Are you planning to go on a safari in Africa? There are a few essentials you should pack to make the best out of your Africa adventure, from gadgets to clothing and electronics. In this blog Kim Paffen, a professional photographer and Traveltomtom team member sums up the first things she puts in her bag when going on a safari in Africa.
1. Outdoor Binocular
To me a must-have for safari in Africa! A good binocular allows you to maximize your chance of spotting animals, even when they hide in thick bushes. It’s also impressive to admire details of an animal with a binocular, like for example the texture of the skin.
For safaris and other wildlife viewings, a binocular with a magnification of 8 or 10 is recommended. Animals will look eight or ten times closer to you than they actually are. Other important specifications for a binocular are the objective lens diameter, the amount of light that enters the binoculars, and the FoV, which refers to the amount of view you see through your scope from right to left at that distance (expressed in degrees).
When on safari, I personally use the lightweight Celestron TrailSeeker ED 10x42mm which features 10x magnification, a wide field, and a durable magnesium alloy frame that is light in weight and fully waterproof. These binoculars got high marks for sharpness, and that’s very important to me. The colors are vibrant and bright, the close-range focus is excellent, and I’m very happy with the wide FoV. Sometimes I still have some difficulty with identification of birds at a very far distance.
For spotting mammals at a distance or for birding, in particular, spotting scopes with a 20x to 60x magnification should be worth the effort, but that’s more interesting for trackers and keen birders. African savannas are so wide and stretched. It is simply not possible to spot everything.
The premium-quality Celestron TrailSeeker ED 10x42mm binocular certainly fits the bill. It is often recommended in lists of top mid range binoculars. In my opinion, it’s a perfect choice for safari, avid birders, and outdoor enthusiasts. I got mine at Ganymedes and you can also find the Celestron Trailseeker binocular on Amazon.
2. Ruggedwear Safari clothing
Appropriate clothing is necessary on safari to adapt to the changing weather and the environmental conditions in Africa like dust, heat, cold, moisture, and insects. Apart from that, it’s important to protect yourself from sunburn and to stay as unseen as possible to avoid animals reacting to you. A good hat, comfortable (layered) clothes, and a raincoat are also essential to bring on a safari!
There is a safari clothing rule of thumb that says: ‘Dress in layers for all activities & wear shades of the African bush - khaki, browns, and green’. Leave camouflage, white, pale, blue, and black-colored clothing at home.
Generally speaking, safari clothes need to be comfortable, practical, lightweight, and durable. Practical means, it offers sun and anti-insect protection, dries quickly, wicks moisture away from the skin, and doesn’t wrinkle fast. Clothes with these elements will last longer, which means you will be able to wear the same clothing for longer, and you can pack lighter.
Appropriate safari clothes can be expensive. Especially for women, it’s sometimes hard to find fitted clothing as the safari clothes are often focused on men.
Women should definitely check out RUGGEDWEAR’s Tayla Jane Range for women, inspired by Tayla McCurdy, safari guide and wildlife presenter. The clothes are super comfortable, breathable, quick-dry, and stylish. Although I had some issues finding the right fitted sizes regarding the shorts and trousers that came in too big, I loved wearing the blouses and jacket on our safari trip.
I fell in love with the high quality! I especially loved the Ripstop Mushika short sleeve, the Chakwenga long sleeve shirts and my favorite of all: the Karula Parka Jacket with an inside fleece adding extra warmth.
Because of the breathable material, I could wear the blouses several days in a row without causing an unpleasant smell. The clothes don’t need ironing after washing, and dirt like mud can be removed easily. I would highly recommend buying safari clothes from the South African brand RUGGEDWEAR. Lady’s should look into the Tayla Jane range.
For shipping outside of South Africa, have a look at Kendrick Imports. They ship brands like RuggedWear, Tayla Jane Range, Veldskoen, Sorai, Rogue Hats and more.
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3. Veldskoen Shoes
To complete your safari outfit, it is recommended to bring a good pair of shoes. Your specific type of safari can influence the type of shoe that fulfills your need. Are you going on game drive safaris, or does your trip include walking safaris? For example, If you’ll be walking in muddy forest conditions and dusty terrain, you require stable shoes that provide grip while for game drives, lightweight trail shoes will do. If you are in an area with lots of insects and reptiles, a higher rise boot is probably a good idea. Insects are the reason I prefer to wear closed shoes.
