In the Bag: What to Pack on Safari

Safaris can be the most incredible experiences for a nature lover. It is a style of holiday and travel unlike any other. Let’s look at what you should be bringing along (hint: it’s not khaki).

Packing for safari

Do Your Research

As someone who has lived several years of her life in Africa, I have some insider knowledge to share: Africa is big (I know, stop the presses). Seriously though, it’s over 30 million square kilometers – ignore its appearance on world maps, by the way. It’s in the middle, so it gets squashed when the sphere is flattened out. You could fit both the US and Canada in there with room to spare.

And there are 54 countries, each with its own climate and wildlife. So going on an “African Safari” can mean any number of things. Which country will you be going to? What time of year? Will it be Winter or Summer? Does the country even have a Winter and Summer, or just Wet and Dry seasons?

The better prepared you are, the better you can pack!

Layers

Yet more insider Africa knowledge (please, hold your applause). Most of Africa can be flipping freezing at one time or another. Sure, it can be scorching hot, too, but that’s widely known.

Your research should have told you whether you will be visiting during summer or winter, wet season or dry. Generally, however, you will be looking at a temperature change during the daytime.

T-shirts, button down shirts or flannel shirts, and a fleece or jersey are a good combo. Thin fabrics are great, as they can make the layering more comfortable. You should bring more t-shirts than anything else, as you can re-wear the upper layers more often before needing to do laundry.

Light fabrics also allow you to wear long trousers and sleeves with comfort. This is great, as it keeps you from getting sunburned and mosquito-bitten.

If you are traveling to a humid or wet place, I would strongly advise against taking jeans, or anything too tight fitting. Go for something comfy and quick-drying instead – check your local outdoor apparel store if you’re stuck for options.

Try to make sure that all your layers can mix and match nicely. This will open you up to more outfit choices, and also help with laundry.

Colors

Okay, so you can wear khaki if you really want to. But if you feel pressured to wear it simply because it seems like the Done Thing, think again. Wearing khaki and other natural colors that will help you blend into your surroundings are only necessary if you are going to be walking in the bush. Usually, tours take place from within vehicles, as you can travel further, and be safer near the animals. In which case, you don’t need to worry about blending in.

If you are going on a walking tour, obviously you’ll want to avoid bright colours. Khaki is fine, as are dull greens, browns and taupes. But you still don’t have to do the many-pocketed-vest thing, unless you happen to like them. That ceased to be the expected safari uniform several decades ago.

Very light colors – in fact, any fabric that is easy to stain and hard to wash, while we’re here – should be avoided. Traveling outside all day means risking dirt, dust, or even mud. Be prepared.

If you are in an area with Tstese flies, you should avoid dark clothing, especially blue and black. This attracts the flies, which have a noticeably unpleasant bite.

I have also read that it frowned on in several countries for non-military personnel to wear camo clothing. It is worth checking up on the rules of the country you’ll be visiting beforehand. Even if it’s not a strict rule, it’s nice to be polite.

Shoes

The shoes you bring will be determined by how many different activities you will be doing. For sandals, I would recommend a nice-looking pair that are still comfortable to walk in. These can take some searching for, but their versatility means that they are well worth it.

For a walking tour, you will of course need walking boots. If you are making a special purchase for the trip, make sure to buy them at least a few weeks in advance. You’ll want to wear them in before you leave.

Even if you’re going the vehicular tour route, you should bring a pair of shoes you can walk comfortably in, in case you have a chance to get out and take pictures (For both comfort and safety, stay away from flip flops).

Hats and Sunglasses

Squinting against the sun will not help you look for animals. Hats and sunglasses are a must.

As you will be doing a lot of nature-watching, perhaps consider a pair of sunglasses that don’t change the color of the view too much. A chain or lanyard to keep them around your neck might not go amiss, if you’re going to be traveling on bumpy roads.

Ball caps are fine, but I’d recommend a full brimmed hat for better coverage. Soft safari hats were, of course, made for the purpose, and there are a lot more colour options available than there used to be. Otherwise, try a light straw fedora – just make sure you’ve got it secured against the wind.

Eveningwear

Many lodges, hotels and camping areas are built for luxury. They are there for people on holiday, obviously, so amenities are provided, particularly for the evening (It’s harder to spot the animals after dark).

Not that you need to pack a selection of slinky gowns, unless that’s your thing, but you will probably want something to change into for the evening. Day clothes will get dusty and sweaty, and you can relax more easily in something nice.

Type of bag

… Pretty much anything you like. With a safari, you will likely be traveling straight from the airport to your hotel, lodge or campsite. You won’t be dragging your suitcase behind you down a dirt road, trying to find the right address. So you’re not really limited.

Of course, if you are planning a safari as part of a longer trip, then your needs will be different, but I’m not going to start listing every single type of luggage need right here. I have a word limit…

Interested?

If you’d love a chance to go on Safari yourself,  take a look at the amazing Kenyan Wildlife Paradise tour offered here on Brave Women Travel.

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Kate Downes

Kate is a freelance writer and travel blogger. Some people say it's a tough gig, but she has previously taught high school, worked retail, and been a bartender in London, and would take five thousand words on a deadline any day. You can find more of her work at readlongshorts.com and signedkateelizabeth.com.

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