What To Bring (Essentials) For Your Safari

You’ve waited months for your safari to finally come around. And now you have to decide what you must pack for your safari. Decisions, decisions, decisions. SP Safari Tours Inc. is here to help and here are a few of our tips:

1. Passport, itinerary, travel insurance docs and eTickets

It seems obvious, but we would be remiss if we didn't put this at the top of the list of what you must pack for your safari.

2. Prescription meds

Remember to put your prescription medications in your hand luggage (in case your check-in bag goes astray... it happens!)…and make sure you have enough of each type to last your entire safari.

3. Prescription glasses (sunglasses, hat and sunblock

If you wear prescription glasses, be sure to pack more than one set (in case you lose one or they get broken). You will be outdoors for much of the time, so be prepared. Pack a hat, sunblock, long sleeves, and lip balm.

4. Camera, video and binoculars

Whilst most people will remember to take their camera and/or video (or will use their mobile phone), not everyone thinks they need to take binoculars! Binoculars are ESSENTIAL for optimum wildlife viewing on safari (and a GOOD pair of binoculars will make a BIG difference to your safari). We strongly recommend a pair of binoculars on safari. Get the most expensive you can afford (at least 8x or better still 10x magnification).

Africa is a photographer’s dream. Not only does the boundless wildlife come in all shapes and sizes, but the continent is also blessed with stunning landscapes, colorful people and fabulous light! Don’t miss out. Buy a camera, if you don’t already have one.

5. Clothes and toiletries

Park comfortable wash-and-wear clothing for it will be most useful. Jackets and ties are only required in certain hotel, restaurants and golf clubs. Most international airlines will restrict your check-in luggage to around 20 to 30kgs (55 pounds) so park lightly. If your safari itinerary includes any light aircraft flights, then this can mean as little as 12 to 15 kgs (sometimes including your hand luggage!).

Don’t panic! Remember, a same-day laundry service is usually available in most safari camps and lodges. This means you DO NOT need a change of clothes for each day you are on safari! The exception will be for mobile tented safaris where it is often difficult, due the mobile nature, to offer a laundry service. It may also be possible to leave a bag with the charter company, or person meeting you, for the duration of the safari portion. When in doubt, ask your travel agent.

Wear casual but comfortable clothes

Casual, comfortable clothing is suitable throughout the year when on safari. Whilst you may elect to start a completely new safari ‘wardrobe’ it is really not necessary to look like an extra on the set of Out of Africa! Apart from selecting reasonably neutral or ‘non-bright’ colored clothing, safari-wear is generally casual and practical. Be sure you take clothes that you feel comfortable in – especially when it comes to your walking/hiking boots. The newer quick-drying fabrics, shirts with ventilation and trousers that convert into shorts are all worth considering.

Clothing To Pack:
  1. 2 pairs khaki cotton pants (jeans are rather hot)
  2. 2 pairs sturdy shorts.
  3. 2 long sleeved shirts (for sun protection as well as warmth).
  4. 1 light sweater or sweatshirt.
  5. 1 lightweight, waterproof windbreaker.
  6. 1 or 2 pair sturdy walking or hiking boots or running shoes.
  7. 3-5 short-sleeved shirts or T-shirts.What To Pack for Your Safari

Layering is key

Wearing clothes in layers is the most practical way to cope with fluctuating day/night temperatures and cool evenings whilst on safari. As the day warms up you can peel off another layer. Then as it begins to cool toward evening, you can put them back on. Here's the "must-haves" to pack for your safari:

  1. T-shirt, shirt or blouse - long sleeves and collars help to protect from the sun and mosquitoes
  2. Fleece or warm jacket
  3. A pair of safari trousers - those that zip off at the knees are very handy, too
  4. Comfortable walking shoes (or boots) and socks
  5. Hat
  6. Bandanna or cotton scarf and a sarong (kanga, pareo, kikoi)
  7. Maybe a pair of open sports sandals for general daytime use in warmer months
  8. Swimsuit -  a number of lodges and camps have swimming pools
  9. An elegantly casual outfit for dinner at the smarter hotels
  10. A light, compact raincoat if it is likely you will encounter rain (gorilla and chimp trekking)
  11. And, of course, your undergarments

Dull and/or neutral colors are more suitable for safari, white and/or bright colours are not practical as they tend to stand out – definitely not advisable on a walking safari. Cotton clothing is recommended although the newer synthetic safari clothing lines are quick drying and extremely comfortable.

Check the weather

Ask your travel agent (or check online) and find out what the weather will be like where you are going. You may not need any serious cold weather gear at all (and that will really help with the luggage limit!). Alternatively, if you are going anywhere in winter where the temperature drops dramatically when the sun goes down, you may need gloves, a scarf, a thick jacket and a beanie!  Places like Hwange, Okavango, Linyanti and even Kruger are freezing in the early morning and late evening during the winter months (June through August). And this is magnified by a significant wind-chill factor that you'll feel when on the back of an open game-drive vehicle.

6. Phone, music, tablet or laptop

What you must pack for your safari are your phone, music, tablet or laptop - and their respective chargers. Make sure to bring country-specific adaptor plugs though.

7. Preventative pharmaceuticals / First Aid Awareness details

This is just a fancy way of saying ‘meds’ – stuff you need, just in case the worst happens: diarrhea, headaches, heartburn, insect repellent, hand sanitizer, bites (antihistamine), indigestion, sore throat (lozenges),  eye drops, and most important – anti-malarial tablets.

