First-Time Safari? Try This African Safari Essentials Packing List

Written by alex | 2024-05-08

Getting packed for your first African safari? Lucky you! What an exhilarating and unforgettable experience you’ve got ahead of you. 

 

However, to make the most of this adventure, proper preparation is essential. One of the key aspects of preparation is packing the right essentials to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable safari experience. 

 

In my time, I’ve worked with a number of safari companies in East Africa, and I want to share some of the time-honored tricks to give you a comprehensive packing list tailored for first-time safari goers. 

 

Whether you're heading to the vast plains and into the jungles of East Africa or the diverse landscapes of South Africa, this packing list will help you be well-equipped for your safari journey. From clothing and documents to medication and tech gadgets, we've got you covered. 

 

So, let's dive in and ensure you have everything you need for an amazing African safari! And once you’re ready to start keeping track of what you’ve packed and what you still need to pack, be sure to check out Easy Packing List.

Clothing

When it comes to clothing for your African safari, comfort and practicality are key. Here are the essential clothing items to include in your packing list:

 

  • Lightweight and breathable shirts: Pack several lightweight, long-sleeved shirts made of breathable fabrics like cotton or linen. These will protect you from the sun and insects while keeping you cool.
  • T-shirts and tank tops: Bring a few t-shirts and tank tops for hotter days or for layering under your long-sleeved shirts.
  • Long pants and shorts: Opt for lightweight, quick-drying pants and shorts. Convertible pants that can be transformed into shorts are a versatile option.
  • Safari vest or jacket: Consider packing a safari vest or jacket with multiple pockets for storing small essentials like your camera, sunscreen, and insect repellent.
  • Swimsuit: If your safari includes opportunities for swimming or relaxing by the pool, don't forget to pack a swimsuit.
  • Lightweight sleepwear: Choose lightweight and breathable sleepwear for comfortable nights in your accommodations.
  • Underwear and socks: Pack enough underwear and moisture-wicking socks for the duration of your trip. Consider bringing quick-drying options.
  • Scarf or bandana: A scarf or bandana can come in handy for various purposes, such as protecting your face from dust or as an extra layer for warmth.
  • Hat or cap: Protect your head and face from the sun by bringing a wide-brimmed hat or a cap. Choose one with a chin strap to prevent it from flying off during game drives.
  • Sunglasses: Pack a pair of sunglasses with UV protection to shield your eyes from the sun's glare.
  • Rain jacket or poncho: Be prepared for unexpected rain showers by packing a lightweight, waterproof rain jacket or poncho.
  • Warm layer: Evenings and early mornings can be chilly, especially in certain safari regions. Pack a fleece jacket or sweater for added warmth.

 

Remember to pack clothes that are appropriate for the cultural norms and modesty expectations of the countries you'll be visiting. Additionally, it's a good idea to choose neutral-colored clothing to blend in with the natural surroundings and avoid attracting insects. 

Documents

Ensuring you have the necessary documents for your African safari is crucial. Here are the essential documents to include in your packing list:

  • Passport: Check that your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your intended departure date. Make copies of the main page and any important visas or stamps and keep them separately from your passport.
  • Visa: Research the visa requirements for the countries you'll be visiting and apply for the necessary visas well in advance. Some countries offer visa-on-arrival options, while others require pre-approved visas.
  • Travel insurance: It is highly recommended to have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and lost or stolen belongings. Check the coverage details and keep a copy of the policy with you.
  • Itinerary and reservations: Print out a copy of your travel itinerary, including flight details, accommodation reservations, and any other important bookings. It will help you stay organized and provide a reference in case of any issues.
  • Vaccination certificates: Some African countries may require proof of vaccination against diseases such as yellow fever. Check the vaccination requirements for the countries you'll be visiting and carry your vaccination certificates if necessary.
  • Driver's license: If you plan to rent a vehicle or participate in self-drive safaris, make sure to bring your driver's license. Check if an International Driving Permit (IDP) is required in the countries you'll be visiting.
  • Credit/debit cards and cash: Bring a mix of credit/debit cards and some cash in the local currency. Inform your bank about your travel plans to avoid any issues with card usage abroad.
  • Emergency contacts: Make a note of emergency contact numbers for your country's embassy or consulate in the countries you'll be visiting. It's also a good idea to have the contact details of your travel insurance provider and any local tour operators or guides.
  • Medical information: Carry a list of any allergies, medical conditions, or medications you are currently taking. It can be helpful in case of a medical emergency or if you need to seek medical assistance while on safari.
  • Photocopies of important documents: Make photocopies of your passport, visa, travel insurance, and other important documents. Keep them separate from the originals or store them electronically in a secure location.

