On the Plains of Africa: A Safari Packing Checklist for Minimalist Travel

by Julia on August 23, 2016

It’s the trip of a lifetime, so you want everything to go according to plan. Setting out on a safari holiday is a balancing act. You don’t want to take too much stuff, but you really don’t want to be caught without the things you need. So make yourself a checklist and stick to it.

Your Health

You will, of course, need any medicines you rely on for medical conditions you may have. You will also want an adequate supply of painkillers, and a basic first aid kit.

If you are going to a malarial area, you will need whatever malaria prophylaxis you have chosen.  Malaria or not, there will be insects, who can make your life a misery even if they do not make you ill. Most safari lodges will provide DEET, but you will want to have your own supply anyway. Hopefully electric mosquito killers will be provided if they are appropriate to your overnight stops.  A good tip is to spray your clothes with a permethrin insect repellent which can remain effective for up to two weeks.

A good supply of high factor sun cream is necessary, as well as good sunglasses.  You will probably find you need a torch, especially if you will be spending any nights under canvas. You can pick up a handful of toilet tissues each day for emergencies.

Your Clothes

The biggest head-scratcher on any holiday is what clothes to take – especially so on a luggage-light safari.

Rather than taking enough to last you for the whole holiday, aim to wash clothes at least once a week. You will almost certainly find facilities somewhere, but it won’t hurt to take along a small plastic bottle of washing powder.  Temperatures will probably vary a lot, so along with your shorts and tee-shirts you will want some long trousers or dresses, and long sleeved shirts. These are also important because the biting insects are most active in the evenings and you will want extra protection against them.  For your wildlife viewing trips you should aim for light-coloured, but not white, clothing (white gets dirty too soon, black attracts insects, and bright colours make you conspicuous). Take things with lots of pocket space – you will need it.

You might need boots if you are doing some tough hiking, otherwise good trainers will be adequate for most of the walking you need to do.  You will want something comfortable, including another pair of shoes, to change into in the evening. Safari sartorial etiquette is relaxed, but after a hot day you will want to feel a bit smarter.

You will find pools to swim in at most lodges and camps, so a swimsuit will come in handy.  A wide-brimmed hat is a good idea to protect you from the fierce heat of the sun. You may encounter windy days so a hat which can be tied on is more reliable.

Your Memories

This is a holiday you will want to revisit many times in the years ahead, so make sure you record it with the most reliable equipment.

The camera you take will depend on your own budget and level of enthusiasm, but if you expect to rely on your phone’s camera you may not get the results you want. Check out the photography equipment that is available to suit most pockets. If you are looking for a new camera, probably the most important considerations are its robustness (you will be bouncing around in dusty vehicles), its zoom (animals are often a long way away), and its quality in low light (early morning and dusk often give the most sightings).

To accompany your camera you will probably want a decent case, and possibly something like a mini tripod to help steady your shots. You will certainly need a couple of spare batteries and a charger. Never start the day without a fully charged battery in the camera and at least one more in your pocket.

Apart from the photographic records, you will want to keep a written account of your days and sightings. You can do that on your phone, but for trips down memory lane nothing beats a handwritten diary, so take a good one with you.

Keep It Light

Travelling light but complete is the secret to a successful safari holiday. The above suggestions are not exhaustive, but pack carefully according to your checklist and, although there will always be something you think of later, you should not miss out on anything that is essential.

John Stowe is an amateur photographer based in Leeds UK. He got the digital photography bug back in the early 2000′s and has since had many different models of cameras. He loves to share his ideas and thoughts online for others to read.

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