Safari Guide CheckList
It isn’t necessary to pack everything in the world to go to Africa. While still an exotic and far-off place, a true traveler can survive with simply a passport & entry visa, a few clothes, and access to money. But, that isn’t what Flyga Twiga is about. We want to enjoy the good things in life!
So…what to bring?
For the first time traveler to East Africa, this is a daunting question.
Although you can purchase many “Western” items in East Africa, please remember this is travel to the developing world. At last estimate, according to the Anti-Counterfeit Agency (ACA) of Kenya, the counterfeit trade in Kenya is a $800 Million USD (70 Billion Kenyan Shilling) a year business. So, whether buying from a reputable person or not, they may very well have been sold counterfeit goods.
If your Safari includes flying between lodges, please note that the weight limit of most Safari planes is 15 kg. You can leave your extra luggage in our offices and pick them before your return international flight.
In order for travel to East Africa, you MUST have a yellow fever shot . This shot is suggested to be had no less than 14 days before travel. In addition, you may want to consider other shots, as needed. Uganda, who as a nation is at the forefront of preventive medicine in Africa, also requires children under the age of five (5) to have proof of the Polio Vaccine.
Please see your local travel physician specialist. Be sure to keep your Yellow Fever & inoculation card with your Passport at all times!
You should discuss with your physician which anti-malarials are best for you.
This is really necessary for going on Safari. Remember, you are out in the Bush!
Make copies of all documents, such as passports, credit/ATM cards, any identification you will be taking with you. If you are associated in any way your government's Military and have been issued a Military ID, it is advised you do not carry this with you. Leave a copy of all your documents in a place for easy retrieval or with someone you trust, in case they need to be accessed during your Safari. It is also advised to leave copies of your passwords, to key email and internet accounts.
Just because you have an “international plan”, do not assume your IPhone, Blackberry, etc. will work in East Africa. In fact, if they do – be SURE you know ALL the fees involved. Even seasoned travelers can get hit with fees that were not excepted!
Flyga Twiga offers, at cost, the purchase of a SIM card, if you will need to make telephone calls when on Safari. Otherwise, East Africa, and Kenya in particular, have increasing internet wi-fi access. While not guaranteed, you will be able to access the internet in most areas of Kenya.
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service provided by the U.S. Department of State. Sign up! STEP can be found here.
Call credit card companies, banks, etc. to give them all countries you will be traveling through, as well as the dates of travel. Also, please note, some East African ATMs may only give you the option to get cash from your checking account; not both checking and savings. And, currently, in Kenya, as a security procedure, you can only access $200 USD a day from ATM withdrawals. That said, almost all places in Kenya, outside of local, traditional markets, accept credit cards.
Carry large bills, such as $50s/$100s. Larger bills are given better exchange rates. It is not advised to tip in small US Dollars. It is not always easy, or beneficial, for locals to exchange US Dollars. Rather, it is best to tip in local currency.
Please note: ALL US Dollar bills must be dated after 2006. Please try and get the newest possible with as few marks as possible. (For instance, no “Where’s George?” stamped on the bills!)
Gear /Safari Kit:
Passport & Yellow Fever Card
Also known as the “International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis” (Form CDC 731). I can’t say this enough – if the agent is checking for Yellow Fever Cards and you don’t have it, you may get put in quarantine! Really! Currently, in Uganda you are given the option of paying $40 USD to be given the Yellow Fever Shot at the airport. But, that isn’t anyway to start a Safari now is it?
Also, check your passport to make sure it won’t expire for at least 6 months after travel, as some countries will not let you travel through with a soon-to-expire passport.
And, check for at least two contiguous pages of un-stamped passport pages. South Africa, in particular, is known for not letting people in if they don’t have this. I have literally sat at Dulles International Airport watching a travel group leader trying to call a traveler’s Senator to get help as they didn’t have two free contiguous un-stamped pages and were afraid they would be denied entry into South Africa. A little late to find this out! So, please check!
Once you have booked the best method to get an entry Visa. Be sure to go to the government's official site and not one who can "expedite" the process. Here is the link to the official Kenyan E-Visa Site.
Please do not purchase the East Africa Community Visa without consulting us first. There has been a great deal of confusion surrounding the Visa and changes to its implantation are constantly changing. You can click here to read my Travel Advisory.
Extra Passport Pictures for Visas
These should not be necessary in East or Southern Africa for Safari. But, you never know. Laws can change daily. Carry extras!
Camera! Next most important! That said, if you take an extremely expensive camera, be aware that it must be with you at all times.
Binoculars, if you want. I have been on Safaris where I was the only one with a pair. And, while I did share, it was clear the other guests assumed the guide company would provide them. Not all Safaris provide them. You don’t need an expensive pair. Just ones to give you a closer view. As for which ones to purchase, think about how often you will use the pair after you get home.
Any computers or I-Pads you will need or want for communication. Almost all of the lodges we partner with have internet access and in most cases it is wireless. Please be sure to pack these in your carry-on luggage.
Any medications you are currently taking. There is absolutely no guarantee, even with the best pharmacies in Africa, that medicine there is not counterfeit. As with any valuables, pack these in your carry-on luggage.
Over-the-counter “in case I need them” meds for upset stomach (for instance, Imodium Brand). I am extremely careful and we partner with only the best. But, this is East Africa. Believe me, they don’t want you to get sick and try to use good hygiene. But, just as things happen in anywhere in the World, they can happen in East Africa. So, a small supply is always a good idea to pack.
Vitamins. Even though we will be out in the wild, our health is the most important. And, especially with the long flights and time change, it is vital to keep your energy up!
Headsets for the flight, if you sensitive to noise. Safari planes can be loud.
Rucksack for gear on safari game drives.
