tips on what to pack for an African safari holiday

Africa safari packing list – Plus a guide on what to wear on an African safari

Published on: October 7th, 2020 at 11:31 am

Going on an African safari takes a little more forward planning than say heading away on a city escape for a few days. Depending on your you are going, you could ultimately see all four seasons in one day. Having a good idea of the best Africa safari outfits to reduce heat and insect attention, must-have camera equipment and perhaps most importantly items NOT to include on your Africa safari packing list is really important.

I’ve spent large amounts of time in various regions throughout Africa that are regarded among the top safari regions in Africa. These including South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Throughout these trips, I’ve helped to identify the best safari appropriate clothing and equipment to include in your Africa safari packing list.

The best Africa safari outfits are ones that can cover your arms and legs from the harsh African sun of the day while remaining comfortable, cool and lightweight.

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What to expect on an African Safari

An African safari is a beautiful, once in a lifetime experience.  You get to tour a section of Africa and see pure wildlife with the help of experts and knowledgeable local guides and a crew.  Since it’s a once in a lifetime experience unlike any other travel adventure in the world it can be hard to plan for.  After all, with no previous experience, how do you know what you need to pack with you? Luckily that is exactly what this blog post is all about and with the help of the below suggestions, you’ll be well aware of what to pack for an African safari.

The weather in Africa is a little all over the place depending on the African destinations you travel to and the time of year you visit.  There are both desert and tropical climates on the continent.  Some African locations have periods where the sun beats down nearly 24/7 and there are places where rain is the dominant weather condition.  Generally, the temperature varies throughout the day.  During the nights and early mornings, the weather tends to be cool and breezy.  During the day though it can soar and easily reach a temperature of 35-40ºC or 100º (Fahrenheit), these can be tough conditions to manage. 

Me wearing the correct clothing items to enjoy a African safari in hot conditions
Wearing the right gear to stay comfortable while on an African safari is important.

How do you plan for such a wide variety of weather conditions?  What sort of technology do you need?  After a recent trip in Africa myself experiencing these exact climates, I’m wanting to answer those questions for you. Let’s discuss what to pack on safari, however, please remember to use this as a guide and when packing for a safari use your own common sense with the items that you own.

My travel shop has many of the below items listed in it. They are from brands I use and trust for all my travels including Kathmandu, Salomon, LowePro and Nikon.

Africa safari game drives

When going on an African safari you are likely to be heading out on various “game drives” in the hope to spot members of the big five such as lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo. To do this these game drives are usually broken down into two categories, Morning Game Drive or Evening Game Drive.

Remember: When we talk about safaris in Africa we are generally refering to these game drives. Below is a look at how to best prepare and stay comfortable during such a trip.

Morning Game Drive

A morning game drive will usually begin at either 5 or 6 am depending on the time of year, local conditions and company you are completing the drive with. When starting a morning game drive you are likely to find the weather cold as the open windowed safari vehicles don’t allow much escape from the chilly morning air.

To start these drives ensure you have plenty of layers on so you can stay warm and comfortable. You will be required to remove layers as the morning warms up but it is best to have the layers to remove rather than be cold for the first few hours of your trip.

Depending on the type of safari trip you have booked, usually either at your accommodation or through the multi-day tour you are travelling with, these morning safaris may or may not include a “bush breakfast”. Either way they usually last until around 11 am which means you will escape being in the heat during the hottest part of the day. This is generally because just like you the African wildlife also try and find shelter and sleep during this period.

Evening Game Drive

Completing an evening game drive is almost the opposite conditions as above. Expect to start the game drive with the weather still warm and the sun still up. Remember that these conditions will not last for long though once the sunsets.

Pack a few warm items of clothing for when this occurs as once the sun disappears the temperature can drop considerably. The wind will once again become cold while completing the evening game drive as well.

an African sunset while travelling on a river cruise
Watching the end to a day and enjoying an evening river cruise while trying to spot any sneaky hippopotamus getting to close.

What to wear on an African safari?

In this new and exciting environment, your typical wardrobe will likely be unsuitable for the safari style required.  Here’s what sort of things you need to look for when picking your African safari outfits to wear.

Keep to Neutral colours

This applies to both desert and tropical climates.  Wearing neutral colours across your complete Africa safari outfits can help you blend in with your surroundings. In addition to this, they will also work to keep you cool and comfortable in the hot conditions.

