What To Pack When Going On Safari
Packing for an African safari is vastly different than packing for any other trip, and it’s often a challenge for first time safari goers. Not only do most safari goers have weight restrictions on bush flights (a typical weight restriction is 15 kilograms or 33 pounds total per person, including camera equipment and carry-ons), but you also have the challenge of not being entirely sure which types of clothes to wear on safari / to pack.
When planning a safari in Africa, packing the right items is essential to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable trip. Whether you’re going on a short or long safari, you’ll need to make sure you have the right items to make your trip as comfortable, exhilarating, and memorable as possible.
To ensure you have the best safari experience, we’ve put together a comprehensive list of what to pack when going on a safari in Africa.
General packing tips for an African safari
It is important to keep the following two things in mind when packing to go on your bucket-list African safari:
- Your safari lodge most likely offers a laundry service, so don’t overpack!
- Make sure you check the luggage weight limit of the African country you are travelling to before you start packing. For example domestic airlines in South Africa limit luggage weight strictly, and only accept soft-exterior luggage. If you’re going to be traveling to a national park by plane, it is essential to ensure your luggage is not over the stipulated weight limit.
Safari packing list (beyond safari clothing)
#1 All your Travel Documentation
While this may seem obvious, you’d be surprised at how many people forget to pack all their necessary travel documentation when going on safari.
Your essential travel documents include:
- Passport & ALL the required visas for every country in Africa you will be travelling to and through on your safari adventure.
- Identification documents (ID).
- Driver’s License.
- Travel Insurance Documents.
- Airline / flight tickets / etickets.
- Flight details.
- Travel itinerary.
- Any required visas or special request forms.
- Accommodation information.
- Credit and/or debit card (or money if you prefer).
- Any other important documents required for your African safari trip.
- Vaccination certificates (yellow fever etc) where required. Some vaccinations need to be taken well in advance depending on the African country you are travelling to. Its important to do the necessary research to ensure you have everything that is required of you.
**Great Tip: In case things go south or anything goes missing (fingers crossed that it does NOT happen) it’s a great idea to give a certified copy of all of these essential travel documents to a trusted relative or friend. This will ensure that you at least have some sort of verification.
If you’re travelling with children make sure to include a copy of your identification information as well as your accommodation information in their backpacks. South African laws about travelling minors are ever-changing, so make sure to check with the Department of Home Affairs in case there are any regulations that pertain to you.
When packing items for your bucket-list safari trip, a great tip is to pack / keep your travel documentation where it is easily accessible, for example in your carry-on bag or handbag for the ladies. Don’t pack your essential documents in your main luggage as baggage does go missing sometimes. When travelling anywhere, its always better to be safe than sorry!
Additional Travel Accessories For The Plane If Needed:
- Multiple passport holder
- Travel pillow (neck support)
- Travel pillow (leg support)
- If you’re travelling with kids, make sure to pack anything that will keep them occupied and entertained on the long flight.
#2 Travel Accessories | Gadgets | Electronics
How many times have you found yourself rummaging around in your suitcase looking for a phone charger? An electronics organizer can save you plenty of time and frustration by keeping all your chargers, cables, memory cards, headphones, and adapters in one handy pack.
Whether you’re going on your safari trip solo or with a group of friends and family, it is inevitable that you will end up with multiple gadgets, electronic devices, and accessories that needs to be charged. This includes, but is not limited to, cell phones, tablets, cameras, laptops, kindles etc.
To keep the peace and ensure everyone is and remains happy on your African safari adventure, be sure to pack multiple chargers for all of your (and your travel companions) gadgets and electronic devices and/or opt for a multiple charging station instead.
With that being said, don’t forget to actually pack your cell phone, tablet and all your other electronics and gadgets.
Portable Charger Power Banks
In addition to your above-mentioned standard chargers, adding a portable charger power bank to your list of things to pack when going on safari is a brilliant idea! If you’ve ever been caught out sightseeing with a low-battery phone and not been able to take photos or found your child’s iPad has run out of battery half way through a long-haul flight you know exactly what we’re talking about. This makes a portable charger power bank an essential packing item for your African safari travel journey.
