I’ve traveled to a variety of places but I was completely CLUELESS what to pack for my first-ever safari with Absolute Africa. I did the 9-day Wild Wildebeest tour and assumed (never assume) that all I’d need is khaki clothing, like you see on the movies. No, wrong. There’s actually so much to think about packing besides just having the right clothing. I’ve put together this list because honestly, without it I think the safari would have been a completely different experience. Safari’s are expensive, so you want to make sure that you’re getting the most out of the money you’re spending. There would be nothing worse than sitting in a long full-day game drive and not being able to properly see the animals, or getting burnt from the mid-days sun.
This list has been collated from my own experience, as well as speaking with those on my trip, too. I’ve broken it down into two parts: 1) for the actual camping part and 2) for when you’re on safari. Take a look below, and let me know if I missed anything out in the comments below!
Headband / Hat
- Driving through game parks with the roof down and the African sun glaring down on you can be brutal. There’s nothing worse than having the wind whip your hair around, stabbing you in the eye or getting the top of your head burnt. I had an old headband sorta like thisthat I brought with me and wore it a lot.
- When tenting on the ridge of the Ngorongoro Crater in Kenya, a wild pack of 20 wildebeests strolled into our campsite at night. I woke up in the middle of the night to one of their tails brushing against the side of my tent and the sounds of them grazing right next to my head! I almost shit myself!! I was so tired and knew I had to get up mega early the next day for an early morning game drive, so I very silently put in my earplugs to drain the sound out. These ones are perfect for travel.
- I never realized how much this would come in handy! In the winter when I was in Africa, the sun sets early and when nature calls or you have to set your tent up as the sun’s going down, you don’t want to be roaming around in the dark. There’s three colours of eyes to watch out for on safari: a) yellow: gazelle or impala, b) green: hyena and c) red: lion, without a head torch or flashlight, there’s no way to tell what’s right in front of you in the dark. For instance, one night in the Serengeti, I came face to face with two hyena’s about 5 feet away from me 😐 Get a head torch, people. I got this one and it became permanently attached to my neck, almost like a trendy necklace.
Tent Light Bulb
- One day on Twitter I was tweeting about my love for Amazon and they gifted me these handy tent light bulbs right before I went away! I never thought I’d need them, until my first night in a tent and realized what a blessing they were! Save your cell phone battery by placing these portable lights on the hook in the roof of your tent to light up the whole space. Genius.
- It might be about 30 degrees during the day, but at night it feels like -30. The first time I went to Africa I thought ‘I’m Canadian, 20 degrees during the day sounds warm to me! I’ll only pack shorts and t-shirts to sleep in, i’ll be fine!’ Do not make the same mistake I did. PACK. THERMALS. They’re lightweight and portable and will honestly save your night, especially if you’re sleeping in a tent with minimal insulation. There’s nothing worse than not being able to sleep because you’re too cold, and then ruining your game drive because you’re tired and cranky. Something like this under your PJs will keep you toasty all night long.
- As with my previous suggestion, you want to make sure you have the best sleep possible, not only after a long day of game drives, but also to be alert so you can spot animals. A good quality sleeping bag is essential to staying warm during the cold nighttimes. Make sure when you look to buy one, it’s also compact and won’t take up too much room in your backpack, which you could be using for trinkets ;). The reviews on this one look fantastic!
- Obviously, this is a give in. I never travel anywhere, even at home, without my Ray Bans. The best part about them is that they look nice with any outfit, the case is compact, they’re durable and have UV projection on the lens. I have the gold pair of these and I love them!
- It doesn’t matter how much of a sun worshipper you are, the African sun beating down on your open top jeep for 8+ hours can be tough. Needless to say anything about the risk of skin cancer on top of that. If you’re on any malaria medication, which most destinations recommend, the most common side effect is sensitivity to sun. I always try and avoid the spray stuff because sometimes it can leave you patchy, or you can miss some spots resulting in a burn. I always use SPF 50 on my body (pale kid problems) and on my face. For my body I used Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch SPF 50 and for my face I use my favourite PureLight daytime moisturizer with SPF50 from Dermalogica. I only use their products on my face and SWEAR by them, especially if you have acne prone skin.
