Once you have selected your African safari, and the trip has been confirmed, that's when the "So, what exactly do I pack for a safari?" question comes up.
One of the biggest issues when deciding what to pack for a safari is the weight and size of your luggage. The small-plane flights that take guests from camp to camp, or back to your starting point have strict limits on both. The pilots will often be the ones to load the luggage in the hold, and soft sided bags are necessary in order to squeeze and push your belongings into the small cargo space.
It's imperative that the planes be balanced out for safety, so even a passenger's weight is calculated in.
Luckily most camps that you fly into will also offer laundry services as well as a full range of shampoo and soap. The key phrase here on safari is "dress-down" -- a safari is also not a fancy affair by any means, and even the most luxurious camps will not expect you to dine in anything fancier than khaki pants and shirt.
You truly can survive with enough clothes to last you 3 days and plan on getting your clothing laundered. Nearly every camp or lodge will offer same-day service… or you can even buy quick dry clothes like I do.
Baggage on safari should be carefully considered. One soft-sided bag and one camera bag per person is recommended, weighing not more than 20kg to 35kg depending on where you are going. You may have to pay for an extra seat on a charter flight if the luggage is heavier than the allotted weight requirement. Remember… This allowance includes camera equipment.
Days on safari are generally hot and call for shorts and t-shirt. In the mornings and evenings, long-sleeved shirts and pants are better and will also protect you from mosquitoes. For those sensitive to the sun, a loose cotton shirt is a good bet during the day, as is sunscreen.
For colder mornings, layering clothing helps keep you warm and is a convenient way to ensure you’re wearing what you need as the day heats up. Some lodges have a dress code, but this is quite liberal, with some restrictions on shorts and swimsuits in the evening.
Dull and/or neutral colours are suggested and suitable for safari; you want to blend in as much as possible with nature… and It is best to pack hardy, durable clothing.
Many of the luxury lodges we recommend to clients have everything you might need, so you don’t need to worry too much – just about the basics and any private items you can’t do without.
Here is a Safari Checklist - What To Take
Sun block, sunglasses, wide brimmed hat, lip balm with an SPF of at least 15
Blouses/ shirts with long sleeves (even in summer, they will protect you from the sun and from mosquitoes)
Khaki, green, beige and neutral colours
T-shirts; shorts or a light skirt; cotton pants or safari trousers for evenings and cooler days
Fleece or sweater and a warm jacket for game drives (necessary, even in summer)
Sandals or rubber thongs (for showers and boats, not for general use in the bush as you’re going to want to protect your feet from poisonous snakes, thorns and rocky terrain.
Jeans or safari trousers for evenings and cooler days
Comfortable hiking or walking shoes
Light, compact raincoat is a good idea for the summer
Swimsuit, as most hotels and lodges have swimming pools
I Also Recommend
Tissues (for when the dust gets up your nose on a game drive)
Insect repellent and malaria tablets, depending on where you’re going
The Nitty Gritty
Credit and ATM cards – check to see if your bank has international ATM locations to avoid high fees, and let your bank know you’ll be traveling abroad before you leave
Evacuation Travellers insurance
Passport and photocopies of passport kept in a separate bag
Photograph of luggage contents in case of loss
Printouts of reservations
Inoculation certificate – remember, if travelling to Zambia or East Africa, you need to have a yellow fever inoculation (no less than 10 days prior to travel) and will need to have a certificate/card as proof when entering the country. Consult with your local travel clinic.
You need a DSRL camera to take on safari in Africa, and a backup camera.
You need a good telephoto zoom lens with a reach of at least 400mm.
You need a wider lens for photographing landscapes, which are often just as interesting as the animals. I use 24-70mm as my main lens when we travel, also in Africa. If you like really wide landscape pictures, you may want an even wider lens, like 16-35mm or 17-40mm.
If you have a regular DSRL camera without the full frame sensor, you’ll probably need a lens of at least 18-55mm for regular landscape shots and one from 10-18mm for wide-angle photography.
You will need a tripod to photograph animals and landscapes in low-light conditions (morning or evening) at the waterholes.
Take more than enough batteries and memory cards when traveling to Africa – at least twice as much as for a regular trip. Charging batteries might not always be possible (certainly if you are camping) and you won’t find many places selling batteries or memory cards
Ready, set, start packing for your next safari!
Read about my next safari here, https://www.kevinpepperphotography.com/2019-tanzania-photo-safari-in-april