Since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic in March of last year, we have experienced a massive stir in the African travel industry. Both intrepid travellers and safari specialists alike have been running around trying to understand what is actually going on in the industry, trying to find answers to the same old questions – is it safe to visit Africa during the pandemic? Which countries are best to visit during COVID? Should I wait until the pandemic is over before returning to Africa? The questions go on and on and on and although many of the industry’s top travel experts can give you some pretty sound travel advice, no one is actually certain about what the future of African travel is going to look like or when we can expect things to go back to normal, assuming they ever do.
With all of this going on, there are two things that we are sure of which we have watched unfold over the past 17 months, creating what we believe to be an extraordinary phenomenon in the African travel space – a phenomenon that we also believe may never happen again in our lifetime or perhaps ever again.
The first side to this fascinating finding is that the number of guests visiting many of Africa’s iconic safari destinations are the lowest they have ever been since the beginning of the modern African safari era. World renowned safari destinations like the Serengeti, the Okavango Delta and the Masai Mara (to name just a few) which are usually flooded with thousands of international visitors have been virtually empty since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. Only in recent months have visitors slowly started to make their way back to these prolific wilderness areas and those who have been brave enough to do so have relished in an extraordinarily exclusive, private paradise made up of empty safari lodges, deserted national parks and astounding game viewing experiences with no one else to share them with.
Not only have some of these seemingly more darling safari enthusiasts had the privilege of experiencing many of Africa’s most infamous travel destinations almost entirely on their own, they have also done so during the most affordable time in history of the modern day safari as well.
The massive decline in international guests visiting Africa during the pandemic has forced many of Africa’s most exclusive luxury camps and premier safari lodges to reduce their rates astronomically in order to entice the local market and create some sort of revenue stream while the world continues to wait out the effects of the global lockdown. In South Africa alone, we have witnessed some of the country’s top safari lodges and private game reserves reduce their rates by up to 70% in order to attract local visitors who would otherwise be unable to visit these spectacular safari destinations. We have already seen a huge number of local travellers taking advantage of this, enjoying the many luxuries of South Africa’s finest safari lodges at a fraction of the price.
But what does all of this really mean for our clients?
Well, if you haven’t already figured it out yet, here it is – now may be the best opportunity you will ever get to experience a luxury African safari!
Think about it – when else would you be able to visit a place like the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, stay at one of the most luxurious private lodges in the country at a quarter of the price and enjoy some of the best game viewing opportunities on the continent without having to share them with anyone else?
The simple answer – probably never again.
This phenomenon that we are currently experiencing is slowly but surely coming to an end as more and more international visitors start to make their way back to their favourite safari destinations, while at the same time, many of the continent’s luxury camps & safari lodges adjust their rates accordingly. This means that anyone who is looking to make the most of this phenomenon needs to act fast. We have already seen a lot of lodges in South Africa starting to readjust their rates back to industry norms and the terms “Residents Rates” and “SA Residents Specials” will soon become a thing of the past. At the same time, the continent’s most sought after safari destinations like the Serengeti and the Okavango Delta have already started to experience an increase in the numbers of international guests.
The point is that whether you are a local traveler considering your next getaway or a foreign travel enthusiast looking for your next adventure, now may be the best chance you are ever going to get to experience the wonders of a truly authentic luxury African safari. And yes, of course we are still aware that the world is in the midst of an international pandemic and that concern around travel is high but have you heard of any horror stories in recent months about travellers venturing out into Africa’s wilderness areas? We certainly haven’t and with the entire African travel industry having already pivoted to the changing African travel landscape, we don’t expect to hear any in the near future, or at all for that matter!