Packing for Safari

Even though none of us are going anywhere for now, today we’re continuing with the self-drive safari series of posts. You now know how to book your safari, how to get there, and what to think about with planning the physical aspect of being on your self-drive safari; but now, you need to have a think about how to pack for this. 

Seeing as I’ve been on quite a number of safaris and travels to Africa, I thought I would give you some idea as to what you should bring, and maybe I’ll create a PDF in the future that you can use as a packing list. 

In terms of what to bring, there are a number of different things I like to think about, for starters, how much baggage I want with me and how long I’m going for; it’s also important to think about the time of year you’re going. People seem to forget, that even when on holiday, you can still do laundry, which in the end means your bag will end up a lot lighter. For our safari, we went during the winter (Southern hemisphere winter is from June – August); which means that when the sun’s not up, it can be pretty cold. I’ve experienced temperatures as low as 3°C on one of my visits there, which is pretty cold when you’re not prepared for it. So, what would I advise? I would pack for maybe 3 – 5 days, with plans to wash your clothes. This means you will have a lot more space in your bag and it will weigh a lot less. Last year, we overpacked quite a bit as it was my boyfriend’s first time travelling and I wanted to be sure he would be comfortable, but next time, I think we’ll go a bit lighter. I have also travelled to Cape Town with just a 25-litre backpack, but I was going to visit my best friend, so I didn’t have to take toiletries with me, however there are ways to be light with that too. 

The basic gear – 2 shorts, 2 shirts, fleece, hat, binoculars and head torch.

So here I will include a table of a starter packing list, you are always able to add things you think you’ll need, or take things off that you think you don’t, but these are the basics that I feel would comfortably get you through a 10 day to 2 week safari.

ClothesOuterwearToiletriesFirst aid
3 x t-shirts1 x winter coat (if going in winter)Soap/bodywashplasters & blister plasters
2 x safari shirts1 x rain coatShampoo & conditionerwound wipes/disinfectant (TCP/Detol)
3 x shorts1 x cap/wide-brimmed hatToothbrush, toothpaste & flossParacetamol (& neurofen)
2 x trousers1 x winter hatHairbrush & hairbandsMalaria tabs (ask GP/travel nurse)
2 x PJs1 x flip-flops (good for in the shower)DeodorantOther meds you’re taking/might need
1-2 fleeces1 x walking bootsMoisturiser, lip balm & hand creamAloe vera/Aftersun
5 x underwear and socks1 x trainerssun cream & insect-repellentAntihistamines & antihistamine cream (good for bug bites)
A better picture of the clothes without the hat – notice the colour theme here. I will usually have a couple more shirts and shorts, and obviously PJs and other things, but I wanted to give an idea of the colours and very basic items
Notice how sturdy my walking boots are – you really don’t want a 2 inch acacia thorn going in your foot on a bush walk!

So, as you can see, this table is fairly basic and it’s pretty much everything you would need clothes, toiletries, and first aid wise. You may feel you need to take more, but I’m going to put another table here for other things you might want to think about bringing:

Other things to consider bringing
Camera + lenses (I use a Canon 7D mike and 100-400mm lens with a 1.4x extender) (& charger with a couple spare batteries)Water bottle (we use reusable bottles as you can drink the water in the Kruger, but you can also buy bottled water from the shop)
Binoculars (really important if doing lots of bird watching/trying to find animals)Cool bag (keeps food a bit better in the daytime heat)
Mammal bookHeadphones, phone and charger (you’d be surprised how many people forget these)
Bird book Laptop (& charger, for downloading photos)
Laundry detergent (I use Dr Bronners’ which has 21 uses, so I could use it as a body wash and shampoo too if I really want to save space)Passport & travel documents (take photocopies of ID, insurance etc, and give a copy to a relative/close friend) – again, surprising but people do forget these & wallet with local currency in cash in case card machine isn’t available.
Glasses (if needed) & sunglassesLeatherman or swiss army knife (I carry both because I have them)
Extension lead & converter plug (SA uses 3 round-pin plugs)Very importantly a torch/headtorch (or both) It gets dark! Very dark!!
My rather messy, but functional camera bag. I also take my laptop, chargers and other electricals in this bag as it is my carry-on usually.
I have quite a few mammal and bird books for southern Africa, these two are probably the best in terms of layout and ease of use. You can find a range of books in all of the gift shops in the park if you don’t want to buy any before your trip.

Something to think about with clothes is the colour of them. If you’re in a car, any colour is fine, but at the camps you can book on to different activities, one of which is a bush walk. When you’re on a bush walk, you want to try and be as inconspicuous as possible. The best colours to wear in the bush are greens, browns and lighter greys, with beiges also being acceptable. 

To make your bag easy to find things in, I would strongly suggest using packing cubes. You can easily find them on amazon, and they come in sets in a range of different sizes. You can organise your things into tops, bottoms, outerwear, shoes, or anything you want. 

Some additional items to think about would be a reading book or two, there are no TVs and internet is very limited. You may also want to bring a sketch book if you like to draw or anything else to entertain yourself in your down time. You can have as much or as little down time as you like as you are in charge of your self-drive, just as long as you’re not out of the camp past the time they shut the gates. 

As I discussed in my previous post about helping the environment, when it comes to everything you’re bringing with you, make sure that everything is as eco-friendly as you can possibly make it so that you do not impact the local environment so heavily with any items you may get rid of before returning home. 

I may create a downloadable PDF packing list so that you can refer to it on each of your safari or wildlife holidays. Generally this packing list is what I would use wherever I go in the world, I would just adjust the items I’m taking to better suit the climate I would be going to. 


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