First trip to Africa? You’re in luck!
Having recently been on Safari in Tanzania, we can provide you with first-hand, reliable and up-to-date information on how to make your trip stress-free, with this ultimate African safari packing list.
Packing for your first African safari can be a daunting task. It is not just about taking the essentials, but also understanding what to expect from this new and exciting experience.
Most people don’t realize that African safaris are not just limited to a few hours in the wild.
You need to be prepared for lots of travel, long drives, and a great deal of time outdoors.
If you want to know exactly what to take and the practical reasons WHY you need them, then this safari packing list is your new best friend!
Safari Clothing Essentials
The following list of safari clothing is based on the assumption that you will be sat in a vehicle for the majority of the day, which makes your safari packing list a whole lot easier.
We are all for sustainable travel and find no need to splurge on expensive safari gear that will only be used once!
Tips for Safari Clothes Packing
Choose clothing that is easy to pack, dries quickly, and wicks moisture away from the skin. Man-made fabrics (such as polyimide) perform better than natural fabrics (such as cotton) and keep you cooler.
- Laundry Services
Laundry services are generally available at camps and lodges, so only pack what you need as luggage space is precious.
- Wear Earth Tones
The African Tsetse fly is ferocious and is attracted to dark blue and black colors. With bites similar to horseflies, they can and will make your trip a living nightmare! Choose khaki, green and brown colors where possible. It’s best to avoid pale colors as you will get rather dusty and dirty during the day!
- Organize Your Clothing
Organizing your safari clothing makes life so much easier, particularly if you have onward travel to another destination. Use packing cubes to place your safari clothes on the top for easier access and less mess.
Clothing for your African Safari Packing List:
1. Safari Shirt
If there is one thing worth investing in, it is a proper safari shirt. We were the only ones in our camp that didn’t get bitten to bits by those relentless tsetse flies!
Tsetse flies can bite through thin or penetrable fabric, and a quality safari shirt will prevent them from doing so.
The best safari shirts will have built-in anti-insect treatment.
You can thank us later…!
Layering is key to keeping warm and/or cool. Wearing t-shirts (under your shirt) also means you only need to fork out on the one expensive safari shirt.
3. Boots or Shoes
You don’t need specific safari boots or shoes and you certainly don’t need to spend a fortune on them. As you’ll be in the vehicle all day, a sturdy pair that you can wear with socks (that you can tuck your pants into) will do just fine.
When you’re walking around camp you won’t want to wear open-toe sandals, especially once you’ve seen all the sun-spiders scattering around! Eeeek!
4. Safari Hat
Don’t forget your safari hat! You want full coverage – preferably one with a large brim that keeps your face and neck in the shade. Even with a pop-up roof, the sun will still manage to beat down on you, and it’s one heck of a sun!
Tip: Make sure your safari hat fits you snugly or has a neck cord – your rides will pick up speed and you don’t want to lose it with an unexpected gust of wind!
We love this packable safari hat that always bounces back to life (in featured photo).
5. Safari Pants
Long, lightweight, and enough to cover up those legs but not too hot or bulky. You’ll be sitting for a large proportion of the day so they’ll need to be comfortable.
You probably won’t want to wear shorts after you’ve encountered those tsetse flies.
Lightweight, comfortable, and preferably water-resistant. Early starts can get chilly, so don’t be fooled – even if you’re the hardiest of people!
African Safari Packing List Essentials
7. Soft-Sided Luggage
If you’re traveling on bush flights you’ll be limited to 15kg on your luggage, plus you’ll need a soft bag (no hard suitcases allowed) that can be stuffed onto small planes. A duffel bag is an essential item to get your safari packing list going!
8. Packing Cubes
If you’ve never used them before, you’re in for a treat! Packing cubes made life so much easier on safari!
These provide the perfect way to organize your clothes and toiletries. Plus, you’ll be able to quickly see what’s in them which makes it easy when you’re looking for something specific without having to unpack everything. A total game-changer for organized travel!
Note: Plastic bags are now banned in many African countries and will be confiscated at airports. Sealable silicone bags are a perfect alternative for your leaky toiletries.
9. Universal Travel Adapter
Be sure to bring the correct travel adapters for Africa so you can charge your essential batteries. There are two types of outlets, European and British – this universal travel adapter will have you covered in any eventuality!
