When planning your Botswana safari, should you choose a mobile safari or a safari lodge? What’s the difference and which one is best? Of course, we are biased toward a Brave Africa luxury safari, but we know it is important to shop around. So, we are here to help you out.
Both a mobile safari and safari lodge offer amazing experiences that you’ll remember forever. The difference is in the type of experience you’ll have. They’re not as different as you think, but there are some key things you should be aware of before you make the right decision for you and your family.
To get started, we’ll break down the key differences between a Botswana mobile safari and a safari lodge and then leave the decision up to you.
Safari Lodge vs Mobile Safari: Location
The key difference between a mobile safari and a safari lodge is location.
A lodge is like a hotel; it’s stationary. You’ll take a bush flight to the safari lodge, get assigned a room, and remain in that room and at that lodge until you depart. For example, let’s say you’re planning a nine-night safari at three lodges. You would check-in and check-out of each lodge after three nights and be responsible for booking a bush flight to your next location.
A mobile safari moves between locations with you for the duration of your tour. You’ll join a mobile safari tour and the tour will take you and your camp to each location. For example, for a nine-night, three-location safari with Brave Africa, you would only check-in and check-out once at the beginning and end of your tour. For the rest of the time, your room and camp location would move between locations. Think of it like cruise ship: you go to three different locations, enjoy your excursions, and then head back to the ship and your staff and accommodations are there waiting for you.
With a Botswana safari lodge, you’ll have a different hotel, room, customer service, and safari guide with every location. This can be beneficial if one of your locations ends up being sub-par or if you like to change things up constantly.
With a Botswana mobile safari, you’ll have consistent service, lodging, and guiding for your entire trip. You’ll get to experience new locations without changing out your guide or having to pack and unpack.
Mobile Safari vs. Safari Lodge: Travel
Another difference between mobile safaris and safari lodges are your travel arrangements. For ease of comparison, let’s assume you’ve planned a nine-night safari at three locations: three days each location.
If you booked safari lodges, that means you have to book three different lodges and travel to and from each lodge. That equates to four bush flights that you’ll need to schedule and pay for:
- Bush flight to Lodge 1 (begin safari)
- Bush flight from Lodge 1 to Lodge 2
- Bush flight from Lodge 2 to Lodge 3
- Bush flight from Lodge 3 (end safari)
On every day that you have a bush flight, you will not be on a game drive and seeing the animals during that time. Instead, depending on the bush flight schedule, you’ll have a short game drive on the way to the airstrip, wait for the plane to pick you up, enjoy a 30-minute to 1-hour flight, then get picked up by your new lodge and enjoy a short game drive on the way to check-in.
However, if you booked Brave Africa’s mobile safari camp or something similar, travel to each location is much easier. You only need to schedule and pay for two bush flights; your mobile safari takes care of the rest.
- Bush flight to mobile safari Camp 1 (begin safari)
- All-day game drive to Camp 2
- All-day game drive to Camp 3
- Bush flight from mobile safari Camp 3 (end safari)
Once you begin your Brave Africa mobile safari you are set until the end. When changing camps, you get to enjoy an all-day game drive to get to the next location (which we set up and move for you); you don’t have to do anything. There are no shortened game drives, waiting for bush flights, or additional check-in processes.
Mobile Safari vs. Safari Lodge: Cost
Which is more expensive: a mobile safari or a safari lodge?
Average Cost Per Night
In general, a safari lodge costs more per night than a mobile safari. Part of the reason for that is the infrastructure and rent that goes into running a lodge. Since a lodge is a permanent structure, the company has a higher overhead when it comes to the building and then paying rent or purchasing the land. Higher costs for the lodge means higher costs for safari-goers.
- For a mid-level safari lodge, you can expect to pay at least $800 – $1,050 a night/person
A mobile safari, on the other hand, is not a permanent structure. We still have to invest in infrastructure: tents, kitchen equipment, beds, baths, toilets, food, etc. However, because all of our infrastructure is moveable, it is more affordable. Also, we only rent campsites when they are in use, which means we pay less in rent for the land. Lower costs for us means lower costs for safari-goers.
