You’ve booked that EPIC, once-in-a-lifetime safari trip, and you’re starting to plan what to bring – but have you brought those 10 things you NEED for your trip to Africa? You will undoubtedly bring the basics – a hat, sunscreen, mosquito repellant, lightweight clothes, etc. BUT, there are untold items that you should REALLY bring with you that no one tells you about. After living in Botswana and working with hundreds of teams coming to Africa, I’ve added a few essential items that always seem to help everyone who plans a trip to Africa. So with further ado, here are things you need (that no one tells you to bring) on your trip to Africa.
As I briefly mentioned above, I lived and worked in Botswana, Africa, with a non-profit as the Outreach Director. It was literally my job to work with teams of volunteers and prepare them for what they would need in Botswana. The list always contained the basics that every traveler needs. But over time, I found certain items to be quite an asset for a trip to the bush.
Let’s start with the basic items that I’m sure you are already planning on bringing with you. But just in case you’re starting from scratch, I’ll mention them anyway.
Starting with clothing, most people you see on safari tend to wear khakis – and there’s a reason why. Depending on when you’re planning your trip, it can get super hot in the bush. This is why khakis are nice and lightweight. They don’t absorb the heat and they cover up the dust which can accumulate from the African dust. You also want to blend into the environment and not attract attention – just like those elusive animals you’re trying to spot.
You’ll also want to bring a hat to shield the hot sun, sunscreen, closed-toe shoes, insect repellant, sunglasses, photography gear (camera, lens, extra battery, phone, etc.), and binoculars. These are most likely the typical items that most people will add to their trip.
On the flip side, there are certain items you should NOT wear or bring with you on a safari trip to Africa.
Whereas I suggested wearing khakis or light colors, you should avoid wearing bright or flashy-patterned clothing. You also want to stay clear of dark colors, especially black which will trap in the heat. And depending on what country you’ll be in, you should also avoid camouflage, which is reserved for the military only.
As for the dress code, some African countries have strict clothing codes (especially for women). If you dress modestly, you should be fine, but again – always be prepared and know the dress code for the countries you’re visiting.
It might be fairly obvious, but don’t wear any expensive jewelry or heavily scented perfumes. You don’t want to attract unwanted attention. And I would highly suggest NOT wearing sandals on safari. You want to protect your feet, and sandals don’t do the job.
TIP: Dark-colored clothing attracts Tsetse flies, so avoid packing black or dark shades of blue.
Now let’s get to the items that no one else will tell you to bring. But trust me – you’ll be glad you did!
Probably the most important item you should bring with you is a filtered water bottle. Since most of the water isn’t suitable for drinking, you are left with either buying bottled water or taking your chance with the water (with high odds of getting sick). My favorite bottle is Water-to-go’s built-in water purification system. This way, you can be assured that any water you add will be purified. It’s an investment that’s 100% worth it!
TIP: Get 15% OFF on any Water-to-Go bottle with our special Coupon Code: NPTrippers
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This might be an unconventional topic – but it must be said. Many people who visit Africa have major constipation issues. (And I know this from experience). I tell everyone to bring a bag of prunes with them, and each night before bed eat one or two, and the next day, they are ready to go! Constipation is NOT FUN when you’re traveling!
TIP: Buy a reclosable bag so they will last your entire trip.
And speaking of ready to go, I always suggest bringing a packet of wipes – not only for hands but for sensitive toochies. The toilet paper you might come across won’t always be the softest (or you might not have any at all), so always carrying wipes with you is recommended.
TIP: I actually ALWAYS recommend taking a packet of wipes wherever you travel – it’s one of those essential items for any destination.
Even if you’re not planning on taking a night safari (which you definitely should), you’ll need a headlamp for your trip. Depending on where you stay, you might need to walk outside to different buildings or restrooms at night, and you want your hands available for anything that might pop up at you.
TIP: I love the beanie hat for kids! It not only makes it easier for little hands and heads, but it keeps them warm in the night too.
If you’re traveling to Africa in the winter, just know that it gets COLD at night! I always recommend bringing a pair of long underwear to wear in bed or on those night-time safaris. I had a couple of pair for my time in Africa, and I pretty much used them more than any piece of clothing in the winter.
And if you’re really going to be roughing it (like I did most of my time in Botswana), bring a portable hot water bag to put in your sleeping bag or bed with you. Many of the safari lodges and tents are not heated, and again, it gets really cold at night!
TIP: Get a water bag with a soft cover to avoid any burns. Plus, they’re just so much more comfy!
This item depends on where you’ll be traveling to in Africa, but some villages still have a strict dress code – especially when it comes to women being covered. I always traveled with one long skirt and one long-sleeved shirt, just to be on the safe side. You don’t want to offend anyone.
This is another item I always recommend, especially for safari days. Riding on the jeep can be chilly and windy, and during the rainy season – rainy. And it’s always easier to take it off once the sun comes out again than be wet and miserable without it.
If there’s one trip that you NEED a zoom lens for your camera, it’s on safari! I highly recommend buying and bringing a lens to capture those distance animals. I personally use a Cannon EOS 250D and have a 55-250mm zoom lens (which works great!) It’s not too large to carry around with me, but it captures animals in the distance that regular lens’ cannot. If you’re serious about taking great safari pictures, this is one area you don’t want to skim on.
There’s a lot of downtime during a trip to the bush, especially before or after a safari or waiting to see wildlife, so here’s your opportunity to catch up on your reading or writing. Bring your favorite novel, and dive in while you wait for that elephant to show up or bring a journal to write down all the details of your fabulous trip.
One thing I told all the groups coming to Botswana is that if you are a sensitive eater, bring some comfort foods or snacks with you. One of the fun things about traveling to a new country is trying new foods, but not everyone is an adventurous eater. You don’t want something like food to turn your trip into a sour one, so bring a few comfort snacks or packable foods with you if this is you. Bringing a jar of peanut butter and jelly is an easy fix for packing sandwiches for a day out.
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