The dress code on safari is very relaxed, so there is no need to even consider packing dinner jackets, ties, formal shirts or cocktail dresses for your time on safari! Shorts/t-shirts are ideal for walks and the warm midday periods, but long trousers and long sleeved shirts are a good idea to wear in the evenings to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
Try to take neutral coloured clothes – so greens, beiges, etc – and avoid taking anything too brightly coloured. Also, try to avoid taking anything white – firstly the dust will soon turn your pristine white t-shirt into a not-so-attractive dirty colour, and secondly white does attract bugs at night. Camouflage printed clothing is OK for the bush but please do not wear in towns or when crossing borders (particularly in Zimbabwe).
In addition, a warm sweater is useful for the cooler morning and evening temperatures when out on game drives – you also have the ‘wind chill’ factor of being on a moving vehicle.
If you are going on safari during a known rainy season, a waterproof jacket is obviously a good idea, and during the Winter months you will certainly need several warm layers for your game drives, including a hat, scarf and gloves, as it can be extremely cold when the sun goes down in the evenings, and when you first set off on the morning game drive.
Comfortable walking shoes, trainers or hiking boots are advisable if you want to go on a bush walk – otherwise sandals are ideal to wear at meal times and around the lodge area. Covered shoes on the game drives in the Winter months may also be an idea, as there is nothing worse than cold toes/feet!
A sun hat or baseball cap, or anything really to keep the sun off your head, is a good idea to stop sunstroke when out on game drives, and also will help to shade your eyes from the sun. A good pair of sunglasses will also help you to scan the landscape for the wildlife without squinting into the sunlight and getting a headache! Sun block and lip balm are also recommended.
Swimwear is not something most people would associate with a safari, but as many lodges do have pools, it is worth just throwing into your case just in case you fancy a cooling dip inbetween game drives.
Taking photographs on a safari is almost a given, so don’t forget your camera (and if you are into photography in a big way, consider different size lenses and a bean bag too to rest the lens on so that you avoid camera shake), binoculars (the ranger/driver will tend to have a pair of these always to hand, but they are there for everyone to share, so if you are not the sharing kind of person, better to have your own pair to use all the time) and spare camera batteries and memory cards – there is nothing worse than seeing the perfect shot, only for your camera to die a death or the memory card to be full (bear in mind too that the opportunity to download photos will be limited). Most lodges will have curio shops that will sell most types of batteries so if you run out, it’s not serious, but prices may be high. If you have a video camera, it may be a good idea to take a spare battery for this as well.
One top tip for camera equipment in particular is to take a pillow case to keep everything in when out on game drives – some camera bags are big and unweldy so take up valuable seat space, plus you end up having to unzip compartments and while the bag is open dust gets in everywhere – having everything in a pillowcase that you can keep relatively ‘closed’ and just reach in to retrieve the necessary camera body/lens is just so much easier and cleaner all round.
Even in malaria-free areas, there are still nasty bugs about that can give you a nasty bite so do take some strong insect repellent with you. Some lodges will supply this in the rooms, but better to be safe than sorry and pack your own just in case.
It is always a good idea to pack your own first aid kit – so plasters, antiseptic cream/wipes, antihistamine tablets, painkillers, etc. If you wear daily disposable contact lenses it is advisable to bring more than you think you will need, as you may want to take the lenses out inbetween game drives if you get too much dust in your eyes. And of course, if you are taking malaria tablets – don’t forget to pack these!
Some lodges have a library but these are limited and so it is useful to bring your own books/novels for siesta hours. Having your own wildlife reference books too will mean you can also read up about more facts on the animals you have seen during your drive. Bird books in particular, if you are an avid birder, are especially good to have, as not every bird will be identified by your ranger along the way, so you can quietly look up anything you have seen and identify it yourself.