You will need a smaller safari bag to take with you on all safari activities - whether a few hours or a few days - including game drive safaris, walking safaris, horse riding safaris, mountain biking safaris, boating safaris, fishing safaris, canoeing safaris, and mekoro (dugout) safaris.
Into this smaller safari bag will go any number of safari essentials such as sunscreen, sunglasses, insect repellent, binoculars, waterproof jacket (assuming you are wearing your warm-layer safari jacket or fleece), a safari beanie, any books you want to take on safari with you, water bottle, perhaps your passport if you prefer to keep it with you - and any other personal effects you want to take with you on safari.
The nature of your safari will determine which bag - or bags - you decide to take with you on your safari. For example, if you are only planning on going on game drives, then you will be fine to take any safari satchel, safari backpack, safari tote, or over-the-shoulder safari bag as you will just be walking with it from your room to the safari 4x4 and then placing it on the seat next to you. If you also want to do walks from the lodge (recommended), then you would need a safari satchel or safari backpack and, if you are on a proper walking safari, then you would need a safari satchel or safari backpack which you are happy to have over the shoulder or on your back for many kilometres or miles of walking.
Your choice of smaller safari bag (or bags) could and should also double as your safari carry-on bag for flights to and from Africa. If you prefer a larger carry-on to carry some clothes, then take this bag in addition to your carry-on. Some brands of holdall/duffel luggage - such as the Mara&Meru™ Voyager range - also allow you to zip and lock the ideal safari satchel-backpack combination bag as an end pocket on to your main safari bag, which means that you simply unzip it when you get to your safari to use it as your smaller safari bag. That way you are able to check it into the aircraft hold for your international flight to Africa.
Number of smaller safari bags to pack for your safari:
1 x smaller safari bag per person.
It is important that you pack safari-suitable shirts for your children on safari which also offer maximum protection from the elements and defence from most biting insects.
Pack children's safari shirts in neutral, natural tones such as shades of khaki, brown, and green.
We recommend long-sleeved safari shirts for children with roll-up sleeve tabs over short-sleeved shirts. These enable boys and girls to roll their sleeves up and down to stay cool, keep warm, or to avoid sunburn on their arms. It also increases defence from most biting insects when sleeves are rolled down, which is further increased when the fabric is treated with insect repellent.
Kids' safari shirts with a collar also give your kids added protection from sunburn - and, again, from insect bites.
Look for children's safari shirts which have the following key characteristics: the ability to wick moisture to keep them cool, high level of sun protection (SPF50+ is best), and an anti-insect fabric finish assists in reducing bites from most flying and biting insects.
Pack more children's safari shirts made from man-made fibres (polyamide) than natural fibres (such as cotton). Man-made fibres are better at wicking moisture from the skin - and it is this movement of moisture which will keep them cool.
Number of children's safari shirts to pack for their safari: Up to 4-day safari: x 2; Up to 8-day safari: x 4; Up to 12-day safari: x 6
When packing safari trousers for your children, pack children's safari pants made from safari-suitable colours (shades of green, khaki, and brown) and lightweight, strong fabric. Nothing beats the feeling they will get when they wear safari trousers worthy of a great conservationist or early explorer.
Children's safari zip-off/convertible trousers are the simplest safari trousers to pack for children as they allow for maximum versatility. By removing or adding the legs, you are able to convert them from trousers when cool to shorts when hot. Children's convertible zip-off safari pants also save on valuable packing space by being two garments in one. The legs on the children's safari convertible pants also give added protection from the sun and defence from most biting insects - even more so when their safari trousers are treated with built-in sun protection and anti-insect treatment.
The ideal children's safari trousers and safari shorts should offer the perfect blend of the following functionality: lightweight with built-in ripstop for added strength, a high level of built-in sun protection (SPF50+ is best), and an anti-insect finish.
Children's safari trousers which are made from man-made fibres (such as polyamide) are preferred over those made from natural fibres (such as cotton) to keep your children cool while on safari. These fabrics also allow your child to dry off faster should their safari trousers get wet from a rain shower or from mucking about in a stream (a crocodile- and hippo-free stream of course).
