It is best to change money locally, which you will have the opportunity to do before departing for the bush. As it is an all-inclusive safari, you only need money for your entry visa (approximately £35), personal spending (souvenirs etc.) and safari tips for the staff. Credit cards are accepted at most places. However, don’t forget you may need a credit card if you have booked your flight on-line. I suggest you bring only the one you intend to use as it is safer to leave unnecessary cards at home. Also, remember to notify the card company of your destination and length of stay.
I would recommend not packing any expensive personal jewellery – just every day items that are carried in your personal bag. It is better not to offer temptation and remember you are on the go most of the time, so it usually only gets in the way. Usually camera equipment is the most expensive item which should always be kept close.
Large holdalls are more suitable for packing than suitcases on safari. I also strongly recommend a camera type personal bag able to take all your bits and pieces, including creams as well as those items you like handy. It makes it easy to find your sunglasses and other things. You don’t want to discover you have left your binoculars behind in camp and spend the rest of the day regretting it – although I do go through a check routine before every departure.
The sun goes down early and dusk is at around 18.00 so the nights are long and can be very cold – especially in an open Landrover. The last hour and half of daylight can be the best time of the day, particularly after a scorcher. I strongly advise layers of clothing which can be removed as the day warms up and put back on as it cools – shorts under tracksuit type trousers, shirt, jumper and body warmer. Don’t forget at least a shirt with a collar. Use a separate set of clothing for around the fire to protect you from the anti-dudu (Swahili for insects/mosquitoes). At night I wear long trousers with elasticised bottoms over thick socks and a long sleeved shirt with collar and maybe a body warmer until the fire warms me up.
As there is dhobi (laundry) service in camp every day, you only need 3 sets of safari bush clothes. Remember when packing, no bright colours and 1 set of night attire as described above. Clothes are washed in the morning and are back ready by the end of the day, all pressed with a charcoal iron. Whilst I have had my khaki, green and brown cotton clothes for years, I would hate you to have a burn in your best Rohan. My advice is packing loose fitting cotton clothing that is comfortable and hardwearing. Oh yes! A wraparound robe is always useful or a set of night clothes which will allow you to react at short notice, as we may call you out if there is something interesting to see at night within the camp.
You will be looking out of the hatches game spotting for most of the day as I operate at speeds that enable us to stand and search all day – no constant charging from one area to an other. So once again I emphasise the importance of a hat with brim plus chin strap and sunglasses. Sunstroke, although not life threatening, is unpleasant and spoils your trip unnecessarily. Although it does not normally rain, if it does, it can actually be a joy, a respite from the beating sun and it dampens the dust. So bring a kagool – just in case – as it is not always possible to shut the hatches when waiting for that out-of-this world shot.
As for footwear, I strongly recommend packing good walking shoes and socks, with softer shoes when around camp and for transfers. Also a set of easy pull-ons or flip-flops for in-tent wear.
You will need a good torch – at least 2 cell – plus a couple of spare batteries, as it is dark out in the bush and you do need to see reasonably far. I carry my 3 cell Mag-Lite torch day and night in case our return to camp is delayed; the experts also carry a dinky torch in their camera bags.
Packing a good pair of binoculars is a must; I would go as far as to say that not having one’s own pair, powered to at least 8 x 32, could spoil your enjoyment and participation by as much as 50 percent – and I don’t exaggerate! We spend a fair time scanning the plains, valleys and hillsides for our game; spotting is vital and sharing binoculars does not work. It is well worth practising at home before the safari, as it takes time to master the technique. Binoculars are just as important for spotting as a long lens is to a keen photographer.
I do recommend packing cotton bags to store items in as they help to keep dust out and rain off cameras etc. They are also useful for wrapping up your bits and pieces (bring some tape as it helps to seal the bags). If you are still using film they are also good for keeping them separated. Also bring a small hand towel, which I find more successful for protecting the camera when on the go. It can be used with water, or better still a small flannel, to cool you down when we have to wait in the sun for that once-in-a-lifetime shot – we always endeavour to find shade but sometimes it is just not possible.