An African safari, for most of us, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be cherished for days, if not forever. That said, your memorable trip can turn into a nightmare if proper packing advice is not followed.
First of all, packing for a safari, during summer, to Africa is entirely different than for any other trip. Apart from the right clothing, there are so many quirky surprises that Sub-Saharan Africa can throw up, which could make the whole journey challenging, especially if you are a first-time safari-goer.
Since you are going to spend most of your time exploring in the bush, comfort should be the top priority above all other things. To help you with your newfound dilemma, follow these novel packing ideas, based on the weather during the hot summer months, for an enjoyable safari trip with Naturetrek.
Safari luggage requirements
Once you have deboarded from your big flashy jetliner which has flown you to Africa, from then onwards you will be hopping from place to place in more compact transportation, either by jeep or by a small bush aircraft.
Since neither of the above two modes of travel is known for their luggage capacity, some weight restrictions and luggage size need to be kept in mind. The restrictions may vary from country to country, but the rule of the thumb is to limit luggage to two bags per passenger, one carry on and one check-in, with weight not exceeding 33 lbs between the two.
In addition, you would want to move your bags with minimum fuss, so aim for a hiking backpack or a light duffel bag of 24″x18″x13″ or smaller and you will be good to go anywhere.
Clothing and other accessories
Since the equator runs through the middle of Africa, the summer season between November to March could result in a mix of sun and rain, especially in Kenya and Tanzania. The same can be expected in Rwanda and Uganda, except that showers can pop up at any moment.
Daytime temperatures, for most countries, will hover between 70° to 80°F, with mornings and nights about 20° lower. Since you will be mostly out at these times, it is something you should take into account.
A safari is a casual affair, so there is no need to bring elaborate wear. The color of your clothes is an extremely important factor. Pack neutral shades that will serve as camouflage on game drives. Some particular must-haves for a summer safari can be:
- Khakis and trousers.
- Tank tops and tee-shirts
- Few pairs of shorts
- Flip flops for the pool
- Swimming costume
- A wide-brimmed Sun hat to protect your neck, face, and ears.
- A fleece jacket for the brisk morning and evening.
- A couple of long sleeve layers for protection from the sun and insects.
- Day pack for camera and binoculars.
- Scarf for protection from blowing debris.
- Four pairs of socks of moisture-wicking fabric with reinforced heel and toe to keep your feet dry.
- If you are thinking of taking walking safaris, footwear should be accorded priority for stability and comfort. A good pair of hiking boots should be perfect for all types of situations.
- If you are going on a gorilla trek, you will encounter wetter conditions, choose shoes that are good for hiking in water.
- A quality pair of polarised sunglasses as the sun on the safari can be quite brutal.
- Most safari guides carry extra pairs of binoculars, but you would not want to rely on them lest you miss out on eventful sightings. Also, chances are more guests may ask for them. So it is best to carry a pair for personal use.
- While a basic camera will serve the purpose, a good camera will give much better photos. Since this is a trip of a lifetime, purchase a DSLR. Be sure to pack extra batteries as they are a true commodity in the middle of the savannah.
Keep attention to quick dry clothing and waterproofing for inland areas. The outfits should be lean overall, but with added layering to protect from the dust and sun. Wear one safari attire on the flight. Not only can you wash it later, but you will also save precious space in your luggage.
First aid and toiletry products.
Before you leave, check with your doctor for your prescription medicines and other specific medication you may need, like antimalarial and antibiotics, depending on the region you intend to visit.
A yellow fever health card is necessary for some African countries, like Tanzania for example. You have to get yourself vaccinated in your home country, so do not wait till the last moment. A recommended safari first aid and toiletry list is given below:
SUNSCREEN: An absolute must on any trip. Use SPGs for safari as per personal preference, but not below SPF 20 to ensure complete protection. The sun can play havoc with the skin, so avoid getting sunburn or sun poisoning.
INSECT REPELLENT: Since the jungles are going to be hot and humid, carry permethrin-based products for applying on your clothing. Consider up to 30% DEET for skin application.
FIRST AID KIT: Considered to be the best friend of any traveller, a basic first aid kit should contain prescription medicines, antihistamines, Diarrhea tablets and anti-emetics. Apart from these put band-aids, blister cushions, gauze, antibiotic ointment, antacids, cough drops. Most lodges and guides have a first aid kit, so simply carry only those you may need if you fall sick.
Best national parks to visit for a safari
Now that your packing is all sorted, here are some mind-blowing national parks of Africa to choose from in summer.
Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Bordering Botswana, Hwange is the place to go for elephants, especially in the dry season between August and October. Massive herds can be seen congregating on the water holes. Truth be told, there’s no bad time to Africa, just different times. safariFRANK will give you ‘frank’ advice on what to expect when, as well as options for the experience of a lifetime.
Kruger National Park, South Africa
Home to the Big Five, the 7523 square miles of Kruger in South Africa is one of the most popular parks in the world. Given its popularity, animals here are habituated to humans and can be seen at close quarters from the safari vehicles.
Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
Your experience here will begin from the park headquarters itself where the group assignment for the gorilla trek begins. Depending on where the gorillas are, your ranger will lead you to them. You will get one hour of precious time to interact with these majestic apes.
For a much cheaper experience, head next door to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to hike with the amazing lowland gorillas.
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
The Serengeti conjures up visions of vast plains teeming with thousands of wildebeest, cheetahs and other big cats in action. Apart from the blazing sunsets, the park is home to an astonishing variety of bird life.
It’s the most iconic national park in Africa in my opinion. It is the basis of the Lion King movie after all and the vast expansive savanna is one of the most picturesque landscapes you’ll find in Africa.
Maasai Mara, Kenya
This is undoubtedly the best of all the game reserves in Africa and where safaris all started in the first place. You can explore this magical place on foot, by vehicle, by boat or from air in a hot-air balloon. The Masai Mara is famous for the Great Migration along the Serengeti. Millions of wildebeest migrate from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara and back every year. This spectacle draws big predators to the fray and you’re likely to see plenty of action during these months!
I spent two weeks traveling through Kenya and Tanzania and visited both of these parks.