What to pack for a safari adventure in South Africa

If you’re planning your first safari in South Africa, you might be wondering what to wear and what to add to your safari packing list. Before you head off to the stunning bushveld to spot the incredible wildlife, read our guide on what to pack – and what not to pack – for your safari in South Africa. Get the lowdown then start packing your bags for the trip of a lifetime.

Consider your baggage allowance

When planning your safari packing list, the first thing you’ll need to consider is your baggage allowance. While many international flights offer a 30kg baggage allowance, this is not always the case when flying domestically in South Africa. You’ll also need to consider getting your luggage around the safari camps, so it’s always best to pack light. 

Think lightweight layers of clothing that can dry quickly. Most lodges will have laundry facilities so you won’t need to pack an outfit for every day of the trip. It’s best to leave the elegant outfits, heels and expensive jewellery and accessories at home. While it’s okay to pack one or two fancier outfits for evenings at the lodges, you don’t need to to go overboard on a safari in South Africa. 

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family of elephants in the bush safari in South Africa

South Africa safari packing list

Clothing

Forget every clothing cliché about going on safari in South Africa – that includes safari helmets and head-to-toe khaki! It’s best to wear lightweight fabrics like cotton in neutral tones. Avoid bright colours like white and red as this is highly visible to animals (white clothing will also get really dirty). You should also avoid wearing dark colours like blue and black as this attracts Tsetse flies

Keep it simple with lightweight t-shirts, shorts, light pants and jackets and remember to bring layers for all types of weather. While the daytime will usually be quite hot, the mornings and late evenings are quite chilly, so wear layers that can be easily removed throughout the day.

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You can even bring a woolly hat, scarf and gloves if you are going on safari in winter, as it can get very cold, especially in the open breeze on game drives in South Africa. A scarf is a handy item, as you can use it to stay warm or dip it in water and wrap around your neck to cool down in the heat. A foldable rain poncho or a lightweight waterproof jacket is also handy for any unexpected showers.

lion lounging in the bush safari in South Africa

Shoes

A sturdy pair of runners are great for a safari in South Africa. It’s best to bring a pair that you’ve worn in and don’t mind getting dirty. You’ll need to bring hiking boots if you plan to do a lot of hiking (hello Table Mountain in Cape Town) or a walking safari. You can also bring a pair of sandals or flip-flops for lounging by the pool or exploring the beaches of South Africa before your safari.

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Swimwear

If your lodge has a swimming pool or you plan on hitting the beaches before or after your safari in South Africa, a swimsuit and quick-drying towel are essential.

herd of buffalo drinking at a lake South Africa

Day bag

When you head out on game drives in South Africa, you’ll need a backpack or cross-body bag to hold everything you’ll need for the day. From sunscreen and sunglasses to your water bottle and camera, you’ll be glad you brought a bag to keep everything secure.

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Sun protection

Don’t underestimate the strength of the African sun. You don’t want a bad sunburn or sunstroke putting a downer on your trip, so remember to bring a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and plenty of high SPF sunscreen. You can also bring a lip balm with SPF to prevent cracked lips.

family of giraffes safari in South Africa

Anti-malarial

Be sure to consult your doctor for medical advice regarding malaria, and any precautions you need to take such as malaria prophylaxis.

Medical kit

Pack a small bag with all your medical essentials such as insect repellent, pain killers, sunburn relief, antiseptic ointment, bandaids, and any medications or vitamins you need. 

Eye drops and nasal spray are also great for soothing irritated eyes and clearing out dust. Keeping your nasal passages moist is also great for supporting your immune system and helping to avoid germs and bacteria. 

Remember, most lodges and camps will have a medical aid kit so you don’t need to pack too much – just the essentials and your own personal medications.

antelope in green grass safari in South Africa

Toiletries

Instead of packing a bunch of large bottles or using travel-sized toiletries, pour your toiletries (like shampoo and moisturiser) into reusable travel bottles. It helps reduce plastic waste and the weight of your luggage, and you can use the bottles again on future trips.

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Reusable water bottle

You’ll need to stay hydrated on those hot game drives in South Africa, and another great way to reduce waste is to bring a reusable water bottle. The tap water isn’t safe to drink, so only refill your bottle with filtered water you find at your lodge, or bring a bottle with an in-built filter.

leopard hiding in the bush safari in South Africa

Camera and extra memory cards

When you come face to face with the beauty of the South African bushveld and its wildlife, you can’t help but want to take hundreds of photos. Remember to bring extra memory cards so you don’t run out of space, and an extra charger in case one breaks. You’ll also need a waterproof and dust-proof cover for your camera, your phone and anything you want to keep secure. 

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Travel adaptor and power strip

You’ll need to bring a travel adaptor so you can plug in all your devices. In South Africa, there are four plug types including types C, D, M and N. Plug type C has two round pins, plug type D has three round pins in a triangle, and plug types M and N both have three round pins. It’s good to note that South Africa operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz. 

You can also bring a power strip, so you can plug that into the outlet and charge all of your items at one time. This is especially handy if you’re travelling with other people and you’re all fighting to use one outlet!

family of meerkats safari in South Africa

Binoculars

While everyone remembers their camera or smartphone, you might not think about adding binoculars to your safari packing list. Binoculars really elevate your wildlife viewing game and will make a big difference to your safari experience.

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Head torch

A small head torch will come in handy for moments like walking back to your tent or lodge in the dark, or looking at star maps when stargazing. While most camps will provide a flashlight or walk you back to your room, it’s always a good idea to be prepared.

hippo gliding through the water South Africa

South African Rand

Don’t forget to bring some cash on your safari in South Africa. The national currency is the South African Rand and you’ll need to come prepared with cash in case there are no ATMs or credit card facilities in remote areas. It’s also good practice to leave a small cash tip for your safari drivers and guides.

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A book or headphones

When you’re on safari, most of the action happens in the morning and evening on the game drives. There’s often leisure time in the middle of the day, where you’ll be grateful for the chance to relax. If you’re not one for napping, you might like to bring a good book or an e-reader to pass the time. A pair of headphones is also a great way to stay occupied, especially while at the airport and on your flight.

You might also like to bring a travel journal. Your safari in South Africa is sure to be one of the most incredible experiences of your life, and you’ll love looking back on your memories and records of everything you saw and experienced on your trip. 

two zebras huddling together South Africa

What not to pack for a safari in South Africa

Camouflage clothing

Leave the camo or military-inspired clothing at home. It’s not recommended for travel in African countries and it’s even banned in some countries like Zimbabwe.

Plastic waste

You can avoid contributing to the plastic waste problem by substituting plastic bags, bottles and utensils with eco-friendly items like reusable bottles, cotton totes and bamboo utensils. Remember to never leave any waste behind on your trip – take only memories and leave only footprints.

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Expensive items

Avoid bringing expensive or valuable items like jewellery, flashy clothing and unnecessary electronics. You don’t want to run the risk of damaging or losing it.

herd of elephants gathered on the river bank South Africa

Drones

While drones are legal in South Africa, there are regulations you need to be aware of before using them. We don’t recommend using them on safari, as it can disturb the animals and ruin any chance of sightings.

Hair dryers

Many camps and lodges don’t have electrical systems that can cope with a hair dryer. If a hair dryer is an essential item for you, bring a travel version with a voltage of less than 230V.

Have you ever been on a safari in South Africa? What were some essentials you had to pack for your trip? Let us know in the comments below!

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