What is more, you will be able to wash and dry your kid's safari trousers much faster when made from man-made fibres such as polyamide.
Number of children's safari trousers to pack for your safari:
Up to 4-day safari: x 2; Up to 8-day safari: x 3; Up to 12-day safari: x 4
For the best protection from the strength of the midday sun in Africa - for your neck and face - pack a wide-brimmed women's safari hat.
With mean high temperatures reaching mid-20 to mid-30 degrees Celsius on most safaris and with safari areas in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, and Zambia high above sea level, the effects of the sun will be pronounced and the risk of being burnt by the sun will be high. A wide-brimmed women's safari hat is literally your first line of defence against sunburn.
Wide-brimmed women's safari hats also provide shelter when it rains. We find that a wide-brimmed safari hat definitely makes it more comfortable when you are caught out on a walk or game drive by a sudden thunderstorm or tropical shower, as at least your face remains dry and fewer drops go into your eyes.
Colour is key when choosing a women's safari hat - with neutral shades such as khaki, green, or brown the best. Your safari hat will often be the most conspicuous part of you while viewing wildlife on a walking safari.
Pack a women's safari hat which suits your safari style. Fortunately, there are more styles available for women today which range from leather hats to classically-styled indie and panama-shaped hats.
Modern wide-brimmed women's safari hats are also conveniently packable and are easy manipulate back into shape. A note though: not all hats are packable and should be carried with your carry-on luggage - and, even when a hat is packable, never crush your safari hat under a hard object - such as shoes or binoculars - when packing.
Number of wide-brimmed women's safari hats to pack for your safari:
1 x wide-brimmed safari hat per person.
*Pack a warm and cosy safari beanie for cold mornings and the African winter too.
For your main large safari duffel or safari holdall, choose safari luggage which is soft and squashable and which has no frame. This is especially true for safari travel to Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, and Kenya and the reason for this is rather a practical one. The majority of safari lodges and camps within these countries are accessible only by light aircraft. As a result, in order for your pilot to fit your luggage into the small, cramped hold, your luggage must not have hard sides, nor rigid frames or structure, and should rather be soft-sided so that the pilot is able to fit (squash) your bag into the plane. The same is true for some overland and expedition-style safaris where there will be limited space for luggage in the safari 4x4.
Please check with the safari company you have booked with about luggage limitations for the internal flights on your safari, as the requirements may vary from safari to safari. Where luggage weight limitations are specified please note that - as the maximum take-off weight in any aircraft has to be strictly adhered to by pilots to maximise your safety on each flight - you may find that your pilot will not be able to take any luggage over the maximum allowed weight per passenger. In this instance, you may have to pay for your luggage to be flown separately.
Use a travel trolley to carry your main safari duffel or safari holdall as you are not meant to take safari luggage with a frame. Simply remove the travel trolley from your safari luggage when you do not need to wheel your safari luggage, collapse it, and either stow it in the hold or take it with you into the cabin. Your safari pilot will be able to advise which option he or she prefers.
Number of large, soft-sided safari bags to pack for your safari:
1 x large safari duffel or holdall bag per person.
Pack a highly-effective safari insect repellent for your safari - whether or not you are going to a malaria area. If you don't pack an effective insect repellent, the constant annoyance of insects such as mosquitoes, midges, and flies may dampen your enjoyment of your safari.
In areas with tropical diseases which are carried by insects - such as malaria - the higher the quality of the safari insect repellent you pack and constantly apply while on safari, the lower the chance of contracting any disease or illness. "Don't get bitten" just about sums up this line of thinking.
Insect repellents that are made and tested in tropical areas - and which are used daily in places such as Australia - we have found to be the best on numerous field tests in Africa. This is the reason why we personally use Australian-made insect repellent on our own safaris and expeditions and why we believe that you should too.
Apply insect repellent frequently to both your skin and clothing. For your face, spray the repellent into your hand and then apply it to your skin. Do not get it into your eyes and follow the instructions on the insect repellent bottle. For your clothing, check first that the safari insect repellent you use does not stain or damage your clothing and then apply it all over your trousers, shirt, hat, and shoes.
