What to pack for an African safari

by Theresa Oesterreich of couporando.co.uk

Packing for an African safari holiday is a time when travelling light isn’t an option – it’s a necessity. It’s about cramming a holdall or backpack weighing less than 30lb into a small aircraft’s luggage space while travelling from lodge to lodge.

Try these ten tips to help get all those necessities into that one small bag.

1. Leave the suitcase in the cupboard
Rigid wheeled suitcases don’t work well being dragged along dusty paths or up wooden steps into a lodge house. Use a canvas hold-all or backpack, which can easily be slung over a shoulder.

African elephants - safari

2. Minimal clothing daytime
All you need for safari day clothes is two or three pairs of shorts and three or four t-shirts, vests, or light short sleeved shirts. The majority of lodges have launderette facilities for use during your stay.

You’ll also need underwear and socks for three or four days, and a pair of light hiking boots, which can also be worn for travelling. For the daytime sun, also bring a floppy sun hat which can be stuffed into a pocket, and good quality shades.

3. Night time attire
African nights can get extremely nippy, especially in the desert. A couple of pairs of hiking bottoms, or tracksuit bottoms, plus a warm fleece should suffice for night time and early morning starts. Bring a pair of old soft trainers or plimsolls rather than flip-flops for evening wear – they’re more versatile.

If you’re visiting in the rainy season, include a pair of pull-over waterproof nylon trousers and jacket which can be slipped on daytime or at night.

4. Care about colour
On safari the colour of clothing is as important as what’s been packed. Don’t pack bright or white – it’s likely to spook the game. Also try and avoid dark like dark blue or black, as this attracts flies and insects. Dress in service fashion, bottle green, olive, khaki, or similar subdued colours.

5 . Toiletries
Dispense your usual shower and hair gel in smaller squeeze bottles. An extra small squeezy bottle of detergent to rinse through underwear and socks is always a good idea. Bring sunblock, making sure it’s a recent purchase as its potency quickly fades. A good insect repellent should also be included.

6. Basic first aid kit
Most lodges and safari guides will carry basic first aid equipment but it’s always handy to take your own. A pack should include a few band-aids, small bandages and antiseptic ointment, with aspirin or paracetamol. Most African countries are malaria-active, so talk to a GP about this as part of your pre-trip immunisation process.

Zebra - safari

7. A Photographer’s paradise
Photography is the name of the game on safari, so ensure everything is available to keep the camera going. This might comprise of spare batteries, spare memory cards, lenses, lens cleaning wipes, a charger and a selection of charging converters including one for charging from a jeep cigarette lighter. Include a collapsible tripod if needed, but remember this will take up a significant amount of space and weight.

8. Additional devices
A notebook or tablet can be included, but with the constant dust, packing and unpacking, many prefer to take a paper notebook. That way, you can keep a daily diary and write up their experiences when back home.

While binoculars are popular, there is one less piece of expensive kit to get damaged if you use the camera zoom or telescopic lens. A decent small rechargeable torch comes in handy, especially if anyone gets caught short in the middle of the night.

9. Waterproof your kit
A waterproof holdall or backpack is the ideal solution for those sudden squalls, especially if on safari in the rainy season. Failing that, decent quality plastic bags should be considered to keep everything dry. While clothing will dry quickly in the African sun, digital equipment should be stored in plastic bags, not only to keep them dry, but to minimise the dust which seems to permeate everything when on the trails.

10. Mosquito nets
Most organised safaris and safari lodges supply mosquito nets but it’s worth double checking or bringing your own. Nobody wants to wake in their tent in the morning, looking like an overused pin cushion.

4 Responses

  1. The article highlights a light travel style while visiting Africa and this can be supported by the fact that Africa does not experience extreme weather conditions. Anytime of the year, light travel will do. Good post.

  2. With a luggage weight limit of about 33 lbs for the domestic flights, there’s not much one can pack for an African safari. Travelling light helps avoid hassles like purchasing separate ticket for the luggage.

  3. Carol

    This is a comprehensive list. I think the Mosquito nets are very important. I remember on a trip to Kenya, our Safari operator ( http://www.shoortravel.com ) made sure most of the lodges provided nets, but there were a couple of properties that did not have these and the operator bought a net for us which we then traveled with – not an issue weight-wise since we were on a road safari. So this is an option too since night time carries a high risk of getting bitten by mosquitos.

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