The Savvy Traveler’s African Safari Packing List

by | Last updated May 4, 2024 | Safari Packing List, South Africa

Aw, the African safari. No matter if it’s your first or tenth safari trip, the safari drive is exhilarating and new every time you set foot in that jeep. What you pack is very important in order to make your experience comfortable and memorable. My husband and I have done two safaris: one in Chobe in Botswana and one in Lion Sands in South Africa. Here are my ultimate 24 items on my safari packing list that I was glad I had.

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01- Lightweight Safari Clothes

Wearing our safari clothes at Chobe National Park

Safari packing list essentials: sporting our lightweight sun protective clothing at Chobe National Park

Struggling to figure out what to wear on your safari trip?

You are not alone. I had no clue where to begin. My initial searches showed all the same clothing. Khaki colors, lots of pockets, boxy styles. Blah.

Then I started searching for companies specializing in travel and outdoor activities like fishing, camping, and hiking. Ok, now I was on to something.

Look for lightweight, breathable, and sun protective clothing from stores like the ones below:

I have a whole article dedicated to the best safari clothing for women. The best safari shirts and pants are included PLUS multiple outfit examples.

02- Safari Scarf 

Photographing a rhino while on a South Africa safari at Lion Sands River Lodge

Photographing a rhino while on a South Africa safari at Lion Sands River Lodge

Three reasons why you need to put a scarf (love the fun colors from Orvis!) on your safari packing list:

✔️   #1- WARMTH

Our morning safaris were cold!

It was in the mid-50s°F in the mornings when we went at the end of September. The Lion Sands River Lodge did provide warm blankets in our jeep, but you need to layer up!

The scarf comes in handy to give you that extra layer of warmth around your neck.

There was one very cool, windy morning, in particular, that I even contemplated if I should have brought my beanie and gloves.

Check the weather and consider a few more cold-weather accessories for your trip if it looks like it is going to be chilly.


✔️   #2- DUST

Remember, at least in South Africa, you are sitting in an open-top jeep fully exposed to the elements. If you get a little dusty, the scarf comes in handy to do a quick wipe-off.

It also doubles as a wipe for your camera lens if you need it.



You will feel that sun on the back of your neck. The scarf also serves to protect your skin from UV radiation.


If you anticipate your safari location will include eating a lot of dust, consider a neck gaiter.

It is a piece of bunchy UPF 50 fabric that can be worn in multiple ways: a headband, neckerchief, face mask, hood, hair tie, and the list goes on.

It helps to block the sun, give you warmth, and keep dust off your face.

03- Safari Hat

Wearing a safari hat and taking photos of elephants in Chobe National Park Botswana

Wearing my safari hat and taking photos of elephants in Chobe National Park Botswana

Your skin will literally cook if you do not bring a hat.  Please put this on your safari packing list. There are so many great cute options out there.

One of my favorites is my packable J.crew hat. It “squishes” down nicely in my luggage. I’ve used it all over the Caribbean and for two African safaris: Chobe in Botswana and Lion Sands in South Africa.

Orvis Women's Saddle Packable Felt Hat

Orvis Women’s Saddle Packable Felt Hat

04- Safari Shoes 

Blundstone Chelsea Boots

Blundstone Chelsea Boots

Unless you are doing a walking safari or trekking through the forests of Rwanda looking for gorillas, you do not need clunky boots.

Most blogs will tell you that you need them.

I disagree.

Plus, why pay for something you are going to use once, and then it just sits in the closet?

I brought three pairs of shoes for our safari experience. Remember you need to pack light! Those little planes taking you to your safari destination are tiny and have weight limits.

Now, if you are doing a walking safari, then the Blundstone Chelsea boots pictured above are a great option.



Saucony Peregrine Trail Runners

Saucony Peregrine Trail Runners

Trail running shoes work great as part of your safari outfit. They are lightweight and have a little bit of tread for rougher terrain.