A portable charger power bank is not only a great tool to have in your travel arsenal, but it will ensure you’re always prepared and ready for anything.
Depending on where you are travelling from, most likely you will need to bring / pack a few power adaptors to make use of your electronics. A rule of thumb is that anything with a motor can be used with an adaptor.
If you are traveling from a country with different style plugs, make sure you purchase and pack a suitable travel adapter (not many universal adaptors DO NOT cover Africa!). It is vital that you check your adaptor carefully to ensure there are no issues.
Camera / Waterproof & Shockproof Camera
As a picture is worth a thousand words, packing your camera is an absolute MUST when going on your authentic African safari holiday, getaway, or thrilling action-packed safari trip.
Of course you have to record all your happy holiday memories and capture all of the breathtaking views and beautiful natural surroundings, sought-after attractions, stunning natural wonders, once-in-a-lifetime wildlife, birdlife, and African Big5 sightings and encounters, as well as every single incredible bucket-list worthy adventure experience you’re going to take part in – It’s a total no-brainer!
If you have / own an easy-to-use waterproof and shockproof camera – make sure you pack it! It will allow everybody in the family to share in the photo taking fun and games, without having to worry about the camera getting damaged – What a win!
**Extra Tip: In addition to your camera, be sure to pack extra batteries to keep your camera going throughout the day. Trust us, you absolutely don’t want to run out of battery power when spotting a sensational wildlife sighting or at any point during your ultimate African safari trip.
**Bonus Note / Interesting Fact: Not only can you not capture great photos with a camera phone (or at least not nearly as good as on a proper camera), but some safari lodges even ban camera phones on game drives because their information has been used by poachers (think: geolocation on that photo of a rhino you took). Make sure you bring a proper camera with you on your African safari trip for the best of both worlds.
- Great Camera
- Extra batteries
- Extra SD Card
- Leans Cleaning Cloth
- Tripod (especially if you’re super into photography)
Binoculars are absolutely essential for optimum wildlife viewing on safari – trust us, a good pair of binoculars will make a BIG difference to your entire African safari experience.
Binoculars aren’t just about “zooming in” when the wildlife sighting is far away, but also about enhancing the detail of what you can see. It’s like zoom plus ultra-sharpening – what more could you ask for?
So, instead of seeing something that kind of looks like a lion lying down in the long bushveld grass, you’ll actually be able to not only see the lion in all its glory, but every magnificent feature too!
This is one safari packing item you absolutely don’t want to forget!
#3 Toiletries | Medical Essentials
Bug Spray / Mosquito Repellent / Insect Repellent
Mosquito / Insect Repellent is undoubtedly one of the most essential items to pack when going on Safari. Not only is packing insect repellent absolutely vital, it will serve you well, not only on your African safari journeys and adventures, but right throughout your travels through Southern Africa etc.
Like most places, insects and mosquitoes like to come out in the evening especially if you are out near water. A standard roll on or insect repellent patch should be adequate for you as well as anyone you’re travelling with.
Malaria prophylaxis for malaria areas
It is important to know that insect repellent does NOT replace the need for anti-malaria medication! Packing insect repellents is recommended in conjunction with malaria prophylaxis, especially in high-risk malaria areas and African countries.
While not getting bitten and bugged by mosquitoes on your safari trip certainly makes traveling far more pleasant, anti-malaria medication is without a doubt one of the most essential items to take / pack when embarking on your great African safari trip.
**Tip: It is important to do proper research on the destinations / African countries you’re travelling to. Plus, it’s a great way to know if you need to take precautions well in advance.
Sunscreen / Sun Protection
Small but mighty, sunscreen is by far one of the most important items to pack when going on safari. The glorious African bushveld packs a massive punch when it comes to its hot, blazing sun – There is no place to hide! Ensuring you have the proper sunscreen / sun protection is absolutely essential to ensuing you don’t burn to a crisp on your safari adventure, as well as is vital in protecting your skin from any potential sun damage.
Even if you’re traveling to your desired African safari destination during its winter months, you will undoubtedly experience hot sunny days when the sun is far stronger than you realize.
