Higher end safari lodges will usually do same-day laundry for you, meaning that you can pack very little.  Which is just as well, since many safaris include chartered flights that restrict luggage to soft bags adhering to strict weight limits.  Nevertheless, there are some essentials to be sure to take with you – most of which you likely already have in your closet.  Here is The Whistletrip’s packing cheat sheet.

  • Clothes:  More underwear than outfits!  Even some luxury camps will not touch your smalls for cultural reasons, so take as many as you will need for the duration of your trip.  Check whether your lodge has a swimming pool – many do and the lunch break is long enough for a dip and laying out.  Long sleeve trousers and shirts are “musts” even in the summer time to keep sunburn and mosquitoes at bay.  Lodge operators suggest sticking to neutral colors or khaki – exactly the right advice for shirts, but unless you opt for a walking safari (a wonderful experience!) you will be sitting in a vehicle all day, for which comfortable jeans  and dark yoga pants work fine.  Light jackets – ideally waterproof – and warm sweaters are needed for morning and evening drives, which are chilly year-round.
  • Shoes:  Take flip flops for the lodge swimming pool but wear walking or work-out shoes during safari.  Getting in and out of the tall vehicle is easier this way – and flimsy open-toed shoes will not feel great when wading out into the bush for a toilet break.
  • Accessories:  You will need a hat and sunglasses – there is very little shade.  Hair ties are useful – you do pick up speed as you race to an exceptional animal sighting and get easily windswept.
  • First Aid:  Lodges and vehicles have comprehensive first aid kits on hand, so you will only need your personal medications.  I avoid checking bags whenever I can so instead of packing sunscreen and strong insect repellent – both of which you will need to have – I buy  these at the airport pharmacy immediately after landing.
  • Gizmos:  It really is worth investing in an SLR camera or at least one with good zoom.  You don’t need to buy lots of complicated lenses, but there is a noticeable difference in the quality of long-range shots taken on a real digital camera as opposed to an iPhone – yes, even the latest model! – particularly when the animals are on the move.  Binoculars?  Definitely not if you opt for private drives as the ranger will pass you theirs – and if you are in a group vehicle, just sit in the front row and the same will probably happen!

Plan your safari:  see Sabi Sand & Kruger National Park: 4 Nights on South African Safari

© The Whistletrip