After booking a safari trip the next thing you need to plan is what to pack. Having been on a number of safari trips in Sri Lanka, Africa and India I have refined my safari wardrobe but it took me a few trips to realise all the essentials that I needed.
You don’t want to arrive and realise you forgot your safari hat, or you should have brought an extra pair of safari shorts so it’s important to plan out what you want to bring with you well in advance.
In this guide, I share some of my favourite travel essentials for a safari trip, including what clothing you need to bring, safari luggage, cameras and other equipment and toiletries.
Safari Packing Checklist
Once you have read the article make sure to download my handy printable safari packing checklist from the We Are Travel Girls Travel Library so that you don’t forget any important items in your luggage.
The library is also packed with free eBooks, Destination Pocket Guides, Packing Lists and Bucketlist Checklists.
Let’s get started with the type of luggage you will need for a safari trip. Based on my experience having soft bags rather than hard shell suitcases is far easier for transferring between lodges, taking river boats or travelling by small plane. Depending on your destination you may even find that hard sheet is not permitted so make sure to check this for your specific journey, airlines and safari.
Large Checked Luggage
I am big fan of the Osprey luggage for this type of trip because of its durability. I have had my Osprey rolling luggage for 7 years, and I have my backpack from my first backpacking to Asia, I loved this one because it had a detachable day pack too – both are still going strong!
Another great brand with durable design, fabrics and wheels is Eagle Creek and they have a range of large duffels suitable for safari or any other adventure trip.
Pro Tip: Don’t bring your most beautiful cream luggage on safari, it will get dirty. Choose a darker colour, or safari colour luggage so you don’t ruin your favourite luxury luggage!
Hand Luggage Small Duffels
If you are a light packer then opting for a rucksack plus a small duffle (within the weight and size dimensions of a carry on) is the ideal. On many flights you are permitted to have a small backpack / personal item and a hand luggage item so you might be able to avoid checking anything at all.
I always carry a small foldable duffel in my luggage on any trip and have had my Samsonite duffle for years, the exact version I have is no longer available but this Samsonite duffel is very similar and I highly recommend since its made of super sturdy material.
My other favourite is my Lo and Sons Catalina Tote (pictured above) which is smartly designed with a section at the bottom for shoes.
Hand Luggage Rucksacks
Lost luggage is a thing in Africa. We run a Travel Girls Getaways trip to Malawi every year, and every year at least one bag is delayed and on our last trip four bags were delayed! The bags always make it in the end usually coming in on the next flight, but since you might be moving between camps or lodges it can take days for the luggage to reach you and can be stressful to coordinate getting it.
So I always pack as much as possible into my carry on. This is where it gets a little complicated because there are weight restrictions on many African airlines and often you might be flying on small prop planes that require everything to go in the hold.
Pro-Tip: If the person at the check in desk weighs your hand luggage and says you need to repack it. Go and pretend to repack, then go back to a different counter and try again. Chances are you might get away with the overweight bag with a different representative!
In addition, I always use a set of compression packing cubes to organise my items within my luggage, putting tops and jumpers in one and trousers or dresses in another. Not only do these help to keep your bags organised, but it means you can fit more into your luggage!
On a recent trip to Malawi, I was able to pack ALL my safari clothes, plus my huge camera and lenses, and laptop, into my carry-on backpack by using compression cubes. Honestly even I was surprised how much I got in this bag!
I have tried a few different packing cubes and the best ones I have found are from Muji and Eagle Creek. There are plenty of cheap pretty looking options available on Amazon but to in my experience they break quickly so look for a durable option or one of the more expensive ones – it will be worth it in the long run!
What To Wear On Safari
The best thing about a safari wardrobe is that once you have invested in it, you can use it year in year out! The styles don’t really go in and out of fashion which means you won’t need to buy new things every year.
During the day you will most likely be out in a safari vehicle, boat or if you are lucky hot air balloon or small plane over the Masai Mara! Whichever transport you are in the outfits will likely be the same and you will want to opt for neutral tones and plain fabrics.
- Shorts: Keep cool with a pair of khaki safari shorts teamed with some tan boots for a classic safari look. Athleta has a great selection of lightweight and eco friendly shorts.
- Trousers: I like to wear trousers on safari as this can be more comfortable than sitting in shorts. It also means you are covered up at dusk and the evening when the mosquitoes come out.
- Jumpsuit: A comfy jumpsuit is a great option for safari days! Bring one along to mix up your style throughout your trip.
- Tops & Layers: Bring along several vests, t-shirts and layers. Safari gets hot and dirty so you will want to be able to change each day, sometimes more than once!
- Jackets: Depending on the time of year and safari location you might need something a bit warmer to throw other. When I went on Leopard safari and Yala National Park we started at 5am and it was freezing, a windbreak and a light layer did the trick!
- Scarf: A scarf can both style up your outfit, giving you some variation each day and double as a wrap to keep you warm!
- Dress: Safari evenings can be quite fancy depending on your lodge, so bring along a nice dress or two to pair with some flat sandals.
