Going on safari is a magical experience. Until you’ve been on one however, its hard to know what to expect. Although every safari is different, depending on the country and parks you visit, the length of trip you choose and your budget, there are still a number of essential items you should not forget to pack!
In the last 12 months I’ve been fortunate to go on two safaris; the first was a 3-day trip to Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda and the second a 4-day safari to the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire National Parks in Tanzania. Both safaris were shared ‘budget’ tours, meaning that we were camping each night, so this packing list is particularly relevant to anyone doing a more budget trip, but many of the items are nonetheless relevant for those who have booked a more luxury experience.
It seems obvious when you write it! But you would be surprised how many people don’t have a pair of binoculars with them on safari! I was one of those people on my first trip to Murchison Falls National Park, it just hadn’t occurred to me to bring some. I was travelling alone, and the other people on my shared safari had a pair with them and I instantly realised my rooky mistake. While much of the wildlife we saw could be observed well without binoculars there were moments throughout the trip where it would have been so much better to have some. The only lions we saw in Murchison Falls were in the far distance and luckily the strangers on my tour let me borrow their binoculars for a minute, so I could see them, otherwise they would have been too far away to see clearly. On my more recent safari in Tanzania I made sure my friends and I had binoculars with us, and it was our turn to be the kind strangers as none of the other people on our safari had them (and that was two independent travellers and a couple!). It just goes to show it’s not always obvious to pack them, but if you’re going to spend hundreds of dollars on a safari, do yourself a favour and invest in a decent pair of binoculars- believe me you will not regret it!
2- Battery pack
If like me, you’re going to be camping on safari, then a battery pack to charge your phone and camera with is a must. Even if you’ve booked a more luxury safari staying in lodges, you can often spend quite a few hours driving to and around the parks, and if your phone battery drains as quickly as mine does, you’ll definitely want a battery pack with you!
3- Loo roll and hand soap
Don’t get caught short! Although I was impressed with how clean some of the toilets were at the park entrances, they were still often missing loo roll and hand soap. The toilets at the campsites in Tanzania were less than desirable and I was definitely glad I had my own supplies with me!
Early starts and safaris go hand in hand as tours often leave at the crack of dawn in the hope of making it into the national parks first and catching some of the early morning animal activity. For this reason, its not unusual for breakfast to be skipped or served after a 5-6-hour morning safari. If like me, you can’t run on empty, pack plenty of snacks! I had two boxes of cereal bars with me and they saved me on numerous occasions. I could sit back and enjoy the experience without being distracted by a rumbling stomach!
Having the shits is not good in any situation, but it’s especially problematic on safari. You are usually driving around for 5+ hours with the only toilet breaks being in the wild (and its not wise to stray too far away from the truck!). Luckily, I didn’t have any problem on either of my safaris, however one girl on our tour in Tanzania was suffering badly (she must have eaten something dodgy the day before the safari started). You could tell it really impacted on her trip and she didn’t get to enjoy the experience.
6- Warm clothes
When you think of a safari, you don’t picture it as a cold experience- quite the opposite in fact. However, while the days are often very hot, it can get really chilly in the evenings and at night, especially if you are camping. I recommend packing some big woolly socks and a thick fleece jumper to sleep in at night.
A handy item to pack for any African adventure, as power cuts are unfortunately a common occurrence. It also makes life much easier when camping. I always take a head torch with me, as it’s easier to use when cleaning your teeth, packing or showing.
8- SLR/Camera with a decent zoom
While getting good photos isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of a safari, you’re often viewing the most amazing wildlife scenes and it’s nice to be able to capture those moments on camera, so you can share them with others and remember the experience in the future. Although many phone cameras are really good quality nowadays, you just can’t beat the zoom on an SLR, so if you can get your hands on one for your safari, it will definitely be worth it. For my first safari in Uganda, my friend very kindly lent me his SLR camera, so if you don’t already own one, it could be worth asking a close friend or relative if you could borrow theirs.
9- Pack of cards/travel games
Most activity on safari happens in the mornings and so evenings can be left a little empty. When camping there’s not much else to do but sit in your tent, so having a pack of cards or a small travel game can be a great way to pass time in the evening before you try and get a couple of uncomfortable hours sleep!
10- Sleeping bag liner and travel pillow
Budget safaris usually involve camping, and unless you want to pack a bulky sleeping bag in your rucksack, you will end up borrowing camping gear from your tour guide (base mats and sleeping bags). To make the experience a little bit nicer, buy yourself a sleeping bag liner, so you can rest assured that you have a nice clean bed for the night. Pillows are not usually provided, so I would also recommend you taking a travel pillow of some kind or even just an empty pillow case that you can stuff with jumpers to form a makeshift pillow for the night. After your third night of camping, you’ll be glad you made the extra effort!
So, there you have it, 10 essential items for your safari packing list! If you’re off on safari let me know if the list has helped you prepare for your trip and if you think I’ve missed something, please comment below!