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How To Pack For An African Safari

elephant

Photo courtesy of David W. Siu.

There’s something about a safari that can turn even the most laid back traveler into a ‘packzilla’ of epic proportions. People who would normally just throw a few clothes into a backpack start to fret about what colors will avoid scaring animals, what materials will best repel mosquitoes and what shoes will be comfortable. Additionally, many of us have been seduced by the fashion world’s take on ‘safari style’ and want to look good while experiencing the plains of Africa. The good news is that, if you recognize yourself in the above description, you’re probably over-thinking things. Packing for an African safari does not have to be a complicated experience.

What you pack depends greatly on the type of safari you will be going on. If you’re traveling overland don’t take your best clothing, as you’ll probably be expected to set up camp every day and will most likely have to haul around a sleeping bag and sleeping mat in addition to your clothes. Alternatively, if you’re lapping it up in a five star lodge be sure to take some evening wear and a bikini for that infinity pool. That being said, there are some rules all travelers should abide by to ensure they’re prepared for their safari:

Prepare To Get Snap Happy

Even if you’re not the photography type, you’re going to want a decent camera. Opinion on what is the best gear is divided: Some swear by sophisticated DSLRs, while others find a high spec point and shoot works great. If you’re comfortable using a DSLR — shooting in manual mode, changing lenses and carrying around a heavier piece of gear — then this sort of camera can get you the sort of pictures that look like they’ve been plucked straight from National Geographic.

If you’re not massively interested in photography as a hobby or find DSLRs intimidating, consider a ‘bridge’ camera. These are advanced point and shoots which tend to have impressive zooms and a host of features that make shooting in low light and other conditions much easier. They also come in at a considerably cheaper price point than a DSLR. We’re around $300 for a bridge camera, as opposed to upwards of $1,000 for a DSLR with a decent zoom lens. Alternatively, if creativity is your thing, why not just take your iPhone? Okay, so you won’t get those awesome zoom photographs, but you’ll get something different — and possibly more atmospheric — than your safari companions.

Prepare To Shiver

It’s a common misconception that the parched landscapes of the Serengeti are a place of mercury busting temperatures. While you’re likely to be warm to hot in the daytime, at night temperatures can plummet, particularly if you’re at high altitude. Consider layering and at least pack a fleece.

Prepare To Get Bit

Not by lions – you don’t get that up close and personal with the animals. The type of bites we’re talking about are no less dangerous though, as malaria can be an issue. Make sure you stock up on malaria pills but also consider investing in a wide brimmed hat, long sleeved tops and long trousers for evenings, along with a good repellent. If you’re going to be camping be sure to check if your tent has a built in mosquito net.

Prepare To Be Lazy

Obviously this depends on your itinerary but, in general, you won’t be doing a great deal of either walking or movement on your safari. Most of your time, you’ll simply be sitting in a vehicle, waiting to spot the Big Five or huddling around an evening campfire swapping stories. Therefore, lightweight clothing — think the sort of thing that will keep you comfortable on a long haul flight — is your best bet. Of course, if you’re not going to be undertaking any particularly strenuous activity, those beautiful safari chic outfits might not be as impractical as you think.

Do you have any additional tips for safari packing and planning? Please share in the comments below.

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4 Comments

  1. Lauren Meshkin on September 17, 2013 at 4:21 am

    Going on an African safari is definitely a dream of mine. Great tips, thanks for sharing.

    Happy travels 🙂

    • Jessie Festa on September 17, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      @Lauren- I’m actually in South Africa right now. It’s amazing here. Let me know if you ever need any tips 🙂

  2. Marsha on March 26, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    Fantastic tips. I’m considering a safari next year and this will sure help.

    • jess2716 on March 26, 2014 at 4:59 pm

      @Marsha: Great to hear. You’ll love it!

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