Cover Up from The Sun

During the day, and especially in the desert climates, the sun can be brutal.  You will be in the sun most of the day during a safari and you’ll want to limit your direct sun exposure as much as possible. An Africa safari packing list should include plenty of clothing with long sleeves and trousers. Wear long clothing, even during the hottest times.

Invest in Microfiber clothing

This material is lightweight and it will compress when you pack it.  In addition, this material can keep you cool in the sun, and protect you from the rays.  It’s also extremely durable so rips and tears are unlikely while travelling multiple days in the remote destinations.

Sun Hat/Sunglasses

Both of these items are essential for blocking out the harsh sun, no Africa safari outfit is complete without both! Your guides are likely to remind you of this every day as sunstroke in Africa is not a fun experience.

Safari Vest

This isn’t really a “must-have” item, but these can be great if you don’t want to lug a bag around with you.  You can simply store your supplies in the vest’s many pockets.

Layer Your Clothing

The best thing to do when it comes to such varied temperatures is to layer your clothes.  Wearing a few light sweatshirts that you can peel off and put on as the day progresses can go a long way to keeping you comfortable.

Africa safari outfits – Specific Clothes to Bring

So now that we’ve covered some of the basic of what to pack on safari, let’s take a look at some specific clothes you should pack. How much clothing does vary depending on how long your trip is and if you have access to a washer and dryer. Contacting the company you have booked your Africa safari with to find this out before you travel is a good idea. I suggest booking a trip with OntheGo Tours or G Adventures as both operate a large variety of trips throughout a variety of locations and duration lengths.

T-shirts

T-shirts are a perfect place to start when packing your safari bag. Try packing loose, knitted athletic shirts and if possible find shirts that are microfiber. This will go a long way to keeping you comfortable while travelling. Cotton shirts are okay too, but a pure cotton blend is best. It’s recommended to avoid polyester though if at all possible. 

Long sleeve shirts

Many of the packing guidelines are the same in terms of fabric. Microfiber button-up shirts will also help you out a lot here. They can keep you cool in the sun and cover you as needed. Collared shirts will also be a huge help in protecting you from the sun. Popping a collar up will help keep the sun off the back of your neck.

Warm Sweater

Whether it’s fleece, cotton, or some other type of material, it’s best to have a warm coat with you for the cold times. These are required more than you can imagine when taking one of the game drives I mentioned above. Make sure you can layer it with other items as the temperature rises.

Wind Breaker

It can get very windy, especially in the desert areas. Make sure to have a windbreaker with you as this will make your experience a lot more pleasant. 

Shorts

For this trip, avoid Jean shorts, especially if they are dark in colour. Khakis are a perfect Africa safari outfit for this purpose. Forget the cute safari outfit and go with a comfortable and sensible option. 

Microfiber material can be found in several different types of pants. This material can keep the sun off your legs. Another bonus of using this material is that many microfiber pants are often convertible. If you want to change them into shorts, all you have to do is zip off the legs. I can’t recommend zip-off pants highly enough when looking at what to pack on safari. Here are some examples I use.

Your Africa safari packing list should include this clothing
Your Africa safari outfit might not win any fashion competitions but if you forget about safari style and focus on the comfort you will be OK.

Jumpsuits (Girls)

Jumpsuits that are made of breathable fabric are wonderful for a safari, or so I have been told. If you bring them though, make sure you follow the advice above and pack ones that have neutral colours and avoid anything tight-fitting.

Raincoat

When you think of the Sahara Desert or Africa, bringing a raincoat might seem crazy at first. However, there are yearly rainy seasons in Africa and the tropics can have long ones. Packing for a safari and expecting all kinds of weather is important. If and when it does rain a coat will come in really handy.

PJs

When it comes to PJs you’ll want to bring warm ones, especially if you are sleeping in a tent on this trip. The nights in Africa get chilly and the bush toilets often mean you might be required to walk a little bit if waking in the night.

Shoes

Packing one set of shoes for an African safari probably isn’t the best tactic. You’re most likely going to need to bring a few pairs for different conditions that will include one for hiking and a pair for leisure. For hiking, your best options are either hiking shoes (I prefer Salomon hiking shoes) or at the very least, a pair of closed-toed sandals (like keens for example). I have a couple of selections of good hiking shoes that I have used while travelling for the past few years. Find them in my travel shop.

For around your campsite or hotel, flipflops or open sandals work very well and provide a nice relief from having shoes on all day. It is important to note though that the chances of seeing scorpions and other crawling insects are high, keep that in mind when choosing which footwear to bring.  

