Safari Packing Tips from Experts
Preparing for an African safari can be an adventure all of its own. Along with knowing what to pack for a safari, it helps to assemble a game plan prior to departure so that once you arrive among the teeming wildlife of Tanzania's vast Serengeti or find yourself on a boating safari through the grasslands of Botswana's Okavango Delta, you're thinking about what's in front of you, rather than how to protect your DSLR camera from the rain or how you wish you had a proper hat for the sun. We've surveyed some of GeoEx's safari experts on the best ways to prepare and pack for safari, both physically and mentally, so that you can simply sit back and enjoy the journey. Here are 10 useful packing tips that will help make your African safari a trip of a lifetime.
1. Avoid Bug Bites
Treat your clothes with bug repellent, like Permethrin, before you go. It lasts for several washes and really helps protect against mosquitoes. A few days in advance of your trip, do the treatment outside on a clothes rack. Be aware that the liquid will run off water-resist surfaces, such as come with many brands of travel tech pants. Once you are on safari, protect exposed areas like hands and ankles with DEET or lemon eucalyptus oil spray (approximately 30 drops mixed with a tablespoon of vanilla extract and four ounces of rubbing alcohol).
2. Working Out
Long drives on safari mean no workout time, so if you're looking for a bit of exercise, download workouts and workout apps before departing on your trip. Also, bring along a compact international travel power strip with a US plug (and buy an adapter). This way you can charge your smartphone, tablet, and camera at the same time, loading your photos while simultaneously doing burpees in your safari tent.
Carry a digital SLR camera in addition to your smartphone, and rent a lens pre-trip for wildlife pics. You're going to see everything, from an incredible array of birds to warthog mamas with their piglets in tow. A lens will help you to zoom in all their finer details, like a zebra’s spiked mane or a greater kudu’s rose-colored ears.
4. Be Present
Don’t forget to put the camera down. Though we all want to memorialize moments, like a herd of elephants wading across a river or a leopard perched in a tree, take the time to appreciate simply being in the presence of these incredible creatures. It's a memory that will stick with you much longer than any photo.
5. Carry-ons & Small Planes
Take care of anything fragile in your carry-on while traveling aboard light aircraft. The planes are very small and your carry-on luggage is typically left in a pile just beyond the door of the plane, leading to things like cracked laptops or a broken wooden giraffe mask after you just spent an hour haggling over its price.
6. Bring a Dry Bag
Bring along a thin dry bag to put your camera in when it's raining or the dust becomes overbearing. You can also toss in your phone or anything else you want to protect.
7. Giving Back
Leave the plastic trinkets, candy, and other miscellaneous gifts for kids at home. If you want to make a difference, NGOs like Pack for a Purpose can help you bring donations that are actually needed. Just be sure you can get it to the drop-off location before you get on a tiny plane or you may have to abandon it.
8. Leave Perfumes at Home
Another thing to leave behind: excess toiletries. You're going to be in the middle of the African bush, and dust, dirt, and grime are part of the experience. Heavily scented products and perfume can keep wildlife at bay, and fellow travelers may be allergic.
9. Keep Expectations in Check
The fewer expectations, the better. You may not spot the Big Five, but you're going to see some amazing things. Remember, Africa is another continent entirely. It's not going to be like home; in many ways it will be better.
10. Use Common Sense
Overall, don't overthink things, use common sense and just enjoy. A joy for adventure is all you really need to make your African safari entirely magical.
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For more detail on what to pack, see our expert's safari packing list.