Your Africa safari planning needs to be thorough. Before you leave on safari read up on what to pack and you’re sure to get the most out of your experience. One of the most important things is power, you are going to need to charge batteries of some sort and it’s vital to inform yourself on what kind of power the camp has and what plugs or adapters you need in order to be able to plug things in to charge.
After many years of often the same questions, we have compiled this advice for all our clients to read. What to do and not to do, what you should pack and in what, what about money, credit cards and malaria medication.
Our Africa safari planning evolves constantly so if there is another question we have not covered then please let us know.
What to pack for an African safari
Soft-sided travel bags. Whether you are planning on taking a small plane in Africa or joining an organized tour, you better pack light and take a soft-sided duffel bag. Don’t take hard-shell suitcases to Africa, they are not allowed if you need to take a small plane or a group tour. Also, your bags WILL get dirty, so don’t feel embarrassed to take old luggage on a trip to Africa. This is really important for your Africa safari planning.
Light Aircraft. In most safari countries the chances are very good that you will be making use of a light aircraft to get you to the camp. For safety reasons these firms are VERY strict about weight and some, if you are over-weight, will not allow you on board with the additional weight. Think about this before you travel and if you think you will be over the weight limit then get in touch with us for advice.
Camera equipment. Take the very best camera you have and the best telephoto lens you can afford. 200mm is minimum. There is no way you can take nice pictures of the animals with your smart phone. Pack at least 50% more memory cards than for the other trips of similar duration. Always have extra batteries and charge them every time you can. Don’t forget a tripod. It will be of no use during safari rides, but you’ll see animals at the waterholes and other places as well where this will come in handy and a tripod is also idea for those perfect African sunset shots.
Electrical adapters. There is not one standard electrical adapter in Africa, so you should check which one you need depending on where you are going. Here is a short list of a couple of popular African safari destinations and the plugs they use. South Africa and Namibia type D/M. Kenya and Uganda type G. Botswana, Zimbabwe and Tanzania one of the previous two – type D or type G. Research this well for your Africa safari planning.
Binoculars. You cannot go on safari without binoculars. Well, you can, but it’s more fun if you have a pair. Before you go on safari, test the binoculars you want to buy before you go on safari. Get yourself a decent pair that are clear, lightweight and easy to store away in your backpack.
Mosquito repellant with DEET. The safari lodge will no doubt have your beds covered with mosquito nets and will also likely supply “Peaceful Sleep”, the most popular brand currently. Your tent or room will also be protected from insects gaining entry at night but it is useful to have a small supply of your own. Cream is better than aerosol for air travel.
Sunscreen and sun glasses. Really important! The African sun can be harsh and your game drive may only end around 11 in the morning. Even if the vehicle has a cover the reflective sun will burn and Europeans generally have more sensitive skin.
Small backpack is very handy to store all your belongings during long safari rides. Make sure it closes well, otherwise you’ll have sand or dust over everything. A ladies handbag is not suitable and will also possibly pick up some scrapes and scratches.
Drinking water and light snacks. You should always have some drinking water with you. Organized safari rides will often provide water and other drinks and sometimes snacks as well, but you might need to wait till they stop somewhere, so it might be more convenient if you have your own, especially if traveling with children.
Flashlight (always) and/or a headlamp (if camping). You will use a flashlight all the time and a headlamp is extremely helpful when camping. Both of these are very useful whether you are camping or in a luxury lodge it’s worth having one close to hand just in case.
First-aid kit, medication and a good travel insurance are essential for any trip to Africa. If you are prone to car sickness, you may want to take some medication with you. African roads can be really bumpy. Always take medication against diarrhea when you go to Africa and make sure you are up to date with all the vaccinations. Depending on the area, you may need to take malaria pills as well. Check with your local doctor for advice on malaria prophylactics.
Money. If you are coming from the United States, Great Britain or Europe the Euro, Pound and US Dollar are the most widely accepted cash currencies. Some lodges will also accept credit card transactions but do not count on this, check before you leave and have a fair amount of cash on you just in case. Also remember that your guide, driver and lodge staff rely heavily on gratuities and they would prefer these in foreign currency, so, if you feel they deserve a tip please do so. Guides are tipped completely separately of the lodge staff, as management where the staff tip box is and this is divided up between all the employees monthly. This is an important aspect of your Africa safari planning.
