Packing for a safari can seem a tricky business. You have to bear in mind weight restrictions when travelling on light aircraft flights, the fluctuating temperatures in the bush and consider any other destinations you might be visiting. We’ve been on our fair share of safaris and know what you’ll need and what you won’t, so here are some helpful tips to help you pack smart.
It’s so easy to overpack, so try to remember that you most likely won’t use half the items you bring. If you’re travelling in a light aircraft, you’ll have a very strict luggage weight restriction to adhere to: usually around 15kg per person, packed in a soft bag (hard-shell suitcases are difficult to fit into small cargo areas). Our top tip is to wear your bulkiest items, such as hiking boots. Safaris are usually casual affairs, with most people dining in their safari gear, so there’s no need to bring fancy clothes unless they’re for a different part of your trip. You can also do laundry at most lodges and camps.
Clothes and accessories
You’ll need layers for the bush. It’s often very hot during the day, but chilly as soon as the sun sets and in the morning. In some places, the winters will be cold enough to need hats and gloves before the sun comes up. Make sure you wear items you can strip off and layer on throughout the day, and avoid any bright, neon colours or white – neutral, earthy shades are best.
- Lightweight shirts and pants
- A down jacket or anorak (something warm, but easy to fold up and pack)
- A sweater
- Hat, scarf and gloves if it’s winter
- Swimsuit if there’s a pool
- Boots or trainers/sneakers for walking
- Sunhat and sunglasses
- Contact lens-wearers may prefer glasses in case the dust proves irritating
Cameras vary from professional-level to smartphones and compact cameras. Make sure you have the right protection for your equipment, such as a padded bag or waterproof cover if travelling in the rainy season and to shield your camera and lens from dust. Remember your spare memory cards (and take them on game drives!) and a spare, fully-charged battery.
Binoculars are also a great addition to your kit list, especially if you have an interest in birds.
If you’re heading somewhere more rustic, you might want to bring a torch or headlamp for the evenings (with spare batteries).
A smartphone is useful even if you don’t want to use it for internet access: it might be your camera or video recorder and many great safari apps (such as for birding or wildlife identification) work offline.
Don’t forget your charging cables and adaptors.
Toiletries and medication
Most luxury safari lodges and camps will provide your necessities, such as shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, body lotion and soap. Some items you will usually need to bring include:
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Insect repellent
- Sanitary products
- Facial moisturiser
- Shaving kit
- Personal medical kit: pain killers, plasters/bandaids, Imodium, etc.
- Anti-malarials if you are travelling to a malaria-risk region
Documents and essentials
The most important things! A quick check-list before you leave:
- Passport with at least six months until it expires and two full blank pages for visa stamps (depending on how many countries you’re visiting)
- Flight tickets
- Visa, if not available on arrival
- Money: cash for tips, taxis, extras. US dollars are the best option in most countries, but check with your travel advisor
- A credit card – remember to tell your bank you are travelling
- Yellow fever vaccination certificate – often required if you are going to or have recently been in an at-risk country
Remember to check the specific entry requirements for the country you are visiting before you travel.
You will want to bring along a book or two for lazy afternoons in between game drives. If you’re using a Kindle or an iPad, download everything you need in advance – even if the camp or lodge has WiFi, it might not be very good. Many people like to record their travels in a journal, which is also useful for remembering the names of everything you’ve seen. If you’re artistic, why not bring a sketch pad? Art can be a great way to connect with the environment.
Pack for a Purpose
Finally, if you happen to have some extra space, check out Pack for a Purpose and bring along some items that local schools, health centres and community projects might need.
Any other questions? Just ask!