Packing Tips for Your African Photo Safari
An African photo safari should be on everyone’s wish list of one of life’s greatest travel adventures. Now luckily, the day of the hunter is done – guns are out, and cameras are in. Animal photography is the buzzword in the bush, offering a gentle introduction to the last place on earth where wildlife exists in abundance and where hopefully the only thing you’ll capture is a beautiful picture as you travel through Africa…
Obviously, where you travel on safari may determine your safari packing essential’s list – the top safari destinations in Africa include Namibia, Kenya, Botswana, and South Africa and may entail you having to refine your safari packing list to suit their weather. However, wherever you’re staying, the best advice is to choose comfort above all things. Just don’t forget your camera – or the insect repellent!
What to Pack for an African Safari
Organising your safari luggage properly before you leave for your game drive is really helpful, particularly if you are going to travel on to another destination.
Basically, it’s essential that you keep in mind neutral, earthy tones for your safari wardrobe as dark colours attract heat, and definitely avoid blue or black clothing as they attract tsetse flies on an African safari. You’ll probably be in a vehicle a lot of the time when you travel around the bush on your game drive, so make sure you’re going to be comfortable.
When. You go on safari, choose clothes that are easy to pack, dry quickly and keeps moisture away from your skin. Man-made fabrics such as polyimide are better than natural fabrics for this and help to keep you cooler. It’s actually really worth investing in a proper safari shirt with long sleeves if you want to resist those relentless tsetse flies!
The most important thing about your safari – okay, the second most important thing after your camera, is that the clothing you take with you is comfortable and practical to wear and is suitable for your African environment and the activities you want to do. Try to pack:
- The key to safari clothing is in layers to keep you warm and/or cool, so pack lots of t-shirts.
- At least one pair of comfortable walking shoes, hiking boots – and socks are essential – you don’t need specific safari ones, but you need all shoes to be sturdy. Just make sure any new boots are broken in before your trip! And don’t forget a pair of light rubber flip flops for the shower and pool.
- A large brim safari hat is a must!
- Your trousers/pants need to be long enough to cover up your legs and lightweight – not too thick or bulky.
- A swimming costume if where you’re staying has a pool.
- Your jacket should also be lightweight, warm, comfortable and preferably water-resistant in case of being caught in the rainy season. Early morning safaris and game drives can be chilly, so your morning outfit might not be suitable for midday, so be prepared to change. Make sure your jacket has lots of pockets so you can carry essentials around with you.
- A smarter, dressier outfit, as you won’t always be in the bush.
- A water bottle – it gets really hot, so you need to keep hydrated.
- If you’re going away in the winter, the temperature can seriously drop to very cold, so gloves, scarves and hats are a sensible choice!
African Safari Packing List Essentials
Alongside light clothes to wear on your trip, there are other essentials you need to bring to make your trip one made of dreams, not nightmares…
- Insect repellent – they carry dangerous diseases such as malaria, so don’t be tempted to leave this out of your luggage.
- On bush flights, you’ll be limited to 15kg on your luggage, and no hard suitcases are allowed – so a soft bag is recommended.
- Sealable silicone bags are a perfect alternative to plastic bags, which are now banned in many African countries and will be confiscated at airports – these are great for your leaky toiletries.
- A first aid kit is useful in taking the stress out of any minor incidents – you can include anti-malaria and anti-diarrhoea tablets too.
- Pack sunscreen and wear it when outdoors, even when you think you don’t need it.
- Sunglasses go without saying – your hat can also act as a sun shield which is a must in Africa….
- It’s always useful to have an external charger that can work anywhere in Africa.
- Everyone should take binoculars when they’re away to get the most out of the trip – there’s so much to see, and borrowing someone else’s binoculars is a no-no.
- Absolutely essential items are toilet paper/wipes and hand sanitiser!
- Obviously, there are no ATMs when you’re on safari, so bring enough cash for souvenirs, snacks, drinks at your camp/lodge, as well as tips for your safari guide.
- Small backpack to carry your water bottles, notebooks, money, documents and other valuable items during game drives.
- And, of course, your camera bag and everything it contains.
Taking the right photography gear on your safari goes without saying – in fact, you’ll probably end up with more safari photography equipment than you will clothes and other important travelling kit…
- Camera– You’ll naturally want to photograph everything, including animals on your African wildlife safari, and a regular point-and-shoot or mobile phone camera won’t be enough to take clear, sharp images up close, and you may find your safari lodge has actually banned camera phones on their game drives because their geolocation information has been used by poachers.
- It’s recommended you take an SLR camera with a long-focus telephoto lens – at least 200mm regardless of whether you have any camera experience or not.
- Zoom lens – Wide angle / mid-range lens – It can be very dusty on safari, so you need great lenses for reach, as well as lenses’ solution to keep them clean.
- Bean bag – it’s really useful to have a bean bag or cloth to lean your heavy telephoto lens on if you don’t have a tripod
- Lens cleaning equipment -lens pen, lens wipes – it gets very dusty in the bush, so you’ll need to keep your lens clean
- Spare batteries– have spare batteries and a charger
- Tripod – helps with capturing shots that need total precision
- Spare memory cards– always very useful
- Camera bag – to carry all this gear!
This vast country is just waiting for you to visit with your camera – don’t leave any essential kit out, or else you could miss out on the adventure of a lifetime!
Frequently asked questions
Is 400MM Enough for a Safari?
The telephoto lens is a critical piece of equipment for any safari photographer. You should have a 100-400mm or 200-500mm lens, depending on the range at which you will photograph your subjects.
What Colours Should I Not Wear
When going on safari, avoid wearing dark blue and black clothes, as they will attract flies. Bright-white items may get dirty and are not recommended for the safari park
Can I wear Jeans on Safari?
Jeans are a great option for safari, as they are both stylish and comfortable. You can also wear the jeans in the evening, around the campsite, which is handy if you don’t want to pack more than five pairs of pants.
Are You Ready to See Namibia Like Never Before?
Join photographer and wildlife expert, Bob Wild, and our African Guide Brian Roodt on an 10 day photo safari adventure through one of the last great wildernesses in Africa. You’ll explore the Etosha National Park, Deadvlei and more! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see amazing African wildlife in their natural habitat. You’ll be able to capture photos like never before!
Bob Wild is a professional photographer and the former owner of African Photo Safari, having led guided photo safaris to numerous destinations including Namibia in western Africa. He owns Who Said Photography and continues to help introduce newcomers to the joys of photography.