Packing for an African safari can be a challenge, and we often have last-minute calls from guests seeking help packing their bags, which is understandable. Most guests will be away from home over two weeks, travelling in places where it is hard to pop out for extra socks or your favourite brand of sunscreen. And maximum weight limits for luggage can range from 12kg person to 20kg per person, depending on your itinerary. Plus, your bags need to be 100% soft-sided – no suitcases or bags with wheels.
Below are a few of the essentials that are a must on safari.
Passport, itinerary, and travel insurance
It seems obvious, but these documents should be at the top of your list of what you pack. Not only take a paper copy, but if you are taking your phone with you, save an electronic copy on your phone for back-up.
Remember to put your prescription medications in your hand luggage and make sure you have enough to last your entire safari. There are no pharmacies in the bush.
Prescription glasses and sunglasses
If you wear prescription glasses, be sure to pack more than one set in case you lose one or they get broken. You will be outdoors for much of the time, so ensure you pack a hat, sunblock, long sleeves, and lip balm.
Whilst most people remember to take a camera not everyone thinks they need to take binoculars! Binoculars are ESSENTIAL for best wildlife viewing. And, a GOOD pair of binoculars will make a BIG difference to your experience.
Clothes and toiletries
Most international airlines will restrict your check-in luggage to around 20 to 30kgs. However, depending on your itinerary you may be restricted to as little as 12 to 20 kgs, often including your hand luggage.
Depending on your itinerary:
(i) A laundry service is usually available in most safari camps and lodges. The exception will be for adventure camping and mobile tented safaris where it is often difficult, due the mobile nature, to offer a laundry service.
(ii) It may also be possible to store luggage before your safari.
Casual but comfortable
Casual and comfortable clothing is best. Make sure you take clothes that you feel comfortable in, especially when it comes to your walking shoes. The newer quick-drying fabrics, shirts with ventilation and trousers that convert into shorts are all worth considering.
Neutral or mute colours are recommended. White and/or bright colours are not recommended as they tend to either get dirty quickly or stand out.
Depending on the time of year you are going on safari, Africa can be either very chilly or very hot. During the winter months (June and July) safari destinations, such as Namibia and Botswana, are very cold in the early morning and late evening. This is magnified by a wind-chill factor that you will feel when on the back of an open-sided 4WD vehicle.
Wearing clothes in layers is the most practical way to cope with fluctuating day/night temperatures. As the day warms up you can peel off another layer. Then as it begins to cool toward evening, you can put them back on.
Ensure you have medication, in-case the worst happens i.e., diarrhoea, constipation, headaches, heartburn, insect repellent, hand sanitizer, bites (antihistamine), indigestion, sore throat (lozenges), eye drops, and most important – anti-malarial tablets.
A good torch is a must. It can be pitch black in the bush in the middle of the night.
Finally, don’t forget your sense of humor, patience and some common sense!