6 Things You Must Pack for Your African Safari‎

Are you exploring the African wilds this vacation? No doubt, you have a grand trip in mind, and you have thought of everything or, at least, almost everything. Usually, when you travel abroad and realize you have left your aftershave lotion at home, you run over to the nearest convenience store and pick up a local brand.

In the case of South Africa, the month of May has cool temperatures and almost no rain in the interior of the country. Cooler temperatures support the movement of animals during the day. The Kruger National Park is almost as big as Israel. So, you will need a minimum of 3 nights. And perhaps 2 locations.

The Kruger and Welgevonden allow you to drive to Panorama Route to see some of the most incredibly beautiful natural formations: the Blyde River Canyon, Mac Mac Falls, God’s Window, the 7-storey Bourke’s Luck Potholes, the Caves, the incredible Drakensberg Mountains. Make sure you don’t carry cash because some hotels and lodges have begun to refuse it. Cash is fast becoming so yesterday. Stay deep, deep, deep in the bush.

In a way, an African safari is a spiritual experience. You will be entering a dominion that cannot be dominated by man, a heavenly kingdom of wildlife on Earth. Please Cherish it, Love it and Respect it. Stay only in a bush lodge. You are likely to be served mostly by Malawians; they understand the bush. And their service is amazing; very polite people. The town of Port Alfred itself is absolutely spectacular by global standards. Just amazing.

Really, enjoy your safari anywhere in Africa. It’s a truly unique experience. Do not accept anything about Western Cape or even Cape Town as having the Big Five. You will be terribly disappointed or even offended, for ethical reasons. Other Private Game Reserves are not really worth it because of their size and lack of diversity. And they will make you pay a lot for what they call exclusivity. A safari is not about exclusivity. What exclusivity? Free and rare liquor?

Across safari destinations in Africa you'll come across misty early mornings, the hunt for the Big 5, fiery sunsets and stories around the campfire under a starry sky. Well known locations in Southern Africa would include the Kruger National Park in South Africa, the Etosha National Park in Namibia, the Chobe National Park in Botswana, the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park that straddles the South African and Botswana border to name just a few of the better known parks.

There are however many other parks in Southern Africa in which a vast number and range of game may be seen. In South Africa, and in the KwaZulu-Natal province in particular, the following parks come to mind - the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, the iThala Game Reserve and the Mkuze Game Reserve.

Each park or reserve tends to have its very own unique vegetation mix and topography which ranging from flat to mountainous and from desert-like to open grassland to savana to wooded thicket.

Africa will steal your heart. When you leave and go home after your safari, you won’t be the same person. You will have left a part of your heart in Africa. You might not want to go back home at all. Going on a safari is a little bit different from regular trips. Point number one, it can be compared with camping and often needs as much gear. Point number two, the nearest convenience store maybe several miles away.

This leads to the second problem, which is that you will want to come back. Again and again. And this can have financial considerations for you. You might end up broke because of your safari addiction. If you’re not careful, you’ll be selling family heirlooms just to get your fix and be able to afford another safari to South Africa.

Not that a safari to South Africa is expensive. South Africa is the most affordable safari destination in all of Africa. Everything is priced in the local currency, ZAR. The rest of Africa is priced in USD and significantly more expensive than South Africa. You can do a 5-day Kruger Park safari for under $1000 per person. But if you come back year after year and stay longer and longer on each trip, it will eventually impact your savings.

Thousands and thousands of tourists are out on bush walks and open vehicle game drives every single day all over Africa, without being attacked by wild animals. Because these animals are used to the vehicles, and do not see them as a threat nor as food. If they were to recognise the humans on the vehicle as humans, they would run away, not attack them.

Your biggest risk when going on a safari to South Africa is that you will fall in love with South Africa and not want to go back home. This happens to many people and there is no cure for this affliction.

Things You Must Pack for Your African Safari‎

This should be reason enough for you to keep a checklist of all the essentials that you need to pack.

1. Gear and Equipment

What’s a safari without all your camera equipment? Make sure you pack plenty of spare batteries. I wouldn’t go with the rechargeable kind. Electricity is typically rationed out in the far-flung areas, and many lodges depend on solar power. You will also need film or extra memory sticks, a video camera, a compass, and chargers for electronic travel gadgets.

Binoculars are an absolute must. You may not get to see all the African wildlife at close quarters, so carry a pair of powerful binoculars. Make sure you come with a proper case and a strap. The strap is essential since it is best to keep it dangling from your neck. That way, you can raise it to your eyes every time you spot something unusual.

