or couple. However, for those seeking a luxurious and personalized safari experience, the additional expense may be justified by the enhanced level of comfort, convenience, and customization.

2. Limited Social Interation

{This may not seem like a con to some!}
Unlike group safaris where you have the opportunity to socialize with fellow travelers from around the world, a private safari can be more solitary in nature. If you enjoy the camaraderie and shared experiences that come with traveling in a group, you may miss out on the social interaction that adds a new dynamic to your safari experience. But, if you are like my husband, who is more introverted by nature, or for those seeking privacy and a little seclusion, the solitude of a private safari may be preferable.

Not to worry, we actually met some very lovely people at our lodges, even joining a mother/daughter duo for dinner one evening, so we weren't totally isolated!

3. Less Cultural Exchange

While private safaris offer intimate cultural experiences, they may lack the diversity and cross-cultural interactions that come with group travel. Since you'll be interacting primarily with your guide and possibly only your travel companion, there may be fewer opportunities to engage with a diverse range of people from different backgrounds and perspectives. 

Safari brings people from all over the world to one place! With thoughtful planning and arrangements, {and a little bit of an outgoing personality!} you can still incorporate meaningful cultural exchanges into your private safari itinerary. Don't be afraid to strike up a conversation at dinner or over a drink by the pool!

4. Reliance on Personal Preferences

The success of a private safari depends on your personal preferences, interests, and travel style, so you will need to be heavily involved in the planning. While this level of customization allows you to design a safari experience tailored to fit your needs, it also means that it's your responsibility to communicate your expectations clearly and work closely with your safari operator to craft an itinerary that meets your needs. This may be difficult to determine if this is your first time on safari.

You can be well aware of the dirt roads of Africa, but until you've spent six hours driving over them in a safari truck, you may not realize how difficult the drive can be on your body. Thankfully, you can assess and reevaluate if you are traveling privately.


There are many benefits to booking private safaris from personalized itineraries and exclusive wildlife encounters to extreme flexibility. However, before you go, you will need to weigh the advantages against any potential drawbacks, such as higher costs, and decide if it's worth the trade-off. Ultimately, whether you opt for a private safari or a group tour depends on your individual preferences, budget, and what you really want from your travel experience. Regardless of your choice, going on safari in Africa will be one of the most unforgettable adventures that you will ever go on and it will provide lifelong memories you'll always have!

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