Phone: unlocked for a SIM card or check your international plan
ALL chargers and a universal converter
Hat & Sunglasses
This is its own category as it is SO important. Along with a good hat, sunglasses are vital to your health. The reason is you are so close (and often directly ON!) the Equator. Yet, it is still easy to go out in the sun without sunglasses. Especially for fair eyed people, this can be extremely damaging. Invest in some good sunglasses before your Safari. Pack them in your carry-on bag for safety!
Personal stationary and envelopes for thank you tips for Safari Guides and Lodge Staff, if you so choose. This is a nice, old-fashioned Safari touch that is a nicety, not a necessity.
Heavy duty/freezer style plastic bags for toiletries and any items you want to seal up. Bring extra! They are light and you always need more than you think!
***As of 2017, Kenya has banned plastic bags. Alternatives are available in many travel stores in the accessories section.
Mosquito repellent and sunscreen
Depending on the duration of your Safari, you won’t need to lug a whole lot of chemicals to Africa. Think about how much sunscreen you might use over the course of two weeks or so.
This is easier for a woman to carry, but necessary for everyone to have in their gear bag. Basically, you may find yourself going to the bathroom where there isn’t one. This is especially true for long game drives. I suggest for a bathroom bag you get a small bag, put a small pack of tissues & wet wipes. This is also a good place to keep your hand sanitizer.
Batteries and chargers. Seriously, even the high end hotels in East Africa rarely have extra chargers for guests. And, batteries are a must, as they are one of the most counterfeited items in Africa.
Ever wonder why you see people on safari in bland colors? Well, you want to blend in with the Bush! And, you want to be SAFE!
Let me give you an example of why proper gear is so important. I was in camp in Nyet, Jonglei State, South Sudan. To give you an idea how remote this was - there were no roads and the nearest doctor was over an hour away. The nearest hospital was, after the hour to the doctor, an additional hour and half flight away. And, NO flights went after in bad weather or after dark. Even then, the United Nations World Food Program, the only group with regular flights, came once (once!) a week.
It had been a long day, as I headed back to my tented banda (a tent on a raised cement slab). My tent was near a lush bush. A nice, dead leaf had fallen on my banda. I stuck-out my foot to go brush it off. I missed and swung my leg again. On the second swing I heard sweet little hissing sound. Well, looking down there was the most beautiful green I have ever seen. Unfortunately, the green was on a Green Mamba.
I don’t say this to scare you. But, I had on my camp boots. Not tslops or flip-flops. Not flimsy street shoes. I had the proper clothing. When you go on safari, especially a walking safari, you become part of the Food Chain - as in you are no longer TOP of the Food Chain. Pack, plan, and prepare properly.
Clothing should be long pants. Shirts can be long sleeve or short. Fleeces and warm scarves are best for chilly mornings in the bush. Of course, boots (as mentioned above!). Olive drab or khaki colors are best. Camouflage is frowned upon – as it is associated with military & some African militaries aren’t the “Support Our Troops” kind of guys. You get the idea.
The clothes don’t need to be high end, or carry a fancy label. One of my favorite safari cargo pants are from the Gap. Of course, Katmandu™ , LLBean™, Cabela’s™, are all good places to look. I love Katmandu's gear. Your primary focus should be function and comfort.
Why not dark colors? The Tsetse Fly is attracted to them. Mosquitoes love dark colors. And, if you really needed to hide in the bush, you want to blend in. It is best to avoid dark colors on Safari.
I personally like to dress for dinner. While most safari camps are casual, a nice dress or pair of slacks & clean shirt after an evening game drive on the Savannah can be quite refreshing. Safari chic!
As a side note, please don’t purchase fly fishing clothes - unless you are going for a fly fishing Safari! Many people mistake fly fishing outfits for Safari outfits. They can look similar. The fly fishing shirts, in particular, are not appropriate, as the venting allows mosquitoes to get in. Plain clothes that breath well are sufficient.
Lastly, don’t overpack! As mentioned above, if you have a flying Safari, you will have weight limits.
And, I wish I could do my laundry as well as our partner’s staff. By using their services, you are helping Flyga Twiga’s commitment to Sustainable Tourism. We employ locals!
Boots - If you chose to do a Walking Safari - most Safari Camps will not allow you to walk without boots!
Pants - I love cargo pants! They are the most practical pants on Safari.
Fleeces or a Safari jacket.
As the Bishop of the Diocese of the Rift Valley once asked me, “Did you ever think you could freeze to death in Africa?” This is because of the misconception that it never get cold – it does!
I prefer fleece to the “old fashioned” Safari jackets. Realistically, they are lighter and warmer. Fleeces are what the wildlife services officers in East Africa wear – for those reasons.
A good broad-brimmed Safari hat
Fleece or warm scarf
A comfortable outfit for dinner
Undergarments, as necessary
Pool shoes or flip-flops for the pools at the Game Lodges
Slippers, if you prefer, to wear inside your room or tent
Toiletries in small amounts
Light rain jacket
Jeans, walking shoes, outfits for in-town. East Africa, and Nairobi in particular, have some very fashionable parts of town. You want to fit in when transferring through these towns and are out to dinner.
Pajamas. Some Safari Lodges will specifically ask if you wish to be woken, if any animals wonder into camp at night.
A light robe with pockets. That is one hotel item that is most often provided by luxury Safari lodges, but not Tented Camps.
Also, assume there will not be a hair dryer in tented Safari camps. If you can not live without a hair dryer, bring a small travel one and a universal converter.
Don’t forget – you will want to purchase wonderful African art and products. So, leave room in your suitcase!
If there are items that you believe will make your Safari more pleasurable, but do not see them on the list, please contact me. There may be a reason I have left them off the list. That is what I am here for – to help you have the best experience in Africa!
happy day! Safe safari!
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