My favorite safari shoes are the Authentic South African Veldskoen boots. Veldskoen offers handcrafted, stable, urban shoes that are comfortable, durable, yet stylish. These shoes are often worn by local field guides.
Save the rhino with Sorai Veldskoen
I have one pair of urban Chelsea boots made of split suede in a beige/sand color and a rubber sole and one pair of the handmade SORAI VELDSKOEN, a luxury, handmade nubuck shoe.
The SORAI shoe is a special edition of which the profits will be donated to the Kariega Foundation’s ‘Walks With Us’ campaign, to maintain the Anti-Poaching Unit (APU). SORAI stands for ‘Save Our Rhino Africa India’.
Each Veldskoen is handmade and stitched in South Africa. This means attention and individual care are given to every shoe. I am very impressed by the quality of the leather and the dirt resistance. The leather of the shoes is also a natural deodorizer, you can even wear them without socks.
Choosing a Veldskoen means comfort and style, you will be ready for your safari! What I love about the brand is that the shoes are locally sourced and made! South Africa has an unemployment rate of over 30% and therefore it’s important to help support the local people and economy.
4. WakaWaka premium solar products
Reliable energy sources can be challenging in Africa. Most of the technology that's useful on a safari, like mobile phones and cameras, require frequent charging. Instead of bringing an electrical adaptor, it’s good to consider a solar charger. The sun is our world’s greatest natural energy source, and in Africa, it is relatively easy to make use of the sun for energy. It’s also better for the environment.
When on safari, I use several WakaWaka solar products, like the WakaWaka Solar Panel combined with the Power 10. It’s their most powerful foldable solar panel and power bank-combination. With this combination, you can charge up to five electronic devices at once.
Based on optimal sun conditions, you can charge your phone up to 5 times or your smartwatch up to 25 times with the WakaWaka Power 10. The Power 10 itself can be fully charged with the solar panel in 10 hours from the grid or in 6-12 hours in the sun.
I also use the WakaWaka Power+, which is a durable, lightweight, and compact solar charger. It is capable of charging any type of small electronic device, like a smartphone, within just a few hours, and it provides up to 150 hours of sustainable light.
Apart from your own satisfaction, you also help other people in need by purchasing the high-quality products of WakaWaka. Every time you buy a WakaWaka product, you support giving a solar light to someone without electricity access. In 2020, WakaWaka won the Energy Globe Award because of their efforts in developing an innovative model in the form of Solar Libraries in Rwanda, Africa. You can also support the WakaWaka Foundation, which focuses on providing safe, sustainable, and self-sufficient energy and light solutions to people living in extreme poverty, in remote regions, or who are forced to leave their homes because of war, natural disaster or other reasons.
5. Camera Gear
To capture some amazing photos of the incredible wildlife and scenery you’re about to encounter, good camera gear is essential. I would always advise bringing a DSLR, a digital single-lens reflex camera, with an interchangeable zoom lens on safari.
The best lenses for wildlife photography are in the range of 200-400 mm. For landscape shots, you could bring a wide-angle lens in the range of 24-100 mm.
A DSLR camera will allow you to use manual settings, adapting them to the external situation like the light and the distance to the subject. You can have the most expensive camera gear, but it’s far more important to know how to use your camera. Capturing good images is more about thinking carefully about composition and using the techniques of your camera, than spending lots of money on your gear. If you don’t know how to use your camera and don’t want to spend the time learning the use of a camera, it may be more interesting to bring a pocket camera and just enjoy your sightings.
If you bring a camera, make sure you have several batteries and a charger, so you don’t run out of power. Finally, bring lots of memory cards, you will be surprised how many photos you will take on a safari in Africa.
Ready for your safari!
With the products mentioned above, you will be more than ready for your safari adventure! Drop me a message at my Instagram @ourplanetinmylens if you have any questions related to safari in Africa or what to pack. I’m happy to help.
This article is written by travel photographer Kim Paffen, part of the Traveltomtom team. She also wrote amazing Africa articles about Uganda, Madagascar, and South Africa.
Have a wonderful safari!