Going on Safari? Pack These!
January 21st, 2011

I’ve been blogging a lot about safari’s and Africa lately. I’m getting very excited about potentially heading to Uganda in the spring/summer, and I am realizing a lot of the questions that travelers may have about visiting Africa and planning a safari. I thought I’d start with a general list of safari packing recommendations. While some might seem obvious, these are all based on personal experience – things that I have brought or forgotten, that proved important and I wanted to share with others.

1.  Hat! You know the ones gardeners love and everyone else won’t go near? These gardeners have it right – the hats protect best from the heat and the sun, which ultimately should rank above fashion, though I’m sure some are more fashionable than others. If you just can’t make yourself wear a safari-type hat, at least bring a baseball cap or something similar to cover your head and block the sun from your face.

2.  Waterproof sun screen with high SPF. Regardless of how used to warm climates you are, being out in the open planes in the heat of the day could wreck havoc on your skin, and bad sunburn could ruin your safari or worse. Waterproof is ideal, since you’ll most-likely be sweating in the African heat. If you’re looking for brands that are healthy for your skin and good at protecting from UVB and UVA rays, try brands such as Badger, Soleo Organics and Vivesana.*

3.  Bug spray – Many regions home to the “Big 5” are also home to mosquitos that may carry diseases such as malaria, yellow fever or dengue fever. Keeping the bugs away could be not only more comfortable, but essential! Best to find a bug spray at a sporting goods or outdoors store – it might cost a bit more and smell a bit worse, but it will be worth it. In addition to the sprays, you may want to pick up some bug repellent wipes, which can be easy to pull out for a quick re-apply during the day (which you’ll need to do).

4.   Water bottle – while you can’t bring the water itself on the plane, purchase a good water bottle which you can fill with safe drinking water. Dehydration is a very real problem when spending hours in the sun. Our bodies can’t process the bacteria in water from some destinations, so finding a source of treated water and bringing it with you can help you avoid stomach illness and discomfort.

5.  Light-weight, breathable pants (or shorts) that wash/dry easily. Ideally, if you can stand the heat, a light weight pant is best for safari, as it keeps your legs protected from the sun and bugs, but the lightness of the fabric still allows you to keep as cool as possible. If you can’t find these, go for a longer short with the same qualities. While they might not be the most fashionable, the best option might be the pants that can zip/snap off into shorts, allowing you to adjust easily as the temperatures change throughout the day. When choosing clothing, opt for materials that can be easily washed & dried – safari’s aren’t the most pristine activities and this will come in handy.

6.  Clothes for layering – Despite the heat of the day, many safaris start in the early morning or go into the later evening to view those animals less likely to make an appearance during the daylight hours. Depending on the season, these times of day with less sunlight can be rather cool, especially if you’re doing any river safaris.

7.  Snacks – Safari days can be long, especially if your group is determined to not turn back until they’ve seen everything they’re hoping for. While most safari guides will bring food, everyone’s metabolisms are different and your growling stomach could be keeping away that leopard that everyone’s waiting to see (not really, hopefully, but it could be uncomfortable for you). Check with your guide first to make sure if there are any restrictions on what you can bring, and make sure your snacks won’t spoil in the heat. Foods such as granola bars can sustain you for a while and fit easily in a pocket or small bag.

8.  Binoculars – you always hope you can get close enough to see the animal with your naked eye, but some animals are notorious for camouflaging and staying hidden, so a magnified view might be your only chance to see them. If you have a camera with a good zoom, this could work as well.

9.  A notebook – The great varieties of some species can be tough to keep track of. In Africa, the birds, antelope and apes/monkeys can be especially tricky to recall. Recording a few facts about them – their colors, size, where you saw them, maybe a unique feature about the animal could help you remember each more distinctly and identify them in your photos later.

10.  Backup camera equipment – Think of all the pictures you’ll take trying to get that perfect shot of your favorite animal. Having a backup memory card, battery and even backup camera (even a smaller, cheaper one) could be incredibly helpful. The middle of the safari is not the time to have your battery die, your memory card fill up or you camera destroyed by an unexpected rain storm. Better safe than sorry! Also, if you have the option, choose a camera that allows you to take some video too – capturing a unique animal experience on video is an exciting way to recall your safari after the trip.

11.  Small backpack (all-weather if possible). If you’re going to bring all of the items above, you’ll need to put them somewhere while out on safari. A small backpack is an easy way to carry these while on safari, and still have your hands free for photo and note taking. If you can’t find an all-weather backpack, bring ziplock bags to keep your notebook, camera and snacks in to protect them in the event of rain. This “weather resistant” bag at REI for under $30 is a good example of a relatively inexpensive option: http://www.rei.com/product/778466

*Suggestion provided by Jolene Hart, a natural beauty expert and Beauty & Health Coach and owner of Beauty Is Wellness.

One Response to “Going on Safari? Pack These!”

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