Going on your first African Safari is not only exciting (talk about a bucketlist trip!) but also daunting. There are so many things to pack, prepare for and know before you go. After having recently gone on my first safari in Kruger National Park at Royal Malewane one thing is for certain, the prep work paid off and I learned pretty quickly what one must have and what you can leave behind when heading out to see the Big Five.
Absolutely must pack items: MY NON-NEGOTIABLES
Bug sprays– Before we even packed we purchase THIS mosquito spray for our clothes. You’ll want to spray your clothes and shoes with this PRIOR to packing. I recommend doing it at least 24 hours in advance and if you can go outside to spray them. This is a preventative measure that you’ll be happy you did.
Bug repellent– We purchased THIS ONEand applied it morning noon and night. While the bugs were not bad on our safari we were there during their drier months. I would highly recommend packing a bottle or two depending on how long you’re going for.
OTC medicines– What may seem like a rookie move to not pack many people don’t think about taking simple OTC medicines with them. You’re hours away from a pharmacy, let alone a major city so I highly recommend packing a pain medicine, tums, a probiotic of some nature and the general OTC medicines you may need. Royal Malewanehad them on site but not every lodge will and they won’t be the standard version of what your body is used to.This is a great packageof travel sized medicine for under $15.
Sunscreen – Don’t forget the sunscreen! I love this all day wear one that is also Dermatologist approvedfor my Cystic acne and this one that goes over your make up keeps it in place all day(including the pool!) and is great. Even when you’re leaving at 5:30 AM for your first drive of the day you’re still going to be exposed to the sun before you’re back for your morning breakfast!
Boots, high tops & socks (taller ones!!) -Boots are a no brainer, these have by far been the best investment I’ve made from this trip and have worn them a ton since!! Hightop sneaker were a great decision as well (I’m obsessed with these!) – they’re high enough to give extra protection to your ankle and are so comfy. I am so glad that I took socks that went up over my ankles. Bugs for whatever reason love to bite my ankles like it’s their last meal so having these on combined with the bug repellent kept me away from bites. I got these three pack and these from MOTHER simply because they are amazing.
Universal chargers and adaptors – While a lot of properties have entered the 21stcentury and now carry extra adaptors many lodges may not. Go in prepared! I have used this adaptor in London, Australia and now in Africa (and Mozambique.)
Hats – Do not, I repeat do not forget a hat. I packed a great safari hat that I wore almost daily to keep the sun out of my eyes but to also protect from the dust that flies about as you’re cruising along on the hunt for that pride of lions. We were also fortunate to have cute ball caps from Royal Malewane that we wound up wearing a lot! My boyfriend still wears his here in NYC!
Layers layers layers – I cannot stress enough how happy I was to have a number of layers on daily. Be on the look out for an upcoming post with all of the outfits I wore on Safari! The morning drives are quite chilly so I layered up and the evening drives start out warm but the second the sun goes down you’re going to want your jacket and a pant. Royal Malewane supplied us with super cozy thermal ponchos that you can see me wearing regularly because they were a life saver on a few morning drives where the weather was unseasonably cold.
In-flight necessities – Compression socks because it does not matter how old you are these are a necessity – they truly have been a lifesaver on all of my long haul flights! A good neck pillow – for the longest time I was using a terrible neck pillow and wondering why I was having brutal sleeps on planes. I LOVE legit love this one, it keeps my neck protected and it’s comfortable so you don’t have any more of that bobble head happening! Skin care! See THIS post on exactly what I have put in my carry on in the past and what your skin will thank you for in the future! Hint hint face masks, moisturizer and eye patches are all my must-packs!
I took both a small point and shoot and my bazooka as CG calls it (aka my DSLR with all of the lenses). I highly recommend that unless you’re familiar with your gear that you educate yourself a little bit to ensure you’re capturing great memories!
Point and shoot:
The C-Lux Leica was perfect for this trip. It comes with a 300 MM, is compact, light weight and the quality is sharp and truthfully equal (if not admittedly better) to my DSLR. I captured the leopard coming over the ridge with such clarity that you would have thought it was shot by the DSLR, however our extended lens on the DSLR was able to capture the features of the most distant animals. This is a great option for new photographers or for those who want to invest in a great quality camera without the DSLR knowledge needed.
I’m never going to leave home for a trip without the big guy and especially on a trip like this. Just make sure you know how to use a DSLR there are some great how-to videos or you can go into your camera shop and ask if they do tutorials.
Pro-tip: Rent lenses, unless you plan on using them for more than this one trip. Save yourself the money!
I took the below lenses with me:
A sturdy camera bag:
My ONA camera bag is the quintessential travel camera bag. I love it’s sleek leather, easy closures and sturdy straps making it stylish and functional. The best part is the padded lining on the inside for the bag to ensure your equipment is safe.
Extra camera batteries– Over pack your camera needs, pack the extra battery (make sure it is fully charged!), extra memory cards and definitely an extra camera charger because there is no way to get these easily. Take it from someone who needed an extra battery charger at one point and luckily the guides at Royal are essentially Nat Geo level photographers so they came in clutch with an extra charger! This is a great bundle if you need it!
What NOT to pack:
I admittedly overpacked for my first safari, something I can guarantee you I won’t be doing again. Some of the items I packed I for sure thought I would use or wear – such as my drone. Nope don’t waste the space! Or a cute dress for a safari dinner. Again, who was I kidding? I was in the bush! So here’s a roundup of things to skip packing for your African safari!
You can’t actually fly drones in Kruger National Park and our guide Rudi at Royal Malewane told us they actually have the rights to shoot them down if they see them being flown. So, don’t even think about it. The reasoning? To prevent rhino poachers, it’s horribly sad to think that this is the reason but it is so please leave the drones at home!
Think you can’t live without a curling iron or straightener?Especially my travel sized, break apart ones! Neither did I but you can. You’re in the bush all morning then back to the lodge and swimming or at the spa then you’re off on another drive for the evening. Don’t even bother packing this.
Open toed sandals or heels of any sort
I had a friend who went on safari a few months prior to me and took a gorgeous dress and heels with her for a dinner or two. Now that I’ve been that’s just comical. Save the room and the weight in your luggage. Even at the nicest of dinners (i.e. our bush dinner!) we were in pants and jackets. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have nicer pieces with your or dresses for that matter but leave the heels and open toed shoes at home gals1