How to pack for an African safari
Heading out on a safari soon? Congratulations, you’re about to have an incredible time! When we booked our trip, I was clueless about what to pack for an African safari and may or may not have spent quite a bit of time googling about what to bring. Packing for a safari can seem a bit daunting at first, but there’s no need to be stressed. As usual, my past google search has become my latest blog post, so I hope I can save you some time figuring out what should go on your African safari packing list!
In this blog post you’ll find information about safari clothing, safari outfits, what to wear on safari, and what to take on safari. We went on a seven day organized safari with Viva Safaris in Kruger, but you can also choose a self-drive Kruger safari.
Hungry for more South Africa travel tips? Check out these other posts:
- 10 things to do in Cape Town
- Wine tasting in Stellenbosch and Franschoek
- The best Garden Route highlights
What to bring on an African safari: The clothes
To be honest, I was way more worried about what to wear on our African safari than I needed to be. I thought I’d need to wear a safari explorer outfit, but in reality, that wasn’t at all necessary – safari clothing is actually pretty basic!
There was only one morning that we went on a bushwalk – and honestly, that is the only time that what you wear actually matters. The rest of our safari was spent in a covered truck, so I’m really glad I didn’t over invest in a bunch of khaki colored clothing that I’d probably never end up wearing again. I also wore flip-flops during our long drives through Kruger Park, which was completely fine. Don’t overspend on your wardrobe unless you know you’re going to really be out of the safari truck – or unless you have the budget to afford a fabulous Out of Africa look.
A light button-up shirt
You’ll need some type of light blouse for a couple of uses. The first use for a blouse like this is to keep the sun off of your skin while your on a long day of safari. Although it was 40+ degrees (celsius) I wore this Roxy shirt nearly the entire day to keep from getting burned. Complete your safari outfit with a cute lightweight button up like this.
The other maybe not-so-obvious usage (if you’ve never been on safari), is to keep some of the dust off of you. Driving around on safari roads all day you will get very dusty, so wearing a shirt like this can help keep a bit of the grime off.
An olive/army green t-shirt
This item is most necessary if you’re doing a bushwalk. The bushwalk is the time when you want to be careful about what you wear. After all, you wouldn’t want to be drawing the wrong type of attention, right? The colors to wear on safari can range a bit from location to location, but the goal is to fit into the background – no bright colors, no blacks, no dark blues. Just neutral earth tones.
Most important on a bushwalk is that you blend in to your environment, wearing the most neutral colors possible. For our trip to Kruger, wearing an olive colored t-shirt helped solve this problem easily.
I’m a sucker for Uniqlo, so I’d recommend this cotton tee that I wore on our bushwalk. An olive colored shirt is one of the best items of African safari clothes.
Long pants or tights for your bushwalk
When you’re out on a bushwalk you need to make sure that you won’t have your legs exposed – first of all, for protection from the sun, and secondly so that your skin is protected against any sharp bushes.
One of the most important lessons you’ll probably learn on your bushwalk is that you should avoid getting cut at all costs – getting cut could lead to bleeding, and when blood is on the bushes, it could be potentially dangerous for others on a bushwalk days later since predators will be drawn to the smell of blood.
Anyway, definitely DON’T get cut, and to avoid doing so, bring long pants.
If you want a traditional safari look, then go for the khakis – I like these more than traditional safari pants because I think you could actually get use out of them after your safari. Safari wear is actually pretty easy, right?
Again this is most important for a buskwalk if you’ll do one. On all of our game drives I actually ended up wearing my flip-flops – hey, I live in Holland at the moment and there are few times I can actually wear sandals, so I take every chance I can!
Your best bet is to bring a pair of black sneakers – you probably already have these at home, so no need to buy a new pair. These will get you through your bushwalk just fine.
African safari packing list: the gadgets
Wondering what to bring on safari? Then, please, please, please, do not forget to buy binoculars before your safari! There are going to be many times that your guide will spot animals at a distance, and you’re going to want to see them up close and personal. Buying binoculars was our best pre-safari purchase (besides my DSLR which I already had).
A good set of binoculars come in handy on a lot of other trips as well. If I would have had them already, I would have gotten good use out of the when we visited Iceland as well for puffin spotting!
