What to Pack for South Africa

Jul 21st, 2018, 10:51 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2006
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What to Pack for South Africa

We are going to South Africa in September we will be in Denali Park, Vic Falls, Capetown, Botswna...not in that order. My husband is doing the itinerary but I would like to start ordering the clothing I might need.

I'm told it's cold in the morning in Sept and warms up to the 80's in the daytime. I'm looking for suggestions on types of clothing or gear we might need. Like, do we need hats with netting ? Why kind of shoes would be appropriate. We will be on safari's so I'm not sure how much walking will be involved.

Any tips people can give me will be greatly appreciated. I'm sure people have come accross items they were glad they had with them and other items they wished they had thought of.

Thank You in advance for any help or advice.

TheVagabondLady is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2018, 09:14 AM
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Hat with chin strap. No netting needed. I wear jeans on game drives, and black pants at night in CapeTown. I've worn closed shoes/sneakers, and sandals. Feet can get dirty in sandals. Yes, bring fuzzy/microfiber, or other jacket for early morning and after-dark game drives. And maybe a warm knit hat for the same times. I never needed gloves in September. Do not overpack. You do not need any special "safari" type clothing although many foreigners wear those. Experienced safari goers often just wear jeans and t-shirts in muted colors; I asked guides about this many times and that was their answer, too. Upscale lodges wash your clothing for you in those countries. Where are you staying? I have a paragraph here in this report about packing:

<Here is a bit more information, on packing, aimed mostly at first-time visitors to the region, or first-time safari-goers.

A word on packing, from a serial over-packer:

On my last, month-long, trip to southern Africa, the combination of bringing “too much stuff,” and the strict weight restrictions of the small planes that service the safari camps, combined to force me to check a suitcase in the storage area of OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg. Due to the inconvenience, and to the fairly shady, or at least mixed, reputation of this facility, I was determined to fit everything into my large L.L. Bean canvas duffel bag, plus small carry-on backpack and rather large handbag. (My partner also took one, smaller duffel, and one wheeled, Eagle Creek carry on bag; I did manage to sneak a few purchases into his bags as the trip progressed; I also again mailed home a(n) expensive package of purchases from PostNet in Cape Town)

I cannot remember exactly what I brought along, but I do remember that is was FAR TOO MUCH!! Having two pair of shoes, one pair of lace-ups and one pair sandals, plus a pair of flip flops/thongs, was perfect, although I know realize what veteran safari-goers already know: Sandals are not ideal footwear on game drives.

Where I went wrong was in bringing 4 pair of pants: Two pair of jeans, one black (intended for evenings in Cape Town but not absolutuely necessary, and one gray, which was heavily in rotation). One other pairi of pants, and one pair black leggings, never worn. Because mercifully, I had lost weight since my last trip, I left my zip-off “safari” pants (which have never, ever been zipped off) at home and brought a new pair of “safari” pants which rolled up to calf length. I also brought about 5 short sleeved t-shirts, one “nice” white shirt that I planned to wear at night on safari but which remained snug in my bag for the entire trip, and 2 long-sleeved black t-shirts (why two??) and a pair of shorts for lounging in the room. Too much, considering that both our camps included daily laundry service in their all-inclusive price.

I brought one “nice” cotton jacket, which I rarely wore. Brought one microfiber black, zippered jacket from L.L. Bean, which I wore a lot. My khaki Tilley hat, which tied snug under the chin, was also heavily used.

However, I did not take the advice so generously offered here to bring a wool scarf, gloves, and a warm hat for cold mornings and evenings. (see last part of planning thread, also linked above:


Not only that, I did NOT have a heavy, or even medium-weight jacket.

And so I was very, very cold-- no--I was freezing, during the first part of the morning drives and the last part of the evening drives. (Vehicles did have blankets, and at Tswalu they supplied hot water bottles. Even so, it was cold in mid-October, in both the Sabi Sands and at Tswalu.

Lodge gift shops do sell some of the items that I had neglected to bring (I bought a fuzzy hat at Tswalu, and both Tswalu and Londolozi sold jackets, hats, gloves, and fleeces) but there is no guarantee that you will like these, or that your size will be in stock. And they are expensive, as compared with the prices at, for example, Cape Union Mart, the chain of camping and outdoor apparel and accessories with a convenient-for-tourists branch in Cape Town at The Waterfront. (My partner's one purchase of the trip was a 90 ZAR baseball cap emblazoned with the Big 5 from Cape Union Mart. He prizes it very highly and was distraught when it blew off his head during a nighttime game drive at Tswalu. (My Tilley hat, which tied under the chin, remained firmly in place even during the bumpiest and fastest off-road drives) Thankfully our diligent ranger, Kyle, and tracker David, were able to recover the hat after repeated, spotlit drives back and forth along the track in the Land Rover)

Apart from all that, aimed for first-time safari-goers, I will also offer this thought: Most of the other guests at our two lodges were veterans, and many had been to a dozen or more camps in various regions of Africa. Almost NONE of these lovely people were kitted out in ensembles of khaki safari gear--zip-off pants, Buzz-Off insect proof shirts, etc etc. (I did see a few cameras whose long lenses were shrouded in camoflauge, though)

What did they wear? Most of them (almost all Europeans apart from a couple from Johannesburg who were at Londolozi for the wedding of one of the Varty daughters, and one couple--he originally from Zimbabwe; she of French/Phillipine heritage, both now living in Singapore--who shared our vehicle for two days of drives, also at Londolozi) sported jeans, t-shirts in sober colors, regular sneakers/trainers with socks, and headgear that included quite a few baseball-type brimmed caps.