 

Remember to keep your documents safe and secure throughout your trip. Consider using a travel document organizer or a waterproof pouch to protect them from damage or loss. 

Medication

When preparing for your African safari, it's important to pack essential medications to ensure your well-being throughout the trip. Here are the key considerations for your medication packing list:

  • Prescription medication: If you take any prescription medications, ensure you have an ample supply to last the duration of your trip. Keep them in their original labeled containers to avoid any issues at customs. It's also a good idea to carry a copy of your prescription in case you need a refill or additional medication during your safari.
  • Malaria prophylaxis: Consult with a healthcare professional or travel medicine specialist about the need for malaria prophylaxis in the specific regions you'll be visiting. They will recommend the appropriate medication based on the current malaria risk in those areas. It's crucial to take the medication as prescribed and continue the course after your return as instructed.
  • Basic first aid kit: Pack a small first aid kit with essentials such as adhesive bandages, antiseptic ointment, pain relievers (e.g., acetaminophen or ibuprofen), antihistamines, and anti-diarrheal medication. Include any other personal medications or supplies you may need, such as inhalers or epinephrine auto-injectors for allergies.
  • Motion sickness medication: If you're prone to motion sickness, consider packing motion sickness medication. This can be helpful during long drives or flights, as well as during activities like boat rides.
  • Personal medical information: Carry a card or note with important medical information, including allergies, chronic conditions, and emergency contact details. This can be crucial in case of a medical emergency when immediate assistance is needed.
  • Insect repellent: Though not a medication, insect repellent is essential for protecting yourself against mosquito bites and other insect-borne diseases. Choose a repellent that contains DEET, and apply it according to the instructions. It's also a good idea to pack after-bite cream or gel in case of insect bites.
  • Sunscreen: Protect your skin from the strong African sun by packing a high SPF sunscreen. Opt for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Apply it generously and reapply frequently, especially after swimming or sweating.
  • Hydration tablets: In hot and dry safari environments, it's important to stay hydrated. Consider packing electrolyte or rehydration tablets to replenish essential minerals and salts lost through sweating.

Remember to pack your medications in your carry-on luggage, along with any necessary documentation, to ensure easy access during your journey. It's also wise to check the import regulations of your destination country regarding medications to avoid any complications.

Toiletries

Toiletries are an essential part of your packing list for an African safari. Here are the key toiletries to include in your safari essentials:

  • Sunscreen: Pack a high SPF sunscreen to protect your skin from the intense African sun. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Apply it generously and reapply throughout the day, especially after swimming or sweating.
  • Insect repellent: Mosquitoes and other insects can be prevalent in certain safari regions. Bring a reliable insect repellent containing DEET and apply it to exposed skin to prevent bites and reduce the risk of insect-borne diseases.
  • Hand sanitizer: It's important to maintain hygiene, especially in areas where access to clean water may be limited. Carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer to clean your hands when soap and water are not available.
  • Toiletries bag: Use a toiletries bag to keep your items organized and easily accessible. Choose a waterproof or leak-proof bag to prevent any spillage or damage to your other belongings.
  • Shampoo and conditioner: Pack travel-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Consider using biodegradable options to minimize environmental impact.
  • Soap or body wash: Bring a bar of soap or a travel-sized bottle of body wash for showering and maintaining personal hygiene.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste: Don't forget to pack a toothbrush and toothpaste to keep your oral hygiene in check.
  • Deodorant: Stay fresh throughout your safari adventure by packing your preferred deodorant.
  • Razor and shaving cream: If needed, bring a razor and shaving cream for personal grooming.
  • Feminine hygiene products: If applicable, pack an ample supply of feminine hygiene products for the duration of your safari.
  • Moisturizer and lip balm: The African sun and dry climate can be harsh on the skin. Carry a moisturizer with SPF and a lip balm to keep your skin and lips hydrated.
  • Personal hygiene items: Include any personal hygiene items you may require, such as contact lenses and solution, eyeglasses, contact lens cases, and solution.
  • Towel: Check with your accommodation if they provide towels. If not, consider packing a quick-drying travel towel for your safari.
  • Wet wipes: Carry a pack of wet wipes for quick and easy clean-ups when access to water is limited.
  • Personal medications: If you have any specific personal medications, make sure to pack them in a secure and easily accessible place in your toiletries bag.

