What to pack if you’re going on safari
Written by: Julia Hammond
Planning your first safari can be a little daunting, and with the variety of accommodation options available, deciding what to pack can be difficult. But there’s no need to worry: our guide takes the stress out of knowing what to take and what to leave behind.
Pack clothes in muted colours
No one wants to stick out like a sore thumb because they’ve worn the wrong kind of clothes, but equally you can forget about having to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe in shades of khaki. Bright colours are usually a bad idea – you want to be able to observe the wildlife and not scare them off – so look for clothes in duller tones to maximise your chances of seeing as many animals as possible. Avoid dark clothes too as these will attract bugs and unless you want to spend your entire vacation doing laundry, it’s best to save your whites for another trip as the dust will get everywhere.
Think about the weather
Many safaris will head out before sunrise to ensure that you reach the best spots for game viewing as daylight breaks. There’ll be a chill in the air, so make sure you’ve brought layers to keep you toasty – fleece is great as it will dry quickly should it get wet. At the very least, call ahead and find out if blankets are supplied on your safari truck. Hats and sunglasses are a must – once that tropical sun shows its face, it’s going to get warm very quickly and you’ll need protection from its fierce rays. Most important of all, you’ll need to wear sturdy but comfortable footwear. You’ll need to be able to climb up into that safari vehicle and perhaps down into dusty or muddy terrain, so ditch the high heels and the flip flops on this occasion for something with a thick sole and a good grip.
Take the longest lens you can afford
At some point on your safari, there’ll be a time when you’re glad you had decent photography equipment with you to record that special moment when you happened upon a lioness with her playful cubs or a family of elephants wallowing at a waterhole. This is not the time to try to snap a quick shot with a smartphone – you’ll want a long lens to zoom in and get a close up shot. Pack a beanbag to rest the camera on and minimise the problem of camera shake; you can rest it on the edge of the truck. Don’t bother with a tripod unless you know there are opportunities to take shots at your lodge as you’ll usually only stop for a short time to watch the action before moving on again. You’ll need twice as many memory cards as you think you’ll need and you won’t regret packing a pair of binoculars either.
Take a torch and spare batteries
If you’re not staying in en-suite accommodation during your safari, then you may need to walk to a separate bathroom block at some point in the night. Avoid tripping over tent pegs by packing a small flashlight. You won’t notice the weight, but that light will be worth its weight in gold if it prevents you from stepping in something unpleasant in the dark. You might not have plug sockets in the tent either, so pack plenty of spare batteries for your camera. Cold weather can drain a battery faster than a cheetah chasing after a kill, so err on the side of caution and take more than you think you’ll need.
Deal with dust
In dry season, the vegetation dies back and the animals cluster around water sources making it easy to spot them. But the lack of rain has one distinct disadvantage and that’s dust – and it gets into everything. Protect your valuables by packing a few airtight bags that can be zipped up to keep that pesky dust out.
First aid and toiletries
It’s worth packing a small first aid kit with some basic supplies just in case. Some of the world’s top safari destinations are found in malarial regions, so it’s essential to seek medical advice before you go and ensure you’ve started the right course of anti-malarials in good time. Insect repellent, whether in the form of a spray or wipes, will be crucial in many areas, especially at dusk. If you’re eating al fresco under the stars, you don’t want to ruin the experience because you’ve been attacked by midges and your ankles itch like crazy. Also, it’s worth packing some anti-bacterial wipes to freshen up your grubby hands before lunch if you’re eating on the move.