Be sure to pack your preferred brand of sunscreen as well as after sun lotion. This will ensure that you are properly protected from the rays of the African sun as well as have something to relieve the pain and discomfort if you do happen to get sun burned while spending the day exploring and experiencing the great outdoors and everything the glorious African bushveld has to offer.
**Note: An eco-friendly 30 SPF (or higher) sunscreen protection is recommended.
**Tip: Beware! If you don’t wear sunscreen, if even just for 1 morning or 1 afternoon, you’re pretty much toast! So, the moral of the story is – Don’t slack on sunscreen!!
Other Sun Protection Essentials To Pack:
- Sunblock – OF COURSE!
- A hat / multiple hats.
- Sunglasses / prescription sunglasses or prescribed glasses. When you’re on safari, you want to make sure that you can see as good as you possibly can – you never want to miss a second of the action. If that means wearing your prescribed glasses or contact lenses – you better make sure you bring them along! Similarly sunglasses or prescribed sunglasses are an absolute must. Besides blocking the intense African bushveld glare and blazing sun beating down on you, sunglasses are also great for keeping dust and small flying insects out of your eyes.
Medical Essentials & Toiletries
Your personal medication and medical essentials are CRUCIAL to pack when going on safari – These are items you absolutely cannot leave behind / forget to pack! In addition to your own medication (as well as the medication of anyone you’re travelling with), other medical essentials, essential items, and toiletries to pack include (these were suggested by multiple sources):
- Malaria tablets
- Motion sickness relief band – These are ideal for the charter flights since they don’t cause drowsiness.
- Antihistamine tablets
- Anti-nausea tablets
- Pepto-Bismol and antacids
- Cough drops, earache drops
- Z pack for the flu, just in case | Other preventative medications (just in case): Medication for diarrhoea, headaches, heartburn, bites (antihistamine), indigestion, sore throat, eye drops etc.
- Basic medical kit (aspirin, band-aids, Imodium, antiseptic /antihistamine cream)
- Moisturizer and suntan lotion—SPF 30 or higher
- Insect repellent (30 percent DEET or above for anti-malaria use)
- Tissues / Wet wipes
- Toothpaste and toothbrush
- Nail scissors / file / clipper / tweezers
- Hand Sanitizer. It’s always good to have hand sanitizer in your bag when you are travelling to any destination. Plus, it’s always handy to have for times when you can’t wash your hands or have been traveling on public transport for quite some time.
And of course, let’s not forget about your own toiletry bag filled with all your personal regular items you need on any trip or getaway.
#4 Suitable Footwear | Comfortable Walking Shoes
Besides enjoying an exhilarating early morning, afternoon, or night-time safari / game drive, most (if not all) safari lodges across Africa offers guests and safari goers a vast variety of incredible and down-right thrilling safari adventure experiences you’re bound to never forget, some of which include:
- Guided Bush Walks with highly experienced and knowledgeable safari guides. Bush walks are essentially on-foot safaris!
- Canoeing / Kayaking / Rafting / Traditional Mokoro boat rides.
- Balloon Safaris.
- Horse Riding through the vast unspoiled African bushveld.
- Microlight and Helicopter Flights.
- Quad Biking.
- Mountain Biking.
- Trail Running.
- Exciting adventure-filled hikes.
- Field Guide and Wildlife Courses.
- Sound Safaris – Everyone in the vehicle gets to put on a set of headphones and through the use of a parabolic microphone it captures and explains the different sounds of the bush around you.
- Photography walking safaris & courses.
- Birding walking safaris.
- Night-time walking safaris for those eager to witness incredible nocturnal wildlife sightings.
In addition to all the exciting safari adventure experiences mentioned above, visitors are also free to wander, discover, and explore everything the spectacular African bushveld has to offer. Not to mention scout out all of its hidden gems and secret spots – trust us, you won’t be disappointed.
As you’ll be doing a lot of walking, discovering, adventuring, and exploring, packing a few pairs of suitable and comfortable footwear / walking shoes / hiking boots is absolutely ESSENTIAL to your overall African safari experience.
If you’re an avid hiker and explorer, be sure to pack proper hiking shoes / boots as well as a few pairs of suitable, non-slip, practical, and comfortable closed shoes.
