We get asked this question a lot! According to one of the travel consultants in our office, there are four vital things she never forgets to pack before heading into the bush to check out new safari lodges: headache pills, eye drops, itchy bite cream and ear plugs. But if you are looking for a more comprehensive list, then read our suggested list of on-safari essentials. Happy packing!

Safari Chic Or Not? 

Yes, there are professional safari outfitters in New York, London and Milan where you can kit yourself out in the latest designer wear for that safari chic look. Of course, it’s great to feel good looking on safari, but take it from us … the animals don’t mind what you look like, and quite frankly you’ll feel a little silly dressed to the nines around the boma fire in the evenings.

Also, it’s fashionable to travel light these days, plus if you’re going to be flying into the exclusive and remote camps in Botswana for example, there will be luggage restrictions. Bear in mind too that most camps have a laundry service as well as the fact that you’ll be moving from camp to camp (you are on safari after all) and so it’s fine to wear the same outfit every third day …. I promise you, no one will notice!

What to wear on safari
Although very posed…!  This photo does show how well neutral colours blend into the African bush environment

Dress Like An Onion –  In Layers That You Can Peel Off

Although it gets very hot, it can be chilly out on an open safari vehicle in the early mornings and at night. So pack a lightweight jacket, even in summer. During the hot days, shorts and a t-shirt are probably the most comfortable, with long protective pants and long-sleeved shirts in the evening for warmth, as well protection against mosquitoes. Those trousers that zip off to become shorts are perfect!

Some things are important to consider, however … the right footwear for example. Closed shoes or a good pair of trainers are essential for walking through the bush. You only need serious hiking boots if you are going on a specialized walking safari in Zambia. (Plus they’re heavy). Sandals or flip flops are great for around the camp during down time.

Pack neutral colours that will blend into the environment. White is not a good colour as it makes you more visible to wild animals, as well as getting dirty faster. Also, avoid wearing blue and black in parts of Zambia during the tsetse fly season as they are strangely attracted to those colours!

Robin Pope walking safari
Sturdy walking shoes are essential when going on a Zambian walking safari (Photo Credit: Robin Pope Safaris)
Walking safari through Okavango Delta
Lightweight long sleeved shirts and trousers are best when going on a walking safari

Clothing Checklist 

  • Neutral colours
  • Lightweight shirts with long sleeves
  • T-shirts
  • Shirts or light skirt (very short skirts are impractical for climbing in and out of Landrovers)
  • Safari trousers (the ones that zip off to become shorts are great)
  • Fleece, light wool sweater or jumper for evenings
  • Lightweight windproof waterproof jacket
  • Swimwear
  • Comfortable walking shoes or trainers. (hiking boots only necessary if you are going on a serious walking safari)
  • Lightweight wool socks (if going trekking or on walking safaris)
  • Sandals or flip flops for around the camp
  • Good sun hat with a brim
  • Bandana or buff  for dusty, dry regions
  • Warm fleece, anorak, gloves and wooly beanie (only for winter months)

Other Essentials

The African sun is relentless and can be extremely harsh, so sun screen and a good wide-brimmed hat are of the utmost importance.

Every moment is a photo opportunity on an Africa trip! Even if you are not a pro photographer, you WILL take 1000’s of pictures! For photographers, it’s a dream come true – wildlife, birds, landscapes, colourful people and lots of light. Always ensure that you have enough memory sticks and spare batteries as these are difficult to buy in remote areas. If you’re a keen photographer a 200 mm (or longer) telephoto lens will come in very handy, but these can be rented out here. Remember to ask before taking photos of people, as it is considered rude in the African culture to do so without asking permission.

Londolozi safari
There are incredible photo opportunities behind every bush in Africa!
Photographic safari at Londolozi
For keen photographers a telephoto lens, spare memory sticks and batteries are essential

Essentials Checklist

  • Sunblock
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Strong insect repellent
  • Moisturiser and lip balm
  • Imodium AD tablets
  • A small first aid kit with topical antibiotics, bandaids, etc.
  • Binoculars
  • Camera with telephoto lens and extra memory cards
  • Small torch

What To Pack For Unusual Destinations

If you’re going Gorilla Trekking your consultant will send you a detailed packing list, but in general note that the high altitude forested mountain area where the mountain gorillas live, is often unexpectedly cold and wet. Useful items to pack for a trek include gardening gloves (to grip the vegetation) and gaters. Also, keep in mind that Ugandans and Rwandans value modest dressing.

Many people combine an African safari with chill out time on the beach. Popular exotic island getaway destinations are Zanzibar and Mozambique. At hotels in both countries, the dress code at most resorts and lodges is relaxed beach chic. But bear in mind that Zanzibar is predominantly a conservative Muslim society, so women and men need to dress accordingly. Women should steer clear of low-cut necklines and sleeveless tops and wear knee-length shorts, skirts and slacks when walking in public. Men should be covered from shoulder to the knee in public places, so baggy surf shorts are ok as long as the t-shirt stays on too.

Mozambique Benguerra Island
Dress relaxed beach chic when going on an exotic island getaway such as Mozambique’s Benguerra Island

Whichever exciting African adventure you are planning, we hope that our essential packing list comes in handy and at least alleviates some of the pre-departure stress. After that, we can only wish you bon voyage and welcome you to this magical continent we call home.