Whether you’re heading to the northern bush of South Africa, Damaraland of Namibia or Chobe, Botswana, the landscapes, climate and temperates will vary greatly also depending on the season you visit in.
One thing most of these safari territory places will have in common is that peak season will generally fall within their dry, winter season between May and October. Without the rains, animal sightings are usually quite abundant as the animals gather in certain spots around waterholes to drink and find food in the areas which are more lush.
More often than not temperatures will drop rather drastically and produce cold or icy nights with warm or sometimes hot days so it’s always a good idea to come prepared for two very different climates everyday.
Here’s an idea of what to pack when coming on a Southern Africa safari:
The African sun is harsh and even on hot cloudy days it is advised that you wear sunblock. If you have sensitive skin, do not wear less than factor 50. Ensure you have a wide-brim hat, sunglasses, light, cotton clothing to cover up with on long game drives or bush walks.
The temperature is known to drop rather drastically in most bush veld regions as soon as the sun sets or even on cold winter days. So come prepared with a wind breaker, a rain mac, a fleece-lined jacket/sweater and thick warm trousers, thick socks and trail shoes to keep out the cold on early morning game drives and sitting around the fire at night. Many safari lodges will keep thick blankets in the game vehicle for extra warmth, but I have found that beanies, scarves and even gloves will go a long way to keep the very cold cosy on an open-air game vehicle.
Even if it’s not a malaria-area, there may still be mosquitoes. Decrease your chances of getting bitten by mosquitoes and any bugs by covering your arms and legs ( especially at dawn and dusk) with light, cotton clothing that allows you to keep cool and cover up.
For game drives, you want to avoid stark white, bright colours and stick to a neutral palette when out in the bush. You want to remain as inconspicuous as possible to the animals. This is their natural habitat which are you visiting, to blend in as much as possible try stick to more neutral, earthy colours.
Make sure you bring walking shoes and sturdy pair of trail shoes for any bush walks, hikes and also to keep warm on game drives. For the hot days , ensure you have sandals to keep cool in and to wear around your lodge.
Be mindful that many game reserves through Southern Africa especially in Namibia, Bostwana, Zimbabwe and Zambia will be quite far off the grid, far away from towns, shops, pharmacies and doctors. So make sure you bring enough of your own prescription medication to last the entire trip including the main necessities of headache tablets, medication for diarrhea, topical antibiotic ( for cuts, bites, sores) and colds/flu. If you forgot make sure you stock up in the big towns and cities before heading to the bush.
Malaria and other vaccines.
Consult your travel clinic doctor as well as the lodge you’ll be staying at for the malaria requirements. These may also vary depending on the time of year you visit a country. For the most part, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe will always require you to take malaria prophylaxis before visiting. Medical professionals often discourage children younger than five to visit malaria areas so be sure to seek advice from your child’s paediatrician on the best course of medication if you do decide to visit one of these countries with your child.
Bite presentation is always a good way to go along with suggested Malaria Prophylaxis as the medication doesn’t guarantee 100% that you can’t contract it. So along with long-sleeved light clothing, wear mosquito repellent with deet in it. Add extra protection by spraying your mosquito nets with repellent and use spray specifically for clothing.
Your local travel clinic in your country will also best advise you on the necessary vaccines to take for each country, depending on the time of year, your location within a country and/or proximity to water rich areas.
You don’t want to find yourself on a game drive without a decent camera, binoculars and even a camera/device that you can video short clips with. Not everyone is a professional photographer, but find a camera that is both easy for you to use and allows sufficient zooming for the animals in the distance.
Most smartphones have great quality cameras but in the bush, their zoom capability will not cut it so make sure you bring a basic camera that can assist you with you and allow you to capture the incredible sightings and memories.