How to Pack: Safari Edition

June 21, 2013 10:57 am


I just got back from my third safari in a little over a year, website like this so I think I’m finally getting the hang of how to pack for an adventure in the bush. I wrote a post about this for while I was still at Tswalu Kalahari last weekend, hemorrhoids but I thought I’d play around with Polyvore a bit and create a handy collage made up of my recs. I’m going to skip over the obvious (if you tell me you followed my list and neglected to bring along underwear… well, ambulance I can’t really help you there), but here are my safarissentials.”

1) Warm layers, in neutral tones. This means jackets, blazers, sweaters, thermals, anything you can peel off or add on as needed. Morning game drives typically start around dawn, and evening drives run well past sunset, so temperatures can fluctuate dramatically over the course of the few hours you’re exposed to the elements in an open-air Land Rover. Neutral, earthy tones are the best, since animals can find bold colors and patterns to be jarring. So don’t bother packing your bright red pants or hot pink striped sweater — there’s a reason khaki has long been the go-to color for safari chic!

2) Gloves and warm socks. It can get really cold out there, so bundle up.

3) Sturdy, closed-toed shoes. Save the sandals for your next beach vacay — here it’s best to stick to boots, sneakers, or some other comfortable closed shoes for nature walks and game drives.

4) A hat and sunglasses. The sun can be relentless out in the bush, especially since you’re usually on drives for at least three hours at a time. Pick a hat with a nice wide brim for shade, but one that fits snugly on your head, so it doesn’t fly off while you’re chasing a cheetah at 40 km/hour.

5) Sunscreen. See above: the sun is harsh, so take care of your skin to avoid getting a nasty sunburn!

6) Lip balm and facial moisturizer. The Kalahari, where I was this past weekend, has a semi-desert climate, so my skin and lips constantly needed moisturizing. But even if you’re in a wetter region, the winds on fast game drives can dry out your skin. For extra measures, pack a separate night cream to soothe your face overnight.

7) Camera and binoculars. If you’re really into wildlife, photography, or, both, a DSLR is probably the way to go, but amateurs like me can get away with a simple point-and-shoot, or even a camera phone, just to document the highlights. Most rangers will have binoculars with them, but if you bring your own you can be tracking the whole time — maybe you’ll be the one to spot the giraffe that everyone else missed!

8) Reading materials. While seeing lions roaring and elephants frolicking and leopards stalking prey is mindblowing for sure, one of my favorite parts of the safari experience is the afternoon between the game drives, where you can lounge, go to the spa, or catch up on your reading. Bring your Kindle or a stack of magazines and sit out on your deck, to the soundtrack of chirping birds and galloping impala. It’s pure relaxation.

9) A journal. An experience like this can really stir your soul and get your creative juices flowing. I keep one handy to jot down my thoughts (and to keep track of the animals I see).

10) My laptop. Sure, some might find this counterintuitive — aren’t most people going to the bush to unplug and get away from it all? In my case, I’m a writer, so I need to be connected wherever I go, but a laptop also comes in handy to download pictures each evening if you got a little camera-happy and filled up your memory card.

Other musts – if you’re not going to a malaria-free reserve, make sure you see a doctor for the appropriate medication before you travel. Most lodges will have a pool, and the really nice ones come with a private plunge pool on your deck, so bathing suits and flip-flops are good to bring along. And most importantly, bring your sense of wonder: this really is one of the most magical experiences out there.

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