14 Must-Pack Items to Bring on Safari

Heading out on a safari but not sure what to pack? Packing for a safari in Africa can be a bit daunting: you’re travelling half way around the world with no idea what you’re about to experience!

Being prepared for a safari with a few key items will ensure you have everything you need to enjoy yourself and capture all of the incredible moments.

Without a doubt, the highlight of our trip to South Africa was our safari at Kruger National Park. There really are no words to describe how exhilarating and awe-inspiring it is to see the wildlife in their natural environment just a few feet in front of you.

We had a full 8 hour open game vehicle safari which allowed unobstructed views of our surroundings. What was great about this vehicle was it had 3 tiers so you weren’t looking at the top of someone’s head and everyone could see everything. We didn’t know where to look there because was so much going on!

I’m a planner by nature – so even before we left home I knew I would’ve wanted a few things while at Kruger. Some of these items we ended up sharing with others in our group!

This list is inclusive to all safaris, and most of these you’ll already have at home so there’s no need to invest heavily in something you may only use a few times.

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safari packing tips
Traffic jam!

Be prepared for your safari with these must-pack items!

1. A decent camera

This goes without saying that in order to get some quality photos, you need a quality camera. I took a lot of my shots with the Canon Rebel, but I wish we had a lens to capture even more up-close shots. I also used my iPhone for a lot of the pictures and videos – so I could use them right away for social channels.

I’m currently researching a new camera, so if you have any suggestions please let me know!

what to pack on safari
Photo with the Canon Rebel T3

2. Binoculars

Don’t assume you will be able to see everything up close, and while it isn’t crucial you bring a pair, without these it would’ve been nearly impossible to see some of the animals, or their faces! We were able to see a leopard’s face hidden in the brush grooming himself, a white rhino baby with its mom and dad at dusk, and lions feeding on a giraffe from about 200 yards away clearly with our binoculars – a sight most don’t get to see!

We shared ours with others in our vehicle – so I highly recommend bringing a pair.

Play around with it at home before you go – they can take some getting used to.

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3. A small day pack

Another easy to pack item and easy to wear and store, a travel day pack can keep all of your belongings together and organized. I decided last minute to bring mine and I’m glad I did. You aren’t given a whole lot of room in the vehicles, so keeping your belongings in one place and easily accessible makes it simpler to switch seats and move around.

I actually used mine as a dual-purpose. Since we travelled only with carry-ons, I used this cross-body bag as my personal item!

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4. Battery backup/ Power Bank

This is huge! I wasn’t as worried about our camera battery since it IS long life, but we had a second one in our day pack. What I would recommend to everyone is getting a power bank for your cell phone if you choose to take photos with it. I don’t go anywhere without mine now.

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5. Extra memory cards

You’ll be surprised how many photos you’re going to take. I always take multiples of the same shot because that’s just how I operate 😂. Make sure your cell phone has enough storage for photos too. I signed up for iCloud storage for a minimal monthly fee (and now have over 23000 photos on my phone).

must pack safari items
Here my dad and I can be seen leaning out of the vehicle to get some shots of this Elephant crossing!

6. Power adapter

A few years ago we bought an all-in-one adapter (instead of individual pieces) and it’s been a lifesaver in the way of space and helps us make sure smaller pieces aren’t left behind. Picking one with multiple charge ports can allow you to charge a few devices at one (Dana and I shared one). Bringing this is useful if you are staying at various lodges throughout Africa, so your devices will be charged for morning.

It is WELL WORTH the investment!!!!

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If you are traveling with Mafigeni, they offer basic adapters in their rooms.

7. Scarf

This is especially important if you are in an open game viewer. It may be warm standing in the sun, but when you’re traveling down the road at 60 kph, you’re going to want something to cover your neck and face.

A lightweight one like this is easy to pack and can be worn numerous ways.

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8. Jacket

Bring one even if it’s a warm day – you’re going to need it! Layer your clothes for added warmth. I get cold often and was so thankful I packed a heavier zip up.

Our early morning safari had blankets which we were SO grateful for. It was freezing at 5 am but that was one of the highlights of our entire trip.

9. Sunglasses

This one is dual purpose. Aside from the obvious, sunglasses can also help protect your eyes against the wind and any dust you encounter during your journey. Wind burn hurts!

10. Hat

You may want to consider one that fastens underneath your chin so it doesn’t fly off (often times I had to hold mine down!). My favourite hat that I wore and still wear almost daily is this one with a higher cut-out for a ponytail.

what to bring on safari
I couldn’t believe how many elephants we saw!

11. Sports bra

It’s probably not one of those things you think of, but I lived in mine for 9 days and I’m so grateful! The main roads at Kruger are paved, but there are a lot off-the-beaten-path routes that aren’t and you could be in for a bumpy ride. Save yourself some pain and bring some comfy sports bras.

The Puma seamless ones are my go-to.

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12. Lip Balm

A trivial item that can really helps protect against wind burn and chapped lips. Opt for one containing SPF.

Not everyone thinks about packing lip balm, but let me tell you, those arid and extremely hot desert temperatures can wreak havoc on your lips!

13. Money

This one shouldn’t surprise you. There are shops and restaurants at Kruger where you can buy snacks or souvenirs. We bought a guide book for about $17 Cdn to help identify what we saw (and showed everyone at home). I paid with my credit card because it was our last day and I didn’t want any change, but cash can be great for smaller purchases like snacks or water, or to tip your safari guide.