They can also double as a running shoe for the gym (if your lodge has one) or a spontaneous hike (if other locations like Cape Town are part of your itinerary). We also hiked Lion’s Head in Cape Town, so my trail runners worked out great for both situations.

The Saucony Peregrine is a great choice and comes in fun colors.



Rothys Slip On Sneaker

Rothy’s Slip On Sneaker in Sand 

Have I told you how much I love my Rothy’s??  I own too many pairs that I care to share. They are stretchy, comfortable from day 1, and washable!

Ok, so how does this fantastic shoe work into your safari outfit?

Sometimes my feet just needed a break from socks/trail running shoes (I hate wearing socks!).

I wore Rothy’s Slip On Sneaker on two days of our safari. If they get dusty, remember you can wash them! Also, they work out as a great shoe just lounging around the safari lodge.

The only time I would not wear these is if you are going on a walking safari or if you are going on an evening safari drive (the mosquitoes will find your ankles).

Also, remember no black or dark blue colors (I assume this would apply to shoes too!) in certain African countries due to the tsetse fly.



Cole Haan Flynn Sandal

Cole Haan Flyn Sandal in Pecan Leather

My favorite super comfortable,  go-to travel sandal is my Cole Haan Flynn sandal. They feel like butter on my feet. Super comfortable. 

I wore these sandals around the safari lodge, going to the spa, and for dinners when I wanted to dress up an outfit a little bit. They were a great way to give your feet a break at the end of a long day.

05- Light Travel Jacket

Our safari ranger and tracker at Lion Sands River Lodge

Wearing my light down jacket with our safari ranger and tracker at Lion Sands River Lodge

Of course, the decision to bring a jacket will depend on the time of year you are going. When we went to South Africa in September, the mornings were chilly!

Layer, layer, layer.

Consider the REI lightweight down jacket that has a durable water resistant coating. 

Anatomie Kenya Safari Jacket

Anatomie Kenya Safari Jacket

Another alternative I love that is comfortable and very stylish is the Anatomie Kenya Safari Jacket.

06- Polarized Sunglasses

Wearing my Ray- Ban sunglasses in New Zealand

Wearing Ray- Ban sunglasses

Love polarized sunglasses!

They reduce eye strain and cut down the glare especially when you are looking for animals in the distance on your safari.

My favorites are from Ray-Ban. I did not take a photo of my sunglasses while on safari, so I included the one I took while we were in New Zealand. 

07- Bathing Suit 

Swimming in Devil's Pool at Victoria Falls on the Zambia side

Swimming in Devil’s Pool at Victoria Falls on the Zambia side

If your safari lodge has a pool, don’t forget the bathing suit!

We did one of the most epic experiences I have ever done … swimming in Devil’s Pool on top of Victoria Falls, the world’s largest waterfall! So I was already planning on bringing a bathing suit.

When we were in Sabi Sands at the end of September, it was too chilly to swim in the lodge’s pool. Check the weather before you go.

08- Lots of Underwear

Ex Officio Underwear

ExOfficio Thong Underwear 

The reason I’m telling you not to skimp on the underwear is that some lodges will not launder them due to cultural reasons.

You may want to check with your safari lodge first before deciding on how much to bring.

The alternative is to bring a little packet of laundry detergent and hand wash them in the sink and air-dry.

PRO TIP: If you have a dermatologist, they will often have samples of hypoallergenic laundry detergent. Ask for a few samples. Great for travel.

There is a thing called “travel underwear.” My husband swears by the ExOfficio men’s boxer brief. It is made of quick-drying, breathable mesh fabric and has been treated with an odor-reducing antimicrobial treatment.

ExOfficio also makes chafe-free, high-performance women’s underwear.

Speaking of undergarments, some women suggest wearing a sports bra because of the “bumpy” safari jeep ride affectionately known as the “African massage.”

09- Small Daypack

Chalkley Treehouse at Lion Sands River Lodge in Sabi Sand

Chalkley Treehouse at Lion Sands River Lodge in Sabi Sand

You will need something to hold your stuff on the safari jeep. My husband and I found these small daypacks from Zomake on Amazon that fold up into a small pocket size to easily store in your luggage.

