Article

What to pack for an African safari holiday

by Martha Hales

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So you’re all booked and counting down the weeks until your big African safari adventure. As departure day approaches and you’re thinking about what to take, bear in mind our handy packing tips.

Two lions in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in northern Tanzania

A safari is a holiday unlike any other. There will be different routines, activities and surroundings to consider, as well as various modes of transport and all that wildlife to observe. If your African holiday will involve taking a light aircraft, note that luggage weight is a factor so make sure you choose your items accordingly. Packing light is a wise move for a safari trip even if you are not taking a light aircraft, as many safaris will involve travelling around to some degree.

A hippo wanders along the banks of the river in Liwonde National Park

Obviously you will need to think about the climatic conditions of your chosen destination before you finalise your packing list, too. It is very far from the truth to assume that it will be hot. Heat is definitely a factor in many safari regions during the day, but during the cooler months and at night there are many parts of Africa that get chilly.

A game drive at sunset in Chobe National Park, Botswana

Safari essentials

Essentials include travel documents, insurance details, cash and medication. If you will be taking a flight on a small aircraft then consider bringing a light-weight soft holdall, which should weigh a maximum of 20 kilograms when it’s full.

Many safari trips include taking a light aircraft at some point

Clothing 

It’s all about layers on safari. Game drives in open vehicles can be breezy and cool in the early hours and in certain locations, whereas dependent on time of day and destination, you may also experience hot and dusty conditions. Your safari wardrobe may well look quite different from destination to destination and from season to season. Our local partners are experts in the vagaries and microclimates that can affect the weather wherever you are headed.

A zebra survey its surroundings in a wildlife reserve

Lightweight layers that cover most of your skin, a warm hat and sun hat, plus a down jacket and a light waterproof jacket are going to prepare you for most climatic conditions you will encounter. However, if you’re exploring the forests of central Africa where you may be looking for primates, you need to be more fully prepared for wet weather. Shorts can be perfect for daytime temperatures, but ensure you cover arms and legs in the evenings to avoid mosquito bites.

A family wear neutral colours on their safari trip in Kenya

Bright colours are not usually a good idea for safari clothing, and it is preferable to go neutral with colours found in the surroundings of your destination. If tsetse fly is present it’s a good idea to avoid navy blue, dark grey and black coloured clothes which are known to attract these nasty biting flies. Camouflage patterns are not a good idea either, as there are strong military connotations which could cause confusion or even harassment and questioning by the police.

Wildebeest migrating across the Masai Mara in Kenya

Footwear

Sturdy and comfortable are the most important words here, and it goes without saying that your footwear needs to be broken in before departure. Something with ankle support is a good idea as exploring the wilds of Africa often means navigating rough terrain. Most seasoned safari goers will pop a pair of flip-flops or similar in their bag too, for relaxing around the lodgings.  

 A group of tourists on a walking safari in Uganda

Toiletries 

Sunscreen and insect repellent are essential. Wet wipes and lip balm are invariably useful. A simple first aid kit is a good idea, stocked with plasters, bandages, basic medications for diarrhea, plus antihistamine and any creams, painkillers or antiseptics you might need considering you will sometimes be far from shops, though most lodges will be able to provide these if the need arises. If you wear contacts, be prepared for dusty conditions with saline solution and spectacles.

A group of hippos walk along the river bed

Tech 

Devices and their chargers may not be the first thing you need on safari, but nevertheless many people do bring them, and in fact some lodges have wifi. Phone signal is sporadic out in the African wilderness, but if you can’t live without yours you will find charging points at most permanent safari camps. Camera equipment is top of the list for safari holidays, and again you will be able to recharge batteries overnight but bring spares for long days out among the wildlife. Dust is the enemy of camera lenses so make sure you’ve got a good quality camera bag for protection. Adaptors are also a necessity, so ask our expert local operators for precise details of which you will need as power outlets vary from country to country.

A woman enjoys the view of Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania

Miscellaneous 

A decent pair of binoculars is essential for the best wildlife watching on safari. Sunglasses can be very useful in the bright African sun. Swimsuits are perfect for an afternoon swim at your lodge. A small torch is useful around the camp after dark. A lightweight scarf can come in handy in many situations, when it's windy for keeping dust out or strapping hats on; when it’s cool it can keep you warm. A kindle or a good book can be invaluable when travelling in Africa, where long journeys are frequent and patience may be required.  

A gemsbok walks through the Namib Desert

What not to pack

Leave expensive jewellery and accessories at home, along with any camouflage pattern clothes and accessories.

A leopard walks through the Sabi Sands Game Reserve in South Africa

Make it happen

TravelLocal’s handpicked local partners are the on-the-ground experts who can make your dream safari holiday into reality. Contact them directly with your details and begin planning your bespoke safari. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office please call +44 (0)117 325 7898.

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