10 Things You Should Pack For African safari: The Ultimate Packing List
10 Things You Definitely Should Pack For African safari— This is your Ultimate African Safari Packing List
For first time travellers, it’s not so much about the journey, animals or even the adventure ahead. It’s about what they can take or how much they can curry in the luggage. This question is truly daunting if you’re vacationing into completely unknown territories. You have the weight of your luggage to watch, style, health, comfort to consider and searching around the internet for answers around this time is quite understandable.
Packing for an African safari is way different from the usual trips you pack for. One of the most frequent advice online is to pack light and this we too insist on it because of so many reasons you’ll find in this post and the fact that there are restrictions on small local flights between destinations or national parks that you’ll be visiting. A typical luggage weight restriction on African safari is about 15 kilograms (33 pounds) per person, including camera equipment and carryovers like a backpack for your equipment. Even if you’ll be driven, space on safari truck can scrimp up especially when you’re travelling with a group.
You also are faced with the challenge of knowing which types of appropriate clothes to wear on African safari yet there’s not exactly a surplus of stylish options for safari wear out there. Fortunately for you, the African Safari Experts at Iconic Travels put together a comprehensive list of things you should pack for your next African safari adventure, let’s read through.
Your travel documents
Cash in change
Luggage and packing essentials
African safari clothing
A waterproof backpack
Things to take care of your skin and hair
Electronics power adopter
USB Flash Drive and Memory Cards
Insect repellent with Deet
First aid kit
Immigration office at the Airport processing a visa
1. Prepare your documents
East African countries where we operate (Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda & Tanzania) require you to have a valid passport with at least six months before expiry. Your passport should have at least three consecutive blank pages for you be allowed entry. Before you even start planning, pull out your passport and check to be sure you meet those requirements. Better yet, check with the consulate in your country just to be sure.
Before we even talk about your visa, there’s another important document called the Yellow Fever Immunization Card. The Yellow Fever Card is an internationally recognized record of vaccinations endorsed by the World Health Organization. Without it, you may not be allowed off the plane in countries like Tanzania and Uganda because this document is equally as important as a passport.
According to the CDC, anyone 9 months or older who travels to areas where yellow fever vaccine is recommended should be vaccinated against yellow fever at least 10 days before travel. Talk to your doctor in advance to prepare you for this.
You have your passport ready, Yellow Fever vaccination card and you need one more document to get in, the visa. Almost all African countries require a visa to allow entry. Fortunately for East African countries (Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda) offer a single East African Visa to allow you entry either one or all of them. The 90-day East African Tourist Visa is also available on arrival, which is valid for Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda if first used in the country that issued the visa. The fee for the EA Visa is $100.
Visitors to Uganda must obtain a visa on arrival to Uganda or from one of the Ugandan diplomatic missions, unless they come from one of the visa exempt countries. And that also applies to the other East African countries.
It’s not just the Yellow Fever Card, Passport and Visa that will get you into places, you need your permits and park entry fees taken care of and a document to show of. If your trip includes tracking mountain gorilla, chimpanzee or filming in the parks, you’ll need a permission document authorizing you entry with protection provided. That document is a permit. Most tour operators will process and make sure you have the necessary permit prior to your arrival inclusive of the travel package. At Iconic Travels, we include permits and park entry fees processing in our trips so that you don’t have to go through the hustle of navigating African bureaucracy to get one.
A family buys crafts in a local market—no cards here, just cash works!
2. Carry Cash in Change
Majority of facilities in Africa may not accept that plastic thing you call a credit card, they want something they can physically count. Cash is king in these parts. You may want to buy a unique souvenir in a village you’re visiting, carrying cash in change will save from leaving African with no physical evidence to show of or trigger your travel memories when needed most.
When you get at the airport, visit one of those exchange bureau or ATM machine and get local currency or US dollars, they’re widely accepted by anyone in Africa transacting with a foreigner.
Tipping is a common practice on East African safaris. Having cash on hand to tip guides and services staff can save you a lot of embarrassment. Guides are commonly tipped between $20 – $30 per day, but we recommend that you talk to your operator for working tipping tipping etiquette.
And lastly on cash, make sure you’re carrying dollar bills newer that 2006, otherwise any older bill will be rejected in East Africa. Seriously!!
Pack light, not many bags to curry around.