Remember to check the travel restrictions for liquids and toiletries imposed by airlines and pack your toiletries accordingly. Opt for travel-sized containers when possible to save space and avoid carrying excess weight. 

Footwear

Choosing the right footwear for your African safari is crucial for comfort and safety during various activities. Here are the essential footwear options to include in your packing list:

  • Comfortable walking shoes: Invest in a pair of sturdy and comfortable walking shoes with good traction. Opt for closed-toe shoes to protect your feet from sharp objects, insects, and thorny bushes. Look for shoes with breathable materials and adequate arch support for long walks and hikes.
  • Sandals or flip-flops: Pack a pair of comfortable sandals or flip-flops for relaxing at your accommodation or during downtime. They are also suitable for shorter walks or for use in communal areas.
  • Socks: Bring enough pairs of moisture-wicking socks for your safari activities. Look for socks specifically designed for hiking or outdoor activities to prevent blisters and provide extra cushioning.
  • Lightweight hiking boots: If you plan to engage in more challenging hikes or treks during your safari, consider bringing a pair of lightweight hiking boots. Ensure they are well broken-in before your trip to avoid discomfort or blisters.

When selecting your footwear, consider the specific activities you'll be participating in and the terrain you'll encounter. It's essential to break in new shoes before your safari to avoid blisters and discomfort. 

Tech

While a safari is about getting back to nature and spending time in the wild, we can’t ignore that technology plays a significant role in the safari experience. Here are the essential tech gadgets and accessories to include in your packing list:

  • Camera: Capture the incredible wildlife and stunning landscapes of your safari with a good quality camera. Whether you prefer a DSLR, mirrorless camera, or a high-quality smartphone with a good camera, make sure you have enough memory cards and spare batteries to last throughout your trip.
  • Binoculars: Enhance your wildlife viewing experience by bringing a pair of binoculars. Look for binoculars with a good magnification and a wide field of view.
  • Portable charger/power bank: Keep your electronic devices powered up throughout your safari with a portable charger or power bank. This is especially useful during long game drives or when access to electricity is limited.
  • Adapter plugs: Check the electrical outlets used in the countries you'll be visiting and bring the appropriate adapter plugs to charge your devices.
  • Smartphone and accessories: Your smartphone can serve multiple purposes during your safari. It can be used as a camera, GPS, communication device, and a source of information. Don't forget to pack a sturdy phone case, a car charger, and any necessary charging cables.
  • Headlamp or flashlight: A headlamp or flashlight is essential for navigating your surroundings during nighttime or in areas with limited lighting. Opt for a headlamp with adjustable brightness and a long battery life.
  • Portable speakers: If you enjoy listening to music or podcasts, consider packing small portable speakers to enjoy your favorite tunes during downtime at your accommodations.
  • E-reader or tablet: If you're an avid reader, an e-reader or tablet can be a convenient way to carry multiple books without adding extra weight to your luggage.
  • Portable Wi-Fi hotspot: If you require a reliable internet connection during your safari, consider renting or purchasing a portable Wi-Fi hotspot. This can be useful for staying connected, sharing your experiences, and accessing online resources.
  • Waterproof phone pouch or dry bag: Safeguard your electronic devices from water or dust by using a waterproof phone pouch or a dry bag. This is particularly important during water-based activities or when unpredictable weather conditions arise.
  • Noise-canceling headphones: Reduce ambient noise and immerse yourself in the sounds of nature by using noise-canceling headphones. They can also be useful for blocking out noise during long flights or drives.

