“Everything in Africa bites, but the safari bug is worst of all.” This quotation by Brian Jackman epitomizes the African safari – a thrilling, exciting and undoubtedly addictive experience! Whether you are staying in a luxury African safari lodge equipped with all the modern amenities or a more rustic, tented safari camp you will want to ensure you pack the following items to make the most of your experience.
Many of the best and most elite African safari lodges are situated in the most remote of locations. Difficult to reach and in the heart of the bush, these elite tented safari camps and stunning lodges provide some of the most intimate and romantic adventures in the world. Besides of which, the more remote, the better the game viewing tends to be. There is nothing better than walking through the deserted wilderness with nothing around you but some giraffes, zebras and the African bush or witnessing the unbelievable great migration where the only sound you can hear is the footsteps of a thousand beasts. However, these once in a lifetime experiences come with a price; once you are there, there is no turning back, no running to the shops to buy a hat or some more batteries for your camera, so make sure you pack correctly.
You need to be careful when packing clothes for your African safari. As many safari lodges are out of the way and accessed only by charter flights, you will want to pack your life in the suitcase but in reality you need to pack light! This is because the baggage limits on these tiny airplanes are generally low. However most of the African safari lodges do offer same-day or overnight laundry services so you don’t have to worry too much. Also you will find that no-one cares if you spend day after day in the same clothes or don’t come to dinner dressed to the nines.
This means that a pair of comfortable shorts, pants, a long sleeved top, a windbreaker and some short sleeves shirts should serve you well. Some comfortable but pretty clothes are appropriate for the evening, such as jeans or linen pants while a swimming costume is essential for hot days and lazy nights spent in the Jacuzzi with cocktail in hand. Hot days spent in the sun are usually followed by chilly nights; with the only thing keeping you warm is an open air boma fire, so a warm jacket, socks and a scarf are also good items to pack in your suitcase.
A pair of comfortable, closed shoes will serve you well on safari as you will walk, horse ride and live in these shoes. Quick drying hiking shoes work best while a pair of sandals or flip-flops is ideal to give your feet a break when lounging around the lodge. Make sure your shoes are fool-hardy as even back at the lodge, surfaces can be uneven and difficult to navigate – no heels are necessary!
While jewellery, handbags and the like are not necessary, accessories like sunglasses and a cap or wide brimmed hat will come in handy. Much of the day will be spent out in the sun looking for animals, and these items will help keep you cool and comfortable.
One of the first things you should pack before embarking on your safari is your camera. Make sure you hire/find/buy a great camera with multiple lenses as often animals can be far away and simple point and shoots just won’t cut it. Don’t forget to pack extra batteries, memory cards and charging cables for your camera as well as a hard drive or computer to empty your pictures on to at the end of the day. You won’t want to be caught without your camera, when it comes to this department – you can never pack too much!
Binoculars are also essential and it is wise to pack one pair per person as even animals and birds that are in close range can look that much more amazing through binoculars. The wildlife can also come and go in a flash so you will want your own pair instead of waiting for your turn to catch a glimpse at an endangered animal. A flashlight is a wise idea if you are staying at a tented lodge or a lodge with different chalets as the walk back to your tent after dinner can be a dark and scary one with no light.
It is also wise to take books, an iPad or a kindle to read in the down time between game drives while bird books are wise to identify any species you may spot at the reserve. For those travelers that always need to be on the go, try taking a pack or cards or a board game to keep you busy when everyone else goes off for their afternoon nap.
A waterproof bag is also a wise idea if you plan on doing any river safaris particularly in wetland areas such as the Okavango Delta or the St Lucia Wetlands in the Kwa Zulu Natal region of South Africa. Even if you don’t plan to get wet a waterproof bag is a good idea as it will come in handy in the rain or in very dusty areas. Last but not least don’t forget to pack cash as not all safari lodges in Africa expect cards!
In addition to your standard suitcase, try packing a backpack instead of an ordinary hand luggage bag. Backpacks are great to house your water, camera and a wind jacket when out on safari and a backpack will come in handy particularly if you plan to do a walking, horse riding, and mountain biking or quad biking safari.