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Packing for Your Safari

Safari Packing

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Packing for a safari can be a real challenge as you have figure out how to fit your camera equipment, binoculars, medications, as well as various layers of clothing in a duffel bag that ideally will weigh around 30 pounds! Many of our clients find the challenge leaves them somewhat dumbstruck – here’s a wonderful blog from Yvette’s client who solved her dilemma (and left room for souvenirs) with a nice yellow bag from Eagle Creek and some packing tips from us!

Why Are The Luggage Restrictions on Safari So Strict?

The small flights that often take guests from camp to camp have strict luggage limits in place  because the pilots are the ones who often have to put the guests’ luggage in the hold. They need you to bring soft sided bags in order to squeeze and push your belongings into the small cargo space as the planes have to be carefully balanced out for safety. 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. A safari is also not a “dressy” affair and even the most luxury camps will not expect you to dine in anything fancier than khaki pants and shirt. So you can really survive with enough clothes to last you 3 days and just get your laundry done. Most camps or lodges offer same-day service.

city-hall-cape-town.jpgIf you have been shopping in Cape Town before you start your safari there are baggage services than can fly your bag safely to  Johannesburg or any other airport, for you to pick up after your safari. Most charter companies will keep your excess luggage for free while you are on safari – you just have to make sure you are returning to the airport you left your luggage at! If you are a keen photographer or just cannot quite figure out how to pack light, you can always look into renting a lens locally (very affordable in South Africa) or buy an extra seat for your excess camera equipment.

The Basics ….

  • Wear comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting dusty
  • Avoid bright colors and white (Tsetse flies love bright colors and the animals you want to see don’t)
  • Avoid camouflage clothing resembling army uniforms
  • Bring a good sunhat with a chin strap to avoid losing it (you’ll likely be in open vehicles)
  • Bring clothes for just three days (laundering is usually available and things dry fast in the sun)
  • Bring a swimsuit, many lodges and camps have swimming pools
  • Pack light in soft, small-medium bags (small aircraft cannot accommodate suitcases)
  • Don’t invest in expensive new luggage, it will get dusty and bumped about
  • During the dry season (winter months from May – August) dress in layers, the early mornings and evenings can be quite chilly on safari in an open vehicle.

The Detailed List … Clothes for Women

  • 4 t-shirts
  • 2 long sleeve shirts
  • 1 sweatshirt/fleece
  • 1 pair of comfortable shorts
  • 2 pairs of cotton trousers/pants
  • 1 cotton wrap (great to wear during the afternoon siesta, buy locally if you can)
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • 4 pairs cotton underwear (you can wash and dry overnight)
  • 3 sports bras (VERY bumpy roads)
  • Very thin waterproof raincoat if traveling during the wet season
  • Sunglasses (for the dust as well as bright sun)
  • Flannel pajama pants for the chilly nights
  • Hat with chin strap (to avoid it blowing off your head and into the bush)
  • Swimsuit
  • Lightweight, durable, waterproof shoes
  • Flip flops or sandals for around camp, (or to wear in the shower)

Clothes for Men

  • 4 t-shirts
  • 2 long sleeve shirts
  • 1 sweatshirt/fleece
  • 1 pair of comfortable shorts
  • 2 pairs of cotton trousers/pants
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 4 pairs underwear (you can wash and dry overnight)
  • Flannel pajama pants for the chilly nights
  • Very thin waterproof raincoat if traveling during the wet season
  • Sunglasses (for the dust as well as bright sun)
  • Hat with chin strap (to avoid it blowing off your head and into the bush)
  • Swimsuit
  • Lightweight, durable, waterproof shoes
  • Flip flops or sandals for around camp, (or to wear in the shower)

Toiletries/First Aid
Every camp or lodge will have a basic first aid kit on hand, and most safari vehicles will too. But it’s handy to bring your own small supply of hand gel, band aids, aspirin etc…

  • Malarial prophylactics
  • Sunscreen (Factor 30 or above)
  • Antihistamine (for bug bites/stings and allergic reactions)
  • Aspirin/Motrin/Tylenol for pain/headaches
  • Mosquito Repellant
  • 3 one gallon ziplock bags (to keep things like your camera dry or free of dust and your dirty clothes separate)
  • Tampons/Sanitary Pads for women
  • Antiseptic gel (handy for washing your hands when there’s no water around)
  • Anti-diarrheal medication
  • Band aids with antiseptic cream
  • Personal toiletries are available at all luxury camps and lodges but bring a favorite if you want to
  • Prescription medications
  • Spare glasses if you wear contacts (just in case it is dusty which can make it uncomfortable)

Gadgets and Gizmos

  • Converter plug to fit local sockets so you can recharge your phone, camera battery, i-Pad
  • Small Flashlight (when walking to and from your room at night, and to use inside your tent)
  • Camera (with zoom lenses and tripod if you’re serious, but remember the weight restrictions for flights)
  • Extra memory card for your camera (you’ll take more video and photos than you ever thought possible)
  • Binoculars (luxury camps will usually have a spare pair in the safari vehicles for you to use)
  • Spare batteries and/or battery charger (always check to see what the camp has, or safari vehicle)
  • I-Pad or similar device for your books, to store your photos, alarm clock, and sound recording (fun if you have a lot of wildlife around your camp/lodge at night, it gets loud!)
  • Cell phone with local plan (optional, but handy to connect with family/friends back home). Some camps will not have wi-fi, but may have a cell phone connection

Pack For a Purpose

Many safari camps and lodges now support local community initiatives in and around the wildlife parks, reserves and concession areas. Please ask if you can bring any school supplies, medical supplies, clothing or other light objects that will help these projects. There’s a web site you can check out as well – Pack For a Purpose. They have some good suggestions on how to pack these items, as well as lists of specific requests from lodges around Africa.

More Practical Safari Tips …

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