An African safari transcends a mere vacation. For many of us it is an experience which only comes around once in a lifetime. There are numerous lodges to choose from, each offering a unique experience. All of them relatively isolated. Therefore it is always good practice to identify certain travel essential to make your experience as memorable and comfortable as possible. Ideally you should consult someone with knowledge of the area you are visiting, but we hope to provide you with a few guidelines to get you started.
Bring along a good camera
Your phone camera may be incredible, but it won’t beat the technology found in a high quality digital or SLR camera on the market today. Capturing that perfect sunset or wildlife shot on your phone may leave you bitterly disappointed. Try and preserve these magical moments as best you can. And don’t forget to bring extra batteries!
Enhance your game spotting ability with high quality, compact binoculars. They offer you the best close-up view of local wildlife. Top shelf brands like Zeiss, Swarovski and Leica make the best pairs, while Bushnell and Nikon offer excellent mid-range options.
Protect your head
The African sun is beautiful, but merciless. Bring along a hat with a brim to protect you from the hot sun. A light canvas hat is perfect for lounging after a game drive or hikes. Make sure you bring along a hat that will stay on your head during a game drive. Tilley and Backcountry have an incredible selection of safari hats.
Pack a couple of durable, light, long-sleeved shirts. They are comfortable and offer you practical protection against the midday sun, while keeping you warm on a cool morning or evening game drive. Columbia has a wide selection of shirts for you to choose from.
In Southern Africa, summer runs from October to April. The most comfortable apparel during this time is shorts and lightweight t-shirts/shirts. A long-sleeved top or light fleece is ideal for the cooler evenings.
Winter remains relatively warm and runs from May to September. It’s unlikely you’ll need anything more than a good sweater to keep warm during the day, but a warm fleece / jacket for the very cold early morning game drives is essential. Always pack a raincoat, it is especially important during the wet season (March to early May and late October to early January).
Bring along neutral colored cotton clothing for game drives. In fact, they are essential for walking safaris. Certain bugs are attracted by dark/bright colors and whites so avoid bringing any along. You will not need any formal attire, unless it is specifically mentioned. It’s recommended that you check up on the weather situation before leaving for your trip to better help you prepare.
Sunscreen and Insect repellent
Always bring along sunscreen, especially if you have sensitive skin. The African sun can be relentless. Opt for a broad spectrum, high SPF sunscreen.
Tsetse flies and mosquitoes can be frustrating on safari so bring a mild insect repellent along. Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard is a very effective option.
Many lodges will have a good selection of reference materials on local flora and fauna, but keeping a personal record of your sightings in your own book is highly recommended. The Safari Companion by Dr Richard Estes is an excellent guide to observing African mammals and understanding their behavior. For the birdwatchers out there we have two great options: The Sasol Guide to Birds of Southern and East Africa and Roberts Birds of Southern Africa.