Packing for a safari: What not to forget on a safari packing list

by Oct 15, 2021Kenya, Packing

Packing For A Safari In Africa Cheetah

Putting together a packing list for a safari in Africa starts months in advance. Here are a few expert tips to help you begin packing for a safari in Africa.

With a bucket list trip like an African safari, you don’t want to mess up the experience by not bringing things you might need since there aren’t stores around every corner in the parks. That makes figuring out in advance what not to forget when packing for a safari an essential part of planning.

Thinking about packing for game drives in a jeep, a sunrise balloon ride, staying comfortable in camps, and being prepared for fickle weather means a lot of decisions when deciding what to pack for this new, life-changing African safari experience.

For my first African safari (a photo safari in Kenya and Michael’s second visit to Kenya), we were well-equipped, yet we still learned from the experience about a few items that would have been helpful or would have added to the comfort. We’re sharing these safari packing tips so you won’t forget them when packing for your own African safari!

Packing For African Photo Safari Zebras Fighting

Mind you, this list is not an all-inclusive packing list for a safari; instead, this safari packing list is filled with tips about specific items that we or others on our photo safari would have found – or did find — very helpful. If you have anything to add or ask, let us know!

Packing for a safari in Africa – Accessories

  • Water bottle to refill – Plastic is verboten in many African countries and who wants to create more waste anyway? Bring your own.
  • Small flashlight or headlamp – We experienced a power outage in one camp so being ready is not a bad idea. And sometimes you need to maneuver dark paths or walkways to get between a tent or cabin to a dining area or to or from a jeep before sunrise or after sunset.
  • Power pack – just a small one to keep your smartphone happy.
  • USB charging cable and plug adapter – to keep a phone or other device charged in a jeep during a game drive.
  • Stuffable pack or duffel – These stuffable bags take up little space but are indispensable on an African safari for schlepping around extra clothing or gear.
  • Waterproof bags – Permanent, reusable baggies such as those from Loksak or similar brands can protect gear and devices in rainy or dusty weather and are great for packing toiletries in non-disposal plastic baggies. Or consider smaller, roll-top dry bags for gear protection or nylon stuff sacks, especially if you have cameras. It can be so dusty that a cloth or bandana just won’t do the trick.

HITT Tip: Although many African countries, including Kenya, have prohibited single-use plastic bags, including forbidding travelers from bringing them into the country, nobody searched bags at the airport when we arrived. So do your part in eliminating waste, if possible, by using permanent plastic baggies such as the above, but don’t freak out. Yes, I had some toiletry items double-wrapped in plastic wrap, as usual, to ensure no leakage. No, the plastic police didn’t come find me. Just make sure you take it with you when you leave.

Personal care items for your packing list

  • Sunscreen – This is a given not to forget for an African safari.
  • Bug repellent – Mosquitos and the disease they carry are a constant threat. Some citronella-infused wrist bands can also work reasonably well short-term. But your best bet is a repellent called Picaridin.
  • Immunity drinks and vitamins – You will be spending a lot of time in a group and likely not getting a lot of sleep, so boosting your immune system won’t hurt. Try drinks such as Emergen-C or Resistance C, our recent favorite.
  • Earplugs – If you might be sensitive to the sounds of hippos at night or neighbors in a nearby tent, then sleep accessories are a must to pack for your safari.
  • Anti-itch sticks or lotions – If you do get a mosquito bite, you won’t want to just itch yourself to death.

Apparel packing tips for a safari

  • Warm clothing — Yes, it gets chilly in Africa, believe it! Fleece or light insulated jacket, gloves, knit cap or fleece headband, and light wool neck bandana for cool mornings are necessary. Although our safari was in August, we still had a couple of cool days in the Maasai Mara, especially on pre-dawn departures.
Therese Iknoian Photo Safari Cold

Yes, Therese was happy she had gloves, neck scarves and gloves for a couple of quite chilly and drizzly days on our photo safari in Kenya.

