I finally decided to start packing for our Safari the day before we were due to set off for South Africa. When I did a last-minute check of the weather forecast, I was shocked and realised I had totally misjudged what I thought I’d need. Instead of needing shirts and shorts, we actually needed beanies, warm jumpers and thick coats. When we arrived in Sabi Sands and got a better sense for the experience, we quickly worked out there were quite a few things we needed and some we didn’t. If you’re planning a Safari trip and aren’t quite sure what you need, here’s our guide on what you absolutely need to pack.
But first, watch this…
What’s the weather like during your trip?
First things first, you really do need to check the weather forecast for your visit. Like I said, I just assumed it was hot all year and we wouldn’t need any warm clothes when we absolutely did! Here’s a quick look at the weather during different times of the year and I recommend using this information, together with a weather forecast app on your phone or website to get a better sense of what the temperature will be.
- December, January & February – These are the months of the most precipitation and highest temperatures, coupled with intense humidity. The average afternoon temperature is 31°C/88°F, but it is not unusual for it to reach an insufferable 40°C/104°F.
- March & April – The rain decreases and it gradually cools. This trend continues in April, which is the most pleasant month with little rain, less humidity and sunny skies. Night temperatures fall to 18°C/64°F and daytime temperatures of 29°C/84°F are typical.
- May – May marks the end of the summer season. Typical temperatures are around 12°C/54°F in the morning and 26°C/79°F in the afternoon as the weather cools.
- June, July & August – Due to the cold mornings (9°C/48°F), it is wise to bring along warm clothing for morning game drives. There will be cloudless skies in the afternoon and temperatures will be pleasant – around 25°C/77°F.
- September – The first rains bring relief and alleviate the dry conditions as the heat rises to an average afternoon temperature of 28°C/82°F. Mornings are mild with average temperatures around 14°C/57°F.
- October & November – Temperatures increase and afternoon rains become more frequent. Typical temperatures run from 18°C/64°F in the morning to a 30°C/86°F high in the afternoon.
We visited in late August/early September and found it was quite cold for us in the mornings but do keep in mind we live in a typically warm climate. If you live in Canada, for example, you may not find it as cold as we did. It was cold in the mornings and evenings but beautifully warm in the middle of the day during our trip.
What to pack for your Safari in South Africa
Now you know what to expect from the weather, here’s a closer look at what you’ll need to pack for your Safari.
Clothes for hot weather
- Shorts – Pack very comfortable, breathable shorts you can wear all day. It’s going to be very hot so you want to make sure the fabric isn’t heavy and allows your skin to breathe
- Tops – Similarly, you’re going to need tops that allow your skin to breathe but also protect you from the sun. I’d recommend linen or cotton button-up shirts that are nice and loose-fitting. You may also like to look into sweat-wicking gear or outdoor/adventure wear.
- Hat – Protect yourself from the sun and keep it out of your eyes by packing a hat – just be sure it can be secured to your head nice and tightly so it doesn’t come off when you’re driving along
- Swimmers – If your accommodation has a pool, be sure to pack your swimmers so you can cool off with a dip
- Day clothes – It’s going to be very hot so there’s a good chance you’ll want to cool down with a shower or swim after your morning game drive. Pack something comfortable and breathable you can slip into during the day. Things like cotton summer dresses might be perfect or just a fresh set of shorts and a shirt or singlet/vest top.
Clothes for cold weather
- Jeans – We wore jeans each day of our visit and you might like to pack one pair for every two days of Safari. If you don’t like wearing jeans, you might find some of those long, outdoor/adventure wear pants are more your style
- Tops – Matt wore t-shirts layered under jumpers and I wore long-sleeve button-up shirts in cotton and linen fabrics, also layered under jumpers. During our game drives, there’s no top on the vehicle so I wanted to make sure I was protected from the sun but still wearing a breathable, comfortable fabric.
- Jumpers – We each wore a jumper first thing in the morning and at night, layered over a top. When things got warm toward the middle of the day, we could take it off and be cool enough with the top we had on.
- Beanies – We were both really glad we’d packed a beanie each as it was very cold at 5am in the morning before the sun came up. I would also recommend packing a hat, if you’re so inclined, so you can pop it on for sun safety and to keep the sun out of your eyes on game drives. Just make sure it won’t come flying off your head when you’re driving along
- Warm coat – I packed my favourite North Face jacket which is very, very warm and I was really glad I had it. Again, those cold temperatures at 5am and the cold air hitting me as we drove meant having a windproof, very insulated coat made all the difference
- Scarf – I also packed a scarf because I like to keep my chest warm and, again, I was glad to have it while we driving in the early morning. Our amazing Safari team had warm blankets in the car for us and, in the depths of winter, they put hot water bottles in there for you too.
Clothes you shouldn’t pack
It’s advisable to pack colours in neutral tones like white, beige, light yellow and that unique ‘Safari green,’ kinda colour you might expect to see a park ranger wearing. Wearing bright colours like vibrant red isn’t a good idea so make sure you leave those at home. As I understand it, those colours can be off-putting to the animals so it’s best not to risk it and just pack neutrals.
For the most part, I wore blue jeans with a white or faded pinkish/very light red button-up top. You’ll be sitting in the car for a good few hours on game drives so make sure the clothes you pack are comfortable – I wouldn’t recommend super tight tops and I couldn’t see myself wearing a skirt or summer dress either. It really is a shorts/jeans and top situation unless you’re visiting in summer and want to wear something in-between game drives.
