For a start bring earth-toned clothing, bug spray, and good binoculars.
Packing for an African safari is somewhat different to most other trips you’ll take. Navigating rural roads in an open-top jeep means that you’ll get covered in dust, so you’ll need clothes that hide dirt well. Because temperatures can change dramatically throughout the day, layers are essential (after all, pre-dawn game drives are often chilly even in the height of summer).
You’ll need to pack extra light to comply with charter flight baggage restrictions.
The weight of luggage is very limited on the small aircraft that fly in Africa. A typical weight restriction is 15 kilograms or 33 pounds total per person, including camera equipment and carry-ons
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. What to pack for a safari isn’t just about the clothing, either. There’s a lot of little quirky things about traveling to Sub-Saharan Africa that you need to know before you go.
What clothes to bring on safari
Pack very minimal and lightweight, earth-toned clothing. Since most camps provide laundry services, packing light should be easy. It’s always good to pack a windbreaker or fleece, as the night game drives can be cool.
The best clothes are loose-fitting and lightweight so that they keep you cool and dry quickly if you get caught in a rain shower. When it comes to colors, pick neutral tones over brighter shades for optimum camouflage in the bush. Khaki is a safari favorite for a reason: it’s cool, camouflaged and hides dirt well. You’ll want to wear long sleeves and trousers to protect yourself from mosquitoes. This is very important in malarial areas.
General safari must-haves clothes and accessories, during summer (November-March):
- Comfortable sneakers/sandals/walking shoes for game walks
- Flip-flops or similar for pool or in-room use, or even in safari vehicle
- Baseball cap or hat to keep dust/sun from head
- Windbreaker/fleece jacket for layering during game drives and evening
- Jeans (one or two pairs)
- Khaki or cotton pants/slacks, for dinner time
- Four T-shirts for daytime wear
- Button-down long-sleeve sport shirts (optional at dinner for men)
- Long-sleeve and mid-sleeve women’s cotton shirts for layering
- Shorts/cut-offs—two or three pairs for mid-day wear
- Sleeveless shirts for warmer days—very necessary for summer
- Bathing suit
- Underwear (sports bras are recommended for game drives)
Passport, travel insurance docs and eTickets
Many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa require your passport to be valid for six months beyond your travel dates in Africa. So be sure to pull out your passport well in advance of your trip, and thoroughly review all the entry requirements for each country you’re visiting. US citizens can get the most up-to-date entry requirements on travel.state.gov.
Many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa require a visa for entry. Often a visa upon arrival is offered, and you should be prepared to pay for your visa with cash
In addition to your passport being in order, you should obtain a Yellow Health Card and have it completed by your doctor. The Yellow Heath Card is an internationally recognized record of vaccinations endorsed by the World Health Organization.
Toiletries and First Aid
Every camp will have at least a basic first aid kit, and most safari vehicles will too. However, it’s always a good idea to bring your own small supply of hygiene and health essentials.
- Personal toiletries, including travel size shampoo, conditioner, soap, deodorant, moisturizer, toothpaste and toothbrush
- Sunscreen (minimum SPF 30+)
- After-sun cream
- Antiseptic gel (for washing your hands when there’s no water around)
- Sanitary products for ladies
- Contraceptives (including a supply of the pill, if you’re on it)
- Mosquito repellant (the most effective includes DEET)
- Malaria pills (if needed)
- Antihistamines for bug bites and allergic reactions
- Painkillers, e.g. aspirin or Tylenol
- Cold and flu medicines
- Diarrhea medication, e.g. loperamide
- Antiseptic cream
- Prescription medicines
- A spare pair of glasses for those that wear contact lenses (it’s often too dusty to wear them comfortably)
Camera, video and binoculars
We strongly recommend a pair of binoculars on safari. Get the most expensive you can afford. 8×40/8×42 is the recommended general purpose binocular specification for both birding and mammal viewing.
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! Buy a camera, if you don’t already have one.
Electronic Devices for your African Safari
- Camera, depending on how serious a photographer you are
- Spare memory cards
- Spare camera battery (recommending a solar charger if you’re going to be camping)
- Spare AA and AAA batteries
- Electrical adaptor
- Small flashlight (to use inside your tent or to find your way around camp at night)
- iPad or tablet for storing e-books, photos and handy travel apps
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.
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