The packing list and tips for a first-time safari
Your dream safari holiday is just around the corner and now you’re staring at your empty suitcase unsure of where to begin. Well, there’s no need to fear, as our experts have travelled on hundreds of safaris between them and know all the tips and tricks for packing well. Our Travel Specialist, Helen, shares her all her knowledge and advice in this blog:
Travel light. Many trips will involve light aircraft flights which usually have a 15kg limit on baggage. I’d also recommend using soft sided bags rather than hard cases, as space can be limited. As you’re likely to be moving around a lot between different lodges and airstrips, the less you have the more comfortable travelling will be in general. Bear in mind that you are fully looked after on safari with your meals and activities included - so you may need less that you think!
Lightweight and breathable clothing is your best bet. It’s likely to be hot during the day, so shorts and a t-shirt are fine. The zip off style that can be worn as either trousers or shorts are popular amongst safari enthusiasts as they are more adaptable during the day if the weather changes. It’s important to think about how many days you will be on safari, and check if laundry is included at your lodge.
Safari colours are not essential, but you should avoid anything too bright with neon colours or busy patterns. You want to blend in, especially if you are planning to do any bush walks or tracking. Some insects particularly are attracted to blue or black, so lighter colours are better and more comfortable in the heat.
The sun can be strong, so a hat and sunglasses are a must. A scarf or face covering can also be useful to protect your nose and mouth when travelling on dusty tracks.
A light fleece is useful for the early morning chill before the sun gets going. Open sided game drive vehicles can get breezy, so it’s best to have layers you can easily add or remove. Also, remember a lightweight waterproof layer as even in dry season it’s good to be prepared and have an outer layer to hand.
Don’t forget swimwear if your lodge has a pool. Don’t worry about bulky towels as your accommodation will provide these. You may like to bring your own reusable water bottle too, although many lodges provide these as well.
Bring walking boots for everyday use (and make sure you wear these in before you travel!). You may also want to bring flip flops for casual use around your room and pool.
Nothing formal is needed on safari. Outdoor dining is one of the great experiences of being out in the bush so at night you may want to be fully covered to keep mosquitos away. I recommend choosing long and loose-fitting clothing that covers your ankles and arms.
Mosquito spray is usually provided at lodges but it’s well worth travelling with your own too. There are natural Citronella ones, or those containing DEET are very effective (but the chemicals can melt plastic, so be careful what you touch after applying!)
Malaria pills are essential for most East Africa trips, although there are some malaria free areas in South Africa. Discuss with your travel nurse what is best for you as there are many different types which may or may not suit you depending on your personal medical background and your destination. You will be recommended to start taking them before travel to see if you have any side effects, so make sure plan ahead and get them well in advance. Do check your other vaccinations are up to date, and anything extra that might be required for your trip, such as a Yellow Fever certificate if you are going onto Zanzibar.
Your camera! An essential of course, and a good zoom lens is a must for serious wildlife photography. That said, many travellers find their phones quicker to use and you can get some amazing shots in the moment on them. It’s good to have all the options of phone, tablet and camera. Charging points are on some vehicles, but to be on the safe side, always charge equipment overnight at your camp. Don’t forget spare batteries and memory cards too!
Think about the types of habitat your safari will visit. A typical safari will take you onto open savannah or plains in bright sunshine. Alternatively, you may have low level light in the deeper forest, such as when gorilla trekking. The guides know how to position your vehicle to get the best light for photos. You should also tell them what species you are most interested in seeing. The local knowledge they have of individual animals and their environment can really enhance your experience.
Useful extras and essentials
You might want to record notes of species seen, so a notebook can be useful. It’s also worth asking your guide at the end of each day for help with names. Their knowledge is amazing, and you could end up learning local names, Latin names, and all sorts of extra details about the individual animal and character. It’s also good for looking back later to remember just how much you saw and putting names to your photos.
Binoculars can be useful, especially for keen twitchers, so do bring them along. That said, the guides will spot things often from far afield and take you closer where possible. They may also pass their binoculars around for everyone to use, so don’t be shy and tell your guide if you are struggling to see something.
Cash and cards – it’s best not to rely solely on just one or the other. You normally settle a bill at the end of your stay with a card, but cash can be easier for souvenirs and tips. Also remember the essentials like chargers, adaptors, passport, and essential medication for your trip and keep them in your hand luggage.
Finally, think about what you will be doing on safari and throughout the rest of your trip and pack accordingly. Before or after, you may have relaxing beach time or other destinations to visit, or you may have an exciting hot air balloon trip booked, walking safaris, game drives, boat trips and more. Bear in mind you can often store luggage that you won’t need during your safari, and your Rainbow Travel Specialist can arrange that in advance for you.
Here at Rainbow, we think it doesn’t get much better than a safari holiday and being well packed and prepared ensures you get the most out of your trip. So, pack your bags and have the time of your life!