Our resort was really fancy but everyone just wore jeans and tops or outdoor wear the whole time, even at meals. There wasn’t any moment where I felt like I needed a fancy outfit like a nice dress or something. It was all very low-key but still classy. At the end of the day, it’s always important to dress however you feel most comfortable.
Camera or day bag
Be sure to pack a day bag you can use to put everything you need to take with you on a game drive. This should include a water bottle, your cameras and extra batteries, a hat, maybe a jumper or beanie, sunscreen and any emergency medicines like an epi-pen or Ventolin inhaler. Having a bag to put it all in will ensure you don’t forget, lose or break anything.
Speaking of camera gear, you really will need a decent camera on Safari. I saw a guy taking a photo of a cheetah on an iPad and just about died laughing – it was just so funny to see this incredible moment and then, in the background, some guy with an iPad! If you’ve been thinking about getting a new camera or just upgrading to a decent one, this is the time to do it. We bought a new camera before the trip too because we just didn’t want to mess it up and it was the perfect excuse. Of course, always buy within your financial means but go for the best you can afford. Read: How to actually choose the BEST new travel camera.
I’ve mentioned it a few times but be sure to pack some sun-smart gear as you can and will get sunburnt if you’re not on top of it. You’ll definitely need a good body sunscreen, face sunscreen to wear under makeup, a hat, long-sleeve shirts and to make sure you drink plenty of water.
Beauty and makeup products
I packed shampoo and conditioner as well as my favourite hair oil to ensure my hair didn’t dry out. Because I tended to be wearing a beanie most of the time, I found I could leave my hair out and it didn’t get too knotty or tangled. If you’re worried about it, pack some hair ties so you can secure your hair into plaits, braids or a pony-tail. In terms of makeup, I kept things pretty light and natural just opting for a simple base, mascara and brows. It’s not really the situation for a full-face of makeup with lashes and everything.
Be sure to pack really comfortable shoes and, if you’re visiting in the cold months, very warm socks too. I wore my favourite Converse high-tops each day and Matt wore his favourite Converse too. You might like to pack two pairs of closed-in shoes and potentially one pair you can wear to meals. In warm months, a pair of sandals for around the resort would be a good choice but in the cold months, you shouldn’t need them.
It’s really important you pack all your prescription medicines and put together an essential medicine kit of your own as there’s no corner store or pharmacy out there. Matt’s allergic to certain medicines and takes a few prescription medicines too so we had to make sure we had everything we needed with us, including a few epi-pens. I like to pack a little medicine bag which includes Imodium/something for an upset tummy, paracetamol and ibuprofen for headaches or injuries, loads of band-aids, hayfever/allergy medication, asthma inhaler, a very strong antihistamine, sleeping pills, valium in-case of a bad anxiety/panic attack, eye drops, cold and flu medicine, throat lozenges, travel sickness medicine, hand sanitiser and ginger tablets. Find Medicine Bags here.
Feminine hygiene products
Ladies should pack their own tampons, pads etc as, again, there’s nowhere to buy them while you’re on Safari. So be sure to stock your luggage if you think you’ll be needing them and, you know what, just pack some anyway just-in-case cos we all know that periods love to throw us a surprise party every now and then. Of course, I always recommend packing hand sanitiser and keeping it in your handbag too.
My skin has been getting increasingly dry as I travel more and I found I really needed a good quality moisturiser in South Africa. I’ve recently switched from using store-bought moisturiser to using organic, extra-virgin coconut oil instead and my skin has been amazing! I slather it all over my body once a day and find it soaks in really nicely, not leaving me too oily. I bought mine super cheap from Aldi. For my face, I use rosehip oil and a good quality moisturiser with lavender and SPF over the top. I also carry a hand moisturiser in my day bag because my hands tend to get dried out from hand sanitiser.
You might like to bring a few separate bags to put your dirty shoes, clothes and underwear in to keep your bag from stinking out and making your fresh clothes smell bad.
You’ll need a power converter to ensure you can recharge your camera, phone and other electronics. I always pack a power-board with me or a multi-USB. It means I can charge my iPhone and cameras while using my laptop and only need one converter. Yep, I’m a technology addict. Find Power Boards here and Find Power Converters here.
External battery pack
We were out on game drives for a few hours each morning and evening and wanted to make sure we didn’t miss a single photo moment. I recommend bringing a backup battery pack so you can recharge your phone or camera, if possible, to make sure you don’t miss a photo moment either!
Packing hacks and tips
Here are a few tips and tricks to help you hack your pack!
Stash some eco-friendly bags and reusable sandwich bags in your luggage, they come in so very handy for storing dirty shoes and clothes as well as bars of soap, wet swimwear or leaky toothpaste tubes! Find Eco-Friendly Reusable Bags here.
Stop leaky bottles
If you’re worried about your shampoo, conditioner or body wash leaking in your bag simply unscrew the lid, place some cling-film over the top and screw the lid back on. It’ll stop everything from leaking and potentially ruining your clean clothes.
I use Tupperware or similar hard plastic containers to put all my toiletries in. This ensures no leaks will destroy my clean clothes and makes it really easy for me to grab my toiletries in one easy swoop, keep them together in the hotel and makes re-packing easier too. I also use a small container for all my jewellery and another one for electronics like adaptors, cords and chargers. It keeps me organised and stops me from losing things! Find Storage Containers here.
Put dryer sheets in your suitcase to keep your clothes smelling good throughout the whole trip. If you don’t have dryer sheets, a few drops of essential oil on a tissue, laid flat in-between layers of clothes, works wonders. I also have a little bottle of spray which instantly freshens up clothes, it’s from The Laundress and it’s amazing! No musty smelling clothes for you, my friend. Find Dryer Sheets here.
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