Updated on August 12, 2020 by Asher Fergusson
For most people, the prospect of going on a safari is both exhilarating and intimidating. That’s why I’ve put together this Safari packing list and a section on what to wear on a safari. There’s also helpful information on what NOT to bring, and answers to FAQs. Wherever you are going on a safari, these must-haves are sure to have you covered for just about any situation you might encounter.
What to Pack for a Safari – 17 Essentials
When it comes to the great outdoors, insects are not your friend—and this is particularly true when it comes to going on a safari. Many safaris take place in environments that host quite an army of mosquitoes that can cause not only annoying bug bites, but can spread harmful diseases such as malaria and dengue fever as well. Make sure you pack a good bug repellant.
2. Chilly Pad
One thing there’s no shortage of on a safari, is heat. The open savannah doesn’t offer air conditioning, but chilly pads are just about the next best thing. They act as a cooling towel, helping you stave off the heat for hours. To re-start the towel’s cooling feature, all you have to do is wet it again and wring it out.
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Odds are you will be using major cities as the jumping off point for your safari, and you will want a power adapter to suit these destinations. In terms of the safari itself, many people opt for glamping or camp resort experiences, and these sites usually offer electrical power as well. Come prepared with a universal power adapter that is suitable for anywhere you go. (Note: If you’re headed to southern Africa, you’ll want to bring a South Africa-specific adapter as well).
Africa boasts some of the most majestic scenery planet earth has to offer, not to mention its most mysterious creatures. But since getting too close to a lion cub isn’t recommended, you’ll want to make sure you pack a pair of binoculars so you can take in the view from a safe distance. Binoculars that allow for low-level lighting situations can be particularly useful for sunrise and sunset treks.
They say that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Well, a journey to Africa often begins what feels like a thousand layovers. Jet lag pills will help you be ready to hit the ground running.
It is critical to avoid drinking unsafe water wherever you travel, and this is true in Africa as well. While many resorts and safari camps offer bottled water or similarly safe alternatives, it is best to make sure you have a consistent source of safe drinking water that isn’t dependent on the specific circumstance. Filtered reusable bottles help keep you safe from bacteria, parasites, and even microplastics.
7. Neck Wallet
The only thing worse than not being able to find your wallet is being worried you left it in the last city you traveled from, or worse, that it got stolen. Keep important documents safe with a neck wallet
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Solid shampoo bars are a great choice for going on a safari because they are no-muss, no-fuss. Not only that, but they are eco-friendly and leave you without one more piece of plastic trash you have to get rid of while you are in the middle of African terrain.
10. Deodorant Wipes
11. Travel Backpack
Safaris often involve side trips, whether that side trip is an extended hot air balloon ride or a jeep drive to catch a glimpse of the Serengeti’s wildebeest migration. Make sure you bring a travel backpack that will carry everything you need for the day.
When you are trekking into the middle of the great outdoors, it’s always wise to have a few tools on hand. A paracord bracelet blends style and practicality, providing a few essential tools such as a flint fire starter and a compass.
13. Hand Sanitizer
Going on a safari means that you will be roughing it to at least some extent, and the odds are that you might not be able to wash your hands as often as you usually do. This can be particularly worrisome before eating meals. Make sure you pack plenty of hand sanitizer to get rid of germs.
Many countries in Africa censor the Internet. A good VPN can help prevent your connection from being blocked. Additionally, a VPN makes it extremely difficult for hackers to access your information. Since a great deal of your travel time might be spent putting in credit card information and flight details, not to mention passport ID numbers, having a secure connection is critical. With a VPN you protect yourself with one click.
15. Packing Cubes
16. First-Aid Kit
While the odds of sustaining a serious injury while on a safari are pretty low, any kind of travel comes with the risk of bumps and bruises. A first aid kit can help take care of pesky cuts and abrasions.
The odds that something catastrophic will happen to you on your African safari are slim. Most tour operators and travel organizers have been doing this for decades and know how to give you the experience of a lifetime safely. But accidents do happen, and when they do, they are expensive. It is better to be prepared than to receive an unexpected expensive medical bill. World Nomads is a popular company among frequent travelers, and it’s the one I like to use.
While traveling to a foreign country, the odds are that you might encounter foods and flavors you haven’t encountered before. But just in case you eat something you shouldn’t have, activated charcoal is good to have on hand. It is an easy way to help rid your body of unexpected toxins.