Lip chap with SPF
- There is literally nothing worse than sunburnt lips because there’s no way to hide them from the sun. On safari, you tend to drink less water so you don’t have to stop and pee which also dries your skin and lips out, too. I applied this constantly throughout the day and never went anywhere without it.
Bug Spray with Deet
- There’s all types of bugs and creepy crawlies in Africa and you don’t want to get bit by ANY of them! Because we were driving most of our safari, we didn’t tend to be stationary long enough to get bitten, but you don’t want to take the risk of catching malaria. I got Jungle Formula with 50% DEET and carried it in my day bag everywhere I went.
- This was another item I read in blogs about needing to bring but was hesitant on, but I’m so glad I did. During morning game drives, sticking your head out of the top of the car with the air blowing past you before the sun is fully up is really cold. As your car zooms through the park, you don’t want to have the wind go right through you. I brought my trusty compact Northface jacket and took it every drive with me and it made a big difference; it’s also handy in case it starts to rain too.
- Some safari jeeps offer binoculars in the vehicles but don’t risk not having them. Sometimes animals look like little blobs off on the horizon but when you look at them with binoculars, it feels like you’re right next to them. Not only are binoculars helpful to get a better look, but also to tell your driver to head over in a certain direction for a close up. I was SO excited when I ordered by binoculars off of Amazon! I got this pair which was really good value, proper spy quality.
Zoom Camera Lens
- As mentioned above, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a rock and a rhino, and you don’t want to be second guessing yourself when you show your friends and family your photos later. Some of the animals you see on safari are a once in a lifetime sightings – like the incredible endangered Black Rhino which I was lucky to see twice in two different parks, you don’t want to miss snapping a photo. I borrowed my friends Canon 75-300mm lens and I’ve never been more convinced to buy something before. As far as lens prices goes, this one isn’t too bad! I can honestly say my experience wouldn’t have been the same without it. Make sure you bring a cleaning cloth with you too because there’s loads of dust flying around.
Extra memory card
- In all the posts I read before going away they all said to pack an extra memory card. All holiday posts say that so I took it with a grain of salt and didn’t pack one. ROOKIE MISTAKE. After my first of three drives, I had to transfer over all my photos from my DSLR to my iPhone to make space for the rest of the trip. Granted, I only had an 8GB card (also stupid), I wish I had of packed another one; I looked at buying one while there but the prices are extortionate! After returning back home, the first thing I did was buy a memory card. Invest in a good one like this and keep the smaller one as backup.
Camera charger / extra battery
- A lot of the game park campsites have lodges to prepare food, and are equipped with power. Depending on how many people are there will depend on the availability of the plugs. Some of the jeeps also have outlets but you don’t want to leave it until the last minute because you might miss that golden photo opp! Charge your device any chance you get.
- A lot of the safari jeeps allow you to stand on the seats to poke your head out of the top, but they make you take your shoes off to do it. Flip flops are perfect for quick access to that extra boost and will also keep you feet cool (and tanned). Try these ones for quality.
- The drive to the parks can be long and usually occur really early in the mornings, headphones are a good way to tune out and fall asleep or just to have a soundtrack playing as you watch the diverse landscape pass you by. I always use my Apple headphones because they don’t take up much space.
- There’s a few things I had with me at all times as absolutely undisputed essentials. Things you might not necessarily think to pack but should always have. Toilet roll (an absolute luxury), hand sanitizer (soap is often not found at rest stations), face wash/cleansing wipes to remove the crazy amount of dust that gathers from the dry terrain, and snacks and extra water. Water is also a luxury and usually comes in plastic bottles. I would purchase giant 10L jugs and, little by little transfer over into a metal portable bottle, this both helped with reducing the waste from smaller plastic bottles and also saves money.