- Maxi Loose Dress: Bring a couple of comfy dresses for evening sundowners and dinner at your lodge.
- Long Skirt: A maxi skirt is excellent on safari to wear day or evening. I have a basic khaki lightweight maxi skirt which is lovely and cool to wear on game drives.
- Hat: I bought this Jaxon and James hat on Amazon for my last trip and I LOVED it. It is light-weight, held its shape well and is also UV resistant. Hats are essential in the sun and for your safari IG pics!
- Sunglasses: A pair of tortoise shell sunglasses are a must!
Pro-Tip: Bring along a couple of carabiners to attach your hat to your backpack when you are not wearing it. These are also helpful for hanging hand held lanterns if your camp does not run electricity 24 hrs.
Footwear & Boots
- Hiking Style Boots: A comfy pair of hiking boots are essential. I bring along my pair of Timberland Courmayeur boots which are good year round for other trips too.
- Trainers or Tennis Shoes: I usually travel with a pair of Converse or slip on tennis shoes which are great for travel days and on safari too.
- Smart Sandals: One pair of nice sandals for evenings or you might want to opt for a closed toe espadrille which you can also wear during the day.
- Hiking Socks: If you are wearing a pair of boots, you will want to team these with some comfortable socks.
Swimwear & Cover Ups
After your morning safari and long lunch, you will be ready to take a dip in the pool at your lodge. So make sure to bring your safari chic to your swimwear wardrobe with a khaki one piece, an animal print bikini, and a loose cover-up.
Cameras & Gear
When you spot your first elephant or big cat you will want to have a camera with you to capture the moment! This is all the gear I take with me on my trips.
- Camera: I use a Nikon D850 DSLR camera body for all of my photography with a Tamron 24-70mm lens, Sigma Art 35mm lens which is great for video. But on safari you will need some lenses that work to get close up nature shots. I also have a little handbag Panasonic DMC LX100 that is nice for quick snaps in the evening.
- Video Equipment: I personally shoot video mostly on my DSLR, but bumpy jeeps mean a Go Pro Hero 8 and Karma Grip for stabilisation are essential kit on your safari!
- Binoculars: Your guide will have some you can borrow, but it’s always nice to bring your own along so you can spot birds and wildlife as you drive.
Looking after your skin and staying hydrated when you out on safari every day is really important! High SPF and facial oils are key to keeping your skin glowing throughout your trip.
- A High Facial SPF: My personal favourites are Skinceuticals Sport UV Defense Active Factor 50, Clinique Face SPF 50 and Coola Mineral Face SPF Factor 50.
- Body SPF: For the body I also love Coola, SunBum and La Roche Posay sunscreens – always Factor 50!
- Cleansers: Safaris can be dusty and dirty, chances are you have been in and out of the jeep and touching your face so you want to clean your skin thoroughly at the end of the day. I am a big fan of Eve Lom and Drunk Elephant cleansers.
- Facial Oils: My favourite facial oil is Boscia Tsubaki Beauty Oil which I have been using for many years, along with a few other Boscia products. Another favourite is Elizabeth Arden Overnight Oil
- Reusable Water Bottle: One of the easiest things that you can do to be a more responsible traveller is to carry a reusable water bottle instead of using multiple plastic water bottles. I have a large Tru Flask bottle, and some a set of different Avana bottles which come in different colours and patterns.
- Reusable Cup: My preferred cup to keep drinks hot is the Avana Sedona cup, but to save space you could also bring a collapsible Stojo reusable cup – I like this, but it does not keep the drinks hot very long.
It is really easy to forget to check your travel insurance coverage when you are caught up in the excitement of booking your safari, but this is something you definitely should not overlook!
Travel Insurance is something you should never leave home without and in fact something you should purchase as soon as you book your trip should unforeseen circumstances stop you from going on your trip. Safaris are very expensive so you don’t want to forfeit flights and lodge expenses if you have to cancel at the last minute!
My recommendations for insurance coverage are:
- World Nomads: I have used World Nomads for many years for long term travel coverage and short trips. I have had the need to make claims with them and found the process easy and quick.
- SafetyWing: The world’s first International Travel Medical Insurance developed to meet the needs of entrepreneurs and remote workers travelling or living abroad. Coverage with SafetyWing starts at US $37 for four weeks and since it is subscription-based you won’t forget it when you travel!
- Insure and Go: If you are based in the UK, Insure and Go is a great choice for annual travel insurance. I had coverage from Insure and Go at the time of my ski accident and they were very helpful with organising my repatriation back to England. I had the annual Gold coverage which also included coverage for a plus 1, so my husband was covered to come and help me get home.
- Camera Coverage: If you are carrying lots of photography equipment I highly recommend getting separate insurance for your electronic and photo gear – especially if you are taking them with you on the mountain! I have been using Photoguard for a few years and love that you can build your insurance based on the value of your exact set of photographic equipment, but suggest checking specific insurance coverage for your region.
I hope that you have found this article helpful to plan what to pack for your next safari. Please share your own safari trip packing tips with our readers in the comments below.
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