When planning for a safari, packing is undoubtedly one of the most important steps…
You don’t want to be out on safari, lacking something and regretting that you didn’t bring it with you. But on the other hand you certainly don’t want to bring too much. Many internal flights in Africa have strict 12-15-kilogram luggage allowance guidelines and it’s important to keep this in mind when prepping for your journey.
The secret to successful packing is finding a happy middle ground. This means ensuring that you’ve packed everything that you’ll need, without bringing too much.
If it’s your first safari this can feel like a bit of a guessing game, but don’t worry. We’ve created this helpful guide that will show you exactly what you should bring with you.
The first thing that usually comes to mind when packing is clothing.
You should also prepare for the unexpected. A lightweight, waterproof jacket is a good idea. One that folds into a small bag is an ideal option. You’ll also want a long-sleeved shirt to protect your arms from the sun, ideally with a collar to protect your neck too.
You should choose clothes that are made of fast-drying materials. While on safari you won’t want to contend with wet clothes that didn’t have time to dry completely the night before. Lightweight cotton and man-made materials such as polyamide are ideal and fast-drying. Wool socks are another good choice.
While many people remember lightweight clothes, keep in mind that nights in Africa can be cold, so be sure to pack a fleece for layering after the sun goes down. It will also prove useful for early-morning game drives.
Make sure you choose clothing that’s neutral in colour and avoid dark blue, as this attracts tsetse flies. Bright, bold colours can spook game, and you’ll want to blend into your natural environment as much as possible.
Finally, there’s no need to overpack. Many camps provide laundry services with a 24-hour turnaround time, so you won’t have to take enough clothes for your entire journey. Three or four outfits are usually adequate. Bring along enough socks and undergarments, but keep in mind that you don’t have to pack everything. For more details about safari clothing, check out my previous article: 10 Clothing Tips for Your African Safari.
The African sun can be hot, especially during the middle of the day. You’ll want to bring along a wide-rimmed sunhat to shade your neck and face. A hat with a drawstring is preferable; it will hold the hat on while you’re travelling down the roads. Lightweight scarves or shirts with collars can also help to keep the sun off your neck.
You’ll also want to bring along some polarizing sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun.
A Day Bag or Duffle
Forgo the wheelie bag and instead invest in a small duffle. Many light aircraft flights in Africa require your luggage to be in a soft bag rather than a hard case.
Shoes are one of the most important items you can pack. Your choice of footwear will depend on the type of activities that you’re planning to do. In most cases a pair of light trail shoes is adequate, even if you’re going to be doing trail walks and planning to camp. Of course, if you intend to hike the dunes and falls of Namibia, you’ll want to bring along a good pair of hiking boots that have good ankle support, and some comfortable trainers for the rest of your journey. Finally, you’ll want to pack a pair of flip flops or slippers for relaxing at night.
Toiletries are important wherever you go, but especially on a safari where it may be a bit more difficult to rush out and buy things that you forget. Some things that you’ll want to consider include:
More useful information about preparing for safari in Africa is available in your free copy of African Safari: The Ultimate Field Guide a 37-page guide to safaris in Africa written by our expert team.
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If you’re planning to do a self-drive safari, keep in mind that all of our Safari Drive 4×4 vehicles come equipped with first aid kits, but it’s a good idea to bring along a few basics just in case.
Ideal contents for a first aid kit include: plasters, antiseptic cream, antihistamine tablets, aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen, anti-diarrheal medication, and rehydration sachets.
You’ll also want to take along extra prescription medication as well as any additional toiletries that you may need while you’re out there.
Your phone will be useful for communicating with family and friends back home. While some camps won’t have Wi-Fi, most will have phone reception. Ideally, you’ll want a local plan for reasonable rates.
You don’t need anything big or bulky but having a small light source will prove to be helpful after the sun goes down.
You will want to invest in a decent pair of binoculars. They don’t have to be the heaviest ones available but should be sturdy enough to withstand drops and bumps.
You’ll need a camera for capturing wildlife and all of the sights. Your phone camera or a compact will take up the least amount of space but if you’re serious about photography, you’ll probably want to bring a DSLR with a zoom lens and a tripod. Just keep weight restrictions in mind and plan accordingly. Remember to take extra memory cards and a small air blower to get rid of dust that finds its way into your camera.
Spare Batteries and Charger
When traveling in the bush, spare batteries are your best friend. This is especially true when it comes to your camera gear. There’s nothing more frustrating than discovering that you having a depleted battery just as you prepare to take the perfect shot. Bring extras, and don’t forget the charger.
Bring along a travel adapter to fit local sockets so that you can charge your batteries and electronics.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with packing, don’t be. In most cases less is more. Think practically and sensibly and only bring what you’re likely to use while you’re out there. By following the above tips you’ll be able to easily get everything together that you need for your journey.
Finally, remember to weigh your bag before you go and try to leave extra room for the treasures that you’ll want to bring back with you when you return home.
Ready for your own African safari? Whether you’re looking for a luxury lodge safari, a group trip, or an expedition we can help you to create a journey that’s perfect for you. Contact us today to create your safari.
Or, if you’d like to do some more research first, download your free African Safari Field Guide: your 37-page guide that will give you advice on everything from camping safely to spotting wildlife.