Sandals and / or flip flops are also considered a ‘no-no’ when going on an authentic safari / game drive. The bush is dusty, and you’ll inevitably get them dirty. Don’t forget to pack lightweight and breathable socks. You’ll want plenty of extras as you’re going to be wearing them in warm conditions.
#5 Day Bag | Backpack | Neck Wallet | Small bag or ‘bumbag’
A Day Bag, Backpack, Neck Wallet, Small bag, or ‘bumbag’ (whichever you prefer) is not only excellent for keeping all your valuables organized, safe, and secure (as its all strapped directly to you – thereby putting your mind at ease), but great for any essentials and gear such as your camera, binoculars, spare lenses, batteries, and everything else you would like to take with you on a safari / game drive.
An extra bonus is that weight isn’t really an issue since you’ll be in a safari vehicle for the majority of your game drive. However, when embarking on a walking safari / bush walk and / or any other safari adventure experience, it is important to be mindful of what as well as how much you pack into your day bag to ensure you’re not carrying an excessive amount of weight around as you explore the unapologetic beauty, magnificent wildlife and birdlife, and wild untamed surroundings and landscapes of the African bushveld.
**Tip: Avoid taking anything that is too sensitive as well as any unnecessary things that will only way you down.
#6 Odds & Ends
A good torch / flashlight is a must when going on safari. 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 too. 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 you with a torch or will walk you back to your tent / lodge / chalet / luxury treehouse whenever required. However, its never a bad thing to be self-sufficient.
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 – Don’t worry, you’ll know what we mean by that soon enough!
A travel diary or journal is something we HIGHLY recommend. You will see, do, and experience so much in such a short period of time on your once-in-a-lifetime African safari trip, that the only way to maintain a good record of everything is to write it ALL down. While it may require some discipline and extra effort, it will be SO incredibly worth it in the end – serving as a memorabilia of sorts to look back on and relive all over again.
#7 If you’re traveling with a baby, or small toddler, here are a few essential things to pack for your safari trip
- Baby carrier.
- Portable Booster Seat.
- Ziploc bags – Ziploc bags are a parent’s secret weapon when traveling. You can use them to store snacks, dirty clothes, nappy changing kits, puzzle pieces, small toys, crayons, and leaky shampoo bottles. Be sure to pack a few in your suitcase and/or carry-on bag or handbag.
- Daypack – Having a day pack is always a good idea for any trip with kids. This way you can pack / carry all the wet wipes, snacks, tissues, sun cream etc in one practical bag and still keep your hands free to keep hold of the kids. Look for a lightweight backpack that can be easily packed in your suitcase when not needed.
- Any other specific baby and toddler travel essentials.
What to wear on safari
Knowing what to wear on safari is important because it will affect your general level of comfort as well as your overall African safari experience. The customary recommendation is to pack clothes that are comfortable, durable, and functional.
Whatever you do, DO NOT OVERPACK!
Safari Clothing Tips:
- Wear neutral colors / Earth-toned clothing: Khaki, light brown, green, and tan. White clothes will show up dust and dirt. Bright-colored clothing such as red makes you very conspicuous to the wildlife, especially on a walking safari.
- Dress casually: Safari only requires casual clothing unless specified (i.e. for luxury outings / excursions).
- Light, breathable fabrics: You’re most likely going to be in an open-top Range Rover, in direct sun for most of the day. Light, breathable clothing will keep you as cool as possible. Activewear and outdoor clothing and gear will serve you well on a safari trip in Africa. Think, comfortable, breathable, and long-lasting.
- Sweat-friendly clothing: After spending 6-8 hours in the scorching hot African sun, you’re going to be sweaty. Wear clothes that’ll handle it.
- Cover at night: Long sleeves and pants will help you stay warm at night as well as help you avoid mosquito bites.
- Be comfortable: Clothing should consist of non-synthetic material. Cotton is ideal. Comfort truly is key when going on a safari trip.
- Use the laundry service: Since most camps / lodges provide laundry services, packing light is vital. It is also essential that you pack / choose clothing that is easily laundered.
- Dress in layers: 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 temperatures begin to cool down and drop as the evening / night approaches, you can put your layers back on. In addition, zip-off sleeves and lots of pockets are a major plus.
