Everyone loves taking a vacation, but often one of the worst parts is preparing everything you need before you go. Now you’re going on a trip, but it’s a little different from the average getaway. Do you find yourself wondering how to pack for an African safari? Keep reading, and we’ll cover the basics.
There are a few things that you might want to consider during an African safari that you probably wouldn’t need to think about on some other trips. You may be anticipating the heat, for example, but what are you going to do on chilly mornings if you don’t bring a sweater? And have you ever had to stop and think about the effect that the colours you wear might have on local animals? Well, on this trip, you should.
Luggage Weight Warning
Please note the strict luggage restrictions that apply in the case that you take a light aircraft flight! A couple of guests have packed according to the usual flight restrictions of international carriers, but have forgotten to take into account smaller aircraft restrictions.
Safari Packing Guide
✓ Long-sleeved shirts: either golf or cotton t-shirts work well to protect you from the sun! Ideal materials can include synthetic and quick-dry clothing, for protection against the elements (which are subject to rapid change). We would advise against bright colours and slogans as they stand out in the bush, startling animals and making you all the more visible on game drives. White is additionally unsuitable as a colour due to its absorption of heat, and back due to its attraction of insects. Safari colours such as forest green and beige usually work best in these settings. Absolutely no military-inspired or camouflage clothing should be brought on a trip to Africa (it is even illegal in certain countries, such as Zimbabwe).
✓ Sun hat/bush hat with good shading. Some guests have opted for wide brimmed hats in order to avoid painful sunburn on the back of their necks and shoulders.
✓ Headscarf/bandana. This is particularly useful for drier regions, where dust may be kicked up by the wheels of your safari vehicle.
✓ Shorts and/or skirts (shorter skirts are not practical for getting in and out of game drive vehicles).
✓ Long trousers/slacks.
✓ Pajamas: stay warm during the cooler nights (this can catch a few people by surprise!).
✓ Underwear (sports bras are recommended for game drives as the roads can be bumpy and uneven) and socks.
✓ Good closed-toe walking shoes (running/tennis shoes work well). Hiking shoes can also be suitable for this purpose. Safari walks can last a number of hours, as well as traverse tricky terrain at points. This can include mud and dusty dunes – conditions not suitable for everyday shoes.
✓ Sandals/rafters–preferably low healed or flat if you are going on safari. These are acceptable, but we would definitely advocate for closed-toe shoes where possible.
✓ Swimming costume, flip flops and sarong (ladies). Many of the camps and safari lodges we work with have stunning infinity and plunge pools. Enjoying a dip in the water is a wonderful way to cool off during the hot afternoon hours in the siesta between safari activities. You can often enjoy a wonderful view over grazing plains and animals gathered around waterholes from the deck – the perfect way to pass a relaxing afternoon in the wild.
✓ Warm winter jumper/jersey. In order to achieve the best game sightings, the safari high season occurs during the winter months (May – September) when animals have to crowd around fewer sources of water. Driving in an open game viewing vehicle before sunrise at this time can be chilly with temperatures dipping as low as -10°C. Guests are often caught off-guard by this element of a safari journey and so we advise bringing along plenty of warm jerseys and layers!
✓ Warm anorak or parka and scarf/pashmina/gloves for the cold winter months (May to September). We recommend these to compliment the jersey and waterproof jacket. Cold hands and face are a discomfort that would best be avoided on vacation! This will help you stay warm and snug on your game drives, not to mention when enjoying a sundowner around the fire pit in the late hours of the evening.
✓ Light rain gear for summer months (late November to April). Weather fronts can also change rapidly, so it is a good idea to bring at least one parka or warm, waterproof jacket to protect against unforeseen showers when out on safari.
✓ More formal attire for a stay at prestigious city hotels or on one of the luxury trains.
Additional Items & Equipment
✓ Use a soft duffel bag. Hard cases are not ideal on safaris as they can be difficult to pack into game drive vehicles and light aircraft pods.
✓ Good quality sunglasses. Polarized lenses provide advanced protection against glare and reflected light that can otherwise interfere with game-viewing. Tinted fashion glasses are not good in the light of the African savannah.
✓ If you wear contact lenses, we recommend that you bring along a spare pair of glasses. This is in case your eyes become irritated by dust exposure whilst out on a game drive.
✓ Southern African bird guide, if you are a keen birder. We would recommend either ‘Newman’s Birds of South Africa‘ or ‘Sasol Birds of Southern Africa‘.
✓ Personal toiletries (basic amenities are supplied by most establishments).
✓ Flashlight/torch. Look for a torch with a decent light output: this is usually noted on the box as a measure of ‘lumens’. Bringing a torch with a light output at 250 lumens and above is optimal, although many lodges have these in the rooms. As a rule, guests are escorted around camp by staff after dark for safety reasons. A flashlight can be a reassuring item to hold in these circumstances.
✓ Malaria tablets (if applicable).
✓ Antihistamine tablets (if you suffer from allergies).
✓ Anti-nausea tablets (if you suffer from motion sickness).
✓ Prescription medications: please ensure that you bring a doctor’s prescription (or letter) with you, as well as ensure that the medication is in its original bottle/packaging.
✓ Moisturizing cream and suntan lotion. We would recommend a sunscreen lotion with a SPF of 30 at the very minimum, but additional protection at SPF 50. Many a visitor has attempted to get away with less and faced the wrath of a nasty sunburn during and after their trip. Sunscreen does not impede your ability to tan, so you’ll still be able to catch that warm African glow whilst staying safe in the sun. Please note that using a cream that specifically protects against both UVB and UVB rays is optimal. This is usually indicated by the phrase ‘broad spectrum protection’ on the front of the bottle.
✓ Insect repellent for application to body and clothing. All of our camps and lodges provide insect repellent in their rooms. However, some guests have found these to be a weaker strength than would have been preferred (especially the case with camps near large bodies of water and marshland, such as those in the Okavango Delta). With this concern in mind, we would suggest bringing some additional repellent of your own. Suggested brands include Tabard, Rid, Doom and Jungle Juice. Check each for their DEET content – a reading of 25% and above would be optimal.
✓ Basic medical kit (aspirin, plasters, Imodium, antiseptic cream and antihistamine cream etc.).
✓ Tissues/”Wet Ones”. These are seriously useful!
✓ Visas, tickets, passports, documentation for minors and money.
✓ Water proof/dust proof bag/cover for your camera.
✓ Binoculars. Guides often share sightings by passing around their binoculars, but having a pair of your own is best when out in the bush. 8×40 or 8×42 are the best general purpose binocular specifications for animal viewing. If your safari includes night activities, then night vision binoculars are absolutely essential. If you are a birding enthusiast, birding scopes can be specially bought and attached to most cameras.
Going on a Photographic Safari?