There was one khaki-encased older woman, a travel agent from Florida, and one of the few Americans we encountered, who had obviously done a lot of hunting of Africana souvenirs--her sneakers dangled furry animals from the laces and her tote bag sported other furry mammals, porcupine quill earrings festooned her ears and beaded Masai and faux elephant hair bracelets her wrists. Her logo-stamped clothing attested to the other camps she had visited. She looked faintly ridiculous. To me.

Apart from observing my fellow, more experienced, guests, I asked rangers, camp staff, and assorted South Africans and the consensus was: “When we go on safari ourselves, we wear jeans, comfortable tops and, often, baseball caps.”
I will remember this for next time! Just make sure to leave the bright reds and chartreuses behind.

As for Cape Town, the city is casual with a capital “C.” I could probably count the number of men I saw in suits on one hand (these seemed to be business travelers staying at the Mt. Nelson; we certainly saw no one wearing a suit and tie in any of the excellent restaurants we visited.) I wore black jeans almost every night in Cape Town, and my partner wore cotton trousers in a neutral color. Blue jeans would have been fine as well, as long as the ensemble was well-fitting, neat and clean and paired with footwear other than beach shoes. The general style of dress was much more relaxed than in our home city, New York, and more akin, I suppose, to California.>

Glorious Return to South Africa--Two Weeks in October
ekscrunchy is offline  
Aug 5th, 2018, 01:17 PM
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A windbreaker type jacket works well over light shirt or a fleece in the safari truck.
Kay2 is offline  
Aug 8th, 2018, 12:21 PM
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Thank you for your advice. I will make sure I bring something warm for the mornings. I am always cold anyway even here in Florida
TheVagabondLady is offline  
Aug 8th, 2018, 12:22 PM
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Thank You for your reply and I will heed your advice.
TheVagabondLady is offline  
Aug 8th, 2018, 12:26 PM
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OK, I am now getting ready to do the pre-packing stage. We leave Sept 8th and return Sept. 23rd

I was wondering about camera stuff. I have a Nikon D3200 and it has a Tamron 16 - 300 lens...Is this sufficient ? Do I need a better or longer lens ?
TheVagabondLady is offline  
Aug 27th, 2019, 12:40 AM
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Oh, don't forget to pack insect repellant, those buggers can drive you over the edge
Valkaryie is offline  
Aug 31st, 2019, 06:23 AM
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Thanks - I'm packing as we leave on Tuesday. Perfect timing.
We are restricted to 44# which is fine but the bag has to be specifically 11.8 wide 13.8 tall and 27.5 long - now finding that was a pain.
I know having less in the long run will make things much easier, but trying to put it all together is a pain
Thanks for the advice.
Kkimkim is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2019, 01:48 AM
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Clothing advice for Africa!

As far as I know Denali Park is in Alaska with Mount Mackinnon. So can't give you any info on that.
September it a changeable time as far a weather is concerned. I would suggest layers so summer clothing with a puff jacket and slip slop or walking shoes depending what you are dong. Slacks and T-shirts with sport shoes in Cape town. There is no need to buy clothing unless you don't have a puffer jacket. Normal clothing is fine, if you are on a game drive just wear neutral colours such as beige brown black and navy and not white. So basically you will need Summer clothing as you are not aclimatised to our heat and only Cape Town have 4 season in a day. Morinngs in the north can be chilly but summer clothing is the order of the day. And don't forget to take something a bit smarter if you want to treat yourselves to a fancy restaurant -Chinos for men are great with nice lounge shirt and a dress or slax and blouse. Sandals.. A hat is great and buy an insect repellent when you get over here. Tabard Cream is the bestand not unpleasant..
Hope this helps and show that you don't need to buy anything different. Regards Sue

Last edited by Moderator3; Sep 2nd, 2019 at 05:00 AM. Reason: Remove name of company
Sue_25 is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2019, 10:56 PM
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Take an umbrella, it can be rainy in Cape Town. I donít remember it getting into the 80s during the day, maybe 70s is more likely but yes quite cold in the mornings & evenings.
Odin is offline  
Sep 5th, 2019, 07:42 AM
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If you have time, bring a back up camera such as a superzoom bridge camera like a Canon PowerShot SX60 HS. The dust on Safaris can play havoc with digital cameras. Our guide wraps hers in a buff.

Even though mine was wrapped up, it died on Day 4, as I was taking photos of a hippo. Had an ancient P&S that had to do for the remaining 6 days.
mlgb is offline  
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