3. Your luggage and essentials
If you don’t plan on hiking through the jungles of East African to see the mountain gorillas or visit with a chimpanzee band, you most likely will be going on a classic game drive safari. That means you’ll spend most of your time sitting in a safari truck with your guide looking out for wild game. Sitting in a truck on a scorching sunny morning for hours requires that you wear comfortable clothing. That alone spells out what you should pack in your duffel bag.
If you hope to get the most out of your safari experience, then all the attention should be focused on your surroundings rather than on you. That means, your clothing shouldn’t outshine the environment you’ll be in. Bright coloured safari clothing draw attention to you the tourist, rather the wildlife you intend to see, and may sometimes scare away the animals. So look for neutral coloured clothing. Colours that blend in with the African Wilderness.
Keep it casual and comfortable with tee shirts, long sleeved shirts, shorts, hiking boots, and athletic socks to keep the blisters away. For the cold season, a light fleece jacket, gloves and sweaters will suffice. These should all be in neutral colors such as greens, olives, browns, and khakis.
Let’s take a look at what essentials you’ll have on your packing list for like a 7 day african safari.
duffel or soft-sided bag
TSA approved clear toiletry case
2 pairs of pants in a breathable fabric in earth tones
1 – 2 long sleeve shirts in chambray or earth tones
3 layering tanks or tshirts
wide brim hat with chin strap
closed toe shoes like trail runners or fashion sneakers with good traction
waterproof dry bag
insect repellent with Deet
plug adapters / convertors
USB flash drive
Memory cards for your camera
first aid kit
Some of the most common destinations that you visit like Bwindi Impenetrable, Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls, Masai Mara and Serengeti National Park are reached by bush flight. These flights a done by relatively small planes that often have strict weight limits. Take for example a statement by Aerolink, one of the flight operators around East Africa:
“On all services the luggage allowance is 15 kilos in soft bags. These allowances shall include all hand baggage. The carriage of excess baggage is at the sole discretion of the company after taking into consideration the number of passengers booked. When excess baggage is carried it will be charged at the prevailing freight charges.”
Basically what they’re recommending that you pack light to avoid extra charges on your luggage especially if you’re going to fly between destinations. If you’re going to drive between destinations, that also will require you to pack light especially for group travel. Safari trucks don’t have much space for luggage either, you may have to squeeze your luggage between the seats and reduce your leg space. That definitely an invite to discomfort on unpaved safari roads.
You can use packing cubes to keep everything organized in the duffel and add a little extra sturdy protection. Choose lightweight ones like Shacke water resistant packing cubes that come in a 4-pack of different sizes. And you’ll notice a theme where we like things that can be dual purpose. The pouch they come in makes a great laundry bag.
Watch out for disposable plastic bags that are banned in East African countries and invest in a clear toiletry bag, and this is essential for your East African safari packing list. Countries in East Africa have banned single-use plastic bags, inclusive of the ones provided by the airport. Rwanda and Kenya’s plastic bag ban law is the strictest in the world. Not only are plastic bags confiscated, but anyone caught using them faces a maximum penalty of $37,000 or a jail term of up to four years in Kenya.
DO NOT bring any sort of plastic bag in to Rwanda, Kenya or Tanzania. Instead, especially if you like to carry on, get a clear toiletry bag from a grocery near you.
Looking great! Father and daughter in a safari park
4. African Safari Clothes to Pack
That fifteen kilo limit will fill up so fast before you add your favorite pants by-the-way! If you want to have a great experience on an African safari, you have to prioritize packing for comfort over smartness and anything else. But packing for comfort doesn’t have to mean old fashioned. Let’s help you out here and save your adventure;
Safari camps like Nkuringo Mountain Gorilla Lodge in Bwindi and Baker’s Lodge in Murchison Falls provide laundry services. And most safari camps do, talk to your operator to help you find out more. Having that in the know will help you pack just the essentials for like a 8 day safari in Kenya and Uganda.
You don’t have to pack any more than 3 pairs of pants, 3 long sleeved shirts and 2 pairs of pajamas if you have laundry services available. Carry enough underwear for the entire trip because it is strictly forbidden to include underwear in your laundry in Africa, you don’t want the camp service staff to think you belong in a loony bin. Your camp may provide soap powder in the bathroom that you would use yourself to wash anything and dry around your room or tent.
Safari clothing worth wearing for a walking safari
Kinds of Safari Clothes to Pack
You don’t need to head out to any special store to buy clothes for an African safari. Chances are you have some perfectly suitable things already in your wardrobe. If not, we recommend your favorite outdoor retailer for safari appropriate clothing.
