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What to Bring on An African Safari: 6 Tips to Pack Your Bag

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On safari in Kruger National Park, South Africa

On safari in Kruger National Park, South Africa

You have booked your dream African Safari and now find yourself staring at your travel bag, wondering what to pack. How much do you need to take with you? What type of clothing and what colors are appropriate for the bush?

Packing your suitcase for a safari adventure can be intimidating, and many online packing guides complicate matters with a seemingly endless list of essential items. This can be challenging when confronted with the luggage weight restrictions of light aircraft flights to remote destinations. Here is a simple guide to show you not only what to pack but how.

1. Just Get Started

Packing for a continent and experience you know little about can be daunting and begs  the question of where to start. Consider the number of days you will be on safari, whether you will be extending on a city or beach escape and what essentials or perhaps even comfort items you simply must take with you. Lay it all out, then one by one, start packing.

2. Pack Light

This is a two-fold consideration in that packing light can refer to the color and style of clothing and the number of items you bring. With a focus on color, preference should be given to tans and beiges, khakis, and other earthy tones as these blend well with the African bush. Steer away from bright colors as reds and yellows make you stand out, especially on a walking safari.

You will want to include short-sleeve shirts and capri pants or shorts, perhaps ones that change from long to short with one unzip. Include a light jacket for the cool evening drives and early morning winter starts, and depending on the time of year, a thin rain slicker can be helpful.

One good pair of walking shoes will suffice, and it does not hurt to throw in a scarf and gloves for those extra cold drives. A sun hat is also essential, ideally one that can fold versus one that must be carried separately.

3. Consider the Luggage Restrictions

Part of the thrill on safari is getting there, and sometimes this requires taking a small aircraft. Luggage restrictions should be considered from the start, as while your international flight will allow larger bags, your domestic flights within Africa may not. Lodge hopping is popular on many safari circuits, and with a total baggage allowance of around 32lbs, inclusive of hand luggage in most cases, it is essential to pack as light as you can.

While some exceptions for weight may be made in some cases, there are strict rules for the style or type of baggage that will be accepted onboard. The aircraft hold is a small space that only accommodates soft-sided bags, so duffel bags are often the best choice. Porters and assistants throughout your adventure will be on hand to assist, adding that extra bit of comfort to your overall experience.

4. Consider Your Destinations

Your packing may come down to what it is you are planning on experiencing, safari alone, or discovering more of your destination. If you plan to simply spend a few days in the African bush, perhaps moving from lodge to lodge or enjoying one reserve, your light-packing luggage will undoubtedly suffice.

If combining more of your surroundings, you may be looking for a little more packing room. Many ground handlers in Africa will offer to store your more oversized luggage in their hubs while transferring your belongings to smaller bags for your safari. Conveniently, most lodges provide a laundry service, so keeping things to a minimum really is possible, no matter where your journey takes you.

5. Pack for a Purpose

We all know that going on safari fills your soul and leaves you feeling enriched and enlightened. There is the opportunity to take that joy to the next level by way of giving back and this comes in many forms. Safari properties often work with certain organizations and communities on well-thought out projects and can provide lists of specific needs for travelers looking to support the local communities.

Some pre-requested items can be brought from home while in some cases there is the option to purchase supplies locally. When planning your safari, just ask and the relevant information will be provided. This would mean leaving that little extra room in your luggage for items you choose to take to Africa and for those exquisitely-crafted souvenirs you will be bringing back, remembering weight and airline restrictions.

6. Don’t Worry about Forgetting Things

Most safari itineraries will involve a layover in one of Africa's entry cities, a good place to stock up on anything you may be missing. If time does not allow for a quick stop, take comfort in knowing that most lodges and tented camps will have a small shop that will hold key items you may need. Depending on where you go on your safari, the city may also be where you will meet up with your guide for your journey for an ideal time to learn a bit more about your destination allowing you time to secure any additional items.

Your Simple Packing List

For a quick snapshot, the following would be a standard packing list for anyone going on an African safari.

  • High-SPF sunscreen
  • Sunhat or baseball cap
  • Comfortable lightweight clothes of neutral colors, including tshirts, jeans, khaki or linen pants, lightweight long-sleeved shirts, bathing suits, personal garments etc. Avoid camouflage or military inspired clothing
  • Comfortable closed shoes. Good walking shoes are ideal, boots are not necessary
  • First aid and toiletries
  • A light fleece or sweater for the evenings
  • Insect repellent
  • Scarf, gloves and beanie for the cold mornings
  • Camera and binoculars
  • Books, card games, or other leisure activities
  • Your Zicasso safari specialist will provide a list of needed vaccinations, passport information, recommended travel insurance, credit cards, cash and more

The packing guideline really is simple and hopefully a relief to discover that you need a lot less than you thought. Remember that while you are heading into the wilderness, you are on a fully-guided experience, and everyday essentials can be sourced locally if need be. If it happens to rain, you will be covered as lodges and camps plan for the occasional downpour and provide ponchos and umbrellas just in case.

Your camps and lodges also provide insect repellent, and some offer sunscreen too. Hairdryers can be requested, and it is important to note that voltage in Africa differs from that in North America, so leave your favorite styling electronics at home. From luxury toiletries to slippers and gowns and personalized water bottles, depending on where you stay, you will want for nothing.

Your Safari Specialist is Ready to Help

Packing for your safari can be an exciting and stress-free step in preparing for your journey with the right information and tips on hand. Learn more about what to expect in our Africa Safari Guide, and explore sample safari itineraries for more inspiration. Whatever your safari needs, your Zicasso safari specialist is a destination expert and ready to answer your questions to help you find the right destination for you. Ready to start planning? Fill out a Trip Request, or call our team at 1-888-265-9707.

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