Last year, somewhat on a whim, I went on my first safari in Tanzania. As part of that trip we visited Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and of course the Serengeti. Being a city girl I was a bit apprehensive about spending any amount of time in the bush, however that soon changed as we approached our lodge and had our first animal sighting which was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had while traveling. That trip was so life changing that I'm planning my second safari and depart to South Africa next week. This time we will explore the Madikwe game reserve. If you plan on going on a safari in the future here's my take on the ultimate safari packing list.
1. Binoculars - You'll want to invest in a decent pair of binoculars for your trip if you don’t have a pair already. You don’t want to spend all that money traveling to your safari only to be unable to get a good view of the animals. My glass of choice is the Zeiss Terra ED 8X32.
2. Camera - While your phone camera could do the trick, you may want to bring a slightly more powerful camera with a zoom lens to really capture the animals in their natural element. I'm currently enjoying my Nikon J5 mirrorless digital camera due to the sleek, lightweight body.
3. Flashlight - What I learned on my last safari is that it wasn't safe to leave our room at night without a "security" escort. These escorts kindly walked us from our room to dinner and back to ensure we we're eaten by lions. The only weapons our Maasai escorts had were a spear and a bright flashlight which supposedly kept the big predators away. Once I learned about this I started carrying my flashlight with me each night. It also came in handy at one lodge that was dimly lit due to solar power and another that shut off the power in the evening at a certain time which would have made using the bathroom a bit of a challenge without it. If you don't have one already you can find a pretty good option here.
4. Comfortable Shoes - On safari you'll spend quite a bit of time in a jeep during your game drives. You'll want to be as comfortable as possible so you can enjoy all of the wonders that mother nature has to offer. Besides game drives there are also walking safaris in which case comfortable shoes are even more important. You can bring sneakers or hiking shoes but my safari shoe of choice is the Merrell Ashland Chukka. These shoes are so stylish and comfortable that started wearing them regularly after my safari. Another thing I like about these shoes is that they cover my ankles, a small deterrent for any potential critters.
5. Lightweight Light Colored Clothing - During your game drives or walking safari you'll want to blend in with your surroundings so as to not scare the animals away, Leave your bright colored frocks at home or at least wear them to dinner at the lodge. Also, if charter flights are involved on your safari they'll be regulations on size and weight of your bags. Most lodges offer laundry services at a decent price to help with this challenge. I really like the Columbia Sportswear Women's Saturday Trail Pant as the come in various inseams and they don't have those hideous giant side pockets that come down to your thigh.
6. First Aid Kit - You should take a first aid kit with you on all of your trips and it should be a part of your every day carry when out and about. While your safari ranger may keep a first aid kit in the jeep it doesn't hurt you’ll want to be sure that you carry any specific medications that you require with you at all times. If you want ideas on what to include in your first aid kit check out this blog post.
7. Sunglasses - You should protect your eyes from the sun at all times. However, on a safari eye protection is even more important as game reserves can be pretty dusty as you drive around searching for your next sighting. As such you'll want to avoid getting this dust in your eyes.
Ray-Ban Aviators are a classic option if you're in the market for a new pair.[Sidebar: if you wear contact lenses, you will want wear your glasses during game drives to avoid eye irritation.]
8. Hat - As the mid day sun can be quite intense in the bush a good hat with a strap is a must. If you're a Curious George fan and want to look like a relic from the British Colonial period you can opt for a Pith Helmet otherwise a slightly more practical option is this classic safari hat by Tilley.
9. Bug Spray - Mosquito bites are never fun and they are even less fun when you're in a malaria zone. One way to protect yourself from bites (besides sleeping under a mosquito net and covering up especially during dusk and dawn) is to buy a good mosquito repellent. For years the recommended repellent was 30% DEET however, new guidance from the CDC says that lemon eucalyptus oil can be just as effective at repelling mosquitos and it's all natural. I first discovered Repel’s Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent Spray prior to my trip to Thailand and have been using it ever since.
10. Sunscreen - Who wants to ruin their vacation by getting sunburned on the first day? I'm pretty sure the answer to that question is no one. I usually travel with Neutrogena's Ultra Sheer Sunscreen Stick in SPF 70 as it offers a high SPF and thanks to its stick format application is a breeze.
11. Field Guide Book - To better understand all of the wildlife that you encounter on safari it's nice to have a small field guide book to cross reference during your game drives. I have the Wild Lives Field Guide to Africa and it not only covers the big five but it also many of the lesser know creatures and beautiful birds you might encounter.
If you also need some guidance on what to pack for a long haul flight be sure to check out my blog post covering that topic.