There are over 400 national parks spanning 50 or more countries in Africa, and the safari experience ranges remarkably from one to another. The temperature, humidity, exposure, and topography can all dictate what you need to bring, as can local culture and customs, or the type of creatures you’re looking to see. Mind boggling? Sure, but this list will give you a great beginning point for any journey. And, finally, once you’re on the ground spying a pair of lions recover in the shade of an acacia tree after mating, it really won’t matter what shoes you’re sporting.
Packing Safari Luggage
The small airplanes which service the national wildlife parks require tight weight restrictions. If you’re thinking of a fly-in African safari trip, then use a lightweight duffel bag to save your available weight for clothes and supplies.
- In general, pack functional, lightweight and quick-drying fabrics in natural colors (beige or tan, khaki, but not white) for your safari.
- Avoid bright tones, which can deter animals, especially blue which attracts tsetse flies.
- In some places in Africa, camouflage clothing is also ill-advised (in Zimbabwe, it’s actually banned).
- Also, be aware of local religions and customs; in many places, it’s considered inappropriate to reveal too much thigh or midriff.
Your footwear will depend on the terrain.
- If you’re doing a self-drive safari or have a guide, then comfortable shoes with a good tread for the occasional game walk will be enough.
- If you’re gorilla trekking in the jungle, you’ll need waterproof hiking boots and a tolerance for mud.
An incredible number of critters are ready to bite your ankles.
Game drives can leave early in the morning and, with peak season during winter, it can get chilly.
Cap or hat
These are crucial to wipe the dust from your face or camera and to keep the sun from your head.
Cotton or linen long-sleeved shirt
Women, this might seem illogical, but if you’re doing any off-the-beaten track adventuring, chances are you’ll have to squat more often than once to use the bathroom and potentially in areas without complete privacy – a dress makes this much more practical and less exposing. Leave the jumpsuit at home! Also, pack a sports bra for those bumpy rides.
African Safari Gear
Cut down on plastic-polluting water bottles, and invest in a LifeStraw, a gravity-powered purifier, which rids bacteria, parasites and viruses from any water. With each purchase, a child in need gets safe water for an entire school year!
Quick-drying travel towel
Camera with a telephoto lens
No, the zoom on your iPhone will not be sufficient for good safari shots. You’ll need a lens with a zoom of at least 300mm, otherwise, you may as well put your camera away and enjoy the moment. It’s also smart to pack spare memory cards for your safari, a protective filter for your lens, and a microfiber cloth to wipe debris away.
Headlamp / flashlight
If you’re camping a decent flashlight will also help scare the hyenas away if they come prowling around the campfire.
You should keep an adequate distance from the animals so as not to disturb them in their natural habitat. In the Masai Mara, they requre a 25-meter limit, and with some creatures, like rhinos, you’ll be lucky to get that close. A nice pair of binoculars will ensure you get the most out of the encounter even from a distance.
If you’re traveling to more multiple destinations, these are game-changing for unpacking and repacking your luggage.
Use the opportunity to put your phone away.
This app offers offline maps of the planet and great navigation, and, when it comes to much of the dark continent, they are more detailed than Google Maps.
If you’re on a self-drive safari and don’t have a guide, a comprehensive local guidebook or app will allow you to differentiate a kudu from a hartebeest.
As with any adventurous travel, it’s alway smart to have your basics with you: antihistamine, Band-Aids, rehydration kits, painkillers, antiseptic, a thermometer (for checking the severity of a fever), anti-nausea tablets, Imodium, and whatever prescription medications you require. Most critically, make sure to pack antimalarials and bug spray (30 percent DEET or higher is best for it to be effective against malaria).
Bring SPF 30 or better, and buy a brand that’s reef-safe, biodegradable and non-toxic (Suntegrity, All Good, and Thinksport are good choices).
If you’re utilizing a “bush toilet” (as they call doing your business whilst on safari), then you can’t wash your hands, and in these situations, hand sanitizer is your best friend. Antibacterial agents like triclosan are bad for the environment, so choose a brand without the bad ingredients.
Dusty conditions can lead to irritation of the eyes.
Animals will run away from smells they don’t recognize, so avoid perfumed deodorants.
And lastly, make sure whatever you pack into the safari park leaves the park with you!