3 Safari Alternatives for the Wild Animal Lover on a Budget

3 Safari Alternatives for the Wild Animal Lover on a Budget

by Cayla McDonald on

Let’s face it—safaris are expensive! So what’s a wild animal lover on a budget to do? Here are 3 safari alternatives that won’t break the bank:

Visit an open-range zoo

Though seeing animals on the open plains of Africa may be wildly out of budget, you can probably afford to see animals on the wild, remote plains of California. Okay, so maybe California isn’t so wild and remote, but SafariWest in Santa Rosa does offer incredible African-style safaris on the “Sonoma Serengeti.” SafariWest promotes conservation and education, and day safaris start at a budget-friendly $83. SafariWest sits on over 400 acres of sprawling preserve, and guests have the opportunity to see giraffes, gazelles, zebras, antelopes, Cape buffalo, wildebeests, and more—SafariWest has around 900 animals freely roaming their exotic African Savannah setting.

Down in the Southern hemisphere, Australia’s Werribee Open Range Zoo offers another Safari-style experience without trekking to Africa. Visitors climb aboard a safari truck and meander among giraffes, zebras, hippos, bison, and a number of other animals free to roam the zoo’s 200 hectare (about 494 acre) property.

Not close to either of them? There are many other open-range zoos, and a little online investigation work could reveal one closer to you than you might think.  

Spend the night among the animals

If you’re not able to splurge on the incredible Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, don’t give up on your dream of spending the night surrounded by animals. The Jamala Wildlife Lodge in Canberra, Australia is an amazing property that lets you get face-to-face with your favorite wild animals. Guests staying in Giraffe treehouses have the opportunity to feed giraffes right from their balconies. Jungle Bungalows feature floor-to-ceiling windows with lions, cheetahs, or bears visiting guests while they eat, lounge, and bathe.

For a more family-focused getaway, try Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge in Florida. The horseshoe shaped resort offers guests views of an African-style savannah and over 30 species of African wildlife. Guests can catch glimpses of giraffes and other animals right from their balcony.

If getting to one of these isn’t in your budget, check your local zoo’s website. Many zoos now offer overnight camping experiences.

Head to Africa on a volunteer trip

If you can’t afford to go on a safari vacation, you can still experience Africa if you’re willing to volunteer on a wildlife conservation trip. Companies such as DiscoverCorps and African Impact offer volunteer trips to help wildlife conservation efforts in Africa at a fraction of the cost of a traditional African Safari. In addition to the discounted rates, volunteers get up close and personal with wildlife—something a traditional safari-goer might not experience.

Currently DiscoverCorps is offering a South African Wildlife Conservation Experience for $2,599 for a 10-day trip. Volunteers help with conservation efforts (think nursing baby rhinos, feeding injured animals, and helping leopard conservation organizations gather data) and dine with a local conservationist to learn about his or her efforts. But volunteers don’t spend all their time volunteering—they’ll also experience traditional safari experiences like game drives in search of the “Big 5” (lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros) and time off adventuring through Kruger National Park, the largest animal reserve in the country.

African Impact currently offers around 35 African Conservation Volunteer trips including Elephant Research in Zambia, Big Cat Research in Kenya, and Lemur Conservation in Madagascar. Most of their trips require a minimum stay of 2 weeks and prices are extremely reasonable, with many trips starting at around $1500. The company offers trips centered around the “Big 5,” but also offers trips to help dolphins, chimpanzees, horses, cheetahs, gorillas, lemurs, and great white sharks.

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