Packing for our very first African safari was definitely a challenge. Not only do most safari goers have weight restrictions because of charter flights (our SkySafari weight restriction was 15 kilograms or 33 pounds each including camera equipment), but you also have the challenge of knowing which are appropriate clothing and shoes for bush walks. Luckily, SkySafari provides handy packing recommendations and I also took the advice of my friend Natalie at oh! Travelissima who had been on safari just a few months before.
The weight adds up quickly and for the first time ever, we were actually packed several days in advance rather than still throwing things in the suitcase minutes before heading out the door to the airport. We had to be in order to make sure we didn’t exceed our weight limit. Thankfully another perk of SkySafari is that laundry service is included at every one of the camps and lodges you’ll stay at along the way. Knowing we had that service available helped us pare down to the essentials for our 10-day safari.
Amazingly, we still saw tons of people inappropriately attired for safari. Not only will you stand out to other people, packing your favorite jeans or black shirt could also make you a magnet for tsetse flies which can bite right through your clothing. And your neon yellow trainers could scare off the animals on a bush walk. So we put together an African safari packing list to help you be ready for your next safari adventure.
What to Pack for an African Safari
1. Yellow Fever Health Card
It is required for travel into Tanzania to show a yellow fever health card and you will be asked for it immediately upon arrival. Even before you’re asked for your passport. You can obtain a Yellow Fever Health Card by visiting your primary care physician prior to your trip.
You won’t find credit card machines in the African bush and you’ll likely visit at least one village where you can pick up some unique souvenirs. Some of the airstrips also have coolers with drinks for purchase and you’ll want to tip your awesome guides and porters. But note that in Tanzania only crisp US bills newer than 2006 are accepted. This is because banknotes produced prior to 2006 were very easily forged. We definitely ran into this when a bill older than 2006 made it into our mix and was refused.
3. Clothing in earth tones
Clothing in earth tones is essential. Africa has a fly called the tsetse fly, which is a biting fly. They are attracted to blue and black and tsetse fly traps are a blue or black cloth strung up in the trees where they are active. Wearing blue or black makes you a tsetse fly trap and they can (and will) bite right through your clothing. Insect repellent is not effective in keeping them away and the tsetse fly has been linked with a disease called sleeping sickness.
4. Pants and long sleeves
Even though we traveled in February, Tanzania’s hottest month, pants and long sleeves were essential in minimizing the number of bites, sun exposure, and scrapes during bush walks. Shorts, skirts, and tank tops can be fine around the camp or lodge, but for game drives and bush walks you’ll be glad to have pants and long sleeves on.
Tim and I both love Northface’s collection of water resistant pants for both men and women. They are lightweight so both easy to pack and you won’t get too hot in warmer temperatures.
As I said, we traveled during Tanzania’s hottest month. Tim mocked me for bringing the fleece, though I was so happy I did. Ngorongoro Crater was much cooler than Tarangire and Serengeti and a rainy day can seriously drop the temperatures. I wore my fleece more than once and stuffing it in my bag definitely paid off.
6. Waterproof bag
Dust is a problem and hard on your camera equipment; and if you have any rainy days like one we had, you’ll be combating both rain and sticky mud. Having a waterproof bag large enough to stick your equipment and anything else you want to stay dry or dust/mud free will definitely come in handy. It folds down small and weighs basically nothing, so is easy enough to pack.
7. Sports bra
Ladies, this one is for you. Trust me. The roads are bumpy and you will thank me for adding a sports bra to your safari packing list essentials.
8. Moisturizer and conditioner
The African bush is dry, so don’t leave home without your moisturizer and a good conditioner. Even though all of the Elewana camps and lodges provided shampoo and conditioner, I prefer to bring my own. You don’t need to bring the big bottle of your favorite shampoo and conditioner. I have a set of Cool Gear Go-Gear Silicone Travel Containers, Assorted Sizes, 3-Pack that are TSA approved and that I love. I just fill them back up with my L’Occitane Aromachologie Repairing Shampoo and Conditioner (which is sold in environmentally friendly refill bags) to keep my hair healthy at home and on the road.
I also love L’Occitane Immortelle Brightening Moisture Cream. A little goes a long way and I pare down from the somewhat heavy 1.7oz jar the product comes in by scooping some out to fill my Sephora travel containers.
9. Plug convertors
One of the things I love about Elewana is that all of their camps and lodges provide several universal plug convertors for your use in your room or tent. But we always bring one of our own just in case. Plus having an extra means we can charge up all our electronic devices and camera batteries without having to pick and choose.
10. Insect repellent with Deet
Another thing Elewana was terrific about was providing both a fogger for the room in case you needed it (we never did on safari) and insect repellent in the safari vehicles. I would still encourage you to pack your own though. We were definitely diligent with spraying ourselves on both skin with an all-natural citronella repellent and then again on our clothes every couple of hours.
11. First Aid Kit
Remember that you are in the African bush and the nearest town or village might be hours away by plane. Be sure to pack a first aid kit with medications like aspirin, cold medicine in case you do catch a bug, an antihistamine like Benadryl for reactions to insect bites, diarrhea medication like Immodium, sunscreen, and cough drops or throat lozenges.
Stay tuned for Tim’s African safari photography tips and what’s in our camera bag.
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