Sun Protection

Additional sun protection includes scarves, sunglasses and wide-brim sunhats. 

Now that we’ve covered the clothes, let’s take a look at another important element: Camera gear! For me, this is the most important information you need to know about when it comes to deciding what to pack for safari trips.

What to pack on safari – Camera Gear

An African Safari is a beautiful experience, so why not document it? Odds are, you will have the urge to take several photos. Here are some of the proper tools to bring. Knowing what to wear in African safari is one thing but having capable camera gear to capture what you are witnessing is another. Even if you are a complete photography novice.

First rule… Don’t rely on your Smartphone

Smartphones are wonderful, there’s no denying that. In addition, their picture quality has increased dramatically.  That being said, it is not a reliable camera for a trip like this. Even the new Huawei with sophisticated cameras won’t be able to do everything you need as the wildlife you spot is likely to be too far away to capture. 

Nikon DSLR Camera

A Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera (DSLR) is perfect for these shots and the camera brand I love is Nikon. The pictures you can get with this are beautiful, clear and in hi-def.  They capture the shot as soon as you hit the button without even a second of delay.  This is especially important on a safari as the animals and landscape can change extremely quickly.  

Along with this, these cameras can be outfitted with different lens types to help you get an even better shot. When it comes to using these lenses, you’ll want at least two (we’ll be discussing them in a second). For these lenses, it’s best to get two cameras. Switching between lens during your journey is a time-consuming process. In addition to this, any dust or dirt that is caught in between switching will appear in all of your pictures.

I recommend the Nikon D5600 camera for an African safari

Lens

For this trip, two different lens types are recommended. You’ll want to have a zoom lens and a lens of distance picture. The zoom lens will be great for those action shots. The wide lens has the ability to capture much better landscapes and trust me, there will be many. Nikon offers a lens that will easily attach to the camera. 

I think a lens with a zoom capable of 300mm is a must when on safari

Camera bag

Though this may seem excessive at first, you will find one to be invaluable to you once you start your trip. I have been using the LowePro camera backpacks for the last few years and love how safe they keep my gear and how easy you can access your camera in a moments notice.

Check out the bag I use

Batteries/memory cards

How much do you think you will need?  Bring double that amount. One thing you don’t want to do is be unable to use your camera because of something so simple. Keep an ample supply of memory cards with you and plenty of batteries, whether you can charge them or not. This will ensure you have a couple of days of battery life if you are unable to charge your batteries while in a National Park camping.

Tripod

These guys are extremely helpful. They can help you get an even shot, in addition to getting you at the right angle for a video. I used the tripod I took to get some awesome sunset time-lapse shots and also beautiful night sky shots with loads of stars. I used this easy to carry tripod on my trip to Africa.

Lastly: Zoom is not your friend

It can be tempting to zoom in on all the action but resist the urge. Simply, don’t do it.  This will reduce the image quality of the beautiful pictures you are trying to take. For close up pictures, use a lens.

the nikon camera gear I use to run the travel blog Aussieinwanderlust inside my camera bag
This is the camera equipment and tech gear I carry with me while travelling to run this blog

Other extras to bring with you on safari

The next thing you want to consider are the tools and miscellaneous objects many forget to add to their Africa safari packing list.  This includes the camping basics (if needed)…and that very important first aid kit. If you are going on an organised tour then the travel company should carry a well-supplied first aid kit for any large emergencies but having the basics and any specific personal medication is smart.

What to pack for safari – The first aid kit (and other tools)

When you’re on a safari the nearest hospital emergency room may be hours away, so it’s good to have a first aid kit with you. There are plenty of adventure kits that can be bought online (or just at your local outdoor store) that carry just about everything you need. If you’re looking to build this kit yourself, here are the basic things you should look to include.

First Aid Kit for an African Safari:

  • Headache tablets
  • Anti-nausea tablets
  • Rehydration sachets
  • Plasters, bandage and blister pads
  • Alcohol swabs
  • Gauze pads
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Splints
  • Burn shield
  • Antihistamine tablets and cream
  • Iodine tablets to treat water
  • EpiPen
  • Tweezers

All of these tools will be invaluable in keeping you safe in the event of an injury. In addition to those, here are some other things to consider packing for a safari.

Bug Spray

Lions and Zebras aren’t the only wildlife you will encounter, hopefully from a safe distance of course. There will also be plenty of bugs roaming around, hence why I warned you about which shoes to consider packing. A high-quality insect repellant is a must, I recommend this reliable brand.

