Packing for a safari adventure can seem like a challenge, perhaps even a little overwhelming. Especially for the first time visitor and especially when so many internal flights are far stricter with weight limits than international airlines. However if you are well organised, allow plenty of time it will all seem like a walk in the park. Here are just a few tips that may pave the way for a stress free packing experience.
Help! what do I wear on safari? Well, this has to be the biggest question and of course specifically this depends on where you are going and at what time of the year.
Let’s start with Africa as the example and where most of our guided trips focus on. So yes indeed Africa is a hot continent, but would you be surprised if we often suggest a warm jacket/fleece/or even a lightweight down jacket as an essential item? Well, don’t be as actually first thing in the morning and last thing at night it can be surprisingly cold (in some places in Sub-Saharan Africa during the winter months of June – August it can get down to freezing). So ensure you pack that fleece, as you will likely need it, and whilst you are there a thin pair of gloves and a hat will go a long way to keep you toasty warm in the winter months.
Layering is the key! This leads nicely on to the next top tip, come prepared to layer when it comes to clothing and your packing. As mentioned it can start off cold in the morning, yet often by mid morning you are shedding clothing rather rapidly and whilst you may have found yourself leaving your tent that morning looking like you are set to hike on the cold Yorkshire moors you will soon find you are in shorts and t-shirt weather. Layering takes the pain of this away and means you are set for the whole day and for all manner of weather conditions. Convertible type trousers (look at brands such as NorthFace, Rohan, Columbia and Craghoppers) are perfect additions for your case. Simply unzip your legs when you get warm and ‘voila’ – you are now super cool in shorts and have saved weight in your luggage to!
Its all about being practical. A further piece of advice we can give when it comes to clothing on safari is to leave your fancy/designer clothing items at home. Remember you are on safari, and its not a fashion parade so leave the ‘cat-walk’ for the real cats! On safari it’s all about being practical when it comes to your clothing. Lets be fair it is pretty difficult to make any fashion statement when wearing safari apparel and that is totally ok! You may get a little dusty or even muddy getting in /out of the game vehicle and that’s all part of the fun. If you are worried about the weight of your luggage also bare in mind that it’s also totally ok to not change your clothing every single day (especially if you are on a camping safari) If the mere thought of this sends you into a sweat then do not panic as most camps provide laundry (either at little or no cost) and so if you do find yourself in a spot when you need to launder that’s always easy to cater for. If you are factoring in having laundry done whilst you are away this is also another reason to leave your favourite designer t-shirt behind. Detergents in Africa are often harsher than in other areas and so you don’t want to risk damaging your special wash item. So if it’s question of what looks good or what is practical always opt for the latter! A couple of pairs of shorts and trousers (or convertible trousers), a fleece, a few long and short sleeved shirts/polo shirts or t-shirts/vest tops, something clean to wear on your journey home and for the evening at camp and of course a fleece and you are all set to go!
Avoid the colour blue! Be careful of the colour blue when packing! Aside from the obvious advice of wearing neutral coloured clothing on safari we also suggest avoiding wearing bright blue. This is because it is believed many biting insects, such as Tsetse flies are attracted to this colour. This is not to say that you are suddenly going to be ravaged by flies or insects if you do wear blue but something to be mindful of when making those colour choices of which t-shirts to bring!
What about footwear? Unless your safari states that you will be doing a lot of walking across difficult or muddy terrain and states otherwise then what footwear you take on safari is very simple. You only need to pack two pairs of footwear and that will easily cater for your adventure. Pack a pair of either lightweight and breathable walking shoes/boots (or even sturdy trainers will suffice) plus a pair of sandals. You will find yourself wearing the former for most part of the time with a pair of sandals feeling much appreciated when you are relaxing back at camp in between game drives and wish to give you feet a bit of ‘air time’ during the hottest part of the day.
Let there be light! If you are on a camping safari then one of the ‘must haves’ is a small torch, ideally a head torch. Your tents, whether camping in the bush or at a permanent tented camp will always have light provisions in your tent. However, this lighting is often far more subdued than that of in your own home. So when you are trying to locate that essential item in your bag a small torch will be perfect to provide that extra source of light in your tent and head torches are perfect in that they allow you to have both hands free. In addition when on a camping safari you will certainly appreciate that torch when walking back to your tent at night and around the camp.
Plenty of memory card storage and batteries. So, lets assume you have just laid out precious money to ensure you have the perfect camera kit for your safari but one thing to not forget is to bring plenty of memory cards! Never under estimate the amount of images you take on safari. You will literally come home with thousands! It does sound a rather obvious statement but one that I am sure even the most conservative of shooters will readily admit to the multitude of images they return with after a safari! Linked to this will be a requirement to think about taking spare batteries to. You will always likely have access to charging facilities on your safari. However, you never want to be caught mid-game drive with a failing battery so always have at least one, ideally two spare batteries. The number of course does all depend on the longevity of your specific camera battery.
Don’t forget to back up! We always suggest ensuring you have at least one form of back up device for your images. No-one ever wants to be in that position where you have just bagged the shot of the century only for your card to then fail on you. Granted there are many recovery software options available, but ones that can never be assured as to working. So, get into the habit of taking a back up device for your images (laptop/Ipad/tablet/hard drive etc.) and most importantly get into the habit of every day (or if time allows after every drive) of backing your memory cards up.
Look after your equipment. Protect your camera kit! So you have packed your clothes, decided on which camera to bring but what about how you look after that in the field? You may have a camera bag that you will store your camera in on game drives, but what’s important is to always have your camera to hand and in some cases quickly! Those extra seconds of unzipping the bag and getting the camera out CAN make the difference of getting the shot or not. An effective method that keeps dust off your kit yet maintains good accessibility is keeping it to hand in a lightweight camera cover/slip. There are many items that you can buy that for this purpose, some that are waterproof and usually less than £15. However, if you want a cheaper option we always recommend bringing an old pillow case – perfect to keep your camera in as you are driving around and when you don’t want to pop it in the zipped bag. Granted it will not be as impenetrable to dust as a specific camera cover but a good cheaper alternative option. When it comes to keeping your kit clean also keeping a small puffer brush and pack of lens wipes on hand will help keep your kit in tip-top condition. These can easily be purchased from your local camera shop.
Lastly….don’t forget your binoculars! Always bring a pair of binoculars! An easy thing to maybe miss in your packing frenzy and one that you may feel is not required especially after spending your money on the trip and your fancy new camera. However, an item that you will be grateful of bringing as nothing beats having your own pair. You do not need to go out and spend a lot of money, but even by bringing a cheap pair will mean that you do not have to rely on sharing and have a pair of binoculars that are comfortable and that you know work well for you.
We hope you have found this useful and of course please feel free to share this blog post. This is just a little taster of advice and of course there are other items we would always recommend taking on safari but the above will see you through the trip and the most important aspects of what to pack for safari.
Before our photographic trips (around 6-8 weeks before you depart) we always provide a full and very comprehensive suggested packing list and in addition tips for travellers on the country visited. We also Skype, talk on the phone and have email dialogue with our clients prior where needed to help with any questions. There is never such a thing as a ‘stupid question’! In fact we prefer it that our guests do ask questions before hand! So if you are feeling a little overwhelmed still and also thinking of joining a safari please do drop us a line.
Want to know what our previous guests have to say about our guided safaris then please check HERE http://www.imagesofwildlife.co.uk/join-us-on-safari/guest-feedback/