Packing for a “Luxury” African Safari

One of my readers asked me what did I pack for an 18-day African Safari, which had a luggage size & weight restriction (soft-side, no-wheel, medium canvas duffle – combined with carry-on max weight 33 lbs).  First off, I can say most (but not all) of our fellow travelers ignored the size and weight information without any added fees/downside. However, here’s some tips on what to pack, and what not to pack, if you’re thinking of a long trip of this sort (third world, wilderness safari, limited luggage, high end accommodations).

Things you might not think of that really came in handy: a small flashlight; an extension cord multi-plug strip (many places only had charging stations in the main lounge – everyone fighting for a few plugs made our US multi-plug power strip popular); tissue or toilet paper (many places, including “bush stops” don’t have it – I carried mine in a small zip-lock bag to make bush stops a leave-nothing-behind experience); a non-electric alarm (many on our trip had at least one morning of no wake up “call” which starts the morning off on the wrong foot; of course, the good wake up call in tent camps came with fresh coffee); cash in small un-damaged bills (ones and fives; the local markets all took US dollars but not worn ones; no-one gave “change”); a camping clothes-line (I did use the laundry services for shirts and pants a couple of times – it was hot and dusty and the laundry charges were small, but washed my own underthings out in the sink & hung to dry overnight); small collapsible tote (we ended up using it for a number of different things); duct tape (another traveller needed this to fix a luggage disaster and it took awhile to locate some).

Standard fare for a trip: camera, charger, extra battery, electric converter, good pair of binoculars, security pouch, travel documents (confirmation numbers, emergency phone numbers, copy of passports/visas/credit cads; I put a copy of the itinerary in each of our bags); small day pack (to hold the camera, binoculars, pullover, scarf).

A limited amount of Clothing: 2 lightweight, long-sleeved camp shirts; 4 quick-dry, short-sleeved T-shirts; 3 lightweight zip-off hiking pants (the kind that convert to shorts); 2 fleece/pullovers; 4 pair breathable socks; 4 hand-wash (quick dry) underwear; 3 sports bras (essential for bumpy roads!); 1 pair of good walking shoes/trail runners (not hiking boots)/1 pair running shoes or keens/tevas/1 pair flip flops. On safari they recommend all clothes to be in the infamous khaki or olive color; I added in some lilac & peach color. And travel wearing one piece of each item!

Additional Clothing: Wide-brimmed hat with strap (essential!); 2-3 Buff/bandanas (dust control, also essential); 1 pair sleeping clothes; 1 pair gloves; 1 rain jacket/all weather jacket; bathing suit; minimum jewelry (buy something local; leave home the good stuff). My bald hubby added a warm hat – good on cool mornings.

Other essentials: 2 pair reading glasses; 2 pair sun glasses; small bottle sun protection lotion; hand sanitizer/wet wipes; insect repellant (we pre-treated our clothes as well and I do think it helped); a small toiletries kit (deodorant, lip balm, razor/shave cream, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, nail clippers, nail file, emery board, tweezers, small scissor, Q-tips, minimal cosmetics); a small first aid kit (ours had band-aids; an elastic wrap; anti-diarrhea pills; topical cortisone cream; anti-biotic ointment; ibuprofen; allergy medicine; sore throat lozenges); even smaller day-kit to carry (mine had 2-3 hand sanitizer wipes, 2 bug repellent wipes, ibuprofen, Pepto, Bandaids, tissues, emery board, extra hair ties). Yes, I used almost everything in our kits over the 3 weeks, either for myself or for a fellow traveller.

Things I liked having: Safari wildlife book, journal + pen (helped me to capture what I experienced each day); a lightweight pashmina/scarf (mine was cotton and it served as both warmth and color).

Things I didn’t need (and wished had not taken up space/weight): Reading books (There was very little downtime and when there was, I napped!); Soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, washcloth (All the places we stayed were well supplied); extra toothbrushes (was warned about potential of rinsing toothbrush in sink forgetfully…but I put bottled water at sink handle and never an issue); SPF body lotion (I was covered 95% of the time and only needed face product); water bottle (every location provided complimentary bottled water in the rooms, and it was widely sold as well; too many airport security checks these days to try & carry water onto the plane!). When you are limited on space/weight, leave behind these things for souvenir buying space/weight!

Don’t forget your daily medicines and Malaria prophylaxis.

If you’re planning a village visit, bring pens/pencils/notepads for village children. One woman brought nail polish for the village women and another brought ball caps for the village men (yes, she was one which disregarded weight/size limits)!

A few folks planned their “leave behinds”. One woman gave away a shirt every time she bought a new one; another left her well-stocked first aid kit on the last day. We gave our extension power cord to a camp towards the end of the trip.


Yes, I survived for 20 days (trip plus travel days) on that limited amount of items, which seems like a huge list but all easily fit into the medium sized duffle.  And it felt good to be able to carry my own luggage (if I needed to).  And nobody noticed I was wearing the same clothes multiple days.


Picture Credit:  Me!  Serengeti, 2017

7 thoughts on “Packing for a “Luxury” African Safari

  1. Great list, Pat! I must admit that I’m a bit jealous of the amount of clothes/items that you could fit within your bag weight limit. On my current trip (Camino) the only clothes that I have are what I’m wearing and what I’m washing. I now understand why so many people burn their clothes at the end of this trek!
    PS – Thank you again for guest hosting on my site. Your post was very popular!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Donna, I’m sorry, but the more you tell me about the Camino, the less I want to do it. I know, everybody has different likes/dislikes. I’m glad it’s giving you what you like/need. And I’m enjoying your enjoyment of it! Looking forward to the next update.


  2. Great information – not only for a trip to Africa, but other destinations as well. I’ll capture a few of your ideas for my own travels.

    It drives me nuts when my husband and I are so careful (verging on paranoia) packing per instructions, and we see others not pay any attention, going way over size and weight, and not have any issues at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I so appreciate your detailed list of things to bring and not to…very practical…I could easily take a page out of your book on these things just for a short weekend, or camping. I always pack too much! Just this weekend, I brought too much, but the clothing I brought for beachwear was a waste, since we ended up not going! At least it packs small, but still!

    Liked by 1 person

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