Logo Hints and tips
Home   <-   Safari Index   <-   Hints & tips  <-   Safari packing tips

Packing for a Safari

for people staying on a lodge/luxury tented camp safari.

What to take on safari is something which often concerns first-time safari-goers.

The airlines are cutting down on the weight which can be carried on international flights and are getting much stricter about checking it. If you are coming from America, you could get a real shock.

Personally, I find it very difficult to limit my carry-on gear to 6kg - I have to weigh each bit of camera gear on the kitchen scales. The problem is film - see photo hints page for more info. Digital isn't much better, since you need back-up storage.

So, for what it's worth, here is my non-photographic packing list for a non-camping safari This will last you any amount of time (easily three weeks), though obviously you'll have to replace supplies on a long trip:

Good binoculars - the best you can afford - 8x40 or 10x50 are good, and get close focussing.


For wearing on the plane

Heavier trousers, long-sleeved shirt, fleece or jumper, heavier shoes & socks.
The fleece will be useful for early mornings and evenings, and for any night drives.
This takes care of your heavier/bulkier items.


Packed in hold baggage:

4 T-shirts (remember to wear the long-sleeved shirt in the evenings & early mornings for mozzie protection)
Spare trousers and shorts (if liked)
6 pairs knickers/socks and spare bra.
If you have any bosom at all, take your favourite strong support bra - some use a sports bra, but I hate them, and use a platform style (wonderbra-type). Jump up and down when trying it on! Some of the roads can be very bumpy and uncomfortable. Sometimes you will just have to fold your arms under your boobs!
PJs or whatever.
Lightweight or canvas shoes, or sandals - waterproof adventure sandals can be useful, especially if you will be snorkelling or at the beach.
Wide-brimmed hat.
Sarong/kanga - very useful - use it as a skirt, or to wrap round your swimsuit when going to and from the pool. Two matching ones are much better than one. There's a little book you can buy in Kenya and Tanzania called '101 things to do with a kanga' - a great wee read and lots of great ideas - not all for wearing, e.g. as a flag to summon help in an emergency! 'Real men' can buy a kikoi (male version of a kanga).
A swimsuit. Most of the lodges and many of the luxury camps have pools, and it can be great to take a pre-lunch dip if it's hot. Also, unless you are on a walking safari, you don't get much exercise.
Sunspecs (in my case clip-ons) and spare prescription specs if you need them.
'Girl stuff' (if necessary) - it can be difficult and expensive to buy tampons in some places. I've seen Tampax and Always sometimes in lodge shops, but not everywhere. Otherwise you'll have to ask for a chemist 'used by wazungu'. Be aware that long flights can sometimes alter menstrual cycles, so be prepared!
After that, you can please yourself. If you don't like wearing trousers, you could wear a skirt. You won't need to dress up for dinner at the lodges or camps.
The usual toiletries - toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, deodorant.

Shaving necessities.

High factor sun protector and after-sun lotion - the latter will double as moisturiser, and will help to soothe your skin should you get a grass allergy (I don't get it in Africa, but I do in the Med). Even more important, high factor lip protections. And remember your scalp! Having said all that, if, like me, you have to or choose to avoid the sun, it isn't too much of a problem: your game drives are taken in vehicles with pop-up roofs, and the lodge/camp grounds are usually sheltered by shade trees.

Mini first-aid kit, though your driver will probably have one on the vehicle.

Take extra antiseptic wipes and plasters, because apparently even small grazes can become problematic in the tropics.

Malaria prophylaxis: consult your GP/travel nurse. Essential - full stop.

Mosquito repellant (also essential) - some but not all of the lodges/camps will provide this, but always take your own and wear it religiously, even neurotically, from dusk until dawn. Cover your arms and legs at these times too, no matter what the others are doing - even a lightweight shirt will do; apparently the anopheles mosquito doesn't have as strong jaws as the Everglades species.

My favourite is Mosquito Milk, which is only 30 or 35% Deet and smells nice. High concentrations of Deet get sweated off, and erodes plastics. Also take one of these little plug-in mosquito killers with tablets - again some, but not all, lodges/camps provide them. If your lodge/camp provides mosquito nets, take this as a hint and use them fastidiously. If a mozzie can get in an any way, it will. Trust me. :-(
Plugs in Kenya and Tanzania are the same as in the UK (3 prong rectangular).

I understand the 'zappers' can now be bought battery-operated, in which case, remember to pack spare batteries.

