Safari Packing List

What to Pack for Your African Safari

Safari Gear
••• Safari Gear. Getty Images/Jules Frazier

I sell luxury safaris in Africa and once the itinerary has been decided and the trip has been confirmed, that's when the "what do I pack for a safari?" question comes out in force. One of the biggest issues when deciding what to pack for a safari is the weight and size of your luggage. The small flights that often take guests from camp to camp have strict limits on both. The pilots are the ones who often have to put the guests' luggage in the hold, and they need soft sided bags in order to squeeze and push your belongings into the small cargo space.

The planes have to be balanced out for safety, so even a passenger's weight is calculated in.

Luckily most camps that you fly into will also offer laundry services as well as a full range of shampoo and soap. A safari is also not a "dressy" affair and even the most luxury camps will not expect you to dine in anything fancier than khaki pants and shirt. So you can really survive with enough clothes to last you 3 days and just get your laundry done. Nearly every camp or lodge will offer same-day service.

If you have been shopping in Cape Town before you start your safari there are baggage services than can fly your bag safely to Johannesburg, or any other airport, for you to pick up after your safari. Most charter companies will keep your excess luggage for free while you are on safari - you just have to make sure you are returning to the airport you left your luggage at! If you are a keen photographer or just cannot quite figure out how to pack light, you can always buy an extra seat for your excess luggage and bring it along with you.

 

What to Pack for your African Safari

This is a basic safari packing list. It's important to remember to pack light especially if you're taking charter flights between parks because the baggage weight is limited to 10-15 kg's (25 - 30 lbs) maximum, bags need to be soft-sided and not larger than 24 inches in length.

Clothes for Women

  • 4 t-shirts
  • 2 long sleeve shirts
  • 1 sweatshirt/fleece
  • 1 pair of comfortable shorts
  • 2 pairs of cotton trousers/pants
  • 1 cotton wrap (great to wear during the afternoon siesta, buy locally if you can)
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • 4 pairs cotton underwear (you can wash and dry overnight)
  • 3 sports bras (VERY bumpy roads)
  • Very thin waterproof raincoat if traveling during the wet season
  • Sunglasses (for the dust as well as bright sun)
  • Flannel pajama pants for the chilly nights
  • Hat with chin strap (to avoid it blowing off your head and into the bush)
  • Swimsuit
  • Lightweight, durable, waterproof shoes
  • Flip flops or sandals for around camp, (or to wear in the shower)

 

Clothes for Men

  • 4 t-shirts
  • 2 long sleeve shirts
  • 1 sweatshirt/fleece
  • 1 pair of comfortable shorts
  • 2 pairs of cotton trousers/pants
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 4 Pairs Underwear (you can wash and dry overnight)
  • Flannel pajama pants for the chilly nights
  • Very thin waterproof raincoat if traveling during the wet season
  • Sunglasses (for the dust as well as bright sun)
  • Hat with chin strap (to avoid it blowing off your head and into the bush)
  • Swimsuit
  • Lightweight, durable, waterproof shoes
  • Flip flops or sandals for around camp, (or to wear in the shower)

 

Toiletries/First Aid

Every camp or lodge will have a basic first aid kit on hand, and most safari vehicles will too (especially those operated by higher end camps).

But it's handy to bring your own small supply of hand gel, band aids, aspirin etc...

  • Malarial prophylactics
  • Sunscreen (Factor 30 or above)
  • Antihistamine (for bug bites/stings and allergic reactions)
  • Aspirin/Motrin/Tylenol for pain/headaches
  • Mosquito Repellant
  • 3 one gallon ziplock bags (to keep things like your camera dry or free of dust and your dirty clothes separate)
  • Tampons/Pads for women (panty-liners are a must since you'll be drip drying after peeing in the bush on game drives!)
  • Antiseptic gel (handy for washing your hands when there's no water around)
  • Anti-diarrheal medication
  • Band aids with antiseptic cream
  • Personal toiletries in small travel size, shampoo, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant etc
  • Prescription medications
  • Spare glasses if you wear contacts (because it's often too dusty to wear them comfortably)

     

    Gadgets and Gizmos

    • Converter plug to fit local sockets so you can recharge your phone, camera battery, i-Pad
    • Small Flashlight (when walking to and from your room at night, and to use inside your tent)
    • Camera (with zoom lenses and tripod if you're serious, but remember the weight restrictions for flights)
    • Extra memory card for your camera (you'll take more video and photos than you ever thought possible)
    • Binoculars (high end camps should have a spare pair in the safari vehicles for you to use)
    • Spare batteries and/or battery charger (always check to see what the camp has, or safari vehicle)
    • I-Pad or similar device for your books, to store your photos, alarm clock, and sound recording (fun if you have a lot of wildlife around your camp/lodge at night, it gets loud!)
    • Cell phone with local plan (optional, but handy to connect with family/friends back home. Most camps will not have wi-fi, but will have a cell phone connection)

    Pack For a Purpose

    Many safari camps and lodges now support local community initiatives in and around the wildlife parks, reserves and concession areas. Please ask if you can bring any school supplies, medical supplies, clothing or other light objects that will help these projects. There's a web site you can check out as well - Pack For a Purpose. They have some good suggestions on how to pack these items, as well as lists of specific requests from lodges around Africa.