- For a luxury-level mobile safari camp like Brave Africa, expect to pay $500 – $750 a night/person.
Average Cost Per Bush Flight
The cost of the safari lodge or mobile safari camp is not the only thing you need to consider. As we stated above, booking three safari lodges means you have to book four bush flights compared to two for a mobile safari. Each bush flight costs between $215 to $375 per person.
That means when budgeting for a safari lodge or mobile safari, you must include the cost of your bush flights. Assuming $300 per flight on average:
- Safari Lodge: $1,200 in bush flights
- Mobile Safari: $600 in bush flights
Total Cost: Safari Lodge vs. Mobile Safari
So, what do the costs look like when spread out over a 10-day, 9-night safari at either a safari lodge or with Brave Africa’s mobile safari?
|Avg Per Night/Per Person||$925 x 9 ($8,325)||$625 x 9 ($5,625)|
|Bush Flights||$300 x 4 ($1,200)||$300 x 2 ($600)|
|$9,525 per person||
$6,225 per person
Safari Lodge vs. Mobile Safari: Accommodations
Now, it is important to note that the higher cost of a safari lodge also tends to coincide with fancier accommodations. After all, you can do much more with a permanent structure than you can with a mobile camp like Brave Africa.
Let’s break down what accommodations look like at safari lodge vs. mobile safari.
- Room: Expect your room to be larger and more suite-like at a safari lodge. It may still be a canvas tent, but the floor is probably wood, and it will feel more like a hotel room. A mobile safari camp will use portable canvas tents. These can still be large and include a separate bathroom area, but they must be able to be set up and broken down within an hour, so the floor is canvas and the size is limited.
- Toilet: Both a safari lodge and mobile safari can have flushing toilets (we do at Brave Africa). However, you are not guaranteed a flushing toilet with a mobile safari. You need to ask what the camp offers; it may be a drop toilet.
- Shower: Mobile safaris can only have a bucket shower. Since we do not have permanent infrastructure to offer running water, all showers are provided on-demand through staff-heated and filled buckets. Most safari lodges offer typical hotel showers with running water.
- Size: Safari lodges can be large compounds. They can have multiple rooms, a large communal area, a front desk for check-in, a store, a pool, and staff area. The safari lodge is only limited in size by the amount of land and money they have. A mobile safari must be smaller and more intimate, or it will be too large to move. At Brave Africa, we have guest tents, staff tents, a back-of-the-house kitchen, and a main communal area tent. This means there’s still plenty of room because camp areas are large, but you’ll only have one sitting area, one dining area, and a fire pit.
- Pool: If your dream is to take an Instagram picture of Botswana while sitting poolside, that’s only available at a safari lodge.
- Décor: A Botswana safari lodge can be highly decorated with chandeliers, high-quality paintings, heavy and expensive furniture, etc. It is a hotel, so the lodge can go all-out in terms of decorations and furnishing. A Brave Africa mobile safari offers a very comfortable camp, but décor is limited to the necessities. We have rugs, blankets, pillows, and collapsible/movable furniture. You’ll still have a comfortable bed and seating, but it will be more practical.
|Room||Permanent tent or built structure||Portable canvas tent|
|Shower||Running water shower||Bucket shower|
|Toilet||Flushing toilet||Flushing toilet or drop toilet|
|Water||Running water||On-demand water|
|Size||Unlimited based on land and budget||Limited due to mobility|
|Pool||Yes (depending on the lodge)||No|
|Décor||Extremely luxurious||Comfortable but basic|
Botswana safari lodges are all about luxury. You’ll feel like you’re staying at one of the most beautiful and expensive hotels you’ve ever enjoyed. A lodge is a way to see and experience a safari while remaining separate from the bush. You might even forget you’re on safari in the middle of nowhere.
