Going on safari is a lot of fun and quite a bit safer than some people might think. In many cases, you can just rent your own car and you do not need to depend on guided tours. I am not a fan of tours, because I like to set my own schedule and make my own decisions on the fly, but there are some areas in the world where you are really better off to take a guided tour with a reputable local company. One example, and my own experience, of where you are just as safe with either option is Kruger park, South Africa.
Before you set off on what is hopefully a trip of a lifetime, here are some packing tips!
What I packed to go on safari in South Africa
- Sun screen – an obvious one. Even if you are in a car all day, with the windows down, the wind screen amplifies the effects of the sun and you can still get a burn in the heat.
- A good hat – again, the sun!
- Reusable water bottle – it is good to have enough water/drinks with you for at least 2-3 hours of driving.
- Bug spray – if you are going during the dry period you are unlikely to come across any mosquitos, but South Africa is a malaria region and taking precautions is always wise. On that note, also discuss your trip with your doctor to see if you would benefit from anti-malarial medication.
- Light clothing – it is hot in South Africa. Light clothing that breathes well and dries quickly is ideal. Take some layers because mornings and evenings can be a bit chilly. If you go on a night drive in Kruger park, you are going to need an extra layer or a light sweater.
- Camera gear – now we are on to the fun stuff. I’ve seen more people than I ever expected taking pictures with their iPad of the lions who were 60 meters away. Trust me, you will be disappointed. Take at least a good point and shoot camera. If the budget allows, invest in a good SLR with a zoom lens. For most of my pictures I’ve used a 300mm lens, and it works for almost all pictures you are going to want to take. If you have a 600mm, it means you will get good shots of things that are much further away and that is nice, but whether it is worth the investment for just one trip is debatable. With a 300mm you will get lots of amazing shots, and have lots of fun. Anything less, results in fewer amazing pictures as a result. You will see elephants and giraffe and impala close to the road. Even monkeys, and kudu as well as a number of other species. Leopards, lions, and other more animals that prefer more privacy tend to be further away and a zoom lens becomes increasingly valuable. Again, this all depends on the gear you already have and how much you are willing to invest.
- ID – obviously you need your passport to get to South Africa, but take a passport to get into the park as well. At the Kruger gates you will need to give your ID as well.
- An empty trash bag – keep trash where it belongs, with us humans. Do not throw things away in the natural parks and just dispose in dedicated garbage bins at rest stops. Having an empty bag in the car for things like banana peels or candy wrappers and empty bottles is ideal. It keeps your car clean, and the animals safe.
- Whatever else you would take on a full day trip where you may have limited access to resources. Think granola bars, snacks, etc. Remember that you should never feed the animals under any circumstances! But it is of course fine to eat yourself.
There are so many different kinds of ‘safari trips’, that these are general tips that should apply to most situations. Having said that, my experience is just with a driving safari and some of my tips relate to this specifically.