What to take on a family safari

Ever heard the saying ‘less is more’? This couldn’t be more apt than when packing for a trip with the family. You have to consider that you are not just carrying your own bags but that there may be times when you will find yourself carrying your little people’s bags (and maybe even them too!) if you are having a long and tiring transit day.

Before we leave we tend to lay all our clothes out that we intend to take, and then be ruthless (think Marie Kondo) and reduce it to the bare minimum. You can always do laundry while you are away so keep that in mind.

However, if you are going to be going on safari during your trip, there are certain things that you should definitely consider taking. So, in no particular order, here’s our list of the top 10 things to take on safari:

1. Snacks & water

OK. We said in no particular order but no.1 on our list every time is snacks. If our kids aren’t eating every 5 minutes they turn into gremlins and once you are out in the park, there is gong to be nowhere to get something to eat.  We tend to pack fruit, biscuits, breadsticks, cereal bars (to make up for the missed breakfast). Make sure to have a bag to put all the rubbish into so you don’t leave anything in the park. Water is also very important. When we travel, we take our refillable bottles with us so that we are not always buying plastic bottles. We love our Camelbak bottles and our Chilli bottle keeps water, well…., chilly!

2. Binoculars

It may seem an obvious one, but a decent pair of binoculars should be one of the first things in your safari kit bag. Quite simply, you’ll be able to spot more wildlife when you can zoom in from afar. Unsurprisingly, animals are not going to walk towards you so that you can get a better look, especially if you have little ones with you who haven’t mastered the art of silence.

3. Mosquito repellent

Some safari destinations are worse than others for mosquitoes in terms of whether they are situated in malarial areas or not, but even if you are not in a malarial zone, nobody wants to be covered in itchy mosquito bites. We feel that mosquito repellent with DEET in it is a must for malarial areas (as well as anti-malarials – although you should get advice on this from your local travel vaccination clinic). Mosquitoes are more active at dawn and dusk, exactly coinciding with most safaris. If we are not in a malarial area, there are some effective child friendly repellents that we have used such as Vie which has a natural, deet free formula. We have also used these in combination with mosquito repellent bands which are widely available on Amazon and the boys love them. For some reason, although it is not a mosquito repellent as such, Avon Skin So Soft dry oil spray also seems to work quite well for us. Long sleeve tops and trousers are also recommended.

4. Camera

Even if you’re no budding Michael Aw (named as one of the world’s most influential nature photographers by Outdoor Photography), photographs are a great souvenir of your safari. Point and shoots can do the job fine, but if you want to get some real close up shots it’s all about the zoom. We are not budding Michael Aws so we can’t advise much on which cameras and zoom lenses are better but we found our Canon EOS 400D DSLR with additional sigma zoom lens does a great job. It is a good camera for beginners (although discontinued now). The equivalent is probably the EOS 4000D. Our tip here from previous experience, however, is not to get too distracted with taking photos. Sometimes it is worth putting the camera down after you have taken a few shots and enjoying the moment.

Chilling on our veranda reviewing the photos on our Canon EOS400D after an early morning safari

Chilling on our veranda reviewing the photos on our Canon EOS400D after an early morning safari

5. Day bag

We find it is a good idea to take a smallish bag with you to keep all these bits in. There are usually pockets in the seats in the jeep, but sometimes you may get out of your vehicle for a wander in the bush. We use a kids Deuter backpack which is a great size for just a few bits and doubles up as a great general day bag/hand luggage for the boys.

The Deuter kids backpack - the perfect size for young kids, and for a small day bag

The Deuter kids backpack – the perfect size for young kids, and for a small day bag

6. Sun cream

The sun can get very fierce on safari. You may be heading out at 5am before the sun is up but by the time your safari has finished, the sun will be up and you don’t want to be without sunscreen, especially for the kids. Same goes for afternoon safaris. You will be heading out mid to late afternoon while the sun is still strong. We like to use an organic suncream which doesn’t contain nasty chemicals. It is not only better for the kids