Part of the excitement of a trip comes in the preparation and planning beforehand. Knowing what to pack for your first safari can be a challenge, though.
To make it easier, our Africa experts have compiled a comprehensive list of what to pack for a safari. With this list, you can avoid those 'I wish I had this with me' or 'why did I bring all of these' moments...
The sometimes erratic weather conditions can make packing for a safari a challenge. One thing to remember is that despite the potentially scorching temperatures during the day, the early mornings and evenings can be surprisingly chilly, so it’s a good idea to bring trousers and a warm jumper or fleece. Layers are always good in cooler weather. A light but warm down body-warmer jacket that can be compacted down is a must for early and game drives during the African winter, which is when most of our safaris take place.
Windbreakers and waterproof rain jackets are equally as important for rainy and windy days. For the glorious sunshine, be prepared with a wide-brimmed hat. The power of the sun’s rays shouldn’t be underestimated and you’ll want something to cover your face, ears and neck. Another item which isn’t necessarily a given but can come in handy is a bandana or headscarf. You’ll be able to protect your head, neck, and let’s face it, you’ll look cool.
Pack light – if ever there was a time to travel light, it’s on a safari. Make travelling to and from the lodges as seamless as possible by just taking the essentials: you don’t want to get caught out with luggage weight restrictions and charges. You will definitely need polarised sunglasses (another tip: for those with contact lenses it’s a good idea to take standard glasses on account of the dust). Finally, don’t forget a swimming costume for the plunge pool!
Dress comfortably – stay cool in the afternoon sun with light fabrics and just be aware that you’ll want to dress as comfortably as possible for the long days out. Changeable lengths and sizes is also a good idea: for example, shirts that will protect shoulders from the sun but also have sleeves that can be rolled up, or longer trousers that can convert into capris.
There’s a lot of talk around what colours to wear on safari. In reality, you can wear any colour although many people do stick to the traditional beige, khaki and olive. Lighter colours will help you stay cool, so a white shirt – although it may get muddy – wouldn’t go amiss. If you’re in doubt, speak to your travel designer.
Aim for high quality shirts and trousers appropriate for safaris. We recommend the new BUGTech range that have effective insect repellent embedded in the fabric. Most lodges have no problem with safari gear or informal wear for dinner – that’s part of the charm! – but if you’re heading somewhere very upscale, you might want to pack a shirt or two for men or a summery dress for women.
For photography fanatics, the question of what camera equipment to take will not be a hard one to address. However, for those who want to take some good safari snaps but are not following the latest photography trend, do not fear. Now, smartphones are all you need with you.
The skeptics who resist believing that a smartphone is capable of capturing amazing wildlife shots, can check out this blog entry from one of our favourite safari camp companies, Londolozi. Our particular favourite is the very clever image of the leopard through the binoculars.
Let’s not forget the importance of the ‘selfie’ either. There are prime selfie moments on safari, as our Jacada travel experts, Byron and George (left) can prove. Another great gadget to consider for a safari is the GoPro. Document your safari with this little lightweight (and waterproof) camera, that can take videos as well as stills.
Why? Handy to take out unwanted thorns.
Why? As soothing as the sounds of Mother Nature can be, there will be times where you’ll want to get your uninterrupted rest before an early wake-up call.
Why? You won’t always have access to soap and for the occasional pitstop, you might be grateful for a little bottle of antibacterial gel.
Why? Again, these will be useful when you just want to freshen up, whether it’s wiping dust off your face or just cleaning your hands.
Sunscreen & Insect repellent
Why? These two are necessities and you’ll need a substantial amount of both as you’ll get through them quicker than you think. Opt for gels and sprays as opposed to creams or lotions, as they’re mess-free and easier to apply. Remember that the bottles should be travel-friendly and not too strong or overpowering in scent.
Torch: Torches (flashlights) are great for children and adults alike for evenings at the camps. Despite the fact that the guides will have torches and that the area will be well lit, a torch is just an extra bit of comfort if you wake in the night or just want more light. Here’s a great one our experts wouldn’t travel without.
Binoculars: Again, the majority of the time on Jacada tours there will be a spare set of binoculars on the vehicle. This being said, your own pair of binoculars is something you’ll cherish on the trip and will not want to leave the lodge in the morning without. We recommend a magnification of at least 8×30.
Batteries & Chargers: This sounds like we’re stating the obvious, but things like torches will depend on an extra set of batteries, as cameras will depend on their chargers. You wouldn’t want to be up-close and personal to any of the Big Five and have not have your camera fully charged and at the ready. A great tip here is to take a fully charged back-up powerbank – these can be small and compact and yet hold a lot of charge for recharging on the go without access to powerpoints. They often come with multiple adaptors to charge all your devices.
Luggage: You’ll want to take manageable luggage with you. Luggage that will not require too much effort to carry across difficult terrain and that will respect the various guidelines and restrictions. With this in mind you may want to avoid rigid, wheeled cases and go for something relatively compact and adaptable to your modes of transport.
If you need any more information about packing for your safari, our Africa experts are always available to help and to offer destination-specific advice.