Packing for an African safari can be pretty daunting, and if you’ve never been on a safari, the warnings on luggage limits for small planes might have you in a panic! We all have questions regarding the best safari packing list; are we taking too much or too little, are there laundry services, and should I have a smart change of outfits for the evenings?
Check the weather for your destination, and match it to the time of year of your planned safari. Be warned, parts of Africa can be quite cold, especially in the evenings and early mornings and in desert areas, such as Sossusvlei and the Skeleton Coast in Namibia.
The team at Safari Guru have certainly all been there, and we’ve heard all the questions regarding packing for an African Safari!
1. What Clothes Should You Take On A Safari?
The good news; there’s no need to buy a whole new wardrobe for your safari packing list, but wear your regular casual clothes focusing on neutral colours. Browns, grey or khaki are perfect for your safari, especially if you are doing a walking safari, where these colours are recommended. Avoid bright colours, which are more visible and distracting and may attract insects. Certainly, where there are tsetse flies, avoid blue and dark colours, as these colours attract tsetses. Much time on safari is spent travelling or bumping around in a vehicle, and often, hot sun, so loose, comfortable clothes are recommended. The weather can vary much in a day, so layering is also a good option.
For early morning and evenings, when temperatures can be cool, we suggest a lightweight scarf and hat (which will also be useful for sun and dust protection later in the day), a light fleece or jacket and even gloves for those that suffer the elements. Puffer jackets or gilets are a fantastic option; these are not only super warm but also light and pack up small – they also typically come with a lot of pockets!
Packing for a gorilla trekking safari will require additional planning and consideration regarding walking shoes, waterproof clothing, gloves, and gators to protect from thorns.
2. How Smart Should You Dress for an African Safari?
Remember, even if you are going to a very upscale lodge or camp, you are still on safari, and dress is casual throughout; unless it is a requirement, such as on Rovos Rail or the Blue Train in South Africa! No need for a jacket, dress or heels unless you wish to, and you’re combining your trip with a major city or the beach.
3. What Footwear Should You Take?
Unless you are trekking or on a serious walking safari, a good pair of trainers or soft shoes will suffice – hiking or proper walking boots are unnecessary. We recommend packing at least two pairs (especially if conducting an early morning walking safari through the morning dew), so you can change up, particularly if you get blisters. A pair of sandals or flip-flops are recommended for lounging around between safari activities.
4. Is There A Laundry Service In The Bush?
Outside of the cities, nearly all camps and lodges provide daily laundry services included in the accommodation cost. Typically your clothes are returned the same day, but when it is cooler, factor in a turn-around time of 24; bear this in mind when packing or in camp! In some places, a camp will provide you with washing powder for you to wash your own underwear or particularly delicate items, such as your favourite cashmere scarf!
5. What Is The Luggage Limit?
If you are taking any light aircraft flights, we will inform you in plenty of time – and prepare you for the luggage allowance. It is usually 20kg (44 pounds) in Southern Africa, with the majority of East Africa’s planes having a limit of 15 kilograms (33 pounds), INCLUDING hand luggage! It will make your life a whole lot easier to adhere to this! Some smaller bush-plane operators and regional airports (such as Wilson in Nairobi, Kenya) are very strict on baggage limits.
Use a soft-sided bag that can be manipulated into a small hold in the plane. These days some of these do come with wheels for ease through an airport – so it may be worth investing in one.
6. What Not To Pack
Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda have all implemented a strong ban on single-use plastic, including plastic carriers, so do not pack any plastic bags when travelling to these destinations. Otherwise, leave your best clothes, hairdryer, curling tongs (unless you cannot live without them) and expensive jewellery or watches behind.
Packing for an African Safari – Packing List:
The essentials when packing for an African Safari
- Your luggage should be a soft bag for all main luggage packing (if taking an internal flight on light aircraft)
- Small backpack for essential items and incidentals while on activities in the bush
Necessary Paperwork and Money Requirements:
- Passport (valid for at least 6 months from when you depart Africa), take a photocopy or snapshot of the photo page on your phone
- Visas (if needed and if applying in advance for these, although typically these can be acquired on landing at your entry point in Africa)
- Proof of your Travel Insurance (policy number & 24-hour emergency contact)
- Proof of Covid and other vaccinations (if needed) and/or anti-malarial medication (if taking)
- Cash – for tips and incidentals – US Dollars for most African countries or South African Rand for South Africa & Namibia
- Airport Tax can be required at some points of departure; such as Zimbabwe international ports
Clothing in neutral tones (khaki, green, brown or grey)
- Puffer jacket
- Lightweight scarf
- Lightweight gloves
- Hat/baseball cap or beanie
- Fleece or jumper for early morning/evening game drives
- Comfortable walking shoes (e.g. running/gym shoes)
- Canvas type running shoes or spare or smarter shoes
- Sandals or flip-flops
- Trousers/chinos/jeans – 2 or 3 pairs
- Shorts – 2 pairs
- Tanktop or light tshirts – 3
- Long sleeve shirts – 2 or 3
- Swim shorts/bikini/Swimsuit and cover up or sarong
- Bras, including if you wish a sports bra for ladies on bumpy roads
- Sports wear
- Sun protection – sunglasses, and sunscreen
- Lip balm or Vaseline
- Mosquito repellent, it’s typically provided but bring your own if you wish, we find the wipes you can buy to be helpful
- Nearly all safari camps and lodges provide towels, your basics, such shampoo, shower gel and body lotion
- Toothbrush, toothpaste and floss
- Hairbrush and hair items
- Shaving items, unless you’re planning on going wild in Africa…
Useful items – not always mentioned but we always carry:
- antihistamines (cream and Claritin type pills are really helpful to counteract potential insect bites, or dust or allergies even if you don’t usually have ‘hayfever’ allergies may arise from your exposure to unusual fauna)
- medication for heartburn, indigestion is useful (as the anti-malarials can cause this, and the early mornings and sometimes even the bumpy car rides!)
- anti-diarrhoeal tablets & the opposite! (you probably won’t need them but best be prepared so you’re not caught short!)
- eye drops are super useful for the African dust, early mornings or dry tired eyes in general!
- Hand Wipes or sanitiser – excellent for use in the bush and airport, with a paper bag to dispose of them responsibly!
- of course, your own necessary medication and sanitary items
- contact lenses, glasses or both (and spares are always useful in this department)
For further reading and printable packing lists with country specific travel requirements, visit Safari Guru’s safari requirements per destination:
- Botswana Safari Requirements
- Rwanda Safari Requirements
- South Africa Safari Requirements
- Zimbabwe Safari Requirements
Do you still have questions about packing for an African Safari? Contact Safari Guru?