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.
Things to know when packing for a safari:
Before moving onto the packing list, let’s kick off a few myths and set some basic rules that will make packing for a safari a lot easier.
→ The #1 rule for packing for a safari is to avoid the color white. Game reserves and national parks in Africa are really dusty 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!
AFRICAN SAFARI PACKING ESSENTIALS
- 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.
- Ladies, pack a sports bra (or like, five of them). Car rides during safaris are super bumpy.
- 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.
- 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.
- Insect repellent with DEET
- Mosquito bracelets for extra protection against mosquitoes.
- Tweezers. Nature can be spiky. It’s always a good idea to pack a pair of tweezers to remove thorns.
- 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)
- Vaccinations. Check the CDC website for advice on what vaccinations you need.
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 across 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.
REALLY 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.
- 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.Nowadays, I 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.
And done! Hope you find my African safari packing list useful 🙂 If you have any other tips or any questions, feel free to post them on the comment section below.
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Monday 25th of May 2020
This is a very interesting article top read. it is on point. definitely when travelling to Africa you need this
Friday 27th of September 2019
Thank you so much for this detailed post. I will travel to Kenya in June 2020 for safari trips. I am curious to know if I should plan to provide tips to the guides in USD or if I need to exchange funds? I've read mixed thoughts so am hoping you may be able to help me out.
Wednesday 2nd of October 2019
Hi Melissa! Either works, but I think tipping in shillings is more convenient for them as then they don't have to exchange :-)
Monday 20th of May 2019
I am totally grateful for this information! It helps immeasurably for planning my Kenya trip! Thank you so much!
Tuesday 21st of May 2019
Hi Carol! I'm so happy to hear this was helpful! Have a blast in Kenya - you're going to love it over there!
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Tuesday 10th of July 2018
[…] you going on safari while in Africa? Check out my African Safari Packing Guide for […]
Tuesday 26th of June 2018
Thank you for well rounded great advice!
Wednesday 4th of July 2018
My pleasure :)