When you’re deciding what to pack for a safari, remember to leave room for the memories you’ll make – and if you’re staying in luxury safari lodges, you’ll need less than you might think. While safari used to be the last refuge of the badly dressed, outfitters have moved with the times and now offer stylish, practical solutions for every scenario.
I’ve definitely streamlined the process since I packed to go on my first safari, so I thought you might like to know what I take – and what I leave behind. Here, for example, is what I took on my last trip.
I started with the bag, naturally. Nothing rigid or with a fixed frame or wheels – it needs to be ‘squishable’ to fit in the cargo pods of light aircraft. Next, I turned my attention to my outfits. With almost every luxury safari lodge offering a same-day laundry service, I could cut back on the number of items.
As always, I picked lightweight, breathable pieces that I could layer. I know that neutral colours work best – for safety on walking safaris, as they make it harder for game to spot you – and they’re easier to mix and match. Not that I own any, but camouflage is never a great idea – you don’t want to be mistaken for a mercenary at the border! I ignored my rows of suits and blazers, and left the ties hanging. A smart linen shirt would do perfectly well for dinner.
Zip-off pants that convert into shorts save taking both – two pairs feels right, and that’s what I took. During the day, I usually sport those quick-drying, crease-free shirts that you can get at good outfitters. I packed three this time, but you can get away with two, as it’s easy enough to give them a quick wash with you in the shower instead of putting them through the laundry. (And, in fact, they’re fine for evenings too.)
I added a lightweight fleece for the cooler evenings, and a kikoi (the multi-purpose Kenyan wrap that’s a man’s best friend on safari). On my feet? A decent pair of walking shoes, with flip-flops for padding round the pool at each lodge.
Next I packed what I call the real essentials: binoculars and camera. Plus, lots of spare SD cards, a lens cleaning cloth and a few Ziploc bags for accessories.
With a few safaris under my belt (I took that, too) I also know what not to bring, as the lodges generally provide it. So, I went light on toiletries and bug spray, but made sure I had a high SPF sunblock. Which brought me to a pair of polarised sunglasses (with 100% UV protection) and my trusty wide-brimmed safari hat (pith helmets are no longer de rigueur!).
Charging cables and adaptors went in the bag next, plus a small flashlight. I left my shaving kit behind – a bit of stubble on safari means the big cats don’t have all the whiskers.
A luxury safari is the perfect opportunity to catch up on reading, so I jammed a worthy tome or two in there as well. One of them was a guide to the mammals I could expect to see, as I love reading up in my own time about what we’ve spotted on game drives, and getting even more of a handle on their behaviour.
I long ago acquired the habit of keeping a safari journal, and that – plus a supply of pens – went on top, to ensure that I’d have them to hand whenever inspiration struck. And I was good to go.
For more help with packing for a safari, refer to our general checklist by clicking here.
Need to buy any of these items? Take a look at The Safari Store, an online retailer that stocks great safari gear – and Art of Safari clients get a discount!