Headlamp

The last thing you want is to be without any source of light in the African Wilderness. A headlamp can make it easy for you to visit the bathroom of an evening and ensure you can find your way around the camp area once the sun disappears and the stars come out.

Here is a good headlamp option

Malaria tablets

Some bugs are nastier than others, and they can carry disease. Have these with you to take in case you get bitten.

Filtered water bottle

Filtered water isn’t a luxury you realize you have until it’s gone. There are plenty of regions in Africa without clean water, so have a filtered water bottle with you. Another option is to bring a life straw with you or water purifying tablets.

Waterproof bag

There are many rainy sections in Africa depending on the time of year you are visiting. A simple yet effective waterproof bag can keep your electronics and other materials safe when it gets a little wet. This cheap waterproof bag is perfect to consider bringing with you to Africa.

Working online while travelling in Africa

If you’re also going to be working or continuing to live the digital nomad lifestyle while exploring Africa by safari then this next section is for you.

Packing for a safari – Technology items

A safari trip can last awhile, and sometimes we just can’t afford to take that time off or maybe completing the safari is actually part of your digital nomad lifestyle (Lucky You).  This is where technology comes in handy and if you wish to stay connected while travelling in some of the worlds most remote locations, then here is what you should bring.

Laptop

Let’s start with the basics. For working on the go, a laptop is perfect. The portable computer will allow you to work anywhere. There are days where you can possibly drive a lot and getting an hour or so of work done could be possible. I found myself writing blog notes, editing photos etc when crossing areas with little wildlife and barren landscape.

I use a Lenovo Yoga laptop to work online

Phone

This one is also a given. Your phone is always great to have, even if it’s just for checking emails. By grabbing a portable sim card in each country you visit you can easily stay connected with things elsewhere around the world.

You can also keep your Instagram page active and ensure others are completely jealous of your amazing trip.

Chargers

Double-check to make sure you have your charging equipment with you.  Your electronics can’t do much if they’re out of battery. Once on the road completing a safari, it might be some time before you can call in to replace anything you have forgotten.

Battery pack

You can find these in various sizes with various capabilities but I recommend getting one of a minimum 15000mAh. Brands like Anker carry several different options that should suit your needs. Furthermore, many of them can be recharged via solar energy. In my experience, I generally find these types to be less reliable though.

Grab a portable charger for your trip

Portable Wi-Fi

A Wi-Fi device will enable you to work anywhere. One that utilizes satellite will serve you better than one that relies on cell signal. This is something I would only encourage someone to seriously consider packing on safari if completely essential. Half the appeal of going on safari is to get away from daily life and technology in my opinion.

We have now covered the basics of what to wear in Africa safari, the camera gear to pack to best capture your amazing experience and of course what to pack for African safari if work is still required throughout your trip.

Now that we’ve covered all the basics, let’s talk about what not to bring. Yep, there are actually some key things you need to remember to leave off your Africa safari packing list.

What you should NOT bring on a safari trip

Black and blue clothing

Black, blue and dark coloured clothing is not good for Africa safari outfits. Flies and other bugs are attracted to these colours, so avoid them as much as possible.

Plastic Bags

Plastic bags are bad for the environment, but that isn’t the only reason no to take them with you. They are actually banned in a few countries throughout Africa.

Camouflage Clothing

This won’t actually cover you that much in the desert climates found in Africa. To top it off, this pattern is associated with rebels and/or foreign armies in several countries and you don’t want to be mistaken for either of those. Remember, as mentioned above keep to neutral colours for your safari style.

Drones

I love to take a drone with me now when travelling and the DJI has become somewhat of my new best friend, however, drones are banned in most of Africa and are also associated with foreign military powers. Best to just leave it at home and avoid any issues.

High voltage beauty products

If your camping, most beauty tools will be useless to you anyway. Even in hotels though, the amp ratings of power points can only handle so much power. A high voltage hair dryer could take out the entire lodge power, this is a definite way of getting in fellow travellers bad books, especially if they are trying to charge their camera equipment. If you must bring these with, get a travel-sized version with a low amp rating.

Beauty products in travel-sized options can be found here.

What to pack on safari – Conclusion

On an African Safari, there are many different guidelines as opposed to an average vacation. We’ve talked about what to wear, including the best colour choices for your African safari outfits, the material, and the type of clothing. We’ve also talked about suggested camera gear, and what to have with you. Nikon leads the market with most of their products in my opinion after having used them exclusively the last 5 years.

