Packing for a safari in Africa, whether it be a photographic or a traditional safari can be a little daunting, particularly if it is your first. It’s all too easy to end up with an abundance of seemingly useful (but in reality useless!) items – trust me, I even took a portable sink plug on my first safari! I don’t know what I was thinking!
But ultimately when it comes to packing for a safari in Africa, I cannot recommend more the notion of packing light. If you are taking a domestic flight directly into the park you are visiting then be aware of your airline’s luggage allowance. Many domestic airlines are very strict on this and allowances can be as little as 15kg for everything (including your hand luggage and camera equipment). Take enough clothing and toiletries to last just a few days; most lodges will have laundry facilities and many will provide you with basic toiletries as well.
Below is my staple packing list for safaris in Africa. Naturally, this may need a little adaption for your personal preferences but I hope this will provide a great starting point for packing for your adventure in Africa.
2 lightweight trousers
1 long sleeve top
1 warm jumper
5 pairs of underwear and socks
1 lightweight warm, compressible jacket
Look for light, comfortable materials when choosing your clothes. Stick with plain, neutral colours such as tan, black and khaki and make sure they are items that can layer if needed. Investing in a good quality compactable down jacket is a must and is perfect for cold mornings and evenings.
1 sandals or flips flops
1 sturdy close-toed shoes
1 casual shoes/trainers
Three pairs are plenty for a safari. Take one pair for lots of walking or more physical activities, one for relaxing and one pair as a bridge between the two.
1 small bottle shampoo/conditioner
Hair-ties (lots as these seem to get eaten by the packing fairy!)
1 small bottle of moisturiser
1 small hairbrush
1 small sun cream
Without a doubt the heaviest part of my bag asides from my camera equipment and very easy to go overboard with. Toiletries are easy to replace so only take travel sized items, and remember to check which items your lodge may already provide so you can avoid packing them altogether.
Face masks – (absolutely essential now!)
Plasters of various sizes
Small bottle of sanitizer
4 Rehydration sachets
Insect repellent (if applicable)
Anti-malarials (if applicable)
Hands up, I confess, I am a walking accident waiting to happen! Therefore, having a basic medical kit is very important for me. The few essentials above are plenty to cover most instances and your lodge will have access to medical help should the rare need arise.
2 padlocks (for bags, suitcases, lockers etc.)
Hat and gloves (for cold early morning and late night drives!)
1 small notebook
Remember less is more and keep it simple when it comes to packing any added extras. Ask yourself “Do you really need it?”
Camera and Lenses
Camera battery (plus spare)
Camera memory card (plus spares)
The bread and butter for so many of us, the part of our packing that we really feel as if we cannot live without. Be ruthless and truly take just what you need. Aside from the weight, consider the value of the technology you end up walking around with. Accidents happen so avoid taking anything unnecessary.
Bank cards + cash (ultimately, most things you can get abroad if you forget it, except if you forget this)
PASSPORT + a copy (you need to get there first right?!)
Insurance (not an item I know – but many people forget this)
Ultimately, you could travel anywhere with just your credit card and passport and it is not the end of the world. Without them, you wouldn’t get further than the airport. Make sure you keep a copy of your passport separately from your actual passport. It is much easier to get replacements issued in an emergency if you do this.
Is there anything you think I’ve missed? Let me know your travel essentials in the comments below!
Photographs and Text by Sophie Brown