  • Heat packs – If you have a problem with cold hands like I do, then a set of rechargeable heat packs or compostable oxygen-powered heat packs are small and easy to pack for a safari. Yes, I used mine!

HITT Tip: Worried about being cold in tents? Don’t be. Many camps slip hot water bottles into the beds in the evening while you are at dinner. The first time we returned and saw lumps under the covers, we thought we needed to run for it. When I found it was a hot water bottle, I quickly stole Michael’s, too, and luxuriated in the warmth!!!

Safari Cold Nights Packing Tips Michael had to work to stay warm a couple of nights since Therese stole both hot water bottles that were slipped in our bed!

  • Rain shell – You may not need this on your African safari, but better safe than sorry. We did have a couple of days of rain and were grateful we both had lightweight shells in our suitcases even though we were told not to bother. Plus, it can serve as wind protection on cool days or evenings.
  • Hot weather clothing – Yes, what not to forget for an African safari includes items for both cold and hot weather if you are making the rounds of numerous national parks. For the northern Samburu region, it was quite hot, mandating tees, brimmed hats or visors, and lighter clothing.
Sun Protection For Safari Packing List

No sun visor on a hot day? No problem. Improvise with a cloth to keep the glare out of your eyes.

HITT Tip: Make sure ALL your clothing is layerable to help in packing for your African Safari. There were a couple of cool days that I literally wore four or five layers which I could wear separately or strip off as it warmed up.

  • Sun sleeves – Consider packing sun sleeves so you can make a short-sleeve shirt more sun protective on warm days on a safari – or cover your arms on a cool morning and then easily slip them off.
  • Microfiber tube scarves such as Buffs – multi-purpose neck protection, head covering or headband. Or face protection on a dusty drive.
  • Swimsuit – Yup, a swimsuit since is one thing you’ll absolutely want to put in your luggage when packing for a safari in Africa as many bush camps have pools.
  • Insect-repellent clothing – If you’d rather avoid applying chemicals to your skin, then take a look at adding mosquito- and insect-repellent clothing to your safari packing list.

Footwear to add to your safari packing list

  • Washable slip-on plastic footwear – This may sound weird as something not to forget to pack for a safari, but you spend your days in a jeep, sometimes in dusty or even muddy areas. Plus, you will be standing on the seats. No real walking involved on game drives. So if you have something you can slip in and out of that can accommodate socks for cool mornings, life is a lot easier. Plus, if it’s plastic or rubber and you slog through some mud, they are easy to rinse off. If you don’t mind bare feet in cool weather, flip-flops could work, but that wouldn’t be my personal choice since they don’t accommodate socks. Forget boots or hiking shoes. You won’t be walking enough to need them.
  • Running shoes or tennies – Another comfort option for times you may be walking a bit more. I used mine to enjoy a walking loop in one camp for a little exercise.
  • Camp shoes – You may want to dump your safari shoes and step into a pair of light, comfy, slip-ons for heading to a meal or hanging around your tent. I love my Vibram Furoshiki shoes for travel.
African Safari Street Photo

Most writing and signs were in English but communication was of course in Swahili.

Logging and learning is part of packing for a safari in Africa

  • Notebook or logbook and writing utensils – I found it helpful during a game drive to jot down the name of animals and birds seen so I’d know later what I had photographed. Plus, drivers are usually great at offering information, and you may want to take a few notes. With the jostling around in a jeep, electronic note taking can be difficult so consider adding old-school paper and pen to your packing list for a safari.
  • Basic Swahili guide – Never hurts to learn a few words of Swahili. I had a couple of PDFs I’d downloaded prior to refer to along the way. Or try your hand at a little language learning in advance with a language guide. A few words come in very handy and a language guide or two is definitely something to add to your African safari packing list.

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1 Comment

  1. Tom

    Depending on location and anticipated elevation, I like to pack silk long underwear.

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