This one is for all first-time safari-goers who are agonising (like I was) about what to pack for a short safari - especially if you don't want to buy any safari gear!
Background: Two weeks ago, end of February, I went on a Pollman's "4 days, 3 nights" safari from Mombasa to Tsavo East, Amboseli, Tsavo West and Taita Hills. We stayed at Ashnil Aruba Lodge (Tsavo East), Kilima Safari Camp (Amboseli), and Sarova Saltlick Lodge (Taita Hills). On day 3 we also lunched at Taita Hills Game Lodge. The whole trip was taken in a Pollman's safari van for max 8 people.
As other people write in other threads, I found that you don't have to dress like Dr Livingstone or a Nat Geo employee on safari! :) These are my observations:
LUGGAGE: - On Pollman's safari vans, the luggage space at the back is very small. That's why people are requested to take small soft bags. A medium-sized sports bag is ideal. Wheeled backpacks don't work because hard frames can be difficult to squeeze into the space. I also took a small shoulder bag for inside the van for camera, water etc.
- On a minibus safari, the colour of your clothing makes little difference. Everyone says, wear only khaki/brown/beige but it doesn't really matter if you're not walking out in the bush. Personally I wore black, dark green, teal and denim.
- I would not take white or very light-coloured clothing because they get ruined by the red dust. For the same reason it's not a good idea to take white shoes or any fancy shoes on game drives.
- Some advice says you should not wear black or blue because of tsetse flies but I had no problems.
- You don't have to buy safari shorts, cargo pants, trekking shirts etc. for the trip. I wore normal casual summery stuff: capri-length lightweight jeans, tunic tops, sandals. A simple skirt and top would have been ok too, or leggings and a tunic. There is a lot of climbing in and out of vehicles so leggings are a good idea, if your skirt is short.
- Just don't take precious materials because you are constantly climbing in and out and standing up or sitting down inside the van and clothing gets snagged easily.
- Also make sure your clothing is comfortable because you'll be driving a LOT.
- I did not take a fleece but wore a chunky cotton cardigan. Only one morning it was a bit cold in the vehicle. A jacket would have been totally unnecessary.
- You might want to take a cotton scarf for chilly mornings. Although it really wasn't that cold. Our temperatures ranged from above 25C in daytime to below 20C at night, but the wind made it a bit chilly in the mornings. It's cooler in the parks than in Mombasa.
- I did not bother with pyjamas or a nightdress (!). It was too hot and sweaty at night. There was no A/C in the lodges, just fans.
- I took 2 sets of underwear for each day because you get so sweaty and dusty on game drives. Because of this you definitely want to shower and change before dinner. I also took a different top for each day but 1-2 bottoms are enough for a short safari.
- Wear only cotton - acrylic or polyester would be so hot!
- I found a scarf tied round my head much better than a safari hat. Hats are for sale e.g. at Buchuma gate entering Tsavo East. I bought one for Ksh900 for the brim, but to be honest I didn't need the hat. It wasn't that sunny (it had been raining just prior to our safari) so sunglasses & scarf & lots of sunblock were more comfortable on the windy drives. If you do wear a hat, it has to tie under your chin.
- When the roof is open, the wind messes up long hair, so definitely take something to tie it back with and maybe a bandana too.
- I just wore "walking sandals". Converse or Toms would be OK too but you'd have to wash them after the safari. No need for heavy trainers, let alone walking boots!
- In the lodges, I noticed that lunch outfits were usually just whatever you wore on your game drive. At dinner, especially Saltlick was dressier (and Taita Hills also for lunch). It's not fashion week but there were many nicely dressed people at Saltlick and Taita Hills which are quite upmarket. Especially African guests were well dressed. So personally I would have felt a bit underdressed in my game drive gear which was also dusty by that time. So I was glad I'd taken some long leggings and a nice tunic dress to wear at night (I wore the same outfit 3 nights running).
- Half-sleeves were just enough at night, it really wasn't cold and I did not need a cardie.
- I also took some prettier sandals for the evening.
- That said, some guests at dinner just dressed in their day gear so it's really up to you. You could just wear the next day's outfit to dinner.
- At night it's a good idea to cover your legs and ankles because of the mosquitoes. I also sprayed my feet and arms with insect repellent before dinner. At Saltlick you eat indoors but at Kilima and Aruba you're sitting outdoors.
- There were nice pools at Aruba and Kilima lodges, so take a swimming costume and cover-up. Flipflops are nice too.
- Towels are provided at these lodges as are basic toiletries (and hairdryers), so no need to take shampoo, shower gel and body lotion.
- Essentials: wet wipes, hand disinfectant, tissues, sunblock, chargers and adapter, flashlight, watch, plasters, sunglasses, insect repellant, lipbalm, something to tie hair back with.
- I did not use binoculars but someone else might want them.
MY PERSONAL PACKING LIST for the 4 days:
1-2 lightweight jeans
medium thick cotton cardie
swimsuit + cover-up
scarf for neck
small scarf for hair
tunic for evening
leggings for evening
nice sandals for evening
8 pairs of underwear (if you don't want to wash them)
1-2 bras (don't take your flimsiest one, the roads are so bumpy)
vest to wear in bed
+ special toiletries, medications incl. for diarrhoea, spare glasses, essentials mentioned above
Finally, please note that this is entirely based on my personal experience on a short safari in the locations mentioned above! So whatever you might need or prefer for a longer safari or elsewhere may be different. :)Edited: 7:43 am, March 06, 2014