What to wear on safari
Don’t pack too many clothes and don’t bother with brand new or special safari-style clothing. In Africa you can wear pretty much anything. And whatever you wear, it will get dirty quite quickly. You’ll get used to it. Most lodges also have a same day laundry service but this service could be limited. Even luxury safari lodges have no dress code so pack clothing that you’re going to be comfortable in.
It can get very cold or hot on safari, so make sure you are well prepared for both. Every time. It’s not because it’s hot when you leave for a ride at 3pm it’s so that you will not be freezing cold on the way back after sunset. Always make sure you have a warm jacket with you and dress in layers. In the mornings, have several items of clothing on that you can take off as the day warms up, these you can put into your backpack until you get back to the lodge. In the evenings it will likely still be quite warm so take a jumper as well as a warm jacket – you will be glad you did as the wind chill factor in the vehicle on the way home can make you very cold.
We advise to wear closed shoes, otherwise your feet will be freezing cold in an open vehicle in the morning or in the evening. It’s also safer for the smaller insects that do sometimes bite. Most safari drives have warm blankets in the car, so don’t be afraid to ask for one if you are cold.
You don’t necessarily need to dress in khaki or light brown tints. Camouflage clothing should be avoided altogether as it’s considered military and is forbidden in some African countries. Wear comfortable clothes, preferably in neutral colors. If you’re planning to do a walking safari then know that you DO NOT WEAR ANY WHITE clothing on a walk in the bush.
Depending on the country and the time of year, ask about Tsetse flies. These are nasty little flying insects that pack a painful bite. To avoid attracting them don’t wear any blue or black clothing – they love these two colors. Hemorrhoid cream is the best solution if they do bite – trust me, years of trying all sorts of things has taught me this is the best solution!
Safari clothing list
Your Africa safari planning should include the following…
– Windproof jacket – if it’s also waterproof then even better
– One or two (fleece) sweaters
– A pair of long pants, trekking pants are best, but jeans will do too
– 1-2 pairs of shorts or convertible pants as they give you more flexibility
– T-shirts or shirts for 7-10 days
– Sun hat
– Closed shoes
– Swimming gear and a sports bra (roads are bumpy and it can cause pain after several hours)
– You may want to pack one smart outfit to wear for dinner, but it’s not really necessary in Africa.
Do’s and Don’ts on safari in Africa.
Be open-minded and flexible. Every safari drive is unique and therefore unpredictable, so try not to stress about the things you cannot control. Sometimes you won’t see much, sometimes you’ll see a lot, sometimes the ride will take longer than expected, and sometimes it will be tougher than expected. Be prepared for warm and for cold, for wind or sun, for mosquitoes and flies, and mostly for a rough ride. While most of the time you will be driving on gravel or sand roads, sometimes the driver might decide to cross a river, drive through the bush, or cross a stone field.
Obey the rules and stay safe. Stay in your car at all times, the rules are there for a good reason. Animals are very well camouflaged and often you don’t see them until it’s too late. Don’t approach the Elephants too closely, don’t make noise, keep your hands and your camera inside the car near the cats, and never stand between a hippo and the water. In fact, hippos are very aggressive and are the most dangerous African animals after mosquitoes, so you don’t want to get them upset.
Ask questions. Most safari guides are very knowledgeable and you can learn a lot about the animals and their behavior.
Ask to stop. You think you see something in the distance, but are not sure, or you want to take yet another picture of a zebra? Don’t be afraid to ask to stop the vehicle – the guides are there to give you the best safari experience.
Take lots of pictures. The first time you see a zebra you’ll probably take 25 pictures of it, the next time – 10, and by the end of the week you’ll hardly notice it. You can always delete the pictures afterwards and only keep the best, but take pictures when you can because you may not get a chance for a better shot.
Always remember, the animals are wild! They will harm you if you disobey the rules that are in place for your own safety. Always ask if you’re not certain.
If you’re looking for a fantastic destination to kick start your experiences in Africa then have a look at Adventure Luangwa.
Need some hints on where to go? Read our blog on The most Stylish Safari Lodges in Africa.