Packing for Paradise: Insider tips from Bushtracks' Specialist GuideBy David Bristow
April 15, 2020
Welcome in Africa! Africa is not one place or an idea. It is massive continent (about twice the size of North America), with more than 40 independent countries. On a typical safari, you will be pampered as well as amazed at the visual and sensual splendor of the last truly wild big game areas on Earth. All you have to do is pack – how hard can that be?
The truism of packing is that no matter what size your bag, it’s always just too small. In most cases, the weight of shoes tips the scales. You can get away with just two pairs, some sturdy bush shoes you can walk in (we call them velskoens (pronounced FELL·skoons), or hide-shoes) and sandals or other open shoes. Remember it will be hot most of the time; while boots look nice, they might not be practical.
As hard to resist as it might be, this is no dress-up show so travelers be warned and pack logistically while leaving the fashion-forward items at home. The best kind of fabrics to include in your suitcase are those considered “performance” fabrics: easily washable and dry quickly while on the go. All luxury lodges supply toiletries and medical supplies, vital tools in ensuring washing your own under garments or “smalls” is a successful endeavor. Lastly, try to avoid wearing garments and accessories that sport bright colors and white altogether.
Practicality in colors: What we call kaaki (pronounced kar·ki) and you call kaki, khaki is best in terms of practicality and color. Neutral is key to ensuring guests the best game viewing opportunities. Proper sun coverage and protection is key. Packing a sturdy cap or bush hat to keep the sun out your eyes and off your face is highly recommended.
Many safari operators restrict baggage to the maximum weight of 20 kilograms* (45 pounds) in a soft, canvas-type bag. Packing two of each clothing item should be adequate, and bush longs with zip on-off legs are a smart option.
The biggest issue travelers face is hiking their gadgetry. Most people will want to travel with a tablet, mobile phone, head torch, cables, charges, flash drives, hard drives, etc. Remember, you’re just going on safari, not to Mars. Packing cameras and equipment remains the trickiest part: I used to be a professional wildlife photographer so I know the anguish of trying to stick to the 20 kg limit. The safari planning experts at Bushtracks can certainly assist those serious photographers needing extra space and increase your overall airlines weight limit by purchasing you an extra seat in the aircraft.
You can get away with a small extra “handbag” but not a bulky backpack. The best outfit is one camera body and two lenses, one wide and one long. Adapters are usually supplied by most lodges but note Southern Africa outlets house round pin “M” type electric plugs, while East Africa supports a flat pin “G” type electric plug. My advice is to sit back and enjoy the visual spectacle, although I know that won’t wash with many shutterbugs.
Good luck packing, and welcome in paradise.
*This is for camp transfers in small airplanes.
The first version of this article was posted on 19 Mar 2019 at 10:06 AM.