Alka Seltzer and Imodium - don't take the Imodium unless you have to move on while afflicted - it's better to let the trouble take its course if you can. I have to say that in nineteen weeks of safari, I've only missed one game drive through tummy trouble, and as it was on day two of a safari, I might have brought it with me. In the main lodges and luxury tented camps you can eat the salads and ice-cream.

Drink bottled water, and use the flask of water in your room or tent to clean your teeth.
Keep your mouth shut in the shower! They say the tap water in Nairobi and Mombasa is safe. I've cleaned my teeth in Nairobi tap water, without ill effect.

Any prescription medicines - enough to last your trip.

Contraceptives, if needed.
(Remember, Kenya is one of the world's AIDS epicentres. Just say "No".)

Torch - the little Maglites which convert into a 'candle' are useful, though the bulbs are very fragile. A caver's lamp to be worn on the head is very useful. The electricity sometimes fails, (but nothing like as often as in India!) but more likely, the remote camps are on a generator which is switched off at certain times.

Updated recommendation:
This year I bought two tiny LED torches: one only about an inch long which I wore constantly around my neck on a cord, day and night, and one a two-bulb headlamp. Both very lightweight and powerful. Highly recommended.

Fabric wash and one of these twisted travel clothes lines.

Hair dryer - Jury's out on this. Takes up space and is probably unnecessary. Wash your hair after your pre-lunch swim and it'll dry naturally in no time. Do the lions care if you're having a bad hair day? Surely life's too short to blow-dry on safari? Your call.

Field guides for your particular interests - see reading list - and notebook.

Dress code

All the tourist lodges and luxury tented camps have laundries, many with next-day service; even some of the mobile camps offer a laundry service.
This is what I do:
I take only two pairs of trousers for safari. I wear one pair for daytime then change into the cleaner pair for dinner. When the daytime pair get embarassing (dusty, especially in Amboseli and Samburu), I put them into the laundry, and my 'evening' ones become my daytime ones, then the newly-clean ones become my 'evening' ones. Repeat as necessary. I wear my 'next day's clean T-shirt' with the 'evening' trousers
Men don't need shirts and ties on safari, although 'smart casual' is required for dinner at Mount Kenya Safari Club - this is an improvement, as jacket and tie for men used to be obligatory, which was insane. I believe trousers may now be worn there by women, but possibly not jeans.

"Clients are encouraged to dress for dinner" at Finch Hatton's camp in Tsavo.

If you are going on to the coast, you can leave your beach clothes or dresses in your Nairobi hotel before your safari and pick it up again on your return. This is absolutely standard practice. Even if you normally wear trousers or shorts, loose dresses create their own breeze so can feel much cooler in humid weather, such as at the coast, with the added advantage of no waist restriction (think of the buffet meals!)
Unless you are doing business, casual clothes are fine in Nairobi, in fact, scruffier is probably (a bit) safer.

Water on safari

If you're on a private safari, when you meet your driver, ask to be taken to buy water "at African prices". The prices in the lodges are very high, particularly in the Samburu area, as they often are in the dukas your driver will stop at. Buy at least half a litre per person per day - this is to drink on your game drives. Most safari vehicles have an ice box. Many safaris include a supply of bottled water in the price of the trip.

One of these 'platypus' 'hoser' systems is incredibly useful especially if you will be going on game walks or bird walks. It's surprising how thirsty you can get on a gentle stroll around the lodge grounds! It's sort-of like a hospital drip bag to which you attach a long plastic tube with mouthpiece. You keep the bag in your backpack, clip the tube onto the shoulder strap (you can generally figure out ways to use it without a backpack) then the mouthpiece is always handy: just bite and drink. I find that I'm more likely to drink enough using this system, as I don't have to stop, go into my bag, take out a bottle, unscrew it etc etc. Totally hands-free! An additional advantage is that it packs flat and weighs almost nothing. It is very sturdy: I was a bit doubtful of it when I first saw them in shops, since I thought they would be easily burst, but I noticed on a TV prog that the SAS were using them in the Namib Desert: good enough for them...

In the lodges and camps, soda water is often cheaper than mineral water. I haven't yet found carbonated mineral water. Soda baridi means a cold, soft, fizzy drink; for soda water you have to specify Club Soda, as in the US!

choices link
How to decide on the right safari for you.
Reading link
Suggested Reading
People link
Group or private trip?
Mileage link
Don't cram too much
Nights link
Off-the shelf or tailor-made?
Packing tips link
What to take
Photo hints
Photography tips

Safari index link
Safari Index

Home link
Home Page

Images & text © Liz Leyden 2007.
May be used for non-profit personal or educational purposes only.
Don't hotlink to my images
w3c logo