PACKING FOR A SAFARI: THE ESSENTIALS

Packing for a safari sounds like tricky business, but it's honestly easier than it sounds. 

There is absolutely no need to waste your money in safari gear that will ultimately wind up collecting dust in your closet. Going on safari doesn't mean dressing up like Crocodile Dundee (you're more than welcome to if that's what you're into, though!). There are just a few safari essentials you'll definitely need to bring along, but all in all, it's pretty easy!

Fun fact: The word safari means “journey” in Swahili.

Before moving onto the list, let's kick off a few myths and set some basic rules that will make your life a lot easier.

TIPS FOR SAFARI PACKING


→ The #1 rule for packing for a safari is to avoid the color white. Game reserves and national parks in Africa are really duuuusty places. That cute white shirt you brought? It's brown now.

→ You don't need any to buy any special safari clothing. Most of them cost a fortune and will probably never be worn again. It's possible to pack for a safari with clothing items you already own. I've done safaris in light blue jeans and even a dress. I mean, you're going to spend most of the time in a car or in a lodge, anyway.

→ Most safari camps will do your laundry for a fee, so definitely avoid over-packing. Four outfits max for a week-long safari is more than enough. The only thing the camps won't wash are undies, so pack a few travel-sized packs of detergent so you can wash them in the sink.

→ There is a myth going around that bright colors should be avoided when on a safari, but this is actually not true if you are sitting in a car. If you're doing a walking safari, then khakis are definitely preferred, but if you are going to be in a vehicle, you can get away with almost any color.

If you want to stay on the safe side (or just really get that feeling that you're Karen Blixen from Out of Africa), then stick to neutrals. Khakis, dark greens, light pinks, and browns are great colors for a safari outfit palette.

→ Avoid dark blues and blacks because tsetse flies LOVE them and their bites sting like hell.

→ Don't even think about packing camouflage clothing! It's associated with the military and even banned in some countries like Zimbabwe.

→ Pack layers of lightweight clothes because temperatures in the bush change drastically throughout the day.

→ The dress code for safari lodges is pretty casual. You don't need to bring anything too formal.

→ You should pack everything up in a durable duffel bag. Rolling suitcases are a terrible idea for a safari trip.

→ If you're traveling to Rwanda, Uganda, or Kenya, avoid bringing plastic bags. They are illegal in these countries, which is awesome! Pack your toiletries (or anything that can spill) in these reusable zip lock bags.

Onto the list!

MY SAFARI ESSENTIALS


CLOTHES

A warm hoodie or fleece

It can get really chilly during the mornings and evenings. Most safaris take place during the early hours of the morning or right before sunrise because it's when the animals are most active, so a hoodie is a must!

2 pairs of pants

3-4 shirts

Light pashmina

Either to cover up your arms if it gets chilly during the evenings, as a great accessory, or to cover your face when it gets dusty.

Sports bras

Ladies, pack a sports bra (or like, five of them). Car rides during safaris are super bumpy.

Swimsuit

Cotton undies

While the majority of safari camps have laundry services, most of them will not clean up your underwear for cultural reasons, so you'll need to DIY it in the sink. Cotton dries quickly, so it's my go-to material for safari and travel in general.

Sunglasses

Hat

SHOES

Sneakers. Fancy hiking shoes are not necessary on safaris. Sneakers will work just fine.

Flip flops for showering or walking around your lodge.

Socks that cover your ankles if you plan on doing bushwalks or staying at a non-luxury camp.

TOILETRIES

Sunscreen

Insect repellent

Mosquito bracelets for extra protection against mosquitoes.

Hand-sanitizer

Tweezers. Nature can be spiky. It's always a good idea to pack a pair of tweezers to remove thorns.

TECHNOLOGY & PHOTOGRAPHY

A universal plug adaptor. Most African countries use either type C or the type G plugs. A universal travel adapter is essential to be able to charge all your electronics. I recommend this one.

Camera. An entry-level DSLR is enough for non-professional photographers. I recommend the Canon T6. I also traveled with a Panasonic Lumix with a 100-300mm lens and loved it!

Spare camera battery

Spare SD cards

Lenses

The ultimate safari lens is the 200-400mm f/4 lens (Nikon or Canon), but at over $7,000, they are by no means at everyone's reach.

The 70-300mm f/4-5.6 for either Canon or Nikon is a more affordable option and the most commonly-bought lens for safaris. 


It will still set you back around $500, but if you're traveling accross the world to experience a safari, it might be worth it. It also works incredibly well for portraits of people and landscapes, so if you're into photography, it's actually a great investment in the long-run.

Flashlight or headlamp. A flashlight is essential unless you stay in a super luxurious lodge. I recommend the Camping flashlight by BYBLIGHT because it's very lightweight and compact.

USEFUL EXTRAS

Binoculars for spotting animals while on a game drive. 7 x 35 and 8 x 40 are the best for wildlife-viewing.

Purifying water bottle like the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier. It filters bacteria, viruses, and chemicals from any source of water in just a few seconds.

A small backpack to carry all the things you'll need during a game drive. I recommend Osprey's backpacks.

Travel towel. I’m a new fan of travel towels because they are honestly SO handy. I used to bring a regular towel on my trips and it was super annoying because it took up a lot of space and it always takes ages for them to dry. 

I now never travel without my Travel Towel by Youphoria. It’s antibacterial, super light to carry, takes very little space in my luggage, and dries very quickly.

Sleeping bag. If you're going on a camping safari, you'll need one. It's not necessary if you're staying in a lodge, though.

Bills split into $1, $5, and $10. Always tip your guides! They don't earn much and most of their income comes from tips.

FIRST AID KIT

Antihistamine (for allergies)

Cortisone cream (for itches and bites)

After-sun cream

Motion sickness tablets (for bumpy rides)

Bandages and blister pads

Malaria tablets like Malerone (consult your doctor)

Immodium

TRAVEL INSURANCE

World Nomads covers most nationalities and over 150 adventure activities that most other insurance companies don't. You can also make claims online and even extend or adjust your insurance while you're already traveling.

And done! Hope you find this list useful. If you have any other tips or any questions, feel free to post them on the comment section below.

Safari njema!

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5 Comments

  1. Deborah Regen June 6, 2018
    Reply

    Really excellent post Daniela full of useful tips for anyone planning their first trip to Africa with a nature safari in mind!

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