Updated: Nov 3, 2022
Packing for your safari in South Africa is such a fun part of the travel process! Deciding what to bring will depend on what time of the year you are visiting, and what other activities you have included during your stay in South Africa. To help you out a little, we have created a list of safari essentials to get you started on the next step of your journey.
The Essential Safari packing list
Now, before you get excited and start piling your bag with everything and anything, please check your travel itinerary to see if there is a bag weight requirement for any local or chartered flights you may be taking once in South Africa. International flights may allow more weight than domestic or chartered flights within South Africa.
What to wear on safari?
Wearing colours that blend into nature is recommended for a safari; an example of these neutral tones would be khaki, shades of green, or beiges and browns
Shorts, skirts, casual trousers, t-shirts, and long-sleeve shirts are great options for game drives or walking safaris (the trick is to wear light, cool materials for those warm days in the bush)
Comfortable walking shoes and a pair of longer socks if you decide to go on a walking safari
Afternoon rain showers, along with chilly morning and evenings game drives can be expected so pack a jacket, a warm fleece, a sweater or two, and a raincoat (a warm hat and scarf will also be handy if you are traveling in winter)
Dinner time at most lodges is a casual occasion, with dresses, trousers or jeans, and cool cotton shirts working well in the evenings (keeping yourself covered in the evenings will also give you protection against mosquitos)
Your lodge will most likely have a swimming pool so pack your swimwear and flip flops for those daytime chill sessions
Toiletries & medication
Standard toiletries, including any medication you normally take
Sun cream, sun hat and sunglasses - the South African sun is a lot stronger than other parts of the world and even on winter days you will need to protect yourself while in an open safari vehicle in the African bush
Preventative treatments such as: plasters; pain tablets; antihistamine tablets; malaria tablets (please discuss with your doctor); insect repellent; anti-nausea tablets; anti-diarrheal tablets; and an antiseptic cream
Most safari destinations are in remote locations so getting to a pharmacy in a hurry may take longer than expected. Having preventative medications on hand is recommended for your own peace of mind. Please visit your doctor before traveling to South Africa so that you are aware of any vaccinations or treatments you should be taking.
Binoculars, Camera & Adapter
If you have a pair of binocs, bring them! If not, not to worry - your ranger will most likely have a spare pair for those moments when animal sightings are too far for the naked eye
Safaris are one of the best places to practice photography – if you are using your phone, make sure it is on silent for the duration of the game drive
Pack plugs and a universal adaptor for your gadgets and devices
Passport, visa, travel insurance, vaccination certificates (if required) and your travel itinerary
Other supplies you may need for a safari
Between your morning and afternoon game drive there is plenty of time to relax and unwind so bringing along a good book or magazine is recommended
Longer walking safaris will require a specific list of supplies that will be sent to you for that particular safari package
A writing journal – the bush is a very soulful and inspirational place and having access to pen and paper may prove more beneficial than you realise
A small torch
Cash - it is a common procedure when going on safari to tip the game ranger, tracker and staff when leaving the lodge if you are satisfied with the experience. This is usually done with cash and South Africa’s International Airports will have facilities where you can draw money. (For more info on this please visit our article ‘The cost breakdown of budget, middle-range & luxury safaris in South Africa’).
What you do not need to pack for a safari:
Hair dryer: most lodges come equipped with a hair dryer in each room and they will state this on their room specifications
Excess clothing: common among luxury lodges is a free laundry service, which allows guests to have their clothes washed and ironed during their stay
(Hotels in South Africa generally offer hair dryer and laundry services so this will save a few extra kilos going into your travel suitcase)
These recommendations are for the safari section of your South African holiday. While most of the things we have suggested are also relevant for visiting other destinations in South Africa, you may want to leave a little space for those brighter items that the African bush doesn’t appreciate!