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How to Pack for an African Safari


Ask a travel agent what appears on most people’s bucket list, and a trip to see the Big Five in the wild ranks way up there. While there’s no need to go full commando in camouflage when you’re on safari, you’ll want to pack clothing that stands up to the heat, yet protects you from some of the landscape’s smallest predators: mosquitoes and tsetse flies. Read on to learn what to pack for a safari.

Overall Plan: Loose layers and accessories that protect you from the sun and biting insects are your priority. Choose these items carefully, as many safaris require transportation on small planes or vehicles that have strict luggage restrictions (most lodges and hotels have laundry facilities). This is not the terrain for a wheeled suitcase; instead, invest in a duffel or soft-sided bag that can be placed into small compartments. Carry everything that’s valuable in a daypack.

What’s Essential? The African sun can be brutal. Bring a pair of polarizing sunglasses that can protect your eyes. During the day, you’ll want a hat that covers not only your face, but also your ears and neck. Look for one that has a cord so it won’t fly off as your Jeep sprints across the savannah. Those roads can get bumpy, so women might want to pack a sports bra.

The African bush can be chilly during the mornings and evenings; be sure to bring a windbreaker and long pants. You’ll want to pick your shoes depending on the type of safari you’re taking; while heavy hiking boots are necessary for a walking trip, you’re better off with light hikers and sports sandals if you’ll be spending most of the time in a vehicle (sandals are also great for walking around the camp at night). A small flashlight or headlamp can also assist after hours, as many lodges and camps run on generators. And finally, you’ll kick yourself if you don’t bring a pair of good, mid-size binoculars. Look for ones that are sturdy enough to survive getting dropped.

Secret Weapon: So common back home, batteries can be a priceless commodity if you run out of them in the bush. Pack some extras — and buy an extra digital camera card while you’re at it. You don’t want to run out of space right when you’re ready to take that close-up of a lion.

Safety First: A small first-aid kit full of bandages, hand sanitizer and medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, may be your best friend. Consider including ibuprofen, Dramamine and Imodium; ask a doctor if he or she will give you some Cipro (for intense stomach problems) and/or Ambien (for sleeping on the plane). Pack an extra travel toothbrush in case you forget and use tap water. And it goes without saying that insect repellent and malaria medication should be on your list (ask your outfitter if mosquito netting is provided).

Leave at Home: The colors that you wear on safari are almost as important as the actual clothes. Anything white and bright will distract the animals, and black and blue (including jeans) attract flies. Stick to olive, green and khaki. Forget your formal clothes; things are casual out in the bush, even at upscale lodges.

Packing Advice for Other Trip Types

Active/Outdoors | Beach Vacation | City Sightseeing

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–written by Chris Gray Faust

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