- Check your hat: Hats must do three things well to be effective:
- Provide complete sun protection – especially for the back of your neck
- Gas permeable so the heat generated from your head can escape
- Be water-absorbent on the inside and waterproof on the outside, in order to absorb sweat and cover you if you get caught in the rain.
- DON’T OVERPACK!! It is crucial to pack light – We can’t stress this point enough! Choose lightweight clothing options whenever possible since packing space is at a premium.
**Extra Insight: Remember that some cultures are more conservative than others, so dress respectfully (wear clothes appropriate to the local customs of the African country you are in).
Here are some of the top “must-haves” to pack for your safari trip:
- T-shirts, shirts, sleeveless shirts (especially for extremely hot weather conditions) – Long sleeves and collars are also important as they help to protect you from the sun and mosquitoes.
- A Fleece, warm jacket, and /or a lightweight jacket.
- Pair or two of safari trousers – those that zip off at the knees are very handy, too.
- Comfortable and suitable walking shoes (or boots) and lightweight, breathable socks.
- Shorts – Especially if you’re going on a summer safari trip. As it gets extremely hot during summer, any other extra clothing is unwanted. As soon as the sun is up, it’s time to cook.
- Hat / hats – A hat is obviously one of the best ways to keep sun off your face. Most of the safari guides wear baseball caps, but you can also wear a panama-style hat, a sun hat, or best a wide-brimmed hat to offer ultimate sun protection. No matter which hat you prefer, you need to make sure your hat won’t blow off in an open-top vehicle. Look for hats with optional under-chin straps.
- Bandanna or cotton scarf and a sarong (kanga, pareo, kikoi).
- Pair of open sports sandals and / or flip flops / sandals for general daytime use in warmer months.
- Swimsuit – a number of lodges and camps have swimming pools.
- An elegantly casual outfit for dinner at the smarter luxury hotels and lavish lodges.
- A light, compact raincoat as it is likely you will encounter rain during your trip (depending on which African country you travel to).
- If you’re going on safari in the Winter make sure you pack gloves, a scarf, and a warm hat.
- Enough undergarments to get you through your trip, however, keep in mind that laundry services are available.
Tips for assembling a safari outfit
Your typical safari outfit is going to look something like this:
- Neutral-colored shorts
- Neutral-colored sleeveless shirt
- Breathable socks and sports bra
- Comfortable tennis shoes
- A hat, sunglasses, and a nice layer of sunscreen
It’s actually far less complicated as everyone assumes it to be. Most of the time you won’t need to buy any new clothing for your unforgettable safari trip. Just take the neutral clothing you have and make sure it’s stuff that can be mixed and matched.
What NOT to wear on safari:
These are items you might want to bring with you to the safari lodge, but aren’t items you should think about wearing when you are going on an actual game drive:
- Dresses (especially fancy ones).
- Black or dark blue clothing – Not only are these colours incredibly hot (as it attracts heat) but is believed to attract tsetse flies that have a painful bite.
- Camouflage patterns – Did you know that in some African countries it’s illegal to wear camo as it’s associated with the military?
Check the Weather
When packing for a safari, it’s important to bring clothing that is comfortable and suitable for the climate. Depending on the time of year and the region you’re visiting, you may need to bring different types of clothing. Generally, you should bring lightweight, breathable clothing that is easy to layer. Long-sleeved shirts and trousers are ideal for protecting you from the sun and insects. You should also bring a hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun.
To get somewhat of an idea, you can ask your travel agent as well as check online what the weather is typically like in the region / African country you’re travelling to during that specific season / time of year. Having an overall idea of what the weather and climate is like before you embark on your unforgettable African safari adventure, will not only ensure you pack the appropriate clothes and gear, but in turn help you with your luggage situation and the dreadful luggage limit as you’re not packing / less likely to pack unnecessary items or falling into the trap of overpacking.
When going on a safari trip in Africa, it’s important to pack both the essential and right items to ensure you have a safe, enjoyable, and beyond memorable and magical trip. By packing the items that you need, you’ll be prepared for absolutely anything that comes your way, allowing you to make the most of your bucket-list worthy African safari experience and trip.