Prior to my trip to Africa, I had pretty much zero idea what to expect — about anything. The food. The people. The weather. The accommodations. The clothes. I mean, it took me nearly five years to discover that there were specific shorts made to reduce thigh chafing in runners. So really, it’s not all that surprising that I struggled with attire with just a week to go before my trip.
That’s why when someone mentioned that it’d be a good idea to outline a few of the do’s and don’t’s of safari-ing, I thought to myself — that’s a horrible idea! I know nothing about going on a safari, especially having been in the bush for just seven days.
But then it dawned on me. The entire concept behind this blog is based around being an “expert novice.” Like I’ve said a billion times before, after seven/eight years of running almost daily, I truly consider myself an expert novice runner. So after seven days in a Range Rover, I’m definitely an expert novice ranger, right? Something like that. Anyway, all I can say is you can probably take my advice on packing, but if I mention anything about “how to respond to a lion” or “how to treat malaria,” you might want to turn a deaf ear.
The following 20 items are ones that you definitely want to pack with you if you’re planning to go on a safari. (*Word to the wise: Check the weather first. I went in the spring, and so my trip required long pants and sweatshirts.) And for all you runner and fitness folk out there, rest easy knowing that you’re in good shape already just by loving sneakers and elastic waistbands. It’s practically the dress code.
This will come in particularly handy if the power goes out in your hut and you have no way to contact your security guard to walk you from your room to the main lodge. Bottom line, don’t walk around the African bush at night without a flashlight. There could be lions lurking.
(There could be a cheetah back there, and you WOULDN’T EVEN KNOW!)
This is basically all I wore.
3. Another pair of sneakers
There’s a good chance one pair gets wet or covered in mud. Always have a back up.
4. Real sunglasses
Sorry, kids. Gucci ain’t gonna cut it in the bush. Get yourselves a real pair of sunglasses that block UV rays and provide protection. I’m a big fan of the Oakley Frogskins — I wear them while running.
(You should probably wear them to actually block the sun, but those flashy boys on my head are the Oakleys.)
And lots of it! Even in the spring, I got a lot of color.
6. Bug spray
And lots of it! Newsflash: There are bugs in Africa.
7. Sweatshirt or scarf
Once the sun goes down, it can actually get a little chilly. For a spring trip, I brought a light sweatshirt and purchased a scarf while there.
8. A GOOD camera.
While in some areas, animals will walk right next to your vehicle as though you’re not there at all, it depends on their habituation, and many will definitely keep their distance. For the best photographs, invest in a camera and, if you want to go all out, a cool lens.
9. And an extra memory card
Or a really big one. I took 1,000+ photos. Everything in Africa is photogenic.
10. Safari pants
Don’t know what these are? Neither did I. Just go to your local sporting goods store (I went to REI in SOHO) and ask. I found an awesome pair by the yoga brand Prana that were not only comfy and fit well, but they can totally be worn on a hike right here at home. They’re kind of cute! Some pants zip off and turn into shorts if you prefer.
I didn’t bring this, but there were definitely days that I wished I had something to cover my face, even if only for a few minutes.
12. Rain jacket
Freak, random storms aren’t unheard of. We got caught in one, and it was both beautiful and terrifying.
13. More socks than you think you need
A lot of these places have laundry, but just beware that you’ll be going through socks quickly and often.
14. More underwear than you think you need
See above explanation about socks.
You know, in case you want to use the gym. That, of course, depends on whether your accommodations include a gym, but if nothing else, you’ll want them for the flight.
(Accommodations, or, workout-in-a-bag.)
16. A good book
Because of the unique safari schedule, you’ll likely have a ton of downtime during the day. The first drive starts at 5:30AM, and you’re usually back around 9:30. You’ll need something to do until your evening drive at 3:30PM or so, so bring something to read. Or nap.
17. TUMS / anti-tummy ache (nice way of saying diarreah) medication
Most places have filtered water and, as I did, there is bottle water aplenty. That said, traveling unknowns include mysterious stomach issues. Just be aware and be prepared.
18. Any pills you need to avoid mosquito diseases, like malaria
This will depend on where you’re traveling. I was in a malaria zone, and so I was put on malarone. Your doctor will be able to help with this one.
19. No jewelry
It’s just too risky. Leave all your bling at home. It’s a great excuse to buy something cute and non-fancy while you’re there too.
20. Sports bras
This was probably the best part of my trip. For nine days straight, I didn’t put on a real bra — sports bras only. And it was glorious.
And while we’re at it, here are a few items I didn’t need (that I packed anyway)…
1. Nice sandals
When I wasn’t wearing sneakers, I wore flip flops or TOMS. If you’re staying in the city, you’ll need nicer shoes — but I didn’t, so that was a waste.
2. Nice shirts
3. A real bra
Definitely didn’t need that.