Safari Packing Tips and FAQs
A couple months ago, my roommate and I packed a pair of matching soft-sided duffel bags and set off on a wild African safari and beach honeymoon. Everything was magic. Since I’ve already given you the rundown on our itinerary and bombarded you with a shameless amount of sunset and baby animal pics, I thought we’d tackle some frequently asked safari questions with a special focus on everyone’s number one concern: WHAT DO I PACK?!!!
Let’s dive right in, shall we?
Did you plan this trip yourself?
HELL NO. We used an agency called Africa Born—which was recommended to us by close friends—and a beautiful human named Jules helped us conceptualize and plan our fantasy trip. After doing some (very light) preliminary research and consulting with various friends who had recently gone on safari, Logan and I had an in-depth conversation with Jules about what we were hoping to do and see on our honeymoon. Based on our preferences for everything from the countries we wanted to visit to food and lodging, she put together a killer draft of an itinerary for us. After a few more calls and emails, we finalized the itinerary, and Jules went about locking and loading our epic adventure.
I can’t recommend Africa Born highly enough, and their service made our honeymoon absolutely seamless and stress-free. Given that safari travel involves so many logistics (bush planes! helicopters! airport transfers! visas!), trying to coordinate things ourselves would have been a nightmare, and we wouldn’t have known where to begin. Jules also has such in-depth knowledge about various countries and lodges, and she was able to recommend places she knew we’d love as well as secure some pretty badass bridal discounts.
Did you have to get shots?!
Indeed. I only had to get Hepatitis A, but the necessary shots are dependent on the countries you’re visiting. Be sure to let your doctor know exactly where you’ll be traveling, so that you get exactly what you need.
Did you take Malarone, and were there side effects?
Yep! And yep! I had extremely vivid and unpleasant dreams while taking Malarone, but I wouldn’t classify them as the “night terrors” I had heard about (do NOT Google), and they were a small price to pay to avoid malaria, which seems rather unpleasant ;). With that said, my hairier half experienced zero side effects—unsurprising given that he is a human fortress and is rarely impacted by drugs, food, or the environment at large…
Did you bring a DSLR camera? Was it worth it?
Logan did. He brought his old Canon Rebel T2i with two lenses (18-55mm and a 55-250mm zoom), and he used it well.
Here’s the thing. We’re not professional photographers, and neither of us knows much about photography or cameras in general. I’m okay with shooting food, but that’s about it. We also had no intention of blowing up any of our safari photos or displaying them in a major way. I figured some pics might get posted here or on social media, and I hoped for a few framers of us with amazing backgrounds that we could keep in the apartment, but other than that, amazing photos weren’t a priority for me. Am I thrilled that Logan got some badass, not blurry baby animal pics? Totally. But I’m also pretty sure those photos will get looked at a couple of times before happily gathering dust on our hard drive. Truth.
In short, if photography is a personal passion, OR you’re looking to do something sweet with your safari photos (à la Gaby Dalkin who has allll the fancy camera info you could ever want in this post), by all means bring a DSLR. If not, we all know iPhones take pretty awesome photos these days, so I say save yourself the hassle of packing camera equipment and enjoy your animal viewing unencumbered.
Now that we’ve gotten those very important questions out of the way, let’s talk packing, people!
Bush planes have serious luggage regulations, and we were each allowed to bring one soft-sided duffle with a weight limit of 33 pounds, and one carry-on bag plus a camera case. If you’re a chronic over-packer like me, this may feel impossible, but the truth is…you don’t need much.
The majority of camps have same-day laundry service, so as long as your clothes aren’t dry clean only, you can rotate the same handful of pieces throughout your stay. The trick is to bring versatile layers in neutral colors, especially if you’re going in the winter (we went in early June, which is basically the very beginning of winter in Southern Africa), since the temperature fluctuates a lot. It was freezing in the morning and at night but incredibly hot when the sun was out, so being able to dress and undress accordingly was key.
As far as fancy outfits go, we certainly didn’t need any. Dinner was casual at each of our safari lodges, and some nights we rolled right into the dining room after our game drive without changing. However, it was nice to have a few festive articles on hand for when we felt like turning up on the fashion front. I highly recommend bringing wrinkle free dresses/skirts/jumpsuits for said occasions.
I’ve taken the liberty of putting together a packing list of essentials for your inspiration. This is NOT exactly what I brought—this is what I would bring on any future safari knowing what I know now. (I’ve linked to my beloved duffel and the items I wore and loved most at the bottom of this post!)
SERENA’S SAFARI PACKING RECOMMENDATIONS:
- 3 t-shirts/tank tops
- 3 button-down or long sleeve shirts
- 2 light sweaters or half-zip fleeces
- 1 light but warm jacket (such as a Patagonia puffer/sweater)
- 1 windbreaker/rain jacket or “safari” jacket
- 3 pairs of comfortable pants (I recommend 2 pairs of cotton or linen pants and 1 pair of jeans.)
- 1 pair of leggings for exercise and/or travel
- 1 pair of shorts (This is really contingent on the weather. I wore pants every day on our game drives.)
- 1-2 light scarves for warmth/fashun
- Socks, bras, and underwear
- 3-5 “dress up” outfits (Like I said, not necessary but fun to have!)
- Pajamas (if you wear them…)
For those going to the beach:
- 2 bathing suits
- 2 cover ups
- 1 pair of comfortable sneakers/slip ons for game drives
- 1 pair of versatile sandals for meals and travel
- 1 pair of hiking shoes/running shoes (Only necessary if you will be hiking on your trip, or if you plan to workout. I did neither.)
- 1 wide brim hat (Logan and I both bought sweet hats in the Johannesburg airport…)
- Knit hat and gloves (Optional but recommended for chilly morning drives if you’re going in winter.)
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Soap (It’s always provided, but if you have sensi skin, you should bring your own.)
- Skincare products (Whatever is involved in your regular routine, but try to stick to the essentials.)
- Face and body sunscreen!!
- Bug spray (Most places we stayed provided it.)
- Lip balm with SPF
- Antibiotic ointment and cortisone cream (just in case!)
- Basic medications: Advil/Tylenol, decongestant, antihistamine (especially if you have allergies!!!), anti-diarrheal, antacid (they feed you a lot…)
- Antibiotics (Our doctors sent us with Cipro and Azithromycin.)
- Personal medications/remedies. (I brought Anxiety IQ, CBD, and Echinacea.)
- Binoculars (Some lodges may provide these.)
- Adapters (All of our lodges provided these for us, so you can always ask in advance if you need to bring your own.)
- Books (We each got through 3!)
- Energy bars for travel days/early mornings (I brought GoMacro bars and was so grateful!!)
- Baggage locks
*If you have any follow up questions, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments or shoot me an email here.
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