Look for pants with Omni-Shield that keeps you dry by repelling moisture and stains and Omni-Shade with built in SPF 50 to protect you from the sun, like the women’s stretch pants. Add pieces like tank tops that layer under an chambray shirt. Chambray is stylish and lightweight enough to wear even during the hottest months. Roll the sleeves up to just below the elbow, and you can roll them down if/when you start to sunburn.
Pants and Long Sleeved Shirts
The East African countries are crossed by the equator, most destinations are a few degrees off where and the sun rays can be scorching hot. Even though it seems so counterintuitive to pack pants and long sleeves, rather than shorts and armless shirts, in such weather conditions, you’ll be very glad you did protect yourself from such sunrays.
Skirts, shorts and tank tops are great for hanging around the camp but for safari game drives and hiking, stick to lightweight pants and long sleeves to protect you from scrapes gotten from walking in the bush and minimize insect bites like the notorious tsetse fly.
Avoid colors like blue or black clothing by all means. Those colors are strung up in trees to attract and trap tsetse flies that are notorious for their nusty bites and causing sleeping sickness. These insects can bite right through your clothing and insect repellant won’t even help. Besides, bright colors like red, blue and yellow may scare the animals away or even trigger their worst animal instincts. Stay away from bright clothing colors and stick to earth tones.
African safari game drives typically begin so early, by 05:00 – 06:00 you’re out and about. Temperatures in the night and mornings can be very low, a jacket is necessary. A utility jacket with pockets can come in handy especially if you’re carrying a camera and lenses for easy access. Temperatures between night and day can change drastically and by 10:00, you may need to lose that jacket. In Africa, you can never tell when the weather will change, so talk to your operator to help you understand the weather so that you can plan accordingly.
The rain jacket may not be necessary for packing, most safari companies and safari camps will provide one for when the skies look gloomy. Besides, you may spend the whole morning in a safari truck that can be closed off to keep you dry. So skip the weight load of a rain jacket on your African safari packing list.
What Kind of Safari Dress?
Bring along one casual dress for the evenings hanging around the camp lounge. You know, that one dress that makes your evenings feel special and loosens your chat box. If you’ll be visiting the city, a casual pair of jeans and shirt would help you fit into the crowd so comfortably. If you’ll be visiting different camps and cities, you really do not need different outfits, for most of those people may see you once and never again. Some evenings you may be too tired to hand out around the bar and just hit the sack after dinner.
One ladies safari clothes essential is a sports bra. Trust me. The roads (or more likely dirt tracks) are bumpy and you will thank me for adding a sports bra to your safari packing list essentials.
A comfortable pair of hiking boots is essential for especially jungle safaris.
On an a classic safari game drive, you definitely don’t need to tote along heavy hiking boots. Not only will they be too hot, but hiking boots are clunky to pack. Really, any pair of sturdy closed-toe shoes will do. But if you’re going to be hiking into the jungles (maybe mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda), you’ll need to pack a good pair of hiking boots. Most of the rainforest jungle floor can be very dump, steep and slippery for closed toe shoes. Waterproof hiking boots will keep you upright and comfortable in the African forests.
For a safari game drive, wear a good pair fashion sneakers that you can comfortably stay in while in the safari truck or the casual evenings at the camp.
Those shoes on your left are quite comfortable for a safari game drive, really!
Flip flops are a good choice for wearing around the pool. Bring a pair for walking around in your tent and going to the pool at your camp or lodge.
Why does every traveller think of a cowboy like hut when you mention safari hut. There’s really no special African safari hat out there. Guys, pick up any hut that makes you feel comfortable and keep the sun out of your face. Ladies, a wide brim style with a chin strap is a great choice, the chin strap will keep the hat from flying off when your guide gets word on the CB radio about that leopard or lion hunt sighting, then goes rushing off to make sure you see it.
Swimsuit and Wearing Casual
There’s no better place to be than lounging in the pool during the hot afternoons between game drives. But that won’t happen if you don’t carry your swimsuit or swim shorts for men.
You can also be more casual around camp in a pair of shorts and tshirt or tank top or tshirt. It’s not necessary to stick to neutral colors either, like when you’re out on safari drives or hiking.
