Kruger Park: Top 7 Self-Drive Safari Packing Essentials

Kruger Park: Top 7 Self-Drive Safari Packing Essentials Get the best gear to make the most of extraordinary sightings such as this one. This unique image capturing elephants from above - and their elephantine shadows - was taken by Claire Fraser in the Kruger Park

Story by:

S. Adams Steve

All safaris are improved by packing the best clothing and gear - and the same is true for a Kruger Park Self-drive Safari

I have been to the Kruger many, many times. From cine-camera trips with my parents when I was a child, to guiding in the Timbavati area, to the self-drive safari I am on in the Kruger while writing this story. I hope that my experience of what safari clothing and gear works best to improve my Kruger safaris, will add value to your next Kruger self-drive safari. The advice applies to men, women, and kids on a self-drive safari. As always if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us

Top 7 Kruger Self-Drive Safari Packing Essentials :

1. Pack long sleeve safari shirts:
Even when driving in my closed-cab Toyota Hilux I have been surprised at how easy it is to get burnt on the arms and thighs by the sun, especially during the hotter hours of the day. I have taken to wearing my long-sleeve Rufiji & Mara&Meru shirts on game drives to avoid what Afrikaners call 'bakkie arm' - where bakkie means 'pick-up truck', and arm means the same as in English. It refers to the deep tan all South African farmers get up to their short-sleeve shirt sleeve hem, with the skin pale white above that line. For those of us not used to being in the sun all day, 'bakkie arm' is best avoided by wearing long sleeve shirts with roll-up sleeve tabs on a Kruger self-drive safari.
A long sleeve safari shirt is also useful on early morning drives - you are allowed to leave the camp gates at the cat-sighting-friendly-hour of 0430am over summer - when it has been chilly. You will also need a long sleeve safari shirt for any Kruger walking safaris you go on, which are available from most Kruger Park camps.

Useful Safari Shirt Links: Get great advice on the best safari shirts to wear for your safari | Shop Men's Safari Shirts | Shop Women's Safari Shirts | Shop Kids' Safari Shirts | Please also do read our safari clothing advice guide.

2. Pack Sunscreen and Insect Repellent - which really works - for a Kruger Self-Drive Safari:
I do not know of any safari where very good sunscreen and insect repellent are not needed - but they are especially necessary in summer in the lowveld areas of the Kruger. As mentioned in point 1, I have been surprised by how quickly my arms and legs have been burnt while in the fully enclosed cabin of my car. The first thing to do before going on a game drive is to apply an effective sunscreen. However, the best way to prevent sunburn is to cover up in SAFARITech sun shirts or BUGTech™ shirts and trousers. At night we have always applied insect repellent - Bushman or Mosi-Guard - after we have showered, and usually we shower at sunset when mosquitoes become more active. Both sunscreen and insect repellent will also be necessary to protect you on any walks you do in the Kruger - even if on the paths which circle most camps and which lie just inside the camp boundary fence, which is a great way to stretch your legs after many hours in the car looking for wildlife.

Useful Sunscreen & Insect Repellent Links: Read 'How to get the best insect defence on safari' | Shop Insect Repellent | Shop Sun Protective Clothing

3. Pack a Wide-brimmed Safari Hat for a Kruger Self-Drive Safari:
I was very lucky to happen to look at the passenger rear view mirror as my favourite Rufiji Leather Safari Hat went flying off the roof of the car as we were enjoying a late afternoon drive. I had left it there after using it while setting up camp. A wide-brimmed safari hat really is an essential item to pack for any Kruger safari, especially if you intend to spend time away from your car walking around the camp where you are staying, or going on activities provided by Kruger Park. It can also be used to cover your legs should the sun start to burn your legs while driving.

Useful Wide-brimmed Safari Hat Links: Safari Hat Packing Advice | Shop Men's Safari Hats | Shop Women's Safari Hats | Shop Kids' Safari Hats

4. Pack Good/Really Good Safari Binoculars for a Kruger Self-Drive Safari:
On self-drive safaris scanning your surroundings whenever you stop is key to getting great sightings. Scan, scan and scan some more. I would estimate that 50% of my sightings on a self-drive safari have been due to scanning with a good pair of binoculars. Also, as you are not allowed to drive off-road in national parks such as the Kruger, you will view many sightings through your binoculars. To me it adds to the explorer feel too to the self-drive safari. You are also staying a respectable distance away from wildlife when viewing them through your binoculars, which has the big bonus that you will be watching more natural behaviour - after all watching animals be themselves is why you are on safari in the first place. Please do not go on a self-drive safari, or any safari, without packing a good pair of binoculars.

