Klaserie River Sands

Safari tips: Tipping while on safari

Tip box

© Simon Espley

The simple act of tipping can be an anxious moment for many people while on safari, and the subject of much discussion and seeking of advice. 

We like to reward excellent service, but hate being worked over for a tip. There is nothing worse than lodge staff hovering expectantly near you while checking out – which we are sure does happen every now and then. And we object to a tip being expected or automatically included in the bill.

Based on the many queries our team has fielded, we realise we are not alone in this.

So, here then are a few ‘tips’ from some of our travel team members about this prickly issue:

• I tip only when I receive good service, and when I feel that the person has worked hard, going beyond the call of their job. And a happy smile also works for me. This firm line helps me avoid the stress of being undecided;

• I tip lodge/hotel staff at the end of my stay, to a communal tip box which many lodges have, or in an envelope handed to the manager. I always ask about tipping, so that I follow the correct procedure for that lodge. I do not tip porters and waiters for ongoing chores like carrying bags and serving drinks;

• For group safaris, it’s often a good idea to pool tips. I have seen some groups arranging a fun presentation at the end of their stay – which is a great idea. Some people in groups prefer to tip directly, and that’s also fine;

• I usually tip about US$5 – $10 per day of my stay to lodge staff, and an additional US$5 – $10 per day to my guide and tracker, if relevant. Sometimes I also give my bird book to my guide – if he is interested in birds, and if he does not have the latest version;

• One golden rule: Never tell your guide/tracker that the tip is dependent on him/her finding certain animals. This is unfair and may encourage bad behaviour and damage to the environment and wildlife;

• And lastly, remember that tipping is entirely at your discretion. There are no rules, only guidelines.

Person handing over money

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  • At the end of the day, tipping should come down to what the client feels comfortable with, and should also be a reflection of the service they receive. $5-10 per person (client) per day for the Staff Tip Box (which goes to all staff in camp except the guides/spotters) $5-10 per person (client) per day for the guide + spotter in their vehicle So, each client should budget on $10-20 per day – $20-40 per day for a couple.

  • John Stuff

    Well, I worked my way though school doing many long shifts in restaurants. I know how important cash in the hand is to those in the service industry. I’d rather cut back on what I spend on a meal than short someone on a tip. I never, ever, hand a tip envelope to a manager. The tip money always goes directly in the hand of the one I want to tip – sorry, I just don’t trust managers to do the right thing and not skim some tips or hold tips.

    One time I had a guide tell me this. “It’s Africa man, stuff goes wrong all the time. That’s why you’re here, for the adventure and that stuff that does go wrong”. He was totally right. If I wanted everything to go right and magical then I’d go to Disney and get canned experience and not the unique experience that Africa offers.

  • Greg Branton

    I will never understand these recommendations:
    http://www.lodgestaff.com/search/results.php?fkJobTypeId=24
    A guide earns about 500US$ per month. A tip of 10US$ per day per person (with an average of 6 persons at a game drive) will add 1800US$ to his salary. 3.6 times of his salary as a tip?
    1800US$ is about 25000ZAR. The lodge manager earns less and does not get any tip.
    10$ per tip and person might be right for USA or Europe – for Southern Africa it is far too high in relation to the salaries.

  • Jan vanVreede

    Excerpt from: The Eternal Discussion: Tipping on Safari
    by Gerhard R Damm
    “….There have been a number of different suggestions: from no tipping at all towards adding a percentage (range between 5% and 15%) on either the daily rate or on the total hunt cost. The later obviously would alleviate the operator/outfitter from some of his responsibilities, since it would place the onus of paying a substantial part of the staff salaries on top of the hunting bill. This solution must therefore discarded entirely, since I believe – as stated earlier in this article – that salaries and wages should form part of the cost calculation of the entrepreneur.

    Tips – if any – after a safari should be spontaneous and for a service and performance well above average and beyond the call of duty. It is a personal gesture of the hunter towards a particular person or an identifiable group of persons who performed at levels well beyond the expected and usual!

    A tip is NOT a routine procedure and neither professional hunters nor camp staff should openly or subtly solicit the client pay for perceived or real shortfalls in a just salary or wage (they should rather negotiate with their employer). Tips are NOT part of remuneration packages.

    Tips are also definitively NOT to be measured as a percentage of the hunt cost as some agents and outfitter/operators suggest either directly when asked about tipping by visiting hunters or indirectly when saying “tips and gratuities not included.”…:”

    “…..The outfitter/operator should definitely avoid to raise expectations by telling staff that they will “earn” a certain percentage over an above their wages with tips from hunters. African old-timers like Glen Cottar and Tony Dyer made this abundantly clear to their staff – including the professional hunters – do not expect tips! Just like the old timers, outfitters/operators should select and train the staff well, pay fair and square wages/salaries and expect truly professional service of everybody in the camp. The outfitters/operators are no different in this respect to any other entrepreneur who employs people to run a business.

    I have the impression that many outfitters of the 21st century Africa unduly raise staff expectations with regards to tips (especially when discussing salaries – “you will earn soandsomuch in tips!” – and thus are part of the problem. And the problem is basically that of a backhanded bribe at worst or moral blackmailing the visiting hunter at best!…”

  • ScottSacco

    I didn’t think about safaris relating to a hunt since I felt the article was published by an organization founded on the beauty and preservation of the African wilderness. I have no problem admitting to the fact that I would tip my guide whatever hush money it took for him to turn a blind eye towards the trophy/canned hunters I would joyfully shoot if I could get my hands on a gun, or crush their skulls with the jeep I was in if I couldn’t.

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