Many first-time visitors to Africa are not sure what clothing and other accessories to pack. A little guidance can help you make the most of your baggage allowance.
oing to Africa on safari? The clothes and equipment you take can make or break your travel experience so a little planning before departure is advantageous.
First find out the general type of climate you will encounter and if the rainy season is on. Any books and online information you can read on the area you are going to will also give you a broad guideline as to the type of weather you can expect.
The colour of your safari clothes should blend in with the bush such as tans (khaki), browns and olive greens. No bright colours should be worn as this is likely to scare off animals. Many professional guides refuse to take a tourist wearing white on a walking safari and will ask them to change. Avoid camouflage clothing as it is illegal in most African countries.
Clothes should be comfortable and have good pocket space. Larger, roomy shirts are cooler than tight fitting ones and have the bonus of keeping bugs away from direct contact with your skin. A combination of shorts and long pants is good for the various activities you might encounter and a bush vest will also come in handy for the photographer who wants to carry a few extras. A jacket or sweater will be needed in some areas during the cold months.
Your choice of shoes is important and these should be broken in before coming on safari. Snakes are plentiful in Africa but rarely seen or encountered, so snakeproof boots are not essential.
Comfort and support are the primary needs. Boots, walking shoes or sports shoes can be worn on safari, bearing in mind the rule for acceptable bush colours. If you are taking hiking boots, you should also pack a comfortable pair of shoes to wear around camp.
An interesting side note is that most professional guides do not wear socks. This is to avoid the various grass seeds that can get attached to them.
The African sun can be harsh and the ozone layer is not what it should be. A hat (remember those bush colours) that provides shade for the ears and neck is a must and should be worn at all times while you are outside.
Sunblocks and creams are good and people with very sensitive skin might want to consider wearing long sleeve shirts. In areas of dry hot climates, bring chapstick, skin moisturisers and eye drops. A good quality pair of sunglassses will protect your eyes from dust in addition to relieving glare and eye strain. If you wear glasses or contacts it is wise to bring a second pair.
Binoculars will greatly enhance the enjoyment of your safari. A wide range are on offer. To understand a little about binoculars, there will be a set of numbers on them to indicate the performance, such as 8 x 25. The first number (8) gives you the magnification and in this sample would produce an image eight times larger than seen with normal vision. The second number (25) gives you the size of the diameter of the front glass element in millimetres. Larger elements give you a brighter image. Try out the binoculars in the shop to ensure that you only see one image through them and that they can focus on objects at various distances.
A careful selection of lenses for your camera is required. A good starting combination is a wide angle zoom of 28 – 70mm and a telephoto of 100 – 300mm. With these you can get both scenic shots and close-ups of animals. Buy the best lenses you can, and take extra memory cards. Remember spare batteries and plug adaptors.
Two accessories that should not be left behind are a good flashlight and a quality pocket knife. A number of companies now make very powerful pocket lights that are ideal for the walk from the campfire back to your lodge or tent. Remember spare batteries here too. A pocket knife with various tools built in can be invaluable, but must be packed in your main luggage instead of hand luggage.
Insect repellents are especially useful in the hot months. They come in a variety of sprays, oils and rub-ons. It is suggested you take two types as some work better than others on different insects. Mosquito coils that you burn also work well indoors and are a good supplement to other repellents. It is important to check if you will be in a malaria area and take the necessary precautions.
Finally, a travel accessory we hope not to use: a basic first-aid kit. This should comprise of plasters (Band-Aids), ointments for burns and cuts, pain killers (such as aspirin), antihistamine for allergies and any medications you may need for a common cold.
Have fun getting ready, but have a lot more fun while you are there!
By Denny Allen. First published in Travel Africa magazine. Text is subject to Worldwide Copyright (c)