The golden rule here is to pack as lightly as possible. Since the weather is dry, one doesn’t sweat, so clothes stay fresh several days. Airlines are getting stricter on carry-on and checked weight limits. Remember the real purpose of your trip. You don’t want to be stuck with a lot of heavy baggage that you might not use.
The safari packing list is based on my own experience in packing for the safaris that I have been on.
- Safari hats are a must. To be effective they should protect the back of the neck and ears. For photography, a flexible brim is preferred.
- Clothing in neutral colors: khaki, light brown/green, or tan. Avoid bright colors & white for improved game viewing.
- Jacket – the nights are quite cool in July/August, so consider a windbreaker or light jacket.
- Comfortable non-synthetic short- and long sleeved shirts (2 or 3 of each)
- Comfortable non-synthetic shorts and long trousers (2 or 3 of each)
- About 5 sets of underwear
- Flip-flops or sport sandals (public showers, airing feet)
- Comfortable hiking/walking (not white). These are critical on a walking safari.
- About 5 pairs of well padded socks.
Some of these supplies might be available in the first aid kit that every safari company should carry but make sure before leaving them off your safari packing list.
- Insect repellent/ Mosquito Coil (these are often provided by the lodge. Do not use coils in a tent)
- Mosquito netting – Your safari company might supply these so find out from them first
- Sunblock and after sun lotion
- Malaria tablets (very important)
- Citronella or other body soap/shower gel
- Sunglasses – Make sure they have polarized lenses.
- Water Bottle or you can stick to the bottled water
- Wet wipes/hand sanitizer or no-water/antibacterial soap – very handy in the safari vehicle.
- Pocket Knife (Swiss/Leatherman type)
- Small scissors, if not on your Leatherman/Swiss knife
- Toothbrush/toothpaste/dental floss
- 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner
- Lip balm
- Q-tips & cotton balls
- Razor & shaving cream/gel
- Birth control (AIDS is rampant in Africa, so sex with locals is not recommended).
- Contact lens solution & extra set of disposable lenses
- Band aids & moleskin
- Cold medications (these are hard to find in Kasane grocery stores)
- Motion sickness tablets
- Heartburn remedy
- Anti-diarrhoea medicine – Immodium (TM) is one good brand
- Plastic bags – these now come in sizes of 5 gallons or more (wet washing/protect shoes from insects/organize clothes in suitcase)
- Cell Phone – many US cell phones do work in Botswana. I know the AT&T Wireless 3G network will work. These are much better than trying to use a citizen band radio, but beware that US talk time plans will charge close to $1 a minute, so this is for emergency use.
- Books to read between game viewing and other leisure time
- Allergy remedy
- Some people take a basic antibiotics such as Cipro in case
- Prescribed medicine (enough to last your trip)
- The thing to remember when choosing luggage is weight and mobility. You will probably be moving between several different modes of transport (airplanes, cars, light aircraft, trucks, boats) so plan accordingly.
- Suitcases with wheels don’t work very well in the African bush but they are adequate if you don’t mind carrying them. In the airport, wheels really help one manipulate several bags at once.
- A camera backpack and a daypack is very handy to transport the items you need while driving around in the safari vehicle or walking through the bush
- Cabelas has a vast selection of excellent safari luggage and daypacks. Just enter the search term luggage in the top left hand corner of their webpage to find the right one
SAFARI EQUIPMENT Essential for a successful trip. No safari packing list is complete without them
- Headlamp and flashlights – I prefer the headlamps that have a red LED setting as this does not blind any fellow travelers when in use.
- Camera, extra memory and extra flash batteries and lens cleaner
- Read the free “Better Safari Photography” ebook for information on the best safari cameras and lenses to take with.
- Bean bag to substitute a tripod – empty. You can buy dried beans or lentils at any grocery in Africa to fill the bag. By the way, in a push, I one gallon zip lock bag can serve as a bean bag.
- Sleeping Bag if on a camping safari (may be supplied by safari company so check first)
- Travel pillow, or you can use your polar fleece/windbreaker
- Money belt
- Two way radio set (these will have limited range in the bush, but pretty good range on the roadway going to Chobe and also on the water/rivers)
- Plug adaptors – generally in Botwana it is the same as South Africa, 3-prong round or square
- Power strip/surge protector – you will need to charge batteries (maybe for multiple cameras) and maybe a two-way radio as well as your laptop computer, so this is a must.
- Automobile power inverter – optional, but handy for getting U.S. 110 voltage power for computer or camera while in your vehicle.
- Tire gauge – in case you need to let air out of tires on sandy trails
- Lighter/waterproof matches
- Travel alarm clock
- TSA approved luggage combination locks (keys get lost)
- Mini sewing kit
- Passport & correct visas if needed
- International Drivers license (you can get this at local AAA office for small fee)
- Emergency phone numbers
- Africa travel insurance policy
- The African Safari Journals travel dairy book – to write your journal and record the wildlife you see. Also includes a hard copy safari packing list
- Guide book(s) covering the area you’re visiting – it should include animals/birds pages for easy identification
- Your itinerary
- Maps of Chobe Park
- Addresses and mobile numbers (postcards/e-mails/texts)
- Any vaccinations certificates
- International Youth Hostel card (depending on your type of trip and accommodation)
- Phone card and international access numbers
- Extra passport photos
- Copy of your passport, kept in a separate place than your passport
- Copy of marriage certificate, if applicable especially if you recently tied the knot
- Medical history
- Copies of prescriptions
- Small stickers to label your used Compact flash cards, external drives or films
Follow this safari packing list and you will never have to worry about the frustration of leaving something behind or taking something that you won’t need on your African safari.
Print the safari packing list out and tick the items off as you go along to make sure you don’t miss anything.
If you’re planning to do a self guided camping safari, find out what to take from our camping checklist (to be included at a later date).
Light aircraft: Important note
If part of your itinerary includes light aircraft flights, there are serious weight restrictions. You are usually restricted to 10 or 12kg (22 or 26 lbs), per person, in a soft bag. Storage space in a light aircraft is at a premium, and the pilot may refuse to take on bulky or excessive luggage. The most common aircraft types used for charter work are Cessna 206 or 210, and Cessna 208 Caravans. A reasonable amount of hand luggage and camera equipment is generally allowed.
Remember that the charter pilot has the final say in terms of taking the luggage and you will be responsible for costs should your luggage need to be forwarded for you, or should an extra aircraft be required for transportation.