Remember to pack and protect your tech gadgets in waterproof and shockproof cases or bags to ensure their safety during your safari. Also, be mindful of conserving battery life and use power-saving modes when necessary. 

Snacks

Having snacks on hand during your African safari can be helpful for long drives, between meals, or when you're on the go. Here are some snack options to consider including in your packing list:

  • Energy bars: Pack a variety of energy bars that are high in protein and provide a quick source of nourishment. Look for bars that are not easily crushed and can withstand heat.
  • Nuts and seeds: Bring a mix of your favorite nuts and seeds, such as almonds, cashews, peanuts, or sunflower seeds. They are a good source of protein, healthy fats, and energy.
  • Dried fruits: Pack dried fruits like raisins, apricots, mangoes, or cranberries. They provide natural sweetness and are a good source of fiber and essential nutrients.
  • Granola or trail mix: Create your own trail mix by combining dried fruits, nuts, seeds, and granola. It's a convenient and customizable snack option.
  • Crackers or rice cakes: Choose whole-grain crackers or rice cakes for a lighter snack option. Pair them with nut butter or cheese for added flavor and protein.
  • Jerky or biltong: If you enjoy meat snacks, consider packing beef jerky or biltong (especially if you’re going to be in South Africa! Go straight to the source). They are a good source of protein and can be an excellent savory snack.
  • Dark chocolate: Treat yourself to some dark chocolate, which can provide a boost of energy and is rich in antioxidants. Opt for individually wrapped pieces to prevent melting.
  • Reusable water bottle: While not a snack item, carrying a reusable water bottle is essential to stay hydrated during your safari. Fill it up whenever you have access to clean water to avoid dehydration.

Remember to pack snacks that are non-perishable, easy to eat on the go, and can withstand the heat of the African climate. Avoid snacks that can easily melt or spoil. Additionally, check the regulations for bringing snacks or food items into the countries you'll be visiting to ensure compliance with customs.

Etc.

In addition to the previous sections, there are a few more items to consider for your African safari. Here are some miscellaneous essentials to include in your packing list:

  • Money and cards: Carry enough local currency for small purchases, tips, and emergencies. It's also advisable to bring a credit/debit card for larger expenses. Check with your bank regarding any international fees or currency exchange options.
  • Reusable water bottle: Stay hydrated by bringing a reusable water bottle that can be refilled during your safari. Look for a bottle with good insulation to keep your water cool throughout the day.
  • Daypack: A small daypack will come in handy for carrying your essentials during excursions, game drives, or short hikes. Choose one that is lightweight, comfortable to wear, and has enough compartments to keep your belongings organized.
  • Travel pillow and blanket: For long flights or drives, consider bringing a travel pillow and a lightweight blanket to increase comfort and help you get some rest.
  • Travel lock: Keep your belongings secure by bringing a travel lock for your luggage. This will provide an additional layer of protection against theft.
  • Travel adapter: Depending on the countries you'll be visiting, you may need a travel adapter to plug in your electronic devices. Research the specific plug types used in your destination and bring the appropriate adapter.
  • Travel guidebooks and maps: Bring guidebooks or maps of the areas you'll be visiting to enhance your knowledge and understanding of the local culture, history, and wildlife. They can also be helpful for navigating and planning your activities.
  • Multi-purpose tool or pocket knife: A multi-purpose tool or pocket knife with a knife, scissors, and other useful tools can be handy in various situations during your safari. Just be sure not to put it in your carry-on items!
  • Ziplock bags: Pack a few ziplock bags of various sizes. They can be used to store wet or dirty clothes, protect electronics from moisture, or keep small items organized.
  • Travel insurance and emergency contact information: Carry a copy of your travel insurance policy and emergency contact information. Keep them in a secure place, separate from your original documents.
  • Laundry supplies: If you plan to do laundry during your safari, bring a small amount of laundry detergent or travel-sized laundry soap sheets.

Remember to pack light and consider the weight restrictions imposed by airlines. Leave some room in your luggage for any souvenirs or items you may acquire during your safari. 

All good? Feeling prepped to start preparing? Then it’s time to get packing by using Easy Packing List!