The South African currency is the Rand – and it is absolutely beautiful! I remember going to pick it up from the bank and the teller was in awe. If I still have some I think I need to frame them 😂 (until next time)!

what to pack for a safari
The incredible Rand currency

14. Bug spray

Last but not least – bring bug spray. If you’re travelling to remote areas, especially ones on the water like Chobe National Park, be prepared for a lot of bugs. While most accommodations offer bug spray and regularly spray the rooms and properties, bringing your own can minimize any chances of it not being available.

If you’re travelling to an area considered high risk for malaria, you may want to consider booking an appointment with your Doctor well in advance of your trip to get any necessary medication.

Words of advice on clothing to pack for an African safari

Just a tip to base your clothing items on muted, neutral colours so you “blend in”. All of the items we packed were versatile and could be worn with any piece in our sitcase, which helps cut down on luggage space too.

Since you’ll be in the vehicle most of the day, you don’t necessarily need to pack hiking shoes unless if another part of your itinerary involves hiking or walking over uneven terrain. I wore mine for the first day of our entire trip with Mafigeni and ended up wearing sneakers the rest of the time.

You should be fully prepared with these items and many of these don’t take up a lot of space and will easily fit into a day pack.

Have you been on a safari? Let me know what other items we should bring for our next trip!

Download your printable checklist here!

Free African Safari Packing List

Happy trails!

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24 Comments

  1. May 19, 2020 / 3:40 pm

    Great post Sarah! I would absolutely love to go on safari! These are awesome tips especially the battery pack and scarf! It really comes in handy with that African heat. Love your posts and your website!

    • Sarah
      Author
      May 19, 2020 / 3:51 pm

      Thank you! It’s an absolutely magical experience – I hope you get to go on one too! I figured these tips some of us learned the hard way can help others. 🙂

  2. June 18, 2020 / 7:51 pm

    Great Tips! We did multiple game drives in Kenya last year and these are all useful! #14 for us would be individually wrapped Lifesavers – the dust makes your mouth really dry and you don;’t want to be drinking too much water

    • Sarah
      Author
      June 19, 2020 / 9:58 am

      That’s a great tip! I’d love to go to Kenya – we are booked for Namibia, South Africa again, and Zimbabwe in 2021 – I’ll have to remember that one!

  3. Laura
    June 30, 2020 / 6:26 am

    That looks like a lot of fun! And great tips, I wouldn’t have thought of the scarf or lip balm.

    • Sarah
      Author
      June 30, 2020 / 9:02 am

      Thank you! It’s the little things that make a big difference!

  4. June 30, 2020 / 1:15 pm

    What a helpful list you put together, thanks for sharing! Haven’t been on a safari yet, but it’s on my bucket list. Saved it for later reference 🙂

    • Sarah
      Author
      June 30, 2020 / 1:17 pm

      Thank you so much!

  5. July 8, 2020 / 10:40 am

    This list is perfect, and besides the sports bra – I wish I read this before mine because I was missing a few. Namely, I needed a better camera (at least a long distance lens) and binoculars. I also ran low on cash in Zimbabwe and almost got stuck there, but that was my own fault. Great advice though, this will surely help someone preparing for a safari!

    • Sarah
      Author
      July 8, 2020 / 11:46 am

      Thank you! I need to invest in a lens as well. I’m so glad we had binoculars with us!

  6. July 9, 2020 / 2:16 am

    This is a great list! A safari is on my list and a lot of these things I wouldn’t necessarily remember to bring haha. So excited for when I am able to go now one day 🙂

    • Sarah
      Author
      July 9, 2020 / 8:54 am

      Yay!! I can’t wait to go back and do another one. Glad you found this helpful! 🙂

  7. July 9, 2020 / 5:58 pm

    These are some fantastic tips you have given here! I would have never thought of sports bra to be one of the essential items, until you said it here!

    • Sarah
      Author
      July 9, 2020 / 8:04 pm

      Thank you! Just trying to look out for my fellow female travellers 😂

  8. July 9, 2020 / 6:09 pm

    I want to go on a safari so badly. I wouldnt have thought to bring half of these things, especially a scarf. This is a great list!

    • Sarah
      Author
      July 9, 2020 / 8:03 pm

      Thank you!! I highly recommend going on a safari if you can swing it!

  9. Pam
    July 9, 2020 / 7:25 pm

    Great tips! I use the Canon Rebel t5i (the newer version of the 3 that you have) and have two lenses – a 55 -300 mm that was used a LOT on safari and the normal 18-55. they work great

    • Sarah
      Author
      July 9, 2020 / 8:02 pm

      Thank you! I’ll check that camera out! I think I really need to invest in some lens kits!

  10. July 10, 2020 / 6:18 am

    Such a comprehensive list and great tips. Safari is still on my bucket list, so I hope one day I can pack myself for such a amazing trip.

    • Sarah
      Author
      July 10, 2020 / 7:59 am

      Thank you so much! I wholeheartedly recommend a safari to everyone!!

  11. July 10, 2020 / 8:17 am

    This is an insightful and carefully crafted packing list for a safari! I especially appreciate your suggestion of a sports bra for the bumpy ride! BRILLIANT!!! Also, thanks for suggesting the scarf for the windy dusty open air drive.

    • Sarah
      Author
      July 10, 2020 / 11:04 am

      Thank you Michelle! Yeah – definitely glad I brought a sports bra haha!

  12. July 10, 2020 / 10:08 am

    Great tips for what to bring on a safari adventure. The closest I have come to this is in Animal Kingdom in Disney World ! LOL

    • Sarah
      Author
      July 10, 2020 / 11:05 am

      Thank you!! Me too before this haha! Highly recommend!

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