While you pack these things, don’t forget about a first aid kit and your other tools. If something goes wrong, they may save your life. 

Keeping your technology charged and operational is another thing that takes a little more planning than your average holiday vacation. You should be equipped for off the grid work and find a way to stay connected in spite of that. 

Lastly, we talked about what not to bring on your safari trip, and there are good reasons for each and every item listed. Now, it’s time for you to get ready for your trip, if you’re still looking to book a safari then I have a list of the best safari options from Cape Town to Victoria Falls

Packing for a safari – summary

What to wear on an African safari?

  • Keep to Neutral colours
  • Cover Up from The Sun
  • Invest in Microfiber clothing
  • Sun Hat/Sunglasses
  • Safari Vest
  • Layer Your Clothing

What to pack for a safari

  • T-shirts
  • Long sleeve shirts
  • Warm Sweater
  • Wind Breaker
  • Shorts
  • Jumpsuits (Girls)
  • Raincoat
  • PJs
  • Shoes
  • Sun Protection

First Aid Kit for an African Safari:

  • Headache tablets
  • Anti-nausea tablets
  • Rehydration sachets
  • Plasters, bandage and blister pads
  • Alcohol swabs
  • Gauze pads
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Splints
  • Burn shield
  • Antihistamine tablets and cream
  • Iodine tablets to treat water
  • EpiPen
  • Tweezers

Camera Gear to capture your trip

  • Nikon D5600 camera
  • Lens up to 300mm
  • Camera bag (I recommend a LowePro Bag)
  • Batteries/memory cards
  • Tripod

What NOT to pack on safari

  • Black and blue clothing
  • Plastic Bags
  • Camouflage Clothing
  • Drones
  • High voltage beauty products

I hope you enjoy your trip to Africa and don’t forget to share some of the pictures you’ve taken with your new camera. If you have any extra suggestions on items to include in this Africa safari packing list please share them in the comments section below.

Cape Town Blog Series – All the information you will need to plan and enjoy a trip to Cape Town. A full guide of the city, activities to do in and around the area, safety advice, where to stay in Cape Town suggestions, recommended restaurants to eat at, hikes and safaris to do plus much more.

Victoria Falls Blog series – All the information required to plan and enjoy a trip to Victoria Falls. Find things to do in Victoria Falls, the best value accommodation option in Victoria Falls, restaurant advice, visa information and much more

Best Africa Safaris to do – find a selection of quality safari options that include South Africa and Zimbabwe

All other Africa Travel blogs – Information on these and other destinations such as Botswana, Namibia, Morocco and Egypt.

Travel budget tips

Either booking a new travel holiday right from the start or while on such a holiday can be expensive. Things like flights, accommodation, meals, transport and tours can add up fast and put a strain on what should be a fun time. These budget travel tips will assist with booking a holiday at the best price or staying on budget while travelling.

Organise Your Trip: Travel Advice and Tricks I Personally Use

Book Your Flight

Heading to either Skyscanner or Momondo are my methods of choice for this. They are my favourite as they search for flights from different companies all over the world. You can filter the results to suit your needs and ensure you land the best price every-time.

Book Your Accommodation

This is an important part of any holiday you’re going on. Read all the reviews and get the right accommodation via TripAdvisor. They even show you the best prices available at the time for that room from suppliers like Booking.com.For booking a hostel your best bet is to start with HostelWorld or possible even use CouchSurfing if you’re on a real budget.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance is a must these days so you have a piece of mind you’re covered for anything that could go wrong while on your trip. I now never go on a trip away without travel insurance. I’ve been using World Nomads for the past few years.

My favourite companies that offer the best service and value are:

  • SafetyWing (cheaper option to just cover you for health issues)

Looking for the best companies to save money with?

As I have been travelling frequently over the last few years I’ve learnt some great tools to use for saving money when travelling. I have a travel resource page that lists all the trusted companies I personally use and rely on. I think you will find them good as well.

I also have a couple of great blogs that share quick and easy ways to save money on flights or accommodation. Take a look and save some cash on your next trip.

The Best Place To Book Your Tours

If you are someone you likes to have the best tours in one place and read reviews from other travellers about their personal experiences of each different tour then the best platform to use is GetYourGuide.

They offer the best tours, have money-back offers in case your trip is cancelled and ensure the price of each tour is the lowest possible.

Other posts that might interest you:

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Last Updated on: October 7th, 2020 at 11:31 am

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