Always re-apply insect repellent after physical activities, sweating, swimming, or towelling yourself down.
Only use insect repellents for your safari which contain up to a maximum of 40% DEET. Some manufacturers include more DEET than that in their formula, but it does not increase the efficacy of the repellent - only the length of time it stays on your skin. Rather re-apply more frequently than use a repellent with more than 40% DEET.
Travel tip: Many of our clients make the mistake of only packing insect repellent for their safari and not for their beach holiday after their safari. Simply put, the risk of malaria is greater in coastal, tropical areas where there are usually much higher concentrations of people than in the wilderness and back country of Africa where you will go on safari. Pack enough insect repellent to cover your beach holiday - or onward travel in Africa - too.
Number of bottles of safari insect repellent to pack:
Up to 4-day safari: 1 x bottle per person; Up to 8-day safari: 2 x bottles per person; Up to 12-day safari: 3 x bottles per person
*Local conditions such as the time of year and presence of rain will determine the number of insects you may encounter on your safari. We prefer to err on taking a few too many bottles on safari than running out. For any extras after your safari, note that most insect repellents should last for a number of years and you will be able to use them at home during the summer months.
When the African sun gets to full strength from midday to early in the afternoon, it can be fierce. Pack a highly effective safari sunscreen which has been proven to work under an intense sun.
It is sensible to select a sunscreen which offers a broad spectrum, long-lasting transparent protection from both UVA and UVB light.
As most safaris are active, also opt for a sunscreen which allows you to perspire without losing the efficacy of the active ingredients. As a general rule, we recommend sprays over creams for this reason.
Apply sunscreen before you head out into the sun to allow it to absorb into your skin.
Re-apply safari sunscreen frequently. Also re-apply safari sunscreen after prolonged physical exertion and if you have towelled yourself down, worn a shirt over skin which you have treated with sunscreen, and after swimming.
Even if conditions on safari are overcast, we still recommend that you apply sunscreen as your skin may still be affected by the UVA and UVB light.
Number of bottles of safari sunscreen to pack:
Up to 4-day safari: 1 x bottle per person; Up to 8-day safari: 2 x bottles per person; Up to 12-day safari: 3 x bottles per person
*Take into account how many hours of the day you will be in the sun when on safari in determining how much sunscreen to take - and the strength of the sunscreen. For game drives, you will usually be in the sun for 4 to 6 hours but, for longer walking safaris and certainly for canoe safaris, this may be quite a bit longer than that. For canoe safaris, also bear in mind that the effect of the sun is strengthened by light bouncing off the water.
While safari-coloured clothing is ideal to wear when you travel to your safari and to relax in around camp, sometimes nothing beats a crisp white shirt to wear around camp - or to dinner at night.
When our founder, Steve, worked as a safari guide, this is exactly what the guiding team used to do for dinner. After a long hot day in the sun, take a long bath or refreshing shower and put on a crisp white shirt or a stylish blue travel shirt for the evening to look and feel great.
Packing extra safari shirts will of course depend on how much space you have left in your safari luggage once you have packed the essential safari clothing and gear.
If space is limited only take an extra shirt which is not safari-coloured and wear the shirt with your safari trousers or shorts.
Children feel the cold faster than adults and so it is important when going on safari to pack a children's safari fleece to keep them warm and snug on early morning and evening game drives and through the African winter.
Pack a kid's safari fleece which is made from safari-friendly colours such as brown, greens, and khaki.
Pack a safari-coloured waterproof layer for each child if you are travelling over the rainy season for your safari.
Having lived in Africa through the rains we are also able to advise that the daytime temperature goes from very hot before the rains start, to much cooler once the rains have settled in. The difference may be as much as 10 to 15 degrees celsius below the average temperatures and so again we advise that a fleece or jacket is packed to keep you warm.
Number of boys' and girls' safari jackets or safari fleeces to pack for your safari:
1 x safari fleece or jacket; 1 x waterproof safari jacket should you be travelling over the rainy season.