Useful Safari Binoculars Links: Safari Binocular Packing Advice | Shop Vortex Binoculars | Shop Swarovski Binoculars | Rent Binoculars (UK-only)

A note on the quality of binoculars: I have been testing a new pair of binoculars, rather than using my Swarovski EL 10x42 Binoculars - which I sadly lost on another self-drive safari wild camping in Namibia. At first I never really noticed that much difference between the test pair and my Swarovskis - until I started to bird properly on this safari. Simply put the colour when viewing swifts and swallows starts to merge making the quick identification of fast-flying, small species, back-lit by white clouds, nigh on impossible. The moral of the story: if you are serious about birding - and about safaris - and need complete accuracy in colours and the ability for the binoculars to deal with high contrasts and low light, please do yourself a favour and treat yourself to a pair of Swarovskis from us for your safari. The bigger the aperture the better (for example 10x42 rather than 10x25), although with Swarovskis any aperture will do as the quality of all their lenses is at the top-end of high-end.

5. Pack Shorts and/or lightweight Zip-off Trousers for a Kruger Self-Drive Safari:
I have mainly been wearing the Men's Savute Cargo Shorts on this self-drive Kruger safari. Ok that is kind of not accurate: I am always wearing them, day and night. I have even been sleeping and swimming in them. That said, for the same reason as why I recommend that you wear a long sleeve shirt - namely that hot orb in the sky called the sun - as the day's get even hotter I am going to start wearing the Explorer Zip-off Trousers as not only is the cut one of my favourites for pure comfort when worn as shorts, but my legs are getting burnt on longer full day drives. Adding the leg section of my Explorer zip-offs trousers will mean that I do not have to pinch Claire's pink kikoy to cover my legs. On that note - packing a kikoy for a self-drive (or any safari) is very very useful indeed.

Useful Safari Shorts & Trousers Links: Safari Shorts & Trousers Packing Advice | Shop Men's Safari Shorts & Trousers | Shop Women's Safari Shorts & Trousers | Shop Kids' Safari Shorts & Trousers

6. Pack a Warm Safari Jacket for a Kruger Self-Drive Safari:
I am always truly amazed how in one week in the Kruger it can go from a very sweaty, hot - everything you touch feels as though it has a heating element inside it - 44 degrees celsius, to a cold, rainy, chilly 20-something degrees celsius overnight. This is exactly what happened again on this self-drive safari. The first two days in the Kruger were sweltering, and then on the third day a front blew in and it went from very hot, to cold overnight. My car air-conditioner went from the coldest setting on the afternoon game drive, to the warmest setting on the morning game drive the following day. Luckily I live by our safari packing advice - and our safari packing list - and so I have with me the Men's Explorer Safari Jacket (there is a super stylish ladies' version too), and it was much needed. And so for the umpteenth time on the pages of our online store, I repeat the advice: always go on safari with a warm layer. It will definitely be needed too for a Kruger Park game drive with a ranger as they use open game viewers, should you follow my Kruger self-drive safari tips advice too and go on a game drive with SANParks.

Useful Safari Jacket & Warm Layer Links: Safari Jacket & Warm Layer Packing Advice | Shop Men's Safari Jackets & Warm Layers | Shop Women's Safari Jackets & Warm Layers | Shop Kids' Safari Jackets & Warm Layers

7. Which Camera and Lens(es) to Pack for a Kruger Self-Drive Safari:
The old adage of 'go big or go home' applies to wildlife photography - and by big I mean in terms of focal length and not necessarily the actual size of the lens. As a general guide a range from 200 to 400mm for wildlife photography in Africa is the ideal, but also pack wider angle lenses - or a lens which starts much wider than a 200mm lens - as you will need to capture more scenic images too. For those not using images for commercial purposes, or who are not at the top end of amateur photography, then an all-in-one digital bridge camera will be a great tool for wildlife photography. I have a digital Canon SLR with 70 to 200mm 2.8mm lens as my main wildlife camera, but to be honest I think it is a little short on focal length.

For more in-depth information and discussion around what to pack for your next safari, please do see our intuitive safari packing lists, and our safari packing advice pages. :

More Stories

View basket