What to Pack for your Safari

A packing list guideline

Packing for an African safari can be stressful, especially if you have no idea know what to pack. It is not just about taking the essentials, but also understanding what to expect from this new and exciting experience.

Most people don’t realize that African safaris are not just limited to a few hours in the wild. You need to be prepared for lots of travel, long drives and a great deal of time outdoors. That’s why we have put together this ultimate African safari-packing list to help make your experience as stress-free as possible so that you can focus on making great memories. We hope you find this useful.

Clothing

While there’s no particular safari dress code, you shouldn’t look like the cast of out of Africa either. When it comes to safari clothing here are some of clothing tips you should keep in mind:

  • Wear neutral colors: Khaki, light brown, green, and tan. White clothes will show up dust and dirt. Bright-colored clothing such as red makes you very conspicuous to the wildlife, especially on a walking safari.
  • Dress casually: Safari only requires casual clothing unless specified.
  • Cover at night: Long sleeves and pants will help you stay warm and avoid mosquito bites
  • Be comfortable: Clothing should consist of non-synthetic material. Cotton is ideal.
  • Use the laundry service: Most camps/lodges offer laundry service but will not launder undergarments. Choose clothing’s that are easily laundered.
  • Dress in layers: Zip-off sleeves and lots of pockets are a plus. Bring a jacket and scarf along on game drives as temperatures drop quickly once the sun goes down in the evening.
  • Check your hat: Hats must do three things well to be effective:
  • Provide complete sun protection – especially for the back of your neck
  • Gas permeable so the heat generated from your head can escape
  • Be water-absorbent on the inside and waterproof on the outside, in order to absorb sweat and cover you if you get caught in the rain
  • Our top picks: Light neutral, unisex hat and Dark neutral.
  • Don’t over-pack: Choose lightweight clothing options whenever possible since packing space is at a premium.

Here are some of the essential clothing items you should pack for your safari adventure:

Women

  • Tops
  • Safari Shirt
  • Pullover fleece sweater
  • Hooded safari jacket
  • Fleece zip-up jacket

Bottoms

  • Lightweight, water resistant safari pants
  • Linen drawstring pants
  • Fast drying safari pants
  • High rise athletic leggings
  • High rise moisture wicking leggings

Undergarments

  • Breathable, moisture-wicking bra
  • Moisture-wicking briefs
  • Moisture-wicking thongs

Accessories

  • Sunglasses with polarized lenses
  • Buff wrap to protect your face from dirt or to keep your hair out of your face
  • Blanket scarf to wrap yourself up on cold flights, chilly morning and evening game drives and cover your shoulders in places with a strict dress code.

Men

Tops

  • Fleece pullover
  • Safari shirt
  • Lightweight jacket
  • Softshell water-resistant jacket
  • Breathable short sleeve shirt
  • Moisture-wicking tank top

Bottoms

  • Zip-off safari pants
  • Water-resistant hiking pants
  • Undergarments
  • Moisture-wicking boxers

Accessories

  • Sunglasses with polarized lenses
  • Buff wrap to protect your face from dirt or keep your hair out of your face

This particular list would also suit if you’re heading to a jungle destination such as those you would find in The Congo, Uganda or Rwanda when you are looking to do some gorilla trekking: 

  • Avoid bright colors – you need to blend in as much as possible. Colors like khaki, green and beige should do the trick.
  • You should also avoid dark colors like black and blue, as they attract mosquitos and other insects.
  • Bring plenty of T-shirts along with a couple of shorts and long pants – but not jeans. Quick drying (in case of downpours) and well-ventilated clothing would be most suitable.
  • A sturdy yet light raincoat would definitely come in handy.
  • A sweater or a warm top for layering can help you stay cozy during cooler evenings and mornings.
  • A well-fitted hat.
  • Sturdy hiking boots

What to Carry for Mountain Climbing?

Besides a high level of physical fitness, mountain climbing visitors should ensure that they at least have the following equipment’s: -

  • Hiking Boots/gum boots, these are vital equipment’s in the mud-covered sections of the mountain trail. A strong set of hiking boots is essential, principally in the early stages of the climb and in the trek across the glaciers.
  • Cooking Utensils, if you intend to do your own cooking, alight stove, some plates and cups should be in your possession. It is also possible to hire a cook for the trip but still plan to have at least the essentials like the plates, forks, cups, knifes among others.
  • Rucksack, a powerful waterproof bag is necessary. Most times, it can be wet and this will help maintain your essential items dry as you hike.
  • Emergency Kits, emergency medication is essential. For a large part of the expedition, you will be at least a day away from even the best emergency services.
  • Warm Stuff, good warm shirts and pants, a decent sleeping bag are all-necessary. A good pair of warm waterproof gloves is necessary for whoever is hiking up the peaks.
  • Food, most climbers carry their own food. Some food can also be bought at the park Headquarters. You need energy giving food, glucose packs, sweetened juice mixers, chocolate and dry porridge mix are recommended.

