The best packing list for an African safari

by Beth Graham
how to make a safari packing list

Our recent family safari trip was by far the best trip I’ve ever taken. And while the planning and logistics of getting to South Africa were mildly stressful, putting together a safari packing list proved to be the greatest source of angst. We were traveling shortly after the hype of the pandemic when lost luggage was the headline, so we all committed to travel with pack light with carry-ons only, despite traveling during the winter months with different climates. So here’s your ultimate safari packing list.

arathusa lodge
our room at Arathusa Lodge

Packing for a safari trip: Things to consider

  1. Bugs – you’ll certainly want to do the research on bugs and infection risks in the safari park where you’ll be traveling. Tsetse flies and mosquitoes are pretty rampant in certain months so this will certainly impact your safari packing list. 
  2. Weather – the weather can be quite diverse on a daily basis in Southern Africa depending on where you’re traveling and the time of year (it’s like when I went to Patagonia and was told to expect all four seasons in one day!). If you’re traveling during rainy season, that requires a different level of preparation. We traveled in July which is the heart of the winter season (and a great time to go on safari due to fewer people and reduced prices) so those early morning game drives were quite chilly. Evening game drives saw a big weather swing so we often layered up over the course of the night, especially since the safari vehicle did not have a top. If you’re traveling during the more popular summer months, be sure to take sun protection.
  3. Colors – I was told that you should not wear bright colors on safari because the animals may be sensitive to those colors. Not sure if that’s really true, but I did not want to stand out so I packed all neutral colors for our safari trip. Opt for neutral colors like khaki, beige, and olive to blend in with the environment and avoid attracting insects.

What to pack for a safari in South Africa

You’ll definitely want to put some thought and planning into your safari packing list (I suggest writing it down). Having the right safari clothes for your family trip…… I went shopping for women’s clothes for African safari but I felt like they were designed more for fashion than function. And the safari outfits I found were pricey. You might also inquire at your safari camp if laundry facilities are available. 

  1. Layers – Fleece jacket for those early mornings or end of the day.  Handed out blankets on our evening game drives. I packed a few long-sleeved shirts knowing that I could layer those as needed.
  2. Safari hat – I bought this full-coverage hat to keep the sun off my face. You’ll definitely want a sturdy hat because your safari guide may just take off through the bush to catch a glimpse of wildlife. It will protect your head and hair from branches and bugs. 
  3. Functional jacket – I chose this Anorak jacket since it was so lightweight. It is waterproof, has a hood and has multiple pockets. It turned out to be the perfect outer layer on chilly mornings and nights. Again, everything on my safari packing list was shades of khaki.
  4. Pants – You’ll want to be comfortable (those safari jeeps are anything but!) so I would suggest wearing something more like cargo pants rather than jeans. You’ll definitely need long pants (remember those bugs and branches).
  5. Scarves – I found that scarves came in handy when an added layer was needed for those early morning game drives as well as the evening ones.
  6. Lounging clothes – Most safari drives are early morning and evening which means you’ll have several free hours during the day. Our safari lodge in Sabi Sands had a pool and we were blessed with sunny days. I took a pair of lounge pants that became my “afternoon outfit.”
  7. Shoes – While you’ll be riding in a safari vehicle most of the time, most resorts will also offer a walking safari where you can spot more than the “Big 5” and learn about the vegetation, birds, and bugs. So I would suggest packing some rugged tennis or hiking shoes.
  8. Daypack – You’ll need a tote bag or backpack to store your extra layers and other incidentals like insect repellent to ward off mosquito bites. I also packed mine with water and protein bars because those 5am wake-up calls come early.

You certainly won’t need any dressy clothes for a safari but if you’re planning to hit up Cape Town or Stellenbosch (as we did, and I highly recommend it), just pack a couple of pair of slacks you can wear with your layers.

If taking a safari is a bucket list trip for you, then choosing the best safari company and the right game reserves is important. I’d also suggest doing deep research on the best safari lodges in South Africa; we found that having an all-inclusive package was the way to go.

Many people ask “How much does a safari cost?” and the reality is you can do it affordably if you do the research. I’d suggest going with a safari company like Go2Africa to help you put all of the elements together. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m a diva flyer and often manage to score business class seats on a budget. I’d suggest using some of the tactics I’ve outlined to find affordable flights.

This page contains affiliate links to products and sites I actually use. Since I’m supported by readers, if you click and purchase through these links, I’ll receive a small commission and you’ll get an amazing trip!

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