Other Safari packing list items not to forget
Dustproof camera bag
Insulated water bottal
Travel power strip
TSA-approved travel-sized bottles
Polythene-free storage bag
Shampoo bar case
Flip-flops or sandals
Bug bite cream
Travel Laundry detergent
Waterproof phone case
What to Wear on a Safari
The best way to approach this dilemma is to find the perfect blending of the two. During the hottest parts of the day, it is probably okay to wear shorts as long as you properly apply bug spray. During the dawn and dusk hours, when disease-carrying mosquitoes are at their most active, you will want to make sure you are covered by lightweight clothes that have ideally been pre-treated with bug repellant.
Either way, make sure you pack a pair of comfortable shoes with good tread.
Below is a sample women’s clothing list. (All items link to Amazon.com for your convenience).
In general, women should wear lightweight clothing that comfortably covers knees and shoulders. This is out of respect for local customs and culture as much as it is an added barrier against bugs and sun exposure.
Lightweight, stylish pants that cover your entire legs and ankles work well. Soft, light materials shirts also work well for staying cool. Keep in mind that darker colors are not only worse for heat but also for attracting mosquitoes. And don’t forget to pack at least one nice dress, as there are sure to at least one day or night where you will be relaxing over a nice dinner at your safari lodge or resort.
For men, wearing gear that is both lightweight and rugged is the way to go. As mentioned previously, avoiding bug bites is also of top concern, so the better the coverage you can get (while staying cool) the better.
Cargo shorts are good to have on hand, as well as at least a few changes of soft, lightweight shirts in both long and short sleeves. A baseball cap works well for staying put on your head during safari rides, but a more stylish brimmed hat can be nice for other sightseeing activities as well. Don’t forget to pack at least one set of nicer pants and a shirt as the opportunity for a nice dinner is likely at some point during your trip.
Remember to consider the climate and time of year for your particular destination. Africa is a big place, and the weather varies from place to place. However, in most countries, there are two seasons: wet and dry.
Safari in DRY SEASON – April, May, June, July, August, September, October :
Dry months might be warm during the day but can be deceptively cool at night Convertible zip-off pants and a sturdy pair of sandals can allow you to easily go from one to the other without a lot of hassle. Layers will allow you to also accommodate fluctuations in temperature. Don’t forget a jacket to give you an extra layer of warmth when you need it.
Safari in WET SEASON – November, December, January, February, March:
If are traveling during wet season, keep in mind that road conditions might be muddy, which means your walking conditions will be muddy as well Waterproof shoes are a must. Keep in mind that wet conditions don’t necessarily mean cold, so layers are critical to effectively navigating the fluctuations in temperature. A rain jacket and water-resistant backpack will help you keep your belongings (and yourself!) cool and dry.
Glamping or Camping – In many regions of Africa it can be surprisingly cool at night and in the early morning. Wool is a versatile material that will keep you cool when it gets hot, and hot when it gets cold. Packing other favorites such as t-shirts and your favorite yoga pants are good options as well.
Jeep treks – Lightweight clothes, layers, and a brimmed hat that fits snugly and won’t fly off can all help you enjoy the drive without having to pack too much into your day bag.
Nature Treks – Nature walks into the open savannah with an eco-conscious, licensed guide is one of the most enchanting activities and the best way to get a better view of your favorite animals. For trekking off road and into the brush, make sure to wear lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants as well as comfortable hiking shoes that are ready for any condition.
What NOT to Bring on a Safari
2) Unnecessary valuables: There’s really no reason to pack fancy jewelry while you are on a safari, and don’t bring too much extra cash either. Not only is there a risk of theft or loss, but the idea of a safari is to get in touch with nature. Your packing list better off if it is matched to suit that simplicity.
3) Too many clothes: While it might be tempting to pack for every possible circumstance you might encounter on a safari, the best way to maximize your luggage is to pack basic outfits that can work in multiple situations, temperatures, and then to hand wash them on the go if possible.
5) Sleeping bags: Unless your safari journey specifically entails heavy-duty camping and you are in charge of bringing your own gear, a sleeping bag is unnecessary and will only weigh you down.
