Ernest Hemingway once said, ‘I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up that I was not happy,’ and it seems that most travellers feel the same way. There is something inexplicably magical about the African bush, which is why a safari trip in Southern Africa is the vacation of a lifetime.

Deciding what to pack for your trip can be an exciting or overwhelming task, depending on how you look at it, but we’ve got you covered with tips for everything you need to take on your African safari vacation.

Woman sitting at Sanctuary Chief’s Camp with elephant in background

Safari clothing essentials

Clothing is always a good start when packing for a trip, but the clothes you’ll need on safari are slightly different.

Think cool and comfy cotton, natural materials and muted tones such as khaki, beige, olive and tan. Not only are these colours and fabrics dirt-friendly, but they’re also good for keeping cool in the heat and blending in with the natural surroundings.

Wearing darker colours such as black or navy can attract Tsetse flies which have a nasty bite and are common in parts of Eastern and Central Africa. It’s also wise to steer clear of camouflage clothing as this is associated with trophy hunters and is also worn by military personnel in many African countries.

Thick socks and hardy hiking boots are a must if you plan on adventuring into the bush on a guided walking safari, otherwise, a pair of comfy sneakers is perfect if you’re planning on enjoying the views from the safari vehicle.

A wide-brimmed hat is essential for keeping the sun off your face and natural materials and neutral colours will work well here, too. Once the heat of the day has worn off, evenings and night time in the bush can be cool to moderate so be sure to pack warmer clothes that you can layer when enjoying a candle-lit dinner under the African skies.

Nighttime dining under the stars at Sabi Sabi Little Bush Lodge
Warm clothes are a must for night game drives and dining under the stars

Cameras, binoculars and other equipment

Not only is it great to document your safari trip, but cameras and binoculars can significantly help when viewing animals at a distance.

Birders should arm themselves with a great pair of binoculars, such as the Wingspan Optics Skyview Ultra HD, as well as a copy of the iconic Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa or the Sasol Birds of Southern Africa book. These books are staples for all birding enthusiasts visiting the African bush.

Man enjoying birding safari looking at bird from motorboat in Okavango Delta
A good pair of binoculars is essential for an enhanced game and bird viewing experience

Ideally, when photographing birds and wildlife you need a DSLR camera, such as the Canon Mark II or the Nikon D500, which are favourites for capturing fast-moving wildlife or birds in flight. Added lenses with focal ranges between 300mm and 600mm will do wonders for the quality of the photographs you’ll capture, but this equipment can be very pricy. If you’re on a tight budget, a digital camera with an optical zoom, such as the Canon PowerShot will work just fine, but if you’re into high-speed, beautifully-focused images, invest a little in some good equipment and the returns will be worth it.

Photographic Safari in the Kruger National Park
Wildlife and hobbyist photographers alike will enjoy capturing the African wild during a safari game drive

Gear and accessories

Depending on what kind of safari experience you’re after, there are loads of great accessories and tools you can take on your safari trip.

  • A selfie stick is great for capturing candid shots from the game viewing vehicle and ensuring a steady shot when that lion gets a little too close for comfort.
  • Waist packs and money belts are incredibly useful for carrying small but important things with you on your game drives, such as your credit cards, passport and other valuables. Some waist packs are also equipped with a water bottle holder so you can remain hydrated and enjoy a hands-free game viewing experience, although refreshments are readily available and provided by the rangers.
  • Other essentials for game viewing include sunblock, insect repellant, warm clothing for night drives, as well as your phone and possibly a power bank.
  • If your safari trip involves any charter flights, it’s important to note that you can only use soft travel luggage, so bear this in mind when packing for your trip.
  • You may be visiting the African bush, but most safari lodges and camps are equipped with electricity to plug in your appliances and charge your phone. Be sure to pack the relevant plug, and ensure you buy any adapters or converters needed to use your appliances in the country you’re travelling to.

Now that you know what to pack, take a look at some of our Southern African safari tours and itineraries, or get in touch and we’ll help make your dream safari vacation to South Africa, the Kalahari, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia or Zimbabwe become a reality.

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