NADIA SAYS: After all my years of leading tours to Southern and East Africa, I have come to realize just how important it is to ensure you are suitably prepared (well in advance) for your African adventure. Below is some essential and useful information, which I think is worth taking into consideration during the early planning stages and prior to departure on any trip to Africa. Not all the info below is relevant to your particular trip – use this only as a guideline when planning your African Safari. Insurance is very important as is a valid Passport and visas, where necessary.

INSURANCE – We strongly recommend that you purchase insurance to cover baggage loss, accident and trip cancellation and medical as well as medical evacuation insurance. For the most part, trip cancellation insurance will reimburse you for non-refundable air and land expenses should you have to cancel due to family illness, as well as cover any emergency evacuation expenses should you become ill during a trip. You may purchase coverage from your tour agent, or directly from insurance companies such as Travelex Insurance Services or Travel Guard International.

A valid PASSPORT is required for your trip; be sure to check the expiration date. It is a good idea to carry a photocopy of the photo page and the entry stamp page of your passport as an additional piece of identification.

CLOTHING ON SAFARIS – On safari most people wear safari pants or shorts and a T-shirt during the day, changing in the evening to a long-sleeved shirt and perhaps a change of pants for warmth as well as protection from mosquitoes. If you are particularly sensitive to the sun, a hat, long pants and a loose cotton shirt is essential during the day. Remember that layering your clothing will keep you warmer than relying on one thick item.

PACKING LIST (suggested) –
  • 2 pairs khaki cotton pants
  • 1 pair jeans or casual pants
  • 2 pairs sturdy ‘long’ shorts
  • 1 skirt or dress slacks for hotel evenings (optional)
  • 2 or 3 long-sleeved shirts, for sun protection as well as warmth
  • 1 sweater or sweatshirt
  • 1 lightweight, waterproof windbreaker
  • 1 pair sturdy walking shoes or running shoes
  • 1 pair sandals or rubber thongs (for showers and boats)
  • 3 – 4 short-sleeved or T-shirts
  • 4 – 5 pairs of socks
  • A swimsuit
  • 2 bandannas or handkerchiefs (many uses!)
  • 1 hat with a brim (baseball caps cover your nose but not your ears)
Equipment Suggestions:
  • Plastic water bottle
  • Good-quality sunglasses plus protective case
  • Pocket knife (must be in checked luggage on all flights)
  • Flashlight with spare batteries; head lamps leave your hands free
  • Handy-wipes
  • Zip-lock-style plastic bags
  • Repair kit: needle and thread, nylon cord, duct tape
  • Personal first-aid kit
Additional Items:
  • Camera and film
  • Binoculars
  • Paperback reading and writing material (but try keep weight at a minimum)
  • Money belt
Additional equipment for July – September departures:
  • Extra sweater
  • Long underwear or warm flannel nightclothes
  • Wool gloves and a woolen hat (if you really feel the cold)
  • Down vest or jacket (if you really feel the cold)

Strongly recommend a small kit for personal use. Your own experience and preferences will influence your choices.

If you take prescription medicines, bring a supply for your entire trip, as these are often not available on safari.

Strongly recommended:
  • Aspirin or Tylenol for mild pain or headache
  • Imodium for diarrhea
  • Topical antibiotic (e.g. Neosporin), for cuts, bites or sores
  • Insect repellent. The principal active ingredient is N, N-Diethyl-Metatoluamide (DEET), an effective repellent will have 75% content or higher. Liquid drops are best for skin application unless your skin is sensitive, sprays may be taken for clothes. Trip leaders recommend Avon’s ‘Skin So Soft’ body oil as an effective repellent.
  • Sunscreen or block. Sun can be very strong; a #10 or higher screen will be needed for the first few days if you have light complexion; #4 or 5 may be adequate thereafter.
  • Bring a hat, bandanna and sunglasses. A-Fil Sun Sticks are best for lips and nostrils
  • Moleskin or Second Skin adhesive pads for blisters

PACKING YOUR BAG/DUFFLE –  Please travel light– 12–15kg, depending on which countries you are traveling to, is the maximum limit on the light aircraft charters. You will be allowed two separate pieces of luggage on safari: one duffle bag and one (small light) daypack.

There will be opportunities to do laundry along the way and it is always easier in airports and in camps to move a lighter bag. The following list can be used as a guideline:

LUGGAGE – One soft-sided duffle bag. A duffle bag should be strong and durable, preferably of nylon, with full-length zipper and handles. Due to the limited space on the safari vehicles, all your clothing and gear must fit in this bag; no exceptions are allowed.