They are lightweight and come in multiple colors.

I used the daypack to carry my camera, lenses, GoPro, hat, sunscreen, sweatshirt, water bottle, binoculars, wet wipes, and a little brush. It is washable (wash on a delicate cycle and then air dry). This is important because it will be sitting on the bottom of the jeep floor and may get dirty.

I would not bring an expensive bag for the safari because of that reason.

I practice what I preach!

The photos above show the Zomake bag we used daily. After one of the afternoon safaris at Lion Sands River Lodge, we had the incredibly unique opportunity to sleep under the stars at Chalkley Treehouse in the African bush.

10- Binoculars

Using binoculars to scan the Chobe River in Botswana trying to find some animals

Using binoculars to scan the Chobe River in Botswana trying to find some animals

When we did a day trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana, binoculars were NOT provided.

When we did a safari with Lion Sands River Lodge in Sabi Sand in South Africa, binoculars WERE provided.

So, check with your safari lodge first if they provide binoculars because that may be one less thing to bring!

They are super helpful when you are trying to scan the distance trying to pick up any movement to find an animal. We purchased a pair of binoculars from Amazon that did the job.

11- Soft-sided Suitcase

Travelpro Platinum Magna 24_ Expandable Rollaboard in Sienna

Travelpro Platinum Magna 24 Expandable Rollaboard in Sienna

Why a soft-sided suitcase?


Safari vehicles do not have much space, and those little safari planes cannot carry too much weight.

We took South Africa Airlink from Cape Town to Skukuza Airport in Sabi Sand, and our weight limit was 20 kg (44 lbs). I have read some countries have an even lower weight limit of 15 kg (33 lbs).

If your safari lodge transport is one of the small propeller planes, then it is highly suggested to only bring a soft-sided duffel.

Some airports (like Skukuza Airport) allow you to store your main luggage for free and then you can transfer your “safari clothes” into a duffel for the small plane ride.

The plane we used to get from Cape Town to Lion Sands River Lodge via the Skukuza Airport was small, but it was not one of those small propeller planes.

South Africa Airlink Baggage Requirements

South Africa Airlink Baggage Requirements


I brought my trustworthy durable soft-sided Travelpro Platinum Magna Rollaboard that I have had since 2013. The name of the line has now changed from Platinum Magna to Platinum Elite.

The TravelPro brand is a flight crew favorite. It was even featured in the movie Up In The Air with George Clooney.

It also has a Lifetime Limited Worry-Free Warranty.  

I have traveled to 32 countries and have had to perform a repair only ONCE.

When I was wheeling my luggage around in Rome, I took it across several sections of cobblestone (oops, this was my fault) which damaged one of the wheels.

Because I had purchased from the Travelpro Platinum line, the wheels were covered under the lifetime warranty.

12- Poncho or Rain Jacket 



I rolled the dice and did not bring a poncho or rain jacket for our safari excursion, but I should have.

Weather is unpredictable. You never know when it may suddenly change and you end up soaked like what happened when we were hiking around Machu Picchu in Peru. Luckily, our guide was kind enough to provide ponchos for us.

If your regular jacket also serves as a rain jacket, great! Otherwise, buying a cheap packable poncho from Amazon will do the trick.

13- Deet + Permethrin

Sawyer Permethrin spray and Repel Deet roll-on stick

This is a must on your safari packing list: Sawyer Permethrin spray and Repel Deet roll-on stick

Malaria does exist throughout Africa!

Forget the lemongrass, citronella, and mosquito bracelets. You will need the strong stuff. The travel clinic I saw before our trip advised a Deet concentration of 30%.

Higher concentrations of Deet do not mean it will work better but it will last longer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Deet concentrations of 50% or higher do not offer a substantial increase in protection. CDC recommends 20% Deet or greater.

