You are going on a safari to Zimbabwe and you cannot overpack due to the constraints of small plane or long overland travel. However, at the same time, you don't want to ruin your experience by just not having the right kit to get the most out of your African adventure.
If you were going on a safari over a century ago packing would have been far more arduous than it is today. In one of the earliest recorded safaris, William Cornwallis Harris set the tone by rising at first light, spending the day walking and observing, recording and hunting animals and the bush; broken by an afternoon siesta on your camp bed and finishing with a formal dinner (for which one should dress) followed by the telling of stories around a campfire.
In William's day you would have been attended by porters and servants to assist with carrying all the luggage and the huge job of setting up camp at the end of the day. You would have needed trunk loads of items and the whole event would take months. The sundowner cocktails alone would take up an entire trunk and of course would include the crystal decanters and matching glasses!
William Cornwallis Harris courtesy of Wikipedia images
Luckily, these days, a reputable safari operator will provide you with everything you need to make your time in the African bush comfortable, without losing any of that special African atmosphere or, hopefully, any of the authenticity that comes with spending time in the timelessness of the bush. This leaves you to focus on filling your luggage with the items that you need just for you. If you are one of the more experienced modern explorers you might even be the type to minimise airport time and effort by restricting your luggage to a carry on.
A chalet at Chishakwe River Camp. All the ambience of an old style safari and none of the hassle.
For your convenience and comfort on your special Safari to Zimbabwe we have created a list of items not to leave behind:
A wide brimmed hat which has some ventilation to allow for some air movement. It is not just your forehead and your nose you want out of the sun, it is also your neck and your ears. On a hot day you will be grateful for the additional shade of a hat keeping the sun off your head.
Sunblock. Your hat won't cover everywhere and you might not always be wearing it. If you are out on a vehicle or walking you can still get burnt, even in winter when skies are typically big and blue.
Insect repellant. Mosquitoes and other biting insects can really spoil an otherwise lovely evening. A late afternoon application of repellant to exposed areas on skin will save you from bug harassment. If you are going to an area where it is known that there is malaria you may want to take advice from your doctor on anti malarial prophylactics.
Comfortable walking shoes. If you are going on game walks it is likely you will be covering some fairly rough terrain and might be out for a few hours at a time. Closed shoes are essential as are comfortable feet.
Socks are just as important as shoes. Thick wooly socks or socks that extend up your legs are not ideal. Both will provide a trap for seeds and burrs which will soon become itchy and uncomfortable against your skin. Lighter, wicking fabric socks that fit inside your shoe or boot are preferable.
Clothing in muted, mid tone colours will help you to be less visible to animals in the bush. Remember that it is likely to be hot at least during some parts of the day so it is best to keep day time clothing reasonably light and cool to wear. Most safari outfitters offer a laundry service so there is no need to bring a clean set of clothes for each day you are on safari.
Early mornings, especially just before the sun rises, and evenings may be quite cool so you may find you want an extra layer of clothing for these times - especially if you are on the back of a game drive vehicle as is often the case at these times of day. We suggest a fleece jacket which can be bundled into the bottom of your day pack until next needed to be the most practical idea.
Speaking of which: A day pack or small ruck sack will be useful for comfortably carrying a few items with you on a drive or walk.
Long trousers to wear in the evenings are an excellent idea, not just because they are a littler warmer, but also because they offer additional protection against mosquitoes.
Without any ambient light the African bush can be very dark at night. It is a good idea to have a small but bright torch with you to guide you from you tent or chalet to the communal areas or back to your room after a night drive. Modern LED torches offer impressively bright light for their size and weight.
With these ten items in your trusty cabin baggage you are good to go on safari. However, there are a few other nice to have items that we would suggest. Although not essential per say, their presence is certainly likely to enhance your safari experience.
Binoculars are a wonderful way of establishing whether what you think is a sitting lion is in fact a sitting lion or whether it is just an interestingly lit ant hill.
A camera to take a picture of the lion, once you are sure that is what it is, will preserve the moment forever. Most cell phone cameras are not good enough to get good shots unless you are really (unadvisedly) close to the lion.
Good reference books or apps on animals, birds or trees mean that you can look up what you have seen and find out more about them. It is also fun to have a notebook and pen to start creating your own personal reference list or journal ... if you are one of those arty people you could add a sketch or two.