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Uganda Gorilla, how to pack for an African safari tripYou’ve planned your safari, and now you’re stuck at the first problem: what on earth to pack. Well, here’s a practical list of dos and don’ts and tips for a perfectly packed suitcase with both safety and sustainability in mind.

traveler with his camera, sitting in a bamboo chair, how to pack for an African safari trip

 

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.

Clothes

  • 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.

Walking shoes

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.

Long trousers

An incredible number of critters are ready to bite your ankles.

Waterproof jacket

Warm fleece

Game drives can leave early in the morning and, with peak season during winter, it can get chilly.

Cap or hat

Bandana

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

A dress

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.

Sunglasses

African Safari Gear

elephant herd, how to pack for an African safari trip

 

Water-filtering bottle

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

Solar charger

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.

Binoculars

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.

Packing cubes

If you’re traveling to more multiple destinations, these are game-changing for unpacking and repacking your luggage.

Converter

Watch

Use the opportunity to put your phone away.

MapsWithMe

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.

Animal guidebook

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.

First Aid

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).

Cosmetics

hot air balloon flight over African national park, how to pack for an African safari trip

 

Sunblock

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).

Hand sanitizer

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.

Eye Drops

Dusty conditions can lead to irritation of the eyes.

Toilet paper

Unscented deodorant

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!

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