Shoes

The shoes you should pack depend on the type of adventure you plan to undertake. Do you wish to go for mountain climbing? Then you will need a pair of sturdy hiking boots. 

If you are going on other types of wildlife-focused trip that does not involve trekking or hiking, then there is no need to pack heavy boots. You do, however, need reliable footwear. For bush walks and tracking game, a pair of light and well-ventilated walking shoes that offer good support and stability is necessary.

Pack a pair of sandals, flip-flops or rubber clogs for staying around your lodging, for taking showers and when riding in the car. You will need to let your feet breathe. However, these are not recommended out there in the bush, as you will be exposed to snake bites, rocky terrain, and thorns.

Essential Gadgets & Devices

Binoculars

Going on a game viewing safari without binoculars takes the “viewing” out of “game.” It’s just no fun. There will be lions, zebras, giraffes, various primates, leopards and cheetahs, colorful birds and other enchanting wildlife, but they will most likely not be that close. That’s where binoculars come into play! Get a pair with 8x to 10x magnification for the best experience; anything more than that is useless and will result in a blurry, unstable image.

Camera

If you want to take decent wildlife photos, then you need a good camera. IPhones have no business being here unless you’re planning to call your family while staring into a lion’s eyes. All joking aside, you need some serious zoom, preferably up to 300mm.

Don’t forget extra batteries or battery charger, lens cleaner and memory cards. If you don’t have a tripod or don’t wish to carry one with you, you can use a beanbag instead. These come empty and you can use them as luggage and fill them with any material of your choice when you arrive at your destination. 

Headlamp

As soon as it gets dark in the African savannah, turning on your headlamp when walking around your lodging will prevent you from running into some creepy crawler or, God forbid, a predator.

The unpolluted savannah sky may be shimmering with stars, but it can get pitch dark in the bush.

If you are camping, it will be the same inside your tent too. Opt for a reliable headlamp that offers sufficient beam distance and brightness, preferably at 200 lumens or more.

Other Items to Pack

Pharmaceuticals

Other than the prescription medicine you may be on, which you definitely should not forget to bring along, make sure you pack a small first-aid kit that contains medicine you might need in case you run into the usual travel health issues.

Your kit should contain medicine for diarrhoea, nausea, headaches, indigestion, heartburn, sore throat, stomach flu, antiseptic lotion, bandages and Band-Aids, sunburn treatments, antihistamines for bites (you never know what you may be allergic to), eye drops and malaria tablets if malaria transmission occurs in the country you are planning to visit. In addition, do not forget about insect repellent!

Hygiene items

Most accommodations provide basic toilet amenities (i.e. body soap, shampoo and conditioner). Any liquids and cream that go into your carry-on luggage must be in bottles of 3.4 ounces or less. Here are some of the things you may wish to carry on your safari

  • Dental care-toothbrush, toothpaste and floss
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Shaving accessories-travel razor and shave cream
  • Sanitary requirements
  • Face moisturizer
  • Toner to cleanse your face of dirt
  • Lip balm

Waterproof bag

Depending on the country, season and type of safari, you may need a waterproof bag to store your essentials, Keep in mind that even if you’re certain that your stuff will not get wet, it is still a nice item to have around. Dust is a much bigger issue than water. 

If you don’t have a waterproof bag, zip lock bags are easy to come by and are a lifesaver for documents, phone, camera, batteries and other non-waterproof accessories or items that may be affected by dust.

Daypack

There’s usually plenty of space in safari vehicles to carry your luggage, but a backpack will come more in handy as it is much easier to carry around whenever you get out of the car and on long bush walks. Opt for a lightweight backpack between 20 and 25 litres.

Sunscreen

The most obvious item on our safari checklist, sunscreen is a customary item in any traveler’s luggage. Opt for SPF 30 or more, and carry a lip balm with SPF 15 around with you.

If you are heading to Africa, chances are that your safari will take place in a dry environment. Therefore, it is important to choose a sunscreen that does not leave too much grease behind but is able to moisturize your skin properly.

Extra batteries and adapters

Pack extra batteries and chargers for your headlamp/flashlight and for your camera. Check and see what type of electrical plug is used in the country you are planning to visit and get an appropriate adapter. It will be much cheaper and will save you the hassle. Keep in mind that there’s no fully universal plug adapter for Africa, so do your research beforehand.

Guidebooks

On guided tours, your guide will act as a living encyclopaedia; do not hesitate to ask any questions. That being said, it never hurts to have a guidebook to introduce you to various cultures, not to mention a wilderness book at hand while on game drives. Being able to identify various species of wildlife and birds by yourself will only add to the excitement.

Final notes

Finally yet importantly, check to see if you packed all necessary documents, such as passports, visas, and travel insurance. Keep a small notebook with emergency phone numbers in case your cell phone lets you down, addresses and respective phone numbers and contact names, as well as your itinerary. You can also use this notebook as a journal to keep track of your travels.