So, you’ve chosen your dream safari! You’ve booked the trip and now you’re ready to go. We thought we could help with a few tips on what to pack, what safari jargon you need to know, and more insider knowledge.
Dress code on safari is entirely in
formal. Keep in mind you will get dirty and you will want to be as comfortable as possible. Neutral colored clothes are recommended, as you want to observe the wildlife, not attract them. Comfortable shoes are a must. On walking safaris, wear long pants to protect the skin from thorns and burrs.
What we recommend:
- a wind breaker
- a waterproof jacket
- a fleece for cool nights.
- Many camps and lodges have a pool, so pack a bathing suit, too.
Jacques Smit of Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve in South Africa (shown above) is a safari veteran. Here’s his list of items not to forget:
- Hat, sunscreen, sunglasses (sunglasses also protect from dusty roads)
- Binoculars, camera, large memory card, film
- Power adapter/appropriate chargers
- Hand cleansing wipes
- Insect repellent
Many small transfer planes place a limit on luggage weight—pack wisely!
If you want to make a difference on your trip, check out Pack for a Purpose, a non-profit organization that facilitates the donation of requested supplies (school, medical, etc.) to communities in need. The organization asks travelers to pack five pounds of supplies (with destination-specific lists), an amount that takes up little space but makes a big impact. Check the website for projects, lists, and how to pack.
Cell phone and internet usage
Most areas have some form of mobile phone network, though the signal can be weak or unreliable. Many properties have internet access, whether it’s at the main lodge or throughout the camp. Check with your lodge beforehand.
But remember, safaris are about nature—so unplug! (At right, Joy’s Camp, Shaba National Reserve, Kenya.)
When planning your safari you may encounter unfamiliar words. Here are our top five:
GAME DRIVE – The fastest and most popular way to see Africa’s wildlife is in an open vehicle with a driver/guide. On a drive, you can cover a large distance in a short amount of time and observe animals in their natural habitat from the safety of your vehicle. Many animals are not threatened by vehicles, allowing for close encounters you may not be able to experience on foot. Some places offer thrilling night game drives where animals are pointed out by a tracker with a spotlight.
BIG FIVE/SMALL FIVE – The Big Five are Africa’s biggest animals (and the ones that are the most sought out by travelers): elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, and leopard. The Small Five are a play on the Big Five, and a tribute to the smaller wildlife that should receive appreciation too: elephant shrew, rhino beetle, buffalo weaver, ant lion, and leopard tortoise.
SUNDOWNER – A drink taken during sunset while on a game drive. Possibly the greatest of all safari traditions, your driver will find the best place to stop as you toast the beautiful African sunset!
BUSH BREAKFAST – Many properties offer this breakfast picnic that’s taken to a scenic location in the bush.
BUSH SHOWER – This is a “must” for an authentic safari experience. The staff at your camp will ask when you want your shower. Right before your requested time, they will fill a bucket with warm water and hoist it over your tent. The water supply lasts five to seven minutes. Pull the rope above your head, wait a few seconds for the warm water to come through and proceed to lather up!
AFRICAN MASSAGE – This is a jovial term Africans give to driving on their non-tarmac roads. Embrace the bumpy roads as part of an authentic safari and imagine a massage… just with animals in the distance.
Patience, Patience, Patience
Africa is filled with animals, but they aren’t standing by every bush and tree. A game drive/walk is very much luck of the draw, and it may take 30 minutes before your first big sighting. Drivers and trackers work very hard to ensure a great experience, so have patience and your first sighting will be well worth it!