Are you planning a luxury safari in South Africa? Or are you considering booking but want to know some more information before you do? Whether you're hovering over the booking button or are two weeks out from a life-changing wildlife holiday, this guide offers a comprehensive safari packing list.
What to be aware of when packing for a South African safari holiday
As access to many of our luxury safari holidays in South Africa will require a smaller flight to get to your accommodation, it's not only the international flight luggage restrictions you need to keep in mind. For many of these flights, weight limits sit at 20kg, including hand luggage, so make sure you aren't overpacking. You'll find most camps are able to provide a same-day laundry service, so don't worry about needing to double up on wears! Some smaller airlines also insist on soft bags, such as a duffel bag, so we'd recommend trying to avoid hard-shelled suitcases where possible.
You can also expect your lodge or camp to provide basic supplies, freeing up more room in your suitcase. Depending on where you stay, you can expect a range of things to be taken care of. We'd always recommend packing personal favourites if you have them, but be aware you can expect things like toiletries to be covered and items like insect repellent to be provided as a part of your stay.
South African Safari Packing List
With those need-to-know things covered, it's now time for us to share our recommended packing list for a safari holiday in South Africa. Remember - with on-site laundry service and a history of great service, whichever accommodation you choose to stay in, they should be able to help you out if in need.
What to wear on a safari in South Africa is up to you, but there are some guidelines you should follow to make sure you've packed well.
One thing to avoid is camouflaged clothing. Although South Africa is not as strict as other African countries, it's advisable to avoid camouflage clothing as this is strongly associated with the military and even illegal for civilians to wear in certain parts of the continent.
Talking of bug bites, opting for light layers that cover your body can be useful to fend off critters. They can also be useful for keeping your skin out of the sun. If you're planning bush walks or safari walks, you might also find yourself walking through tall grass, so long sleeves and long trousers or leggings will offer the best coverage.
It's highly recommended that the clothes you bring on a safari holiday to wear whilst out of the lodge are neutral in colour. Although this isn't essential, tertiary colours such as khakis, beiges and browns will help you blend into the bush and appear less threatening to any wildlife you may see. Bright colours and patterns can also attract bugs and bites, so we suggest you avoid wearing those.
You may think of Africa as a continent of baking sunshine and warm temperatures, but you'll need to pack a few layers if you plan on a safari holiday here. If you're opting for an evening or early morning game drive, you'd be surprised how cold the parks can get in the dark, and a light jacket will be a welcome treat to slip on and off when needed.
Talking about the importance of layers for anything, Tamara Elliott from Globe Guide
explains: "The most important thing is to be prepared for the weather, by bringing layers like a t-shirt, long sleeve and light jacket since the weather can change quickly and you'll be out for hours. Safari jeeps are mostly open, and some don't even have roofs, so you're quite exposed to the elements whether it's the hot sun or a sudden downpour."
As well as packing your standard clothing, there are a few key accessories that you should be sure to bring, too. The first is a hat. A wide-brimmed hat is the best option, but a cap will also help keep the sun out of your eyes and off your face during game drives. You should also pack a light scarf or buff to take on and off as the temperatures rise and drop. These can be useful for not only keeping you warm, but keeping the dust off your face on particularly windy days.
The footwear you bring could make or break a walking safari, so ensuring you've got a reliable pair of walking boots or trail shoes before you leave is essential. The ground underfoot can be uneven when walking, so you'll need a supportive pair of boots if you plan on hikes and walking safaris. If you're in a 4X4, you'll still want a pair of shoes that are lightweight and breathable enough not to be hot but durable enough to withstand the terrain when you are out and about.
One of the most important and easily forgotten things to pack for a safari holiday is binoculars. Some camps and lodges will be able to provide them for you; however, bringing your own is always preferable. Make the most of game drives and the view from your lodge with a high-powered pair of binoculars. We also recommend buying an accessory kit that lets you take photos through your binoculars if you're planning on smartphone photography. This way, you can get some great shots to show your loved ones back at home!
Describing her new-found love for binoculars, Monica from Not a Nomad
had this to say: "Before going on safari, I had no idea that binoculars are SO COOL. Binoculars aren't just about "zooming in", but also about enhancing the detail of what you can see. It's like zoom plus ultra-sharpening. We used our binoculars not only on safari, but also while observing penguins near Cape Town or looking for whales in Hermanus. You'll find plenty of use-cases for your binoculars on a trip in Southern Africa."
If you are looking to take pictures on your trip, then bringing a camera with you will help to make sure you capture your memories beautifully. It can be easy to rely on a smartphone camera, but a more professional setup can help you really bring your experiences to life and document your trip in a way you'll remember forever.
Other useful items
There are a few other items that can be useful to bring along with you to make the most of your trip; these are:
Nighttime in the bush can be loud, with many animals waking up and a cacophony of sound erupting. Although this can be wonderful to hear, it can keep light sleepers awake, so earplugs are worth having on hand.
A pair of sunglasses to help keep you from squinting whilst out and about or just relaxing by the pool. Try to pack these in a hard-shelled case to ensure they don't get broken during travel. Also, we'd recommend a cleaning cloth to wipe off that safari dust at the end of a drive.
Although your lodge will be able to provide field guides and your expert guides will be able to provide all of the information you want whilst on drives, if you're a passionate naturalist, you might find some use in bringing your own field guide. From a bird-watching book to an animal encyclopaedia, whether you're overlooking the bush from a private deck or are fresh back from a drive, it can be a treat to learn more about the fauna you see.
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