Check with your safari company on the supplies they offer as part of the package. This will reduce the baggage you need to carry. However, account for glitches and take some of your stuff just in case. If you plan on camping out, make sure you bring a sleeping bag with you.

Most lodges provide a bed with a mosquito netting, but don’t take a risk. Carry one with you. The last thing you want is to be covered in mosquito bites. There are lots of miscellaneous items that may come in handy like waterproof matches, washing detergent, a small flashlight, a water bottle, and a compass.

2. Clothing and Accessories

Here’s where you need to be careful. The general rules are no bright or flashy colors or no dark colors like black, blue, or purple. Don’t wear your blue jeans out on the safari because the color is known to attract the tsetse fly, and that could spell big trouble for you.

You can’t go wrong with earth tones and natural fibers. Do what the park rangers and guides do – wear khaki, beige, tan, or brown. Bush colors rarely attract the attention of the wildlife, and they are less likely to bolt when you approach.

Make sure you pack enough for the duration of your visit. T-shirts, cotton vests, undergarments, swimwear, pajamas, a waterproof jacket in case you’re travelling during the rainy season, half-sleeve and long-sleeve shirts or tops and a cotton pullover for the cold nights and early mornings. Carry lightweight pants, preferably convertible pants that double as shorts.

You can wear them as full-length trousers during the early mornings and nights as it can be quite cold and then unzip and remove the leg attachments converting them into shorts during the hot and humid day.

A gentle reminder that many of the places you visit may frown on skimpy clothing, so women need to make sure they dress appropriately; otherwise, the native people may be offended. Don’t wear camouflage clothing unless you want to be mistaken for a poacher.

The sun can bear down on you out in the African bush. You will need a pair of sunglasses and a sun or safari hat (earth or neutral tones). Both should be attached with straps so that you don’t lose either while wearing them. Carry a spare pair of spectacles or contact lenses. It will cost you double or triple the price if you buy it at the boutique.

Now we come to the shoes. Wear sensible and hardy shoes. You will be doing a lot of hiking on your safari and cannot afford to torture your feet. Invest in a comfortable pair of hiking boots (again earthy colors and no whites). Pack in a couple of slippers or sandals for your sightseeing trips in the towns and cities.

3. Toiletries and Medication

Your toilet case should contain soap, shampoo, hair comb or brush, deodorant, shaving gel, razor, toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, mouthwash, a good sunscreen, body lotion, a small vial of citronella, lip balm, hand sanitizer, insect repellent, wet wipes, sanitary napkins, pads or tampons, Q-tips, band-aid, and face wash. An essential most of us forget to carry, insect repellent is a must no matter where you’re travelling.

Lightweight and small, it’s always a good idea to carry medical essentials with you. Add in bandages, an antibacterial solution for cuts, and any medication you might need to carry. Take along a first aid kit with the following – prescription medication, malaria tablets, antihistamines, and aspirin, skin creams for mild rashes, supplements, and motion sickness pills.

It might be challenging to adjust to the water and the food in new places, so go prepared since it may not be easy to get your hands on medicines. Include antacid, medicine for diarrhea, and oral rehydration salts in your first aid kit.

4. Important Documents

You can get into a world of trouble if you don’t have your paperwork in order. Pack your passport, visas, health insurance papers, vaccination and immunization certificates, prescriptions, contact information, air ticket, and copies of your passport. Carry your documents in a plastic zip-lock or waterproof bag. Carry cash and credit cards. If you don’t have a currency calculator on your mobile phone, a conversion chart will come in handy.

5. Luggage

All of the above items have to be within 30 pounds so don’t carry a heavy suitcase or trolley. Your baggage should be light but durable, so choose accordingly. A daypack is ideal for keeping essentials like water bottle, sunscreen, maps, camera, light snacks, money, wipes, and a thin face towel. You should also carry a copy of your passport and visa, a travel guide, and insect repellent.

6. Sunscreen

Wear sunscreen at all times. Bring your own (everything is more expensive abroad) and while you’re at it, bring some aloe gel for sunburns as well! A lot of passengers exaggerate - they either don’t use sunscreen at all or they fall asleep on deck, or, or, or point is, they end up looking like lobsters, and in a lot of pain.

Tat takes away the fun for at least a couple of days, depending on how sensitive they are. Always wear sunscreen. You really don’t feel the strength of the sun while at sea, it’s quite dangerous if you exaggerate. Don’t ruin your vacation for something so trivial.

There may be a few odds and ends that are missing from this list, or maybe there are things here that you don’t need. Trips like this require a written record, so make sure you make one and check each of your belongings against it.
Kalyan Panja