Pith helmet, enormous zoom lens, garters – there’s a lot of kit you could bring for your safari. But it’s really unnecessary to go out and shop big in preparation for your big African adventure. For the most part, you want to be comfortable so wearing the clothes you are used to and having something warm to put on when the sun goes down is enough to get you through. But if you want some winning tips on what the experts pack for their safari, read on.
There’s no need to go full khaki, but colours that blend in to the environment rather than bright colours make the wildlife more comfortable. If you are in a vehicle on game drives, what colour you wear does not make a difference, but if you venture out on a walking safari you’ll be able to get closer to the animals if you are somewhat camouflaged. This is particularly important if you go tracking the mountain gorillas in Uganda or Rwanda (or Congo). There’s opportunity for close encounters with these amazing creatures if you don’t look too threatening in a bright red jacket.
Bright blues and purples attract tsetse flies which really hurt when they bite and can transmit the African Sleeping Sickness.
Out in the bush, guides don’t care too much what their guests are wearing but if you plan to spend time in rural villages or towns along the East African coast, these areas are more conservative. It will be more comfortable for you if you have clothes that cover your shoulders and your knees.
Of course a wide-brimmed hat is a must as you spend your days in open-topped vehicles.
Torch/flashlight: We do not recommend going out on night nature walks, but the simple act of getting from the dining room to your bedroom after dinner can be more challenging than you might assume. If you are opting for the quintessential safari experience and staying at a tented camp, you will have to walk outside from the dining room to your tent. Most camps have security staff who will escort you and who have torches, but it’s nice to have your own torch so you don’t trip over a stray stone or something. Also in the pre-dawn light as you venture from your tent to your game drive vehicle, a torch is handy.
Insect repellant: With DEET. Malaria is the biggest killer in Africa and not to be taken lightly. Your travel doctor will probably suggest taking anti-malarials but the best prevention against the disease is not to get bitten in the first place. So, covering up with long sleeves and long trousers in the evenings and slathering yourself in insect repellant will keep you safe.
Binoculars: Many safari guides will carry a pair of binoculars (or two) in their vehicle but you’ll be sharing that pair with everyone in the vehicle. Bring your own for unabridged wildlife viewing.
Wet wipes: It can get hot and dusty out in the African bush. Wet wipes keep you fresh, clean your hands before devouring a picnic lunch, and wipe the dust off… well, anything! It’s not on many packing lists, but you’ll appreciate remembering them after a big day of game driving.