  • We recommend a minimum duffle of 30″ x 14″ and a maximum size of 36″ x 18″
  • Remember that 15 kg (33lbs) weight limit applies. Hard suitcases are not appropriate.
  • 1 small padlock for locking suitcase or duffle.1 small soft-sided daypack for camera gear, water bottle and personal items needed during the day. Some packs have side pouches, which are great for storing water bottles.
  • Valid passport (with at least 2 blank pages) and visas if necessary
  • One other picture ID (i.e. driver’s license)
  • Photocopy of passport page to carry in wallet
  • All air tickets
  • Expense money, credit and/or ATM cards
  • Certificate showing inoculations

Passports and Visas

  • No visa is required for South Africa, Botswana or Namibia on a US passport
  • A visa is required for Zambia on a US passport (it can be obtained on arrival)
  • Your passport should be valid for at least 12 months from date of arrival in Africa
  • It is essential to have 2 x 100% blank pages in your passport (opposite each other) when arriving in South Africa. This is a requirement of the South African Immigration services. Your passports will be checked before departing the US to ensure you have enough space for immigration stamps before boarding your flight.

YOUR PASSPORT PHOTOCOPIES SHOULD BE STORED IN A DIFFERENT PLACE FROM YOUR TRAVEL DOCUMENTS. If your passport were in a hotel safe, or in an Embassy for visas or if you were to lose your passport this precaution would prove invaluable.

Emergency Contact:
Give your family details of the trip you are on and dates of departure
As it may be difficult, expensive or even impossible for short periods to contact you, especially when traveling in rural regions, this should only be used in cases requiring your early return or immediate telephone call

Money Matters:

  • We recommend you carry the bulk of your spending money in the form of US-dollar travelers’ checks
  • ATMs are available in the large cities in Southern Africa, which does make it easier to obtain local currency
  • Major credit cards (American Express, Visa and Master Card) are widely accepted
  • Approximately US $500 cash per person is usually more than enough for even the most avid shopper
  • Do not carry all of your money in the same place, or same pocket. That way you will not lose all of it in some unfortunate event
  • However, please bear in mind that all of the above is only a guideline
  • You Will Need to Budget Spending Money For…
  • Meals and extra listed as ‘on your own’ in your trip itinerary
  • International airport departure taxes (which are not included) and visas
  • Personal items such as laundry and all communication charges
  • All beverages including soft drinks and snacks are not included
  • Optional side trips and tours/activities
  • Gratuities—all tipping is at your discretion
  • Souvenirs such as woodcarvings, beadwork, baskets and gemstones are wonderful arts and crafts to purchase in Southern Africa

SECURITY – Most areas in Southern Africa are relatively safe, especially when compared to some of the urban areas in other major cities worldwide. However, you will be traveling in developing countries and should be aware and vigilant at all times. While trying not to be “alarmist”, we find that a note of caution goes a long way when traveling abroad. It is best not to bring expensive jewelry, watches or items of great sentimental value. If you are staying for a few nights in a hotel ask for a security/safe deposit box at the front desk and leave your valuables there, that is if there is no safe in your room or chalet. For day trips away from the hotel take small amounts of cash and only some of your credit cards along with the photocopy of your passport. When visiting a market place, be street-wise: do not pull large wads of money from your pocket; secure your belongings before moving through a crowded area and keep day packs, handbags and purses in front of you, attached to your person.

TIPPING – Tipping is entirely at your discretion and you should not feel obligated to tip for any reason. If, however, you want to tip because you have received good service, we have enclosed a brief guideline to assist you:

  1. Camp, Game Lodge and Specialist Guides – If the guide has done a good job, we recommend US$8 – $10 per guest per day for travel to Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe and R60 – R75 per guest per day for visitors to Namibia and South Africa.
  2. The General Safari Camp/Lodge Staff: Here we recommend about US$5 per guest per day for safari camps in Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe and R40 per guest per day for safari camps in Namibia and South Africa. This should be placed in the communal tipping box to be distributed equally amongst all the staff at a later stage.
  3. Hotel Staff: Please allow between R5 and R10 per guest per day for hotel staff e.g. housekeeping, etc.
  4. Porterage: Here we recommend about US$1 per person per movement of luggage.
  5. Mokoro (Boat) Paddlers and Trackers: We recommend that each paddler receive US$3 per guest per day and the camp/lodge trackers receive R35.00 per guest per day.
  6. Transfer and Tour driver/guides: Transfer — R10 per person. For half-day tour — R25 per person and full-day tour — R50 per person.
  7. Restaurants/Hotels: 10%-15% is customary on meal accounts, but only if you are satisfied with the service.