Are you setting off on your first safari?
Packing safari gear when you’ve never been on one before can be confusing. On one-hand you want to be prepared for anything while on the other, you don’t want to be hauling around too many things. Plus, if you’re travelling on small aircraft between safaris camps, luggage weight is limited and needs to be in soft bags.
It’s about striking a balance and paring it down to only the most essential items. In this post, we’re going to tell you the 15 must-have items to pack for your first safari so that you feel prepared and light on your feet at the same time.
Must-Have Items to Pack for Your First Safari
1. Travel Documents
Don’t forget your passport and have all your travel documents organised on your phone if you can. As most things are digital nowadays (except the passport) it will save time at the airport and customs when you have it all organised in one place. In addition, it’s a good idea to carry a physical copy of these travel documents in your luggage, stored separately from the originals. Some countries, such as South Africa, require additional documents, which you need to confirm.
We have prepared a shortlist of documents you need to carry on your next safari :
- A valid passport
- Visa (if necessary)
- Vaccination card (Go to point 12 for more information)
- Travel insurance (optional)
- Driver’s license (or any other additional picture ID)
What safari trip is complete without amazing wildlife photos? Depending on your expectations and photography skill, a high spec smartphone might be fine or you might want to go camera shopping for something that’ll do even more justice to your experience on safari. For capturing the perfect safari moments, you’ll require at least an SLR (singl- lens reflex) camera and the ideal choice would be a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera, but of course this is on the expensive side. Think about all the options available and make the choice that will suit you. Don’t forget a dust proof bag from your camera.
Let’s talk about the zoom lens: the standard lens focal length is around 50mm, which is similar to human sight, and will work exceptionally well for candid shots or portraits but will not be enough to take pictures of animals at a long distance. For safari photographs, the lens should start from 180mm, moving on to 200mm, or the ideal choice of 300mm.
3. Safari Clothes
Pack khaki/tan/natural coloured clothes, avoid t-shirts in purple, red and bright blue which tend to make animals shy away. Also, avoid camouflage/military-inspired clothing in southern Africa (it’s prohibited in Zimbabwe). Many lodges and camps offer a laundry service, so you only need a few outfits. Light-weight, comfortable clothes are ideal which can be layered-up at cooler times. Bring shorts, trousers, a good hat, several t-shirts, a button-up shirt, a fleece and a light jacket.
Nights (and days during winter) can be deceivingly cold in some safari destinations depending on the time of year – bring hats, gloves and scarves during the winter months. Include light-weight walking shoes or trainers if you’re doing game walks (more sturdy hiking boots for gorilla tracking).
It’s going to be sunny on safari, so always have a high factor sunscreen, a hat and good-quality sunglasses with you at all times.
We advise against spending too much time on your phone, even if it’s your camera. It’s well worth putting your phone (and camera) down to take in the scene around you. Understandably, you want to catch everything on film, but don’t forget to take in the wonderful smells, sounds and sights all around you. You might want to bring a tablet or Kindle along to pass the time on travel days and at night before bed. WiFi, of course, might not be available at all accommodation so check in advance.
6. First Aid Kit & Medication
It’s important to have basic pharmaceuticals with you on safari. You’re going to be far away from your medical care, so try to tackle small issues yourself if you can. First and foremost, don’t forget your anti-malarial tablets and bug spray.
Then take a basic first aid kit, which should at least contain the following:
- Gauze and gloves
- Adhesive first-aid tape
- Antiseptic and antibacterial ointments
- Elasticated bandage wraps and plasters
- Pain killers
- Antihistamine tablets
- Immodium and antacids
- Anti-nausea tablets
7. A Book or Two
You are going to have downtime every now and then, so why not bring along a good travel book to read. There are lots of great safari reading lists online. It may be worth looking into a Kindle or similar so you can download a couple of books and save on space.
8. Travel Journal
If you’re a writer yourself, you’ll want to bring along a travel journal with you to make notes of your incredible safari experience. Some things you just can’t put into words, but you can try. Or have a tablet so you can keep a digital diary.
You should always have binoculars around your neck on safari. The animals aren’t always going to walk close to you, so you’ll need them to catch sight of the more apprehensive creatures with your binoculars, as well as the incredible birds too. An ideal binocular shouldn’t be extra weight – consider getting a lightweight binocular with at least 8x or 10x magnification. The lens size for low lights should be between 32mm or 42 mm.
Also, take into consideration the climate of your safari destination. A durable, waterproof, and fog proof binocular will come in handy in humid climate zones. Eye-strain is also a factor to consider-: invest in binoculars that provide at least 12mm eye relief.
Some of you may have the “one size fits all” adapters and pack it without any research, but electric sockets vary from country to county.
For example, for a South African safari, you might have to carry adapters that can connect to Type C, Type D, Type M and Type N sockets.
So, before you head off on your safari, remember to search for country-specific adapters. Bring a few adapters to cover phones, tablets and laptops.
11. Standard Toiletries
Some of the luxury safari lodges offer toiletries in the rooms, but they are usually small sizes, so it’s worth bringing your own toiletries:
- Toothbrush & toothpaste
- Dental Floss
- Razor & shaving cream
- Hairbrush & comb
- Shampoo & conditioner
- Nail clippers
12. Vaccination Card
The vaccination card can be as important as your passport or visa. At certain airports, you’ll be required to present a vaccination card to gain entry – check beforehand if this applies to your safari destination.
For example: If you are travelling from a country with a risk of yellow fever transmission, you need to present your vaccination card at the airports in the following countries:
Afghanistan, Albania, Bahrain, Botswana, Cambodia, China, Ecuador, Egypt, Guatemala, India, Madagascar, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambiaand Zimbabwe.
We have only mentioned a few countries, but you can find out more information about other countries by visiting the WHO’s vaccine recommendation list.
13. Local Currency / USD Cash
It’s most likely that you have paid for your safari in advance, but you will need some local currency (or USD Dollars) cash for purchasing souvenirs and tipping the guides and lodge/camp staff. Bring US Dollars with you from home and get local currency out from an ATM on arrival at the airport or in the town/city where you arrive. Check with your safari operator what they suggest in terms of what currency you should bring with you.
14. Head or Handheld Torch
Whether you have booked a luxury or budget safari, most safari camps have torches on hand to use, although it’s useful to have your own. It just needs to be a simple, lightweight handheld torch or a head torch, which leaves your hands free. Don’t forget spare batteries.
15. Extra Bag
It’s worth popping in an extra soft bag in the bottom of your luggage for any souvenirs and handicrafts you might buy along the way – part of the holiday experience is bringing home some memorabilia to remind you of your amazing safari!
Choose Your Safari Gear Wisely
Packing the right safari gear is really important, so make sure you have all of these things and any other personal items you think will enhance your safari experience.
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