I recommend the Bushnell Perma Focus 7x 50mm Wide Angle Binocular
You’ll want at least 7x50mm for a good view of the animals, or consider 10x50mm for an even better zoom. You really won’t be able to see animals well without binoculars so ensure to add this to your safari packing list.
A great DSLR camera
An African safari is definitely not the trip where you want to use your iPhone camera! Having a good quality DSLR camera is definitely the way to go. I recommend buying the camera body and the lens separately.
My camera/travel companion is the Nikon D5300 24.2 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with Built-in Wi-Fi and GPS Body Only (Black) and Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras.
- The built-in WiFi and GPS are must-haves for me. If you download the Nikon app, you can use it to remotely take photos, and to download your best snaps to your phone. This is ideal for anyone who won’t be traveling with a laptop and wants to send images to their phone — I’m looking at y’all who do it for the ‘gram.
- GPS makes sorting through your pictures on Google photos so much easier, therefore I’d strongly recommend a camera with GPS!
Lens wipes for your camera
I can’t tell you how freaking dusty my camera got after long days out on safari. You’ll be dusty, and everything you bring with you on safari will also be dusty!
Be sure to clean your camera lens properly, with wipe specifically designed for camera lenses – you wouldn’t want to damage your camera lens. Camera lens wipes are really some of the best things to take on safari, and something that I tend to forget before traveling, but they are so useful.
A power adapter
A power adapter is one of the items I almost ALWAYS forget! While we were en route to our safari I actually picked one up at a road side stop. In many of the hotels you stay in (in South Africa at least), there may already be a European power adapter, which worked fine for us, but still, many hotels just only had South African power outlets. This is a definite must have on your safari packing list.
Be sure to buy a power adapter ahead of time so you won’t find yourself rushing off to buy one before you head out on safari – once you’re out there, it might be pretty tough to find anything you are missing!
Admittedly, we didn’t need one as our safari camp was lit, but you should definitely pack a flashlight just in case there will be a long walk to your tent at night – especially if your camp is open, you’re going to want to know if there are any eyes watching you 😉 It might seem strange, but I found a flashlight super handy to add to my safari packing list.
How to pack for an African safari: the basics
No packing list would be complete without a short list of the basics that we all tend to forget while we’re packing our bags.
Normally I’m not a fan of DEET, but any time you are in an area with a potential malaria risk, you’re going to need to get insect repellant with DEET. Since Kruger Park is technically in a malaria zone, you’re going to need insect repellant with DEET. Don’t head out on your safari without adding bug repellant to your safari packing list.
Chances are that when you’re on safari, you’ll be in a covered vehicle, but that doesn’t mean the African sun won’t still find its way to burning your skin! You definitely need to add sunblock to your safari packing list. Safari days are long, and you might be outside for 6-7 hours. Be sure to pack a strong sunblock – my favorite is always 50spf #fearofwrinkles
I’d recommend Sun Bum because it spreads like lotion and has the smell of vacation 🙂
This is one you’re going to need to go to your doctor for. Check ahead of time to find out if the area you are visiting is a malaria zone and plan accordingly! If you take malarone, don’t forget to start your tablets before you leave, and to finish your 7 days of tablets after you leave the malaria zone. Always read the instructions carefully and follow doctor’s orders 😉
Did I miss anything? If so, let me know in the comments below and I will add it into this post!
Did this help figure out what to pack for an African safari? Let me know as well!
Looking for more adventures in South Africa? Consider these other outdoor activities:
- Hike the beautiful Robberg Peninsula in Plettenburg Bay
- Climb to the top of the awe-inspiring Table Mountain
- Get incredible views of the ocean from Lion’s Head
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Gabby is a native (Northern) Californian who spent the majority of her 20’s living the expat life in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, exploring Europe and beyond. 27 countries later, she’s relocated back to her home base in California where she explores her passions for the travel and the outdoors.
Really well written safari packing list. I love it how you’ve included the basics and the specific things needed for a safari! Couldn’t agree more that it’s best to carry everything including the malaria pills. I wouldn’t be concerned with good hotels but certainly if one heading to local markets.
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