What to pack for a Safari

What to pack for a Safari to Africa

With palpable excitement having booked and secured your safari, now is the time to start thinking about what you will need to take! Some items may require a little bit of preparation, so we hope this guide helps give you a better idea of what you will need on your African adventure.

First things first, check what modes of transport you will be using to get to each lodge. Very often a light aircraft will fly you into a remote location or you will be travelling in a 4x4 with limited space. In either case, typically only soft bags are allowed (no hard cases) and there is usually a limiting weight restriction that will apply. Whilst this can vary, these weight restrictions are usually in the region of 15-20kg INCLUDING hand luggage.

You may be anxious at the thought of a smaller bag, but don’t worry, below is a list of the key items we recommend so you don’t overpack.

Flying between lodges in a light aircraft. Image by Wilderness Air

Best in your backpack

  • Binoculars: These are highly recommended items to give you the best visual experience out in the wilderness. It is worth checking whether the lodge you will be staying at offers binoculars as part of your experience - this will avoid purchasing a pair, as they can be quite pricey. That said, if you are looking to buy your own, we are big fans of Leica and Swavorski, but Nikon & Vortex offer excellent value. A pair of 10x42's are a good safari standard for game viewing and birding.
  • Camera/cell-phone and all the relevant chargers: You will be taking loads of images so make sure you have an extra memory card and your chargers to ensure you don’t miss a thing! Most lodges will provide you with international adapters.
  • Flashlight: For walking to your room in the evenings and for all those special nocturnal animals you may spot overnight!
  • Insect repellent: 30% DEET or above for anti-malarial use.
  • Hat, sunglasses and sunblock - the African sun is beautifully hot so SPF 30 or higher is recommended.
  • Travel Documents & Insurance: It is always good to carry your papers for easy access, just in case.
  • Travel journal and pen: You are going to experience so much, you will want to jot it all down.
  • Personal Medication: Your personal medications and a little First Aid Kit of headache, diarrhoea and flu tablets are handy.
  • Local currency: For curios from the local market and for tipping. A majority of lodge staff don’t have access to an ATM or foreign exchange office so this is a huge benefit for them.
Wide brimmed hats and neutral coloured clothing! Image by &Beyond Kichwa Tembo.

In your luggage:

Less is more! You will be surprised at how few things you need on safari! There is no need to bring your tuxedo or your ballgown. Dinners are typically casual and are usually around a campfire. Out on safari, you are exposed to the elements so it's worth being prepared for the elements with something warm and dry. So, be sure to pack these recommended essential items to ensure your experience is top-notch:

Safari is definitely more about comfort than style.

T-shirts, shirts, blouses, shorts and lightweight longs: We recommended avoiding very bright clothes out in the bush. Stick to neutral colours like grey, olive, khaki and stone. If you are travelling to East Africa, avoid dark colours especially blue and black as they attract Tsetse flies! Linen is our favourite textile for safari. For a week long safari, 5-6 outfits (total!) is ideal. Most lodges provide laundry facilities and the turn-around time is usually 24 hours.

Layers -check what season it is you’re travelling in, but layers are the key. Mornings and evenings can be very chilly all year round but even in the winter it can heat up quickly, where you are down to a t-shirt even before breakfast! A warm fleece and/or a lightweight down jacket is highly recommended and, if you are travelling in the middle of winter, pack for the cold, and even a beanie and gloves are advisable.

Swimsuit - Make the most of free time between safari’s and relax with a cocktail around the pool!

Comfortable walking shoes - recommended for all walking and vehicle safaris to avoid thorns and creepy-crawlers. Closed shoes are best worn at night to avoid getting zapped on the toe by a scorpion.

Flip flops – for general daytime use around the lodge in the warmer months

Bandana and light scarf/kikoi/sarong -these items are multifunctional and can be used to keep you warm or could be soaked in water to cool you off on a scorching day.

Toiletries - keep it minimal as toiletries are heavy and can make that weight limit tricky to keep! Lodges tend to provide shampoos and soaps, so no need to pack too much - you can always use theirs if you run out. Avoid using perfume, especially for walking safaris as the smell is very strong for the wildlife!

Last but definitely not least, don’t forget to bring along our adventurous spirit, your curiosity and an open heart!

A backpack is always handy for walks and day trips. Image by Tanda Tula

Depending on what kind of safari you are going on, packing a spare pair of shoes is useful for when the first pair are wet. This is recommended for Odzala, and all Gorilla trekking itineraries. Image by Odzala.

Written by Michelle Pengilly

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