How to pack for an African safari
Packing for a holiday can be difficult, but packing for an African safari comes with additional confusion. Apparently, it’s warm but I need to stay covered? Are khaki colours a fashion choice or essential? How much bug spray do I bring? Is it true that it gets cold in the evenings? What about cultural dress codes?
As someone who has been on safari in Kenya , Botswana and Zambia my personal safari packing list have improved over time. The first time I went on safari back in 2012 I had no idea what to bring and ended up borrowing clothes off my mum as she had made better choices than myself. But earlier this year I took a trip to Kenya and this time I was actually quite impressed with my own safari packing skills.
Here is exactly what I packed, so you can get it right the first time.
There are three things to keep in mind when choosing what clothes to bring with you:
- Neutral colours so not to attract attention from animals
- Layers that you can add or remove as the temperature changes
- Protection from the sun
My favourite safari outfit is khaki shorts, a loose-fitting white top, white trainers and a thin hoody to throw on top in the cooler evenings. I also took a small rucksack with me for day trips that had sunglasses and a sunhat in it for the midday sun. Be aware that you’ll be jumping in and out of high trucks, so shorts work better than dresses.
If you’re a guy, the same rules generally apply. Three quarter length shorts and a shirt will work well. Plus sunglasses and comfortable shoes.
It depends on where you are staying, but some safari resorts have swimming pools. Many people still opt for fashionable swimwear so feel free to wear the same bikini or trunks you bought for last year’s Caribbean or Mediterranean beach break. Also remember flip flops or sandals as the paths back to your room might be rockier than you’re used to.
If you’re doubling up your safari with a beach stay (such as the Kenya coast, Zanzibar or Mauritius) clothing choices here will be the same as any European or Caribbean resort. Bring along a nice pair of sandals and maxi dress, or a casual shirt, for the evenings.
It’s cooler at night, so I would recommend full-length pyjamas.
It’s not uncommon to see people taking pictures with a DLSR camera (and a high-zoom lens) but I personally prefer a good point and shoot camera. I took my DLSR on my first safari but it is bulky to carry around and I didn’t always have to time to play with the settings when a leopard was sneaking past. I prefer something that easily slips in my pocket, isn’t highly valuable and does most of the work for me.
A lot of phone cameras are also high quality these days, and many of my Kenya photos were taken on my Samsung. I’d recommend everyone takes a camera of some kind but it is really up to you.
(A note on DLSRs if you’re considering buying one for safari: DLSR cameras don’t automatically take better pictures, and if you don’t know how to work yours, or own a suitable lens, you might end up with photos that aren’t any better than if you’d used your phone)
I also took my tablet and iPod. The first of which I only used once as I was so busy. My iPod came in handy though when we were driving long distances between safari camps.
Also remember to pack all of your chargers and spare batteries. The plugs in Africa also change depending on what country you are in – so double check before you pack.
Toiletries, Medications and Beauty Products
A full face of make-up will melt in the sun, but foundation, mascara, some concealer and neutral lipstick is still quite normal on safari.
As with any other holiday remember your basic toiletries: antiperspirant, shower gel, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrush. On our first night we stayed in a Tented Camp where we were only allowed a short shower and there wasn’t much time for a beauty regime. But every other resort we stayed in had en-suite shower rooms with no restrictions on shower time. If you like to glam it up on safari, I’d recommend picking your resort carefully.
And yes, you’ll need bug spray. One bottle should easily do you for a week. Spray it on your clothes as well.
Remember to check with your GP and travel clinic if you’ll need anti-malaria tablets.
The important and legal things
If you’re a UK citizen, you’ll need your passport to get into most African countries. As for visas, this depends on the country. For Zambia I had to send my passport off in advance, have it stamped and sent back to me. For Botswana the safari company offered day visas and for Kenya I had to pay $50 dollars for an entry visa at airport border security. Remember to check the Gov.UK website for up-to-date information.
Some African money (such as Zambian Dollars) are what is known as a closed currency and you cannot change in advance. So you’ll need to stop by a bank machine as soon as you arrive.
If you’ve already been on an African safari, do you have any items you’d recommend bringing? Or do you have a packing mishap to share? Let us know in the comments!