A Botswana mobile safari is more about getting back to the basics and focusing on the safari experience. You can still be very comfortable and feel well taken care of, but due to the mobility of the camp, you cannot expect unlimited amenities. Instead, the focus of a mobile safari is spending time with nature and diving into the landscapes at a more personal level. You’ll never forget you are on safari and separate from the rest of the world while on a Brave Africa luxury safari.
Mobile Safari vs. Safari Lodge: Safari Experience
The type of experience you’ll have at a safari lodge is also different from what you’ll have on a mobile safari. The biggest difference is consistency.
On a Brave Africa mobile safari, you’ll have the same staff with you for the entire trip. You will get to know your guide very well at the end of nine nights and he will get to know you. He will know what animals you have seen and what you have not. He will know what stories you have heard, what information you have learned, and what you still want to know. In this way, you will not have to worry about repetition or explaining what happened at the last camp.
You will also be with the same guests the majority of the time because you are all on the same tour. This means you will not have to worry about new guests coming in and having to accommodate their needs and wants.
And because going on a Brave Africa luxury safari means you will be with the same team the whole time, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the same quality service from day one to day nine. You will get to know your chef, waiter, housekeeper, and everyone else at camp. It will give you more of a family-feeling so that by the end of your safari, you feel at home.
At a safari lodge, the experience is very different. Because a lodge functions like a hotel, there is a constant stream of people coming in and out. This means that every day you could have a different group of people in your game drive vehicle, depending on the timing of everyone’s trip.
Plus, when you move lodges, you completely change your experience. You might have loved your guide at Lodge 1 and so Lodge 2 could be a bit of a disappointment. You will also need to tell your Lodge 2 guide about what you saw and learned at Lodge 1 to avoid repetition. And since changing lodges also means changing guests, you cannot control what information you get.
Your service will also change between lodges. You may not have the same quality of customer service at each. And, since you will only have a short three days with each set of staff, you will not have time to get comfortable or feel like family.
Safari Lodge vs. Mobile Safari: Environmental Impact
The idea behind Brave Africa’s mobile safari camp is that we take only pictures and leave behind only footprints. Because we are a non-permanent camp, our lasting impact on the environment is smaller than a safari lodge. We do not have concrete or permanent structures that mar the landscape. We go set up camp, stay for three days, and then pack everything up and leave nothing behind at the end.
After Brave Africa finishes your safari, there should be no evidence that we were there.
A safari lodge is like a hotel, so there is permanent infrastructure in place. Initially, this does leave a large footprint on the landscape and have a greater impact on the environment. The lodge is always there, so after you leave your safari, the lodge remains.
However, that does not mean that safari lodges are bad for Botswana. Since lodges are more permanent, they can set up eco-friendly systems that help lessen their impact. For example, many lodges use solar power, set up water filtration systems to reduce plastic waste, and use environmentally friendly waste-management systems.
At Brave Africa, we also focus on being eco-friendly by using solar power, providing guests with personalized metal water bottles and filtered water to reduce plastic, and reducing our waste. However, we are limited in other ways. For example, we have two large trucks to move camp that use diesel fuel. Eventually, we would love to look into electric trucks, but for now, we still use gas; though we hope it is less or equivalent to bush flight gas.
Which is Best: Mobile Safari or Safari Lodge
So, which is best? That is completely up to you. Here are a few final questions to ask yourself before you make your decision between a safari lodge and mobile safari.
- Do you want the ultimate luxury safari experience? Choose a safari lodge.
- Do you prefer a hotel-like experience? Choose a safari lodge.
- Do you want to avoid bush flights? Choose a mobile safari.
- Do you want to try different camps and staff to find your favorite? Choose a safari lodge.
- Do you want a more affordable experience? Choose a mobile safari.
- Do you want a shorter trip to test the waters? Choose a safari lodge.
- Do you want to go on safari and feel like you are part of a family? Choose a mobile safari.
- Are you concerned with having less of an environmental impact? Choose Brave Africa luxury safari or a high-quality safari lodge.