6) Plastic bags: Plastic bags have been banned in many African countries. If you are caught with duty-free plastic bags, you might be asked to get rid of them, or worse, receive a fine.
Camouflage patterns: Camouflage is not considered a fashion statement in many regions of Africa. While light, natural colors are recommended, military-inspired patterns are not.
Dark colors: Dark colors will not only make you feel hotter, but they also tend to attract mosquitoes more than lighter colors.
FAQs about Safaris
1. What is the best time of year to go on a safari?
Africa is a huge continent, with safaris available in a multitude of countries. Because of this, there is no“one size fits all” answer to figuring out the best time of year to go on a safari. In general, dry seasons are a safer bet as roads tend to be less likely to close down. Additionally, it can be more optimal for spotting animals because the dry season tends to force your favorite “must-see” animals to congregate around the same watering holes and other water sources, which makes them easier for guides to spot.
Perhaps the most important thing to consider is what matters to you in terms of what you hope to achieve by going on a safari. Popular activities such as witnessing the Serengeti migration or a visit to Kruger National Park can vary wildly in what is considered “peak” season. For example, if seeing baby animals is high on your list, November through March is the season for babies at South Africa’s Kruger National Park.
Making a wish list of the experiences that matter most for your safari will help you better decide the best time of year to visit.
2. Where should I go on an African safari?
There are many options for first-time safari trekkers, but in general, the top 3 most popular destinations include the Masai Mara in Kenya, Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, and Kruger National Park in South Africa. Choosing which one is best varies from person to person.
Flying is the easiest way to reach Moab, with Canyonlands Field Airport just 20 miles outside of town. It’s a very small airport though, and only has flights to Denver, which are pretty pricey. Otherwise, you can fly into Grand Junction, which is just under two hours away, or the nearest major airport is Salt Lake City, almost four hours from Moab. Fortunately, in either case, there’s some beautiful scenery along the way. Some destinations, such as Kenya, have better safari travel structures in place but often come at a higher cost. Others, such as Tanzania, are a bit more rustic in their approach but can be easier on the pocketbook. Each destination has its own unique beauty to offer, and exploring these offerings is half the adventure!
3. Are African safaris safe?
As long as you are following the rules and not participating in blatantly dangerous behavior, yes, African safaris are considered very safe! However, it is always wise to check with your government’s travel site to make sure there aren’t any travel advisories in place, as well as to get advice on proper vaccinations.
4. Are African safaris ethical?
Going on an African safari is ethical as long as you go about it thoughtfully. Watch for tour providers that focus on ethical tourism meant to provide a safe experience for both you and the animals. While getting the perfect selfie next to your favorite animal might be high on your bucket list, consider choosing activities that are easier on the ecosystem, and respectful of the animal’s natural habits. In general, activities focused on enjoying the animals from a distance are best.
5. How much are African safari tours?
The cost of your safari will vary widely depending on the time of year and also which destination you choose. Safaris that utilize a more rugged, DIY approach can be surprisingly affordable. Luxury safari lodges, however, can cost up to thousands per person, per day!
6. Are African safaris good for families?
Safaris offer a rich array of activities for families and are suitable for older children. From hot air balloon rides over the Savannah to see amazing animals in real life, safaris provide unforgettable memories and learning experiences. Keep in mind that some tour companies and lodges do have a minimum age requirement of 6 or 8. A widely accepted rule of thumb is that children should be at least age 8 to be able to appreciate a safari fully.
7. Are African safaris good for solo travelers?
Safaris offer an incredible getaway for solo travelers. Watch for resorts and lodges that waive the supplemental fee that often accompanies solo travel. If you hope to achieve solitude, you can book private drives and activities. If you are hoping to meet new friends, you are sure to meet other travelers at your lodge as well, so you won’t be short of people to share the adventure!
8. What are the African safari big 5?
What is called the “big five” while going on a safari in Africa refers to the most wished for sightings, specifically: lions, buffalos, leopards, elephants, and rhinos.
9. How do I pay for things while on an African safari?
The odds are that while you are on a safari, you will visit local villages and towns where you will find a vast array of locally made crafts and goods you will want to purchase. It is preferable to pay for these goods in cash, ideally in the local currency. ATMs are available at some resorts but do your research ahead of time to not only get the best exchange rate but to avoid the awkward situation of having to count out unfamiliar money on the fly when you arrive.