The Ultimate Guide to Packing for an African Safari



So you have made the decision to go on an African safari. Very exciting indeed. It gets even more exciting once the planning starts. The eagerness to get into the magical land called Mama Africa grows day by day. But not having been there before you are not sure of what to pack to take long. Well look no further!

Having grown up in Southern Africa my entire life and having travelled extensively in this region, in this blog post I will provide you with the ultimate guide for packing for your upcoming safari trip. From travel tips on what type of clothing to bring, to health care necessities, toiletries, cosmetics, reading materials, electronics, and photography equipment. With these helpful tips, you'll be sure to have a safe, enjoyable, and well-prepared safari adventure.

At the very end of the article I will also share with you the single most important item to pack without which none of the other items matter.

Clothing Items

When it comes to packing for your Africa safari, choosing the right clothing is crucial. The key is to strike a balance between comfort, functionality, and appropriateness for the environment. Here are some clothing items to consider: 
  1. Lightweight and breathable clothing:

Opt for lightweight and loose-fitting clothing made from breathable fabrics such as cotton or linen. These materials will help keep you cool in the hot African sun.

  1. Long-sleeved shirts and pants:

While it may be tempting to pack all shorts and tank tops, it's important to cover up to protect yourself from the sun and insects. Long-sleeved shirts and pants made from lightweight, quick-drying materials are your best bet.

  1. Neutral-coloured clothing:

To blend in with the natural surroundings and avoid attracting insects, pack clothing in neutral colours such as khaki, beige, or olive green. 

  1. Sturdy walking shoes:

A safari involves a fair amount of walking and sometimes even hiking. Walking safaris brings you a lot closer to animals. It is an excellent way to appreciate this incredible land.  So make sure to bring a comfortable pair of sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots. Avoid open-toed shoes or sandals, as they offer less protection. ** when in wildlife areas never attempt walking safaris on your own. Must always be with a qualified guide. 

  1. Hat and sunglasses:

Protect yourself from the sun's rays by packing a wide-brimmed hat and a good pair of sunglasses. This will not only shield your face and eyes but also add a touch of style to your safari outfit.

  1. Swimsuit:

If your safari includes opportunities for swimming, don't forget to pack a swimsuit. It's a great way to cool off and relax during downtime. African summers can get hot. Even some winter days can be warm.

zebras in africa

Health Care Essentials

When planning for your Africa safari, it's important to consider your health and well-being. Being prepared with the right health care essentials can make a big difference in ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are some items you should definitely pack:
  1. First Aid Kit:

    A compact and comprehensive first aid kit is essential for any safari. Make sure it includes bandages, antiseptic ointment, adhesive tape, pain relievers, insect repellent, and any necessary prescription medications. It's also a good idea to pack a small manual on basic first aid procedures.
  1. Prescription Medications:

    If you have any existing medical conditions or allergies, be sure to bring an ample supply of your prescribed medications. It's always wise to carry a copy of your prescription as well, just in case.
  1. Sunscreen:

    Africa's sun can be extremely intense, so it's important to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Pack a sunscreen with a high SPF and apply it liberally throughout the day, especially on exposed areas such as your face, neck, and hands.
  1. Insect Repellent:

    Mosquitoes and other insects can be prevalent in certain safari areas, so it's crucial to protect yourself from bites. Look for a repellent containing DEET and apply it to exposed skin, as well as to your clothing. If you will be bush camping then consider packing a mosquito net for added protection while sleeping.
  1. Water Purification Tablets:

    Clean drinking water may not always be readily available during your safari. Pack water purification tablets to ensure you have safe drinking water at all times. It's also a good idea to bring a reusable water bottle for convenience and to reduce plastic waste.
  1. Anti-Diarrhea Medication:

    Traveller’s diarrhea is a common ailment when visiting new countries. Pack some over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medication to alleviate symptoms and make your safari more comfortable.
leopard africa safari

Toiletries and Cosmetics

When it comes to packing toiletries and cosmetics for your Africa safari, it's important to consider both practicality and convenience. While you won't need your entire bathroom cabinet, there are some essential items that you should definitely include in your packing list.
Here are a few suggestions:
  1. Travel-sized toiletries:

    To save space and weight in your luggage, opt for travel-sized versions of your favourite toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and toothpaste. Many brands offer these in convenient sizes that meet airline regulations. If you are staying in lodges, these will be provided complimentary. However, if you have a favourite the lodges may not stock, then best to take along with you.
  1. Moisturizer and lip balm:

    Africa's climate can be harsh on your skin, so be sure to pack a good moisturizer and lip balm to keep your skin hydrated and protected. Look for products with SPF for added sun protection.
  1. Wet wipes:

    These are an absolute must-have for any safari. They are great for freshening up during long drives, wiping away dust and sweat, and even removing makeup. Choose biodegradable wipes to minimize your impact on the environment.
  1. Hand sanitizer:

    While handwashing facilities may not always be readily available during your safari, hand sanitizer can be a lifesaver. Make sure to pack a small bottle to keep your hands clean and germ-free.
  1. Insect repellent:

    In addition to protecting yourself from the sun, it's important to guard against insect bites. Pack an insect repellent that contains DEET to keep mosquitoes and other bugs at bay. You can also consider mosquito repellent wipes or bracelets for added convenience. 
  1. Makeup essentials:

    If you prefer to wear makeup on your safari, opt for lightweight, waterproof, and long-lasting products. Keep it minimal with a tinted moisturizer, mascara, and a lip colour. Remember, you'll want to spend more time enjoying the wildlife than fussing with your makeup.

seregeti safari africa 

Reading and Entertainment Materials to Consider

Planning a safari trip to Africa involves a lot of excitement and anticipation. You'll have the chance to witness breathtaking wildlife, explore stunning landscapes, experience diverse cultures and immerse yourself in a truly unique once in a lifetime adventure. But what about those moments of downtime? When you're not out and about, having some reading and entertainment materials can help make your safari experience even more enjoyable. My go to, for reading material, is my kindle. Whilst I prefer the touch and feel of a printed book, it is far more practical to have all my books and other reading materials in my kindle.

When it comes to choosing reading materials for your Africa safari, opt for books and magazines that enhance your understanding and appreciation of the wildlife and ecosystems you'll encounter. Consider field guides on African animals, birds, and plants, as well as wildlife photography books. These resources will not only educate you but also deepen your connection to the environment around you.

Also important it to have reading materials about the different cultures you will come across during your travels. Africa is a vast culturally diverse continent with the most welcoming, friendliest people you will ever come across. Knowing about them beforehand can be very helpful.

If you're a fiction lover, why not choose books that are set in Africa or written by African authors? Reading novels that take place on the continent can add a whole new layer of immersion to your safari experience. Look for stories that transport you to the African savannah, such as "Out of Africa" by Isak Dinesen or "Cry, the Beloved Country" by Alan Paton.

For entertainment, bring along a portable music player or download your favourite podcasts or audiobooks. These can provide a relaxing and enjoyable way to pass the time during long drives or evenings in camp. You can also create playlists of African-inspired music to set the mood and enhance the safari ambiance.

Lastly, consider packing a journal or sketchbook to document your safari memories and experiences. This is a wonderful way to reflect on your adventures and capture the beauty of Africa in your own words or drawings. You can write about the animals you saw, the people you met, and the emotions you felt during your journey.

african children

Electronics to Pack

You will want to make sure you have the right electronics to capture those once-in-a-lifetime moments and stay connected while exploring the wild. Though I would recommend disconnecting from the rest of the world and living the moment.
Here are some essential electronics to pack for your safari adventure:
  1. Camera:

    A high-quality camera is a must-have for capturing the stunning wildlife and landscapes of Africa. Consider investing in a DSLR camera or a mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses to ensure you can capture every detail. Don't forget to bring extra memory cards and batteries!             To protect your camera and binoculars from dust, water, and rough handling, pack a sturdy, waterproof camera bag or backpack. This will ensure your gear stays safe and protected during your safari adventure. If you're interested in wildlife photography, consider bringing a telephoto lens to capture detailed shots of animals in their natural habitats. A lens with a focal length of 200mm to 400mm will allow you to zoom in on distant subjects and capture stunning close-ups. Other accessories to consider include a tripod for steady shots and long-exposure photography, lens cleaning equipment to keep your gear free from dust and dirt, and a remote shutter release to avoid camera shake.
  1. Binoculars:

    A good pair of binoculars will allow you to get a closer look at the incredible wildlife from a distance. Look for binoculars with a magnification of at least 8x to 10x and a wide field of view for optimal viewing.
  1. Power bank:

    While on safari, you may not always have access to electricity to charge your devices. Packing a portable power bank will ensure you can keep your camera, phone, and other electronic devices charged and ready to go.
  1. Universal adapter:

    Different countries in Africa may have different electrical outlets, so be sure to bring a universal adapter to ensure your electronics can be plugged in. This will also come in handy if you plan to charge your devices at lodges or campsites.
  1. Smartphone:

    Your smartphone can serve as a multi-purpose tool on your safari. Use it to navigate with GPS, download useful safari apps, or even capture quick photos and videos when your camera is not easily accessible.
  1. Headlamp or flashlight:

    When camping or during night drives, a headlamp or flashlight will be essential for navigating in low-light conditions. Opt for a headlamp with a red light function to avoid disturbing wildlife. Also red light does not attract bugs as white light does.

african market 

Snacks and Food Items

As you embark on your exciting Africa safari adventure, it's important to make sure you have plenty of snacks and food items to keep you energized and satisfied throughout your journey. Most safaris provide meals and snacks, but if you are like me and like to munch often then it's always a good idea to have some extra goodies on hand.
Here are some snack and food items to consider packing for your trip:
  1. Energy bars and trail mix:

    These compact and nutrient-dense snacks are perfect for keeping you fuelled during long game drives or walks in the wilderness. Look for options that are high in protein and low in sugar to provide sustained energy.
  1. Dried fruits and nuts:

    Lightweight and non-perishable, dried fruits and nuts are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. They are a convenient and satisfying snack option to keep in your daypack.
  1. Crackers and cheese:

    Pack some crackers and individually wrapped cheese portions for a quick and delicious snack. These items are easy to store and won't spoil in the heat, making them ideal for enjoying while on safari.
  1. Jerky:

    Better still some authentic South African biltong, is a protein-packed snack that doesn't require refrigeration. It's a great option for a savory and filling snack to keep you going between meals.
  1. Reusable water bottle:

    Staying hydrated is essential while on safari, so make sure to pack a reusable water bottle. This will not only help you stay refreshed but also reduce plastic waste and contribute to environmental conservation.
Remember to pack your snacks and food items in sealable bags or containers to prevent any spills or messes. And be sure to check with your safari provider if there are any restrictions or regulations on bringing food into the reserve.

Optional Items to Consider Packing

As you prepare for your adventure, you may be wondering what optional items you should consider packing to enhance your comfort and overall safari experience. While these items are not necessarily essential, they can certainly make a difference in your comfort level and enjoyment while exploring the wild wonders of Africa.
One optional item to consider packing is a portable camping chair. A lightweight and foldable chair can provide a comfortable seating option during game drives or when taking a break in between activities. It's a great way to relax and soak in the stunning landscapes without having to sit on the ground or on a vehicle seat.
Another item to consider is a travel pillow. A compact and inflatable pillow can provide extra comfort and support during long drives or flights. It's perfect for catching a quick nap or getting some rest while on the move.
If you're someone like me who enjoys stargazing (no better place than Africa), consider bringing a star chart or a smartphone app that can help you identify constellations and stars in the African night sky. This can add a magical touch to your evenings in the wilderness and allow you to appreciate the beauty of the stars above.
Finally, whether you're an enthusiast of birds or animals or both, bringing a bird field guide can enhance your bird/animal watching experience. It can help you identify different species and learn more about their behaviours and habitats.

namibia africa

The most important item to pack

In the midst of all the essential gear and travel necessities, remember that the most important item you can carry on your African safari is not something you can pack in a suitcase. It's your openness and willingness to embrace this extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Allow the sights, sounds, and encounters to touch your soul and change your life. Africa's breathtaking landscapes, diverse wildlife, and vibrant cultures have the power to leave an indelible mark on your heart. So, as you embark on this remarkable journey, don't forget to pack your curiosity, wonder, and gratitude, for Africa is sure to change your life in ways you never imagined.

Hope you found this article useful. Please contact me if you require more information.


  • Duncan Udawatta