A Guide to Packing for your African Safari. And any other significant travel.

As I prepare to travel to Israel for a long-overdue return trip – I lived there many years ago – it’s my much-loved and faithful backpack that I reach for in-between cleaning cameras and charging batteries, setting aside purchased gifts and printing my boarding pass. Do you have a favourite backpack, if not take a look at these Backpacks Online, there might be one there that catches your eye?

Mine has accompanied me on numerous safaris, off-grid walking trails and urban explorations and I never go away without it. Brilliant inventions, no matter the occasion. As I follow the ritual preparation, I am reminded of how often I’m asked about what to pack when taking an African Safari, and I thought this was a good opportunity to share the list I recently compiled for a client. Below in great detail, together with a few suggested books to read ahead of your travels. In mid-May after my return, I’m off on an eco safari, which is when I too will be referencing this list.

Packing for your Safari

As a general guide, comfortable, casual wash and wear clothes are recommended on safari. Muted colours are advised for game-viewing and bush walks. As game drives are conducted in the early morning and late afternoon, which can be very cold, especially in winter, warm clothes are required. For luxury city hotels and train journeys, more formal attire is required.

The Essentials

• Your passport and copies of your passport, are kept separately and backed up in a cloud.
• Credit cards – remember to let your bank know you’ll be travelling abroad before you leave
• Contact information of the places you’ll be staying at, transfer companies and download details of your reservations.
• Driver’s license (if you’ll be driving). Travel Insurance details. Yellow Fever Inoculation certificate.

Suggested Items

• T-shirts and long-sleeved shirts.
• Shorts/skirts (short skirts are not practical for getting in and out of 4×4 game drive vehicles).
• Long trousers for evenings and cooler days.
• Comfortable walking shoes/trainers.
• Closed shoes and sandals – preferably low healed or flat if you are going on safari.
• Khaki, green, beige, and neutral colours.
• Shirts with long sleeves (even in summer, as protection from the sun and mosquitoes)
• Jeans or safari/casual trousers for evenings and cooler days
• Jackets and sweaters are recommended for early morning and evening game drives
• Lightweight waterproof jacket
• Swim and beachwear. Sun hat.
• Hat and gloves for the cold winter months.
• More formal attire is appropriate for your stay at prestigious city hotels or on one of the luxury trains.
• Good quality sunglasses.
• Malaria tablets (if applicable) & insect repellent.
• Antihistamine tablets if you suffer from any allergies. Anti-nausea tablets if you suffer from motion sickness.
• Suntan lotion, insect repellent, moisturiser, and lip balm.
• All toiletries – we recommend that you ensure they are eco-friendly as you will be in pristine environments,
• Torch. Binoculars.
• Camera Equipment. Sufficient memory cards and batteries, as these are not readily available while travelling.
• Try and get a waterproof or dustproof cover for your camera bag.
• A small backpack to take on safari or walking safaris/hikes.
• A travel journal to make notes of the animals you saw and experiences of the day.
• Take a padlock and as a precaution lock your bag when flying or travelling.

A favourite quote: “Travel—it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” ― Ibn Battuta, 

Additional Notes

• If you are travelling on a light aircraft do double-check the soft bag requirements and luggage restrictions – see country guidelines for more information.
• Remember not to pack items of value or medication in your checked-in luggage, always put these items in your carry-on bag. It is also unwise to accept packages or give lifts to strangers.
• First Aid Kit, we suggest that you bring a small airtight container with a few well-chosen articles, such as plasters, travel sickness tablets, antiseptic cream, antihistamine cream, pain-relieving tablets for headaches, indigestion tablets, sunscreen, eye drops, insect repellent, medication for upset stomachs and after-sun moisturiser.
• We remind travellers who have any allergies i.e. insect stings, or an asthma condition, to pack the required medication.
• Camouflage-patterned clothing is not permitted in most African countries. This applies to any clothing that can be construed as mimicking military wear. Only official military personnel are permitted to dress in camouflage.
• You will have access to laundry facilities at most properties. All camps do their best to deliver the same day service, weather permitting. Dry cleaning is available at city hotels. Please be mindful that due to culture and customs in some areas, the washing of underwear is often not included.

Do note that drones are generally not allowed in any of the conservation areas you will visit as their presence impacts negatively on wildlife and anti-poaching initiatives. This rule will apply throughout Africa. If you have all the correct licenses, you may be able to apply for a permit to fly your drone in some cities. Check entry requirements as some countries do not allow Drones to be brought in at all, and we wouldn’t want you to lose yours.

Ask permission before taking photographs of any local residents and refrain from photographing children.

Recommended Books

  1. Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
  2. Fiela’s Child – Dalene Matthee
  3. Cry, the Beloved Country – Alan Paton
  4. Country of My Skull – Antjie Krog
  5. Weep Not, Child – Ngugi Wa Thiongo
  6. A Year in the Wild – James Hendry
  7. The Old Drift – Namwali Serpell
  8. Country of My Skull – Antjie Krog
  9. The Hairdresser of Harare – Tendai Huchu
  10. Dust – Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor
  11. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives – Lola Shoneyin
  12. Long Walk to Freedom – Nelson Mandela
  13. Out of Africa – Karen Blixen
  14. Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story – Daphne Sheldrick

Happy travels, and if you need any advice or assistance with booking your trip to Africa, do connect with me at dawn@theincidentaltourist.com – I’d love to assist.

Me on Safari with my Guide in the Maasai Mara.

** This post is made possible by Superbalist who understand the needs of travellers.

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Dawn Bradnick Jorgensen
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