by Vika
July 21, 2023

The ultimate guide to packing for an African safari adventure!

Are you ready to embark on an African safari? It is an exhilarating experience filled with breathtaking landscapes, diverse wildlife, and captivating cultures.

However, to properly enjoy the experience, you need to be prepared. What you pack will make all the difference on your safari. Pack wisely and be prepared for the unique conditions you may encounter.

Protect yourself: In the African wilderness, there are unique risks and dangers, but with the right preparation, you can easily minimize these risks and they won’t ruin your experience.

Pack only what is necessary: Traveling through the African wilderness can be challenging, so make sure you’re not carrying a big bag with excess weight and your luggage won’t become a burden.

Enjoy your safari: Ultimately, all the preparations you make are to ensure you have a good time (which is the main aim of this article!) 😄

Included in this guide is some information about luggage, a comprehensive packing list, including clothing, footwear, accessories, health & safety, and other miscellaneous items to take with you, as well as some general tips to consider when you’re preparing for your trip.

Disclaimer: Your packing needs may vary depending on the specific location, season, and activities planned for your African safari. We advise you to research the destination thoroughly and consult with your tour operator or safari lodge for any specific packing requirements.

Luggage for an African safari

The size and type of your luggage is more important than you may realize when embarking on a safari trip. Having the appropriate luggage can really make your trip more comfortable.

Make sure you know the specific luggage restrictions for each of your flights. While international flights may offer generous baggage allowances, smaller aircraft that connect you to remote safari destinations often impose strict limitations on weight and size.

The permitted weight allocation may vary slightly depending on your destination, but typically falls between 15 and 20 kg (33 and 44 lb) per person. This usually does not include camera equipment, handbags, and additional carry-on items. And yes, they do sometimes check, so it's wise to pack as lightly as possible for a seamless and stress-free journey. If you really can’t choose what to bring - you can book additional luggage beforehand via your safari expert - or pay the extra fee directly to the airline at the airport. Prices vary per airline and route - but generally are between $2 and $5 per additional kilo.

The choice of luggage is equally important as the weight considerations. Hard-shell cases are generally not recommended for safari travel, as soft-shell bags are typically required for transportation on smaller aircraft.

Also important to realize is the size limit of the safari car. Hard-case luggage is harder to pack and takes up more space. Especially when traveling with a group of 4 to 6 people per car, this means it will not be possible to fit in 6 hard case suitcases - where 6 duffel bags will fit without any worry. A last thing to be mindful of is that there is a lot of moving from location to location on a typical safari - so your hard-case suitcase will very likely run into some dents and scratches along the way.

Certain activities, such as gorilla trekking, may require a sturdy and waterproof backpack. For most safaris, a lightweight, soft-sided duffel bag is the preferred option. If you have a lot of things to pack, some opt to leave the wheeled luggage at home, as the added weight of the luggage can get in the way when every kilogram counts.

Packing list for an African safari

Create your own list from this guide and check off items as you pack them!

  1. Clothing
    1. Lightweight, neutral-colored clothing: Pack breathable, lightweight fabrics like cotton or linen to stay comfortable in the African heat. Opt for neutral colors such as khaki, tan, or olive green to blend in with the environment and minimize disturbances to wildlife.
    2. Long-sleeved shirts and trousers: Protect yourself from the sun, insects, and thorny vegetation by packing lightweight, long-sleeved clothes. They also offer an additional layer of protection in the cooler mornings and evenings.
    3. Sweater or jacket: Although the days may be hot, nights and early mornings can be chilly, particularly in certain regions. Pack a warm sweater or jacket to keep you comfortable in these cooler periods.
    4. Swimwear: Some safari lodges and camps offer swimming pools or water-based activities. Don't forget to pack your swimwear for a refreshing dip or some relaxation at the lodge.
  2. Footwear
    1. Sturdy, closed-toe walking shoes: Invest in comfortable, closed-toe shoes with good traction for walking safaris and game drives. Choose footwear that provides support and protection against uneven terrain and potential encounters with thorns or insects.
    2. Lightweight sandals or flip-flops: Pack a pair of comfortable, lightweight sandals or flip-flops for relaxing at the lodge or camp after a day of exploration.
    3. Socks: Bring a few pairs of moisture-wicking socks to keep your feet comfortable and protected inside your shoes.
  3. Accessories

