• 29 September 2020

Are you planning on heading off on a spectacular South African safari sometime soon? We have put together a handy packing guide to help you get ready for your trip!

Africa is a continent full of beauty, majesty and wonder. One of the best things to do on an African vacation is set off on a safari adventure. 

Picture yourself hopping into a game drive vehicle and rambling across the grassy plains as the sun rises over the horizon. Birds chirp and flutter through the trees while an exciting variety of animals emerge to greet the dawn. It is one of the most unforgettable African experiences you can enjoy!

South Africa is a popular safari destination with travellers; famous safari spots include the Kruger National Park, Pilanesberg as well as world-class reserves in the Eastern Cape. Tanzania and Kenya in East Africa are also world-renowned for wildlife viewing and safari experiences. 

Elephants in Kruger National Park seen on safari
See animals in the wild on a South African safari!

Here are 10 things to remember when asking what to pack for a South African safari:

1. Light, neutral coloured clothing

In general, it is a good idea to pack comfortable, casual clothing that you can wash and wear easily. Go with clothes that are lightweight and airy as it can become incredibly hot when the sun is beating down. Neutral colours such as khaki, green, beige, light browns, neutral checks and even light to medium blues are best for game viewing. To avoid looking like a safari novice, steer clear of bright red, yellow, purple and white (white also gets dirty quickly which can happen easily in the bush). Avoid dark blues and black on game drives as these colours can attract tsetse flies (good news is that tsetse flies are not common in the Kruger National Park). 

Travel tip: Keep note of any potential luggage regulations. If you are catching small flights or safari vehicles, you may be limited to one bag of 20kgs and only soft bags may be permitted.  

Young lion cub seen on South Africa safari
If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot the famous Big 5 while on safari in South Africa.
2. Pack smart and bring layers

On your safari trip, you’ll experience early morning and late afternoon game drives. These times can be chilly – even during summer. Bring along a jacket, sweater or jersey and layer up to stay warm. Airy, long-sleeved shirts give you protection from the sun as well as pesky mosquitoes! Pack shorts and t-shirts to use during the day as well as comfortable jeans and long trousers for the evenings and cooler days. 

Keep note of the season as Kruger National Park can become quite cold in the early mornings and evenings during winter (May/June to August/September) so pack warmer clothes for these times. 

Even when packing your layers, it is wise not to overpack; taking too many clothes is a mistake often made by travellers. 

Travel tip: Most lodges and hotels offer same-day laundry service for an additional fee. 

Flatlay of safari vacation luggage items
Make sure you pack all of the essentials for your safari trip.
3. A light-weight, waterproof rain jacket

It’s always a good idea to pack a rain jacket no matter where you go – unless you’re visiting the desert of course! Summer is generally the rainy season in spots like the Kruger National Park. However, it’s always good to be prepared even when visiting during the dry season. Some lodges may offer rain ponchos to guests, or make use of close top safari vehicles. 

4. Sun protection: sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, and lip balm

Be sure not to make the mistake of underestimating the power of the African sun! Sun protection like sunscreen, sunglasses, a cap or hat (wide-brimmed is a great option) and lip-balm are must-haves for your safari trip. 

5. Comfortable walking shoes

You don’t need to pack heavy-duty hiking boots unless you are embarking on a walking safari. Comfortable walking shoes will be great for exploring your lodge or hotel and taking short walks. Pack a pair of comfy sandals to use around the lodge or hotel pool in between game drives. 

Young leopard yawning seen on south african safari
There’s nothing quite like seeing an animal in its natural habitat!
6. Binoculars

While you are in the wild, you will already be getting a first-hand experience of the action – get even closer when using a pair of binoculars! Some game rangers may have spare pairs for passengers but it is always a good idea to take your own pair. This allows you to enjoy close-up views of hard-to-spot animals and birds in their natural habitats. 

7. Camera, lenses, extra batteries and memory cards

Any exciting wildlife sightings will usually be accompanied by the fervent snapping of cameras during safari game drives! We can’t blame people for wanting to capture once-in-a-lifetime moments. Make sure you bring your camera or phone to take photos; this includes any extra lenses, batteries or memory cards you may need. 

Travel tip: While photographic memories are great, be sure to take a moment to pause and fully absorb the beauty of the bush while you’re physically in it. 

People viewing cheetah on game drive South Africa safari
Don’t forget your camera and binoculars for your safari adventure!
8. A personal medical kit

A few general medical supplies are a great addition to your suitcase. It’s always good to have painkillers, insect-repellent, anti-allergy medication, band-aids (plasters) and anything else you think might be needed. Malaria medication might be a necessity depending on the area of South Africa you are visiting. Consult your doctor or travel clinic before travelling to find out what you might need to take.

9. Something slightly snazzy for lodge and/or hotel dinners

This second last point isn’t a necessity. It is more of a “nice to have”. There may be some dinners at the lodge or hotel where you’d like to dress up a bit! Bring along something small like a snazzy scarf or a pair of smart shoes or sandals to up the glam factor. Keeping it casual is completely normal too! 

Happy couple enjoying wine next to fire at game lodge dinner safari
Sit back and enjoy a delicious dinner after a day of exciting wildlife activities!
10. All of your important documents 

Finally, be sure to pack all of your important documents! Passport, tickets, visas, travel insurance, medical forms and emergency contact information. Having copies of these in physical or digital form is also a top tip.

Follow this helpful South Africa safari packing list and you’re well on your way to being ready for your adventure into the wild! You can experience safari thrills along with the breathtaking beauty of South Africa on our South Africa Escape, Taste of South Africa, Kruger Safari and The Panorama Route and Cape Town and the Garden Route tours. You’ll be spoiled for choice in this magnificent country!

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