For many travelers, an African safari represents the pinnacle of adventure - the chance to visit a wholly unfamiliar landscape and come face to face with elephants, giraffes, and lions (to name but a few) in their natural habitat. The downside? Oftentimes, traveling to safari lodges requires taking smaller planes with specific weight restrictions. Staying within these restrictions is paramount, and this packing guide can help you bring just what you need for a memorable African safari.
Also, visit the official Odysseys Outfitter to shop specially curated packages of our most popular safari essentials at discount prices.
Bring athletic, quick-dry clothing
Though a fashion faux pas in daily life, travel-specific shirts and pants from qualified outdoor clothing outfitters are key on safari. These lightweight outfits can be easily layered for warmth (yes, it gets cold when the sun goes down) and many travelers opt for convertible zip-off pants that can be worn as pants or shorts. Since these breathable fabrics are easy to wash and dry, you won't have to pack more than a few pieces that you can reuse throughout your trip. For early mornings and unseasonable cold, we also recommend a windbreaker or light jacket/fleece.
Please note: from May to August, temperatures can become very cold in the early morning and at night, so adding a winter hat, scarf, gloves and a warm jacket is vital.
When you aren’t traveling between destinations or on a game drive, you will be lounging at your lodge. Pack shorts, t-shirts, sunglasses, sunscreen, a bathing suit and a hat for when you are relaxing in between activities - these casual clothes will save on hassle and luggage space.
Pack an all-purpose scarf
With luggage restrictions in effect, you'll need clothing that can serve multiple functions. Enter the scarf/shawl/head wrap. In the drier seasons when the dust kicks up on game drives, you can use it as a nose and mouth covering. On hot days, a scarf that’s been dipped in water can help keep you cool. For colder evenings, it serves as another layer around your shoulders, and can even double as a blanket on a chilly flight.
Prepare for dust
Keep your camera equipment in large zip-lock bags to help protect from dust. We also recommend packing a lens tissue and/or dust cover. Contact lens wearers, consider wearing glasses to avoid eye irritation.
Stick to neutrals
There is a reason why movies depicting safaris show travelers wearing khaki-colored clothing: it is the best color to keep unwanted wildlife and insect attention at bay. Blue, black, and purple clothing attracts mosquitos and tsetse flies, a biting insect that can cause sleeping sickness. In Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and northern and eastern South Africa, we recommend wearing dark green. As there is a change in landscape, in Botswana, Namibia and western South Africa, brown, tan, and beige colors are best. Note that camouflage clothing is not recommended for travel in southern African countries. Camouflage or military-inspired clothing is prohibited when traveling in Zimbabwe.
Because of the mosquitos and insects, it is necessary to pack insect repellent with at least 40% DEET.
Remember, safety first
It’s always better to be prepared — especially in remote destinations — so we recommend packing antibacterial hand gel or wipes, a flashlight for your cabin, toilet paper, and standard first aid provisions such as aspirin or ibuprofen, Pepto-Bismol® tablets, IMODIUM®A-D or other anti-diarrheal medicine, cold/flu medicine, adhesive bandages, and topical antibiotic cream.
Lastly, we recommend packing a day bag that you can bring with you on game drives that includes space for your camera, binoculars, water, dust cover, and hat. Along with this, we recommend packing pocket tissue or toilet paper. You may not have access to this while away from your camp.
If you are joining us on our “Southern Africa Odyssey,” “Tanzania Adventure,” “Classic Safari: Kenya & Tanzania,” or “Africa’s Wildlife” small group tours, this information is also sent to you in our general information and day-by-day packets, and you can find our specially curated Get Ready Packages here.