Now you can apply this bug spray in a lot of different ways: sprays, wipes, lotions, or a stick. My preferred method of applying is the roll-on stick or bug spray.

Why? Because it is portable, does not drip, and it will not get all over my fingers and hands.

The other way you can fight off these mosquitoes is by spraying Permethrin on your clothing and allowing it to dry. A lot of hikers swear by this ingredient.

The highly-rated Sawyer Premium Permethrin Insect Repellant can last up to 6 weeks or 6 washings. You can spray it on clothes and outdoor gear without damaging or staining them.

Other common-sense measures to avoid mosquito bites are wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, avoiding dusk and dawn if possible, and avoiding standing water where they like to breed.

14- Quick-drying Travel Towel

Quick drying microfiber towel

Quick drying microfiber towel

You are going to get hot, sweaty, and dusty. Sometimes you need to wipe your face or your camera lens or your lap because of that drink you just spilled while bouncing around in the safari jeep.

I would highly advise getting a multi-use travel towel that is lightweight, super absorbent, and compact.

15- Best Camera Your Money Will Buy

Canon Rebel DSLR camera

Do not forget this safari packing list item: Canon Rebel DSLR

We bought a Canon Rebel DSLR camera and then just stopped using it because it was heavy and a pain to lug around.

Plus, the iPhone kept coming out with better and better cameras making it easy to get amazing shots while traveling.

However, I promise you that taking photos on your iPhone while on a safari will not cut it.

The safari is the one travel experience you do not want to leave your DSLR camera behind. A fair amount of shots you take will be from a distance, and you are going to need that telephoto lens.

After taking photos again with our DSLR camera, I was reminded of how I initially fell in love with this camera.

The photos you take are so crisp and sharp. I have included the same shot of two lionesses taken with both the iPhone and DSLR camera to show you the difference in what you can achieve. Pretty drastic if you ask me!

2 Lionesses eating a giraffe while on safari drive in Sabi Sand in South Africa

Canon DSLR: 2 lionesses chowing down on a giraffe while on a safari drive in South Africa

Lionesses eating a giraffe while on a safari drive in Sabi Sand South Africa

iPhone: Same shot but using an iPhone instead. You can see the iPhone photo becomes “grainy” with longer distances

We love the Canon Rebel camera, which is at an affordable, entry-level price point.

16- DSLR Lens

Canon camera lenses

Canon camera lenses

We brought 3 lenses for our safari trip. As seen from left to right:

  • Wide-angle lens
  • Normal lens
  • Telephoto zooms lens

The wide-angle lens came in handy for those panoramic landscape shots. We were also able to get an amazing photo of Chalkley Treehouse (as seen below), an incredibly romantic experience we had while on safari.

Lion Sands Chalkley Treehouse

Chalkley Treehouse: photographed with the Canon Rebel DSLR and wide-angle lens

A telephoto zoom lens is a must for your safari experience! As seen from the photo below (left), there is no way we would have gotten this close-up shot of the cute little turtle hitching a ride without this lens.

The photo below (right) shows you how close up you can get (which is not very close!) with an iPhone without looking pixelated.

As you can see, it makes a huge difference!

Turtle hitching a ride on a hippo in Sabi Sand South Africa

Telephoto Lens: Turtle hitching a ride on a hippo in Sabi Sand South Africa

Turtle riding a hippo in Sabi Sand South Africa

iPhone: Turtle riding a hippo in Sabi Sand South Africa

17- GoPro

My GoPro Hero

GoPro Hero

The iPhone is ok at taking videos, but my GoPro definitely surpasses it in video quality. With its stabilization (important for bumpy jeep rides) and wide-angle views, it worked great for our safari drives.

As mentioned earlier, we had the unique opportunity to sleep under the stars in a treehouse at Lion Sands River Lodge in Sabi Sand, South Africa. I took awesome video footage of our treehouse experience with the GoPro.

In addition, I used it to film while hanging over Victoria Falls at Devil’s Pool in Zambia.

