POSTED ON 5th August 2015 BY Ollie Blackwell
If you’ve never been on a safari before, you’ll definitely need to think about what you need to pack. Fortunately, the type of clothing you need to go on safari is casual, practical and above all, cool and comfortable.
Choose what to take carefully as many safaris require you to use small planes or vehicles that have strict luggage restrictions. As most lodges have laundry facilities you can get clothing washed easily so there is no need to over-pack. When it comes to packing, less is definitely more.
Too much luggage will be a definite encumbrance on a self-drive safari or indeed any kind of safari where you are camping or moving from place to place – and that’s almost every kind of safari you can go on.
Of course, what you pack goes way beyond what clothes you need: there is a whole slew of other things to think about from binoculars and cameras to first aid supplies and documentation. So, what should you pack for your safari. Here, we give you a complete run-down of everything you need to think about – and do – even before you start thinking about packing.
The luggage you take on safari is different to the luggage you might use for a standard holiday or long trip. Now is not the time to dig out your hard-shell, wheeled suitcase. This will only be a hindrance at lodges, on campsites, in light aircraft and in the vehicle where the size, shape and rigidity of the suitcase will not work.
Instead, opt for a duffel bag or soft-sided bag, preferably one that can be stowed into small compartments. Make sure the fabric is hardy and waterproof and that the bag is lockable. Put anything that is of any value in a separate day pack such as a backpack. Anything of real sentimental or monetary value should ideally be left at home.
On a self-drive safari, your 4×4 will be fully equipped with everything you need to camp in the bush, so don’t waste your luggage space with anything that is on the list of what is going to be provided for you.
Africa may be hot and dusty by day but it is often cool and crisp by night so you need to pack for both times of the day.
Pack clothing that is able to keep you cool but protect you from the sun and biting insects. Choose mid-tone colours and avoid white or bright colours that may distract the animals and dark colours like black and blue as these attract tsetse flies. The best colours are the safari classics: olive, green and khaki. For evenings at lodges you can stay in your casual gear as even the luxury lodges do not expect smart wear out in the bush.
The African bush can be chilly during the mornings and evenings even during the summer so be sure to bring a windbreaker and long trousers. If your trip is in the spring or winter you will need warmer clothes the night-time temperature dips down quite low during the African winter. This is especially important if you are camping out under canvas. Check the temperature before you travel to make sure you have clothing that is warm enough for the season. You will need to take a waterproof mac with you too, as rainfall is often unpredictable and can be heavy. Check out this short video of a night safari in Zambia.
As you want to be careful not to over pack, you need to think carefully about what shoes to take. As long as you are not going on a safari that requires a lot of walking, you will be fine with some light hiking boots and some sports sandals (sandals are also great for walking around the camp at night). You may also like to take flip flops for the showers.
As well as packing the right clothing, you also need to prepare for a range of other eventualities, the sun is strong as you are close to the equator and rain can happen along at almost any time, so you need to make sure you have the right protection for all types of weather. You need to prepare for insect bites and stings, and a scratch from a thorn so pack some basic first aid items as well.
The African sun can be brutal so be sure to buy a pair of polarizing sunglasses so you can protect your eyes. You’ll also need a hat that shades your face and covers your ears and neck so you have maximum sun protection. Ideally, get one that you can tie on in case you end up in an open-top Jeep. Of course, take plenty of high-protection sun cream and lip salve. Choose what you take carefully as your luggage is likely to be restricted. Small bottles and long-lasting products will take up less space (and weight) in your luggage.
A small first-aid kit with a range of bandages, antiseptic creams and plasters are a must. You may also want an antihistamine to handle bites, pain killers and a product that can help you handle diarrhoea and other stomach upsets. It’s worth taking some kind of fast rehydration medication as dehydration is a real possibility in the bush. You might want to consider taking your own water bottle so you can easily carry water when out on safari. The below video is a basic guide to building a custom first-aid kit for travel to Africa:
Also take a bottle of hand sanitizer and an extra travel toothbrush in case you accidentally use tap water at any time. The other essential in your kit is, of course, insect repellent and malaria medication. You shouldn’t need to take a mosquito net as all self-drive safari camping equipment, tents and lodges supply them but check first to be sure.
Here is a list of little extras you would do well to take with you:
• A small flashlight, headlamp or torch is great for when the sun goes down and you still have things to do around camp. Many lodges and camps run on generators so having your own lighting is a great backup to have.
• Batteries are a priceless commodity so take plenty to be sure you don’t run out of them in the bush.
• Take an extra digital camera card so you don’t risk running out of space for that one amazing photo you want to take.
Last but not least, make sure you take a good pair of mid-sized binoculars. Look for ones that are sturdy enough to survive getting dropped or knocked about a bit. These will be essential when you are out spotting wildlife. You will also want to take a decent camera, too. Make sure you have a case so you can carry spare batteries and a camera card easily, and make it easy to sling around your neck whenever you are out in the bush.
The other items that go in your bag probably seem fairly obvious: passport, visas, money and insurance documents. You may also need to take evidence that you have been immunized against certain diseases, too so make sure you pack these, too. On a self-drive safari trip, you will also need your driving licence, of course.
Make sure you passport is not going to expire within six months of your trip (i.e. if your trip is in September make sure your passport is valid until at least March of the following year) and that is has at least 3 clear pages.
Check whether you need visas to travel to the countries you are visiting. For example, Kenya and Tanzania require you to have a visa to enter the country as well as your passport. Check with your own country’s government travel website to find out how to get your visa. Most visas can be bought on arrival into the country.
Getting vaccinated is very important when you are travelling to Africa. See your doctor well in advance of your trip and be specific about where you are going so you can get the right jabs.
Some vaccines can only be administered by special departments so allow plenty of time to organise these if that is the case. Bear in mind that many vaccinations can take several weeks before they provide full protection, so get them done in good time otherwise you may not be fully protected when you travel.
Some of the vaccinations you will need include hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid but there may be others, so be sure to check what you will need for the places you are going. For example, you will need a yellow fever vaccination for travel to East Africa.
Malaria is prevalent in Africa so you must protect yourself by taking anti-malarial treatments. Use a mosquito-repellent spray, mosquito nets and cover up – especially at dawn and dusk. You can’t be too careful or have too much protection from mosquitos and malaria.
Although cash machines are quite common now it is unlikely you will find one out in the bush, so you need to make sure you take cash as much as possible. If you are travelling to a number of different countries, be sure to take the relevant currencies with you.
Travel insurance is a necessity on an African safari. Make sure you get sufficient emergency medical cover, good financial protection and – importantly – repatriation back to your country when buying your policy.
Going on safari requires lots of planning and preparation, but if you take your time, get organised and get it right, you can spend your time enjoying your holiday not worrying about what’s in your travel bag. Take advice from your safari company and think about what you need for the kind of safari you are going on. Plan well and pack well so you can enjoy your trip of a lifetime.
Before you start thinking about what to pack in your bag, start thinking about the type of safari you want to go on.
If you already have an idea, request a free safari consultation with our expert team so we can talk about your safari plans and answer any questions you may have.