Exploring the African wilds this vacation? No doubt, you have a grand trip in mind and I’m sure you have thought of everything or at least, almost everything. Normally when you travel abroad and realize you have left your aftershave lotion at home, you simply potter over to the nearest convenience and store and pick up a local brand.
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 may be several miles away. This should be reason enough for you to keep a checklist of all the essentials that you need to pack.
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 normally 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 gadgets.
Binoculars are an absolute must. You may not get to see all the wildlife at close quarters so carry a pair of powerful binoculars. Make sure you it comes with a proper case and a strap. The strap is very important 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 interesting.
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 carry some of your own stuff just in case. If you plan on camping out, make sure you carry 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, water bottle, and a compass.
Clothing and Accessories
Here’s where you really need to be careful. The general rules are no bright or gaudy 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, pyjamas, a waterproof jacket in case you’re travelling during the rain season, half sleeved and long sleeved shirts or tops and a cotton pullover for the cool 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 cool 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 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 pair of slippers or sandals for your sightseeing trips in the towns and cities.
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. Take along a first aid kit with the following – prescription medication, malaria tablets, antihistamines, aspirin, skin creams for mild rashes, supplements and motion sickness pills.
It might be difficult 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.
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 inoculation certificates, prescriptions, contact information, air ticket and copies of your passport. Carry your documents in plastic zip lock or waterproof bags. Carry cash and credit cards. If you don’t have a currency calculator on your mobile phone, a conversion chart would come in handy.
All of the above items have to be within 30 pounds so don’t carry a heavy suitcase or trolley. Your luggage should be light but strong 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.
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 need a written list so make sure you make one and check each of your belongings against it.