18- Sunscreen with Zinc Oxide

Elta MD UV Clear sunscreen

Elta MD UV Clear sunscreen

The African sun is no joke.

One of my favorite sunscreens is Elta MD UV Clear. It has zinc oxide that rubs in SHEER on the skin. It’s not oily, so don’t worry about breakouts.

This little skin protector should definitely be on your safari packing list!

19- Water Bottle + Gatorade Packets

Embrava Water bottle and Gatorade low sugar packets

Embrava water bottle and Gatorade low sugar packets

You do not want to get dehydrated and faint.

Safari drives are long (usually 3 hours in the morning and afternoon), and you will be sitting under the hot sun.

Bring a water bottle or ask if your safari lodge provides one for the drive. Our lodge, Lion Sands River Lodge, provided every guest with a water bottle for their use during their stay.

The other item I always take on trips is low-sugar Gatorade packets. They are great if you feel dehydrated or had a little too much wine the night before. Just add to water and shake.

I call it my “Hummingbird juice” because if I am feeling a little bit off, it usually perks me back up.

20- Disinfectant Wipes

Purell Disinfectant Wipes

Purell Disinfectant Wipes

Even before the COVID-19 craziness started, we have always carried disinfectant wipes.

Great for plane rides, before and after eating, hiking, or for safari rides when you feel dusty and need to wipe off before you eat an energy bar for a snack. Don’t leave home without them.

21- Medicine Cabinet

Allegra, Motrin, Tylenol, Fabric bandages, Meclizine, Malarone, Azithromycin, Clobetasol cream

My medicine cabinet I bring for trips

I tend to bring my own pharmacy for every trip, so I am prepared for all situations and ailments. The below items are what I personally included on my safari packing list.




Traveler’s diarrhea is no joke. Ask your travel clinic for an antibiotic in case it hits you, and you are stuck out in the middle of the African bush.

Also, I haven’t had to use Imodium often, but it comes in very handy if you are in an awkward scenario like sitting on a plane or a jeep for hours on end. Be prepared.




Travelan: my new travel friend 

I recently came across a new travel friend called Travelan

This pill MAY help PREVENT traveler’s diarrhea. I used it on a recent trip to Mexico City while doing our own street taco tour and never got sick. Pop a pill or two before a meal, and you’re good to go.

Placebo effect? I don’t know. All I can say is I didn’t get sick, and I usually end up puking/running to the bathroom once anytime we travel to a new country and eat new foods.

Here’s the NIH medical study if you are skeptical.

Unfortunately, I discovered this miracle worker after our trip to Africa. Luckily, I didn’t get sick while we were in South Africa.



Always check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on what countries in Africa are affected by malaria and what the recommended medications are for malaria prophylaxis.

There are several choices including Doxycycline, Malarone (Atovaquone-Proguanil), Mefloquine, and Tafenoquine.

Check with the travel clinic to see which one is right for you.

I personally take Malarone 1-2 days before my trip, continue throughout my trip, and for 7 days after my trip. Doxycycline causes photosensitivity, and Mefloquine can cause weird dreams. So far, I have not had any weird side effects with Malarone.



Great for fevers, headaches, and aches and pains! My body does not bounce back like it used to. Sometimes you need a little extra help to function. Thank you Motrin and Tylenol!


From seasonal allergies to large swollen bug bites, Allegra has you covered, and it is non-drowsy so you will not fall asleep as that massive lion decides to make his appearance right in front of your jeep.

Benadryl is great for the same reasons, but it makes most people drowsy. It might be best to take it around bedtime when you may want that little extra help to sleep.



Consider asking your travel clinic for a topical steroid and a low-dose steroid pack if you are like me and get massive reactions to mosquito bites.

I tend to swell up and form huge blisters. It’s great to have these meds on hand if that mosquito happens to find that one inch of skin that is uncovered.



My husband travels internationally frequently and swears by melatonin for jet lag and insomnia.

