There are so many different possible options for your safari that it's difficult to set a rule-of-thumb for what you should spend. Instead, first, you should do some research to determine what you'd most like to see in Africa, and then balance that against your vacation budget. Don't forget to factor in your age, fitness level and expectations for comfort. If you're accustomed to staying in posh hotels on trips, for example, the backpacker-style accommodations that you'll find at some cut-rate camps in the bush will come as a major shock.
Fodor's writer Julian Harrison advises spending six to nine months planning your trip, and a year in advance isn't unreasonable. Harrison also cautions travelers that self-serve Internet booking isn't as reliable in Africa, where the travel infrastructure isn't as sophisticated as in other places. If you book online, you may set yourself up for some logistical nightmares. You'll also want to set aside money for gratuities and vaccinations that you'll need to protect you against diseases. You'd probably do well to enlist the services of a travel agent who's experienced in African adventure tourism [source: Harrison].
According to Harrison, there are price ranges to suit almost every budget. At the high end, a traveler who wants luxury can book accommodations at a fancy travel lodge for $1,500 a night. At the other end, travelers can get by spending about that much for an entire eight-day budget safari, as long as they're comfortable pitching a tent with the group out in the wild [source: Harrison].
One major expense to factor in is air travel. At press time, one major carrier, South African Airways, advertised prices of around $1,000 each way for flights from New York City to several South African cities [source: South African Airways]. But of course, those prices are subject to change. Your agent may be able to find you a cheaper package deal.