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Africa Bound: Packing Tips for Safari

Africa Bound: Packing Tips for Safari

Safaris lead you to the most incredible off-the-beaten-path locations and prepping for it can be part of the fun (and challenge)! Packing for the adventure of a lifetime—while keeping luggage to the usual 33-pound weight restriction—may sound daunting, but it is a challenge I’ve mastered during my countless safaris and trips to Africa. Here’s what you need to pack for your African safari:

Soft-sided luggage: First things first. When packing light, it starts with the bag. Many brands now sell very thin, but ultra-strong nylon bags that pack down into nothing when empty. It’s worth packing a spare to fill with momentos from your journey.

Earplugs! I won’t fly without them and they take up far less room than noise-canceling headphones!  Spend a few extra bucks on a couple of good sets and you’ll be prepped for the long flight. If you’re a light sleeper, you’ll also appreciate them when you’re on safari—curled up with your hot water bottle for a good night’s rest, you might find that the sounds of hippos grunting and leopards calling don’t quite lull you to sleep, and those earplugs come in handy.

Essential, double-duty items: When packing light, everything that enters your luggage must be essential and able to work double duty. The main fashion rules on safari are that your clothing is durable, quick drying and easy-to-wash. You’ll find yourself wearing a shirt from yesterday’s hike at tonight’s dinner. Zip-off pants are perfect for day into night. Most camps and lodges feature eco-friendly bathing supplies eliminating the need to carry these essentials. As well, laundry is almost always available.

Kikoy: Speaking of double-duty items, I never leave home without a kikoy, a lightly woven cloth wrap that’s similar to a sarong (these can also be found in shops on safari). I use it in many ways: I wrap it around me to take the chill off of early morning or evening game drives; I use it as a scarf when I want to spiff up for dinner; it’s also the perfect sunshade when taking a break in exposed areas, and, when needed, it stands in for a towel to dry off. One of my favorite (and most helpful) uses is to dampen it and cover my face when the roads are dusty or to cool off the back of my neck. It’s also handy on those long plane rides to keep you warm or cover your face when trying to sleep.

 Neutral “bush-colored” clothing: When on a walking safari, it’s imperative to wear the right colors. Be sure to bring neutral “bush-colored” clothing, avoiding brights and even pastels, which do not blend naturally into the environment. Black and navy blue should be avoided during the day, as they tend to draw in the bothersome tsetse fly. Comfortable clothes and a warm layer are also key.

Waterproof hiking shoes: For me, total immersion in the bush is the only way to go—kicking dirt up under my feet, meeting people, and being open to impromptu experiences. With this attitude the right footwear is essential. I always opt for waterproof hiking shoes, which repel the inevitable dust, as well as the little prickers you pick up while walking in the bush. An added bonus is that they’re easily cleaned!

The right lenses (camera, binoculars, video camera): If you plan to travel with a bazooka-like telephoto lens, ask your trip operator if the vehicles are equipped with camera-steadying equipment.  These mounts are a great asset. Be sure your equipment has good sound technology. For me, the elements I miss most when I leave the bush are the sounds and smells. While you likely won’t capture the smells, you can bring home (with video) the sounds as they change throughout the day. I always pack binoculars, as your guide needs his or her own to scan for the next exciting sighting. As well, you’ll appreciate having a high-powered, compact headlamp or flashlight. Importantly, get to know your camera—and all your equipment—before you travel. Even with the best camera equipment, remember there’s no better way to capture the moment than to be in the moment. Put the camera down and take it all in—no photo will ever replicate the actual experience.

 

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