    1. Wide-brimmed hat or cap: Shield yourself from the sun's rays during game drives and walks by wearing a wide-brimmed hat or a cap with a neck flap.
    2. Sunglasses: Protect your eyes from the intense sunlight and glare, giving you clear vision during your safari adventures.
    3. Bandana or scarf: A versatile accessory that can be used to protect your face from dust, cover your head, or serve as an impromptu accessory.
    4. Binoculars: Enhance your wildlife viewing experience by bringing a good pair of binoculars. They allow you to observe animals and birds in greater detail, even at a distance.
    5. Camera equipment: Capture the thrilling moments and breathtaking landscapes with a high-quality camera. Don’t forget your additional lenses, spare batteries, memory cards, or whatever else you need for your camera.
    6. Power bank: Safaris often take you into remote areas with limited access to electricity. Carry a reliable power bank to ensure your important electronic devices stay charged.
    7. Waterproof backpack or daypack: Choose a waterproof backpack or daypack with sufficient space to carry your essentials such as water, sunscreen, camera gear, and personal items.
  4. Health and Safety
    1. Insect repellent: Protect yourself from mosquitoes and other biting insects by packing a high-quality repellent containing a high percentage of DEET. Apply it generously to exposed skin and clothing.
    2. Malaria prophylaxis: Consult with a healthcare professional or travel clinic to determine if malaria medication is recommended for the specific regions and time of year you'll be visiting.
    3. Sunscreen: Carry a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF to shield your skin from the intense African sun. Apply it generously and frequently, especially on exposed areas.
    4. First aid kit: Prepare a basic first aid kit with essentials such as band-aids, antiseptic cream, pain relievers, antihistamines, and any necessary prescription medications.
    5. Hand sanitizer: Maintain good hygiene standards, especially during game drives and in remote areas where handwashing facilities may be limited.
  5. Miscellaneous
    1. Travel documents: Carry a valid passport with at least six months' validity, any required visas, your travel insurance documents, and any necessary permits or vaccination certificates (check the up-to-date requirements online or with a healthcare professional). Keep both digital and physical copies of these documents.
    2. Travel adapters: Ensure you have the appropriate power adapters for the country you're visiting to charge your devices. Some African countries may have different plug types and voltages.
    3. Cash and cards: Bring a mix of local currency and internationally accepted credit/debit cards for convenience. ATMs may not be readily available in some remote safari destinations.
    4. Travel guidebooks/maps: Stay informed and learn about the regions you'll be visiting. Pack guidebooks, maps, or download relevant travel apps to navigate and enhance your safari experience.

Preparing for an African safari - general tips

Here are some general tips and useful information to consider when preparing for your African safari adventure:

  • Research your destination: Africa is a vast continent with diverse ecosystems and wildlife. Research the specific country or countries you'll be visiting, including the climate, terrain, wildlife species, and any unique requirements or considerations.
  • Be mindful of luggage restrictions: Some safari camps and lodges have weight restrictions for luggage due to limited space on small planes or vehicles. Check with your tour operator or accommodation providers regarding luggage restrictions and guidelines.
  • Pack light: It's essential to pack efficiently and keep your luggage to a minimum. Opt for versatile clothing items that can be layered and mixed and matched. Choose lightweight and quick-drying fabrics to facilitate easy washing and drying.
  • Don’t bring unnecessary plastic: Some African countries have totally banned plastic bags and won’t allow you to bring them into the country. Be a responsible traveler and support efforts to reduce pollution by leaving plastic bags at home.
  • Plan for different weather conditions: African weather can be unpredictable. While the days might be hot, nights and early mornings can be chilly. Pack clothing for both warm and cooler temperatures, and don't forget a waterproof layer in case of rain.
  • Respect wildlife and follow safety guidelines: Remember while on safari that you are in the animals' territory. Always listen to your guide's instructions, maintain a safe distance from wildlife, and avoid any disruptive behavior that may stress or endanger the animals.
  • Prepare for dust and sun: Safaris often involve driving on dirt roads, which can kick up a lot of dust. Bring a scarf or bandana to cover your face and protect yourself from dust and potential allergies. Apply sunscreen regularly, wear a hat, and use sunglasses to shield yourself from the strong African sun.
  • Stay hydrated and drink safe water: Carry a reusable water bottle and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially in hot climates. Inquire about the safety of tap water at your accommodation and use bottled or treated water if necessary.
  • Respect local customs and traditions: Learn about the local customs, traditions, and etiquette of the country or communities you'll be visiting. Respect the local culture, be open-minded, and embrace the opportunity to learn from and interact with local people.
  • Dress appropriately: Respect the local culture and dress modestly, especially when visiting communities or cultural sites outside of safari areas. Be mindful of packing clothing that covers your shoulders and knees.
  • Follow health and vaccination recommendations: Consult with a healthcare professional or travel clinic well in advance to ensure you are up to date on necessary vaccinations and receive any recommended medications, such as malaria prophylaxis, and make sure to take proof of vaccinations with you!
  • Engage in responsible tourism: Choose tour operators and accommodations that prioritize sustainability, conservation efforts, and responsible wildlife viewing practices. Minimize your impact on the environment by following guidelines, avoiding littering, and supporting local communities.
  • Have travel insurance: It's crucial to have comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellation, and any safari-specific activities you'll be participating in. Ensure your policy covers the countries you'll be visiting and the activities you'll be undertaking.

Are you prepared for your African safari?

Preparing for an African safari requires careful consideration and planning. Follow the tips and guidelines in this guide, and have an incredible, stress-free safari experience.

Remember to research your destination thoroughly, understand the luggage restrictions for your flights, and pack only what is necessary. Protect yourself from the unique risks of the African wilderness, pay attention to clothing and footwear choices, and take useful and practical accessories. Prioritize your health and safety.

Make a packing checklist for yourself and make sure you have everything you need!

We at Shadows Of Africa want you to have the best possible experience when you’re out on the trail with us. Reach out to us to book your African safari, and we'll make sure you’re prepared before we head out together on our adventure!

Remember, each safari experience is unique, so adapt these tips and guidelines to suit your specific destination and itinerary. Embrace the adventure, immerse yourself in the beauty of Africa, and create memories that will last a lifetime!

Are you interested in an African safari?

Contact one of our safari experts and we will tailor-make a safari for you!