10. Insect Repellent
It’s important to keep biting insects away from you, both during the day and at night. They can carry dangerous diseases such as malaria, so don’t be tempted to leave this out.
The best type to use is one that can be sprayed over clothing. I know this may sound peculiar, but that’s what they all do in the bush!
Choose a natural repellant that does not damage clothing – this is the insect repellent we used and our safari guides absolutely loved it!
11. Tiger Balm
African tsetse flies have a nasty bite on them. This tiger balm will help take the edge off any itchy or swollen skin and should not be missed off your safari packing list. We first discovered this in Thailand and it’s by far the best relief for insect bites
12. First Aid Kit
Remember that you’re a while away from any emergency medical care. A simple first aid kit can take the stress out of any minor accidents along the way. Plus, you won’t have to rely on calling the staff to your tent at night if you have your own kit.
Being so close to the equator means that you’re going to be exposed to a lot of UV radiation. Pack sunscreen and wear it when outdoors, even when you think you don’t need it.
On our first day, we thought the pop-up roof in our vehicle would provide enough protection from the sun – we were very wrong!
UV protection is essential in Africa! Protecting yourself from intense sunlight will make your safari experience so much more comfortable. If you want to avoid squinting all day, then sunglasses are a must!
It gets pretty dark at night when you’re in an environment with zero light pollution. Most camps should provide you with a flashlight, but we would always err on the side of caution and have one handy.
16. Mosquito Net
It goes without saying that tented camps will lack any air-conditioning that ordinarily keeps mosquitos at bay! Check if your accommodation provides mosquito nets around beds before you book, if not – take one with you.
17. Power Bank
A power bank is essential if you’re on safari for more than a day. It’s always handy to have an external charger that can work anywhere in Africa.
Most safari vehicles will have USB ports that can be used with charging cables, but if you’re staying in tented camps then I wouldn’t rely on charging anything too quickly!
18. Selfie Stick
Wait, I know what you’re thinking…selfie sticks are soooo NOT on-trend!
But when you’re up close to a pack of lions feasting, or that cheetah that’s slowly walking behind your vehicle, you’ll be incredibly pleased you had something that could reach round to capture the all-important moment.
19. Anti-Diarrhea Tablets
Being on the go in Africa can result in some stomach upset, so it’s best to have a supply of anti-diarrhea tablets with you. The last thing you need is for your bucket list safari trip to be ruined because you can’t part with the bathroom!
Check whether your safari vehicle provides a sufficient number of binoculars for all travelers.
If not, you might want to bring your own as there’s nothing quite like hurrying up the person next to you so you can cop a look at the action!
21. Microfibre Towel
These smart microfibre towels are light and packable for when you’re not staying in a hotel. They dry quickly too and won’t cause a stench when you’re on the go!
22. Toilet Paper/Wipes
Depending on your safari destination, there may not be any bathrooms within a 2-hour radius, so be prepared by packing toilet paper/wipes and hand sanitizer! These are absolutely essential items for your safari packing list!
23. Anti-Malaria Tablets
There is a risk of malaria in most parts of Africa. Speak with your travel clinic about the pros and cons of taking anti-malarial tablets, sometimes the side effects can be off-putting if you have existing medical conditions or a sensitive tummy.
You may decide that taking the tablets is not an option and therefore need to re-evaluate whether an African safari is the right choice for you.
Other Handy Safari Tips:
- Take sufficient cash
You may be surprised to hear that there are no ATM machines out on safari! Make sure you bring enough cash for the duration of your safari for souvenirs, additional snacks, drinks at your camp/lodge, and tips for your safari guide
Drones are not allowed by any camps in East Africa due to the effects they have on wildlife (and also for security reasons)
Hairdryers and other powerful appliances generally cannot be used if you’re staying in tented camps as electricity is scarce
- Avoid any military/camo clothing
It’s a safari, not the SAS! Just kidding. The real reason to avoid military-style clothing is that it may land you into trouble in some territories, especially in Kenya. Governments are wary of anyone posing as a military officer and will question your intentions. A situation we would all just rather avoid!
Safari Packing List
Packing for an African safari can be stressful, especially if you have no idea what to expect.
That’s why we have put together this ultimate African safari packing list to help make your experience as stress-free as possible so that you can focus on making great memories.
You may also be interested in our post about Safari Anxiety: What People Worry About