  1. Prescription Medicines: If you currently take any prescription medicines, make sure to take an adequate supply with you. Depending on where you're going, it could be difficult to find replacements if you run out whilst traveling.
  2. Malaria Medication: If you're traveling to a malarial area, it is essential that you take anti-malaria prophylactics. There are several different types available - ask your doctor which is best for you and for the area you're traveling to. 
  3. Prescription Antibiotics: ​Infections can be incredibly painful, and if you're far from a doctor's surgery or hospital, you'll want to be able to treat them yourself. Your doctor at home should be able to prescribe a generic antibiotic capable of treating a wide range of ailments.
  4. Antidiarrheal Medication: Travelers' diarrhea is a common affliction in Africa, and one that usually runs it course without requiring medical assistance. However, antidiarrheal medication (e.g. loperamide) is handy to have for those long car, bus or train rides. 
  5. Oral Rehydration Salts: These are used to help replace fluids lost as a result of diarrhea, therefore preventing dehydration. If you have any left at the end of your trip, give them to someone who may be able to use them.
  6. Iodine Tablets: If you're heading off the beaten track to an area without available bottled water, iodine tablets help to make tap or borehole water safe to drink. They don't taste good though, so bring powdered fruit juice as well to help make them more palatable. 
  7. Syringes and Sterile Needles: Most hospitals now use sterile needles, but if you're worried, consider bringing your own (especially if you plan to visit exceptionally poor or rural areas).
  8. Antihistamines: When traveling abroad, you never know what you might be allergic to. Antihistamines help minimize allergic reactions, and come in a variety of different forms. If you have severe allergies that require the use of an EpiPen, make sure to bring it with you. 
  9. Antibacterial Medicine: Cuts and sores become infected quickly in Africa, especially if you're headed somewhere tropical. Antibacterial cream, powder or ointment is therefore essential, while antiseptic hand-gel or hand-wipes also help stop the spread of infection. 
  10. Insect Repellent: All of the diseases mentioned above are transmitted by mosquitoes. Help minimize the risk of infection by using insect repellent. 
  11. Painkillers and Anti-Inflammatories: Make sure to pack the everyday medicines that help you deal with general aches and pains (e.g. Aspirin, Tylenol). If left untreated, even a simple headache has the power to make your time abroad miserable.
  12. Sun Block & Aloe Gel: Sun block is essential for preventing sunburn. If you do get burned, aloe gel helps to relieve the discomfort and soothe damaged skin cells. 
  13. Basic First Aid Items: These include all of the things that you might need to treat minor injuries, including bandages, Band-Aids, gauze, scissors, safety pins, adhesive tape, Q-tips and tweezers (for removing painful splinters). 
  14. Basic Medications: These are your household staples and will depend on what ailments you're particularly prone to. Examples include motion sickness tablets, decongestants, throat lozenges, cough medicines and anti-fungal creams.

8. Travel Insurance 

In the event that you can't self-medicate, you may have to seek professional medical help. Many African countries have state hospitals where one can receive free treatment, but these are often unsanitary, ill-equipped and drastically understaffed. The best option is to seek treatment at a private hospital, but these are expensive, and many won't treat patients without up-front payment or proof of insurance. Comprehensive travel insurance is therefore is a must. 

9. Odds & Ends

A good torch (flashlight) is a must. It can be pitch black in the bush or in your tent in the middle of the night. A rechargeable torch is ideal but a small battery-powered torch is sufficient. The new LED miner’s lights that fit on your head (and leave your hands free) are also a good option. A smaller (pencil) torch for emergencies or looking at star maps is also worth considering. Most camps will provide a torch, or will walk you back to your tent as required, but being self-sufficient is always a good idea.

A good book. It never hurts to have an interesting book when travelling. You never know when you are going to be delayed at the airport or fall victim to Africa time!

A travel diary or journal is something we recommend. You will see and experience so much in such a short period of time on safari, that the only way to maintain a good record of it will be to write it down. It does require discipline, but will serve as an invaluable record of your safari adventure.

10. Hand luggage

Firstly, try to restrict your hand luggage to one item only, if for no other reason than more than one item makes travel that much harder. And, yes, a handbag qualifies as a second item! Obviously, that one item should be of a size that is acceptable as carry-on luggage by the airlines.

If you are a photographer, then this will mean you must have sufficient space in your camera bag for travel documents, prescription medication and/or glasses, binoculars and even a change of clothes.

Bear in mind that restrictions on what can and cannot be taken on board an aircraft are still in place – including for liquids, flammables and sharp objects. The rules change frequently, so please double check and take heed.

11. Finally, don’t forget your sense of humor, patience and some common sense! Below is a word (or two) of warning:

  • It is not advisable to wear any form of clothing that may be construed as “camouflage”. By this we mean any form of brown/green “combat” style coloring. Even if it is the latest fashion statement - and even if it is your 14 year old wearing it - and even if it is just a cap. Many African authorities have a disproportionate phobia about such garments and this could conceivably result in you being questioned or harassed by the police. It has the potential to cause you grief, so don’t do it.
  • Do not take any expensive personal jewelry on safari. Be minimalist or take only those everyday items that you normally wear, like your wedding band, inexpensive earrings.
  • With regard to securing your luggage, we would strongly suggest using one or more combination locks to secure zips together if your suitcase does not have its own locking mechanism. Luggage tampering in airports does occur, unfortunately. Luggage straps that wrap around your suitcase can also deter, whilst shrink-wrapping facilities are available at some airports.

Now - You Are More Than Ready! It Is Time To Plan Your safari!

Hopefully, these tips will help you to figure out what you need to pack for your safari. If you need more information or want to go ahead and embark on a safari adventure, contact us. We'll be happy to help you decide on the best tour option.

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