Typical Backpack for an African Safari. Credit: Ethan-Kinsey.com
5. Waterproof Backpack
Safari route tracks are not paved in Africa dust could become a problem to your equipment like camera. Unpredictable weather patterns don’t make it easier on the equipment either. A waterproof backpack would make your safari more enjoyable knowing that your camera equipment is protected and you can carry an extra essentials like energy bars, wipes and hand sanitizers with you along.
6. Things to take care of your skin and hair
The African bush is dry, so don’t leave home without your favorite moisturizer and a good conditioner. Even though most camps and lodges provide shampoo and conditioner, I highly bet that you would prefer to bring your own.
You don’t need to bring the big bottle of your favorite shampoo and conditioner. Pick up refillable small bottles and fill each one up with some of each of your favorites, enough for the safari duration, to keep your skin and hair healthy while in foreign weather and environments.
Your lips could also get very dried out and cracked in dry African conditions. Carry your favorite flavored Lip Balm. Lip Balm is famous for being an ultra rich moisturizer that actually absorbs into your lips to hydrate them, an ingenious human invention since butter.
For the many times I’ve mentioned insect bites and the scorching sun, it’s probably wisest to carry sunscreen and bug spray. A sunburn will turn your adventure into a nasty experience. The evenings at the pool or in shorts and out of the body covering clothes, apply some sunscreen to keep protected from the nasty sunrays. And most safari camps are well-stocked with bug spray, but I’d recommend a small bottle of repellent with 100-percent Deet, especially if you’re traveling during the rainy season.
7. Electronics power adopters
You may find universal plugs and sockets in most camp rooms and lounges but I would recommend you carry your own just in case. You will want to keep all your electronics, especially the phone and cameras, charged and working during your trip so that you take back evidence of your travels. Dysfunctional gadgets tend to keep us away from experiencing nature and swallow us into the obese of the virtual world. You want to avoid those moments by carrying the plugs that will allow you to keep their batteries charged and working.
East African countries use electricity of 220 – 240 volt at about 50hz. Each country can be different with the plug type, so make sure you verify with your operator about which plug or adapter to carry.
8. USB Flash Drive and Memory Cards
Capturing some incredible photos to remember your time on safari by and share with family and friends back home is likely important to you.
Borrowing equipment is an excellent idea to pursue, as good lenses appropriate for photographing wildlife can cost nearly as much as the safari trip itself. I hope you remember to pack a USB flash drive to save any photos from the cameras you borrow or bring your own extra memory cards to use.
9. Insect Repellent with Deet
Although you’ll find insect repellent in most safari camps and lodges, Iconic Travels would like encourage you to pack your own, though.
One with deet is best since there are several diseases that biting insects in Africa can carry. But if you’re concerned about the effects of deet, an all-natural citronella repellent will also get the job done. Just be sure you consistently spray yourself and your clothes every couple of hours. Between dressing appropriately and spraying, you’ll keep the nusty insect bite away from the fun.
10. Curry a First Aid Kit
Let me give you the picture of emergency in the African bush setting—it may take you hours to get to the nearest hospital or access real medical care while on safari. Sometimes you may have to be flown out of the park by a chartered small plane and those are as hard to comeby like spaceships. Be sure to pack yourself a first aid kit with medications you might need like aspirin, cold medicine in case you do catch a bug, an antihistamine like Benadryl for reactions to insect bites, diarrhea medication like Imodium Oral, sunscreen and cough drops or throat lozenges.
If you want to take something to head off diarrhea before it can start, try Travelan. You take it as a dietary supplement before meals to assist with traveler’s diarrhea prevention. Travelling in foreign land where your stomach isn’t conditioned to resist things that could be treated could hand you a death sentence. Bathrooms are basically non-existent in the African jungle and it’s not the place where you want to experience tummy woes.
Most African safari camps offer carbonated bottled water in bathrooms and Iconic Travels puts enough boxes of bottled water in their safari truck, it’s a good preventative measure to take against dangerous diseases. So you don’t have to pack drinking water.
To wrap it all up, just make sure you travel light and take care of all angles to help you keep the adventure safe, fun, comfortable and memorable. Talk to an Iconic Travels Safari Consultant to help you have the right items on your African safari packing list. Our experts would gladly give you all the tips and recommendations, we love to give great safari experiences to all travellers and we can never pass up a great conversation.
Take a look at some of our recommended East African safari packages that would match your packing list. These safari packages a custom made (can be adjusted) to fit any traveller, leave any day and are all inclusive of transport (local flights), transfers, meals, park fees, permits, guides and accommodation. Check them out and drop us a line at email@example.com