I never took it until I developed severe insomnia right before our Africa trip. Looking back, I was probably not sleeping because I was worried about our upcoming activities which included swimming in Devil’s Pool on top of the world’s largest waterfall and shark cage diving with great white sharks.

Melatonin was my saving grace not only for my insomnia before this trip but also for jet lag.

Luckily, the safari experience was at the end of our trip, so we had already acclimated to the time zone. But it certainly helped at the beginning of our trip that we started in Victoria Falls.



You are bound to get a few cuts or blisters. Ask your doc about a prescription for Bactroban ointment, which is great for Staph infections.

Also, do not get the “budget” bandaids.

Bandaids are like toilet paper; you’re going to notice if you opt for the cheap stuff.

I love the heavy-duty fabric bandages that stick until you rip them off. It is worth the extra dollar.

22- White Noise Machine

LectroFan white noise machine

My LectroFan white noise machine twisted closed

LectroFan white noise machine

My LectroFan white noise machine twisted open to reveal the Bluetooth speaker

I get it. Most travelers will think this is a weird item to have on an ultimate safari packing list, and some may think this item is a little diva-ish.

That is ok. I am going to tell you why this makes #22 on the list.

The older I get, the more I realize how important a good night’s sleep is. When I was in my 20s, I could pull all-nighters and bounce back the next day. Not anymore.

Need to drown out the street noise from the Airbnb you just rented right next to the highway? What about the noisy neighbor above you in your condo? Or what about trying to muffle the roaring from the lion who has decided to alert everyone he is there?

And this is where my favorite travel product comes into the picture. Weighing only 3.6 ounces, LectroFan is my best sleeping buddy.

It also has a BlueTooth speaker, which you can sync with your smartphone to play your favorite music.

And, yes I used this amazing machine in our safari lodge! Thanks to the LectroFan, I was able to feel rested when I got that 5 am wake-up call from our safari guide letting us know to get ready for the morning safari!

23- Female Urinary Device?!

Freshette Urinary Device

Freshette Urinary Device

As I started to pack, I began to think how in the world does a female go to the bathroom while out “in the bush?”

When I performed a quick Google search, I found there is a contraption called a female urinary device.

It is a funnel-shaped device that forms a seal so you can urinate without it going down your leg. You can use it camping, at concerts, and even on safari!

I have not used one, but a kind reader highly recommended the Freshette brand and said the hard plastic is better than the flexible device.

I decided I was not going to the bathroom on our safari drive. I accomplished this by hydrating like crazy 1 hour before our safari drive (so I would not get dehydrated). Then I went to the restroom one more time at the lodge before getting on to the jeep.

Then I was nice and comfortable. I still don’t get how females use the restroom in the trees when camping without urinating down their legs. More power to you!

24- Thank You Notes

Thank you note cards

Thank you note cards

Your safari guide and tracker puts in long hours. They get up well before you do and go to bed after you.

They spend 6+ hours with you sharing a wealth of information and finding some of the most amazing wildlife you will ever encounter.

I know the safari lodges cost a small fortune, but consider showing a little love and appreciation by writing a short thank you note and providing an appropriate tip.

It will be much appreciated by the staff.

Final Thoughts 

Wow, you got through my ultimate safari packing list! Well done. If you are like me, I had no idea before my first African safari what items made sense to bring and what items to leave.

I really hope this detailed article helps you navigate that process. Enjoy this incredible life experience!

Related Content


Any African safari packing list items that I missed? Questions on what to bring?

Let me know in the comments below!

  1. Alisa Shimanek

    Love your style and information! Heading to South Africa and 3 safaris next month, now I know what to bring! Thank you!

    Just a quick note about female urinary devices, I have tried them all, the only one that works is hard plastic NOT flexible, Freshette brand is the ONE!I use it camping all the time! Game changer!

    • Nichole

      Oh wow, 3 safaris! So jealous. Please report back what you thought and have an amazing trip!

      Thank you for the feedback on the device. I updated the post with your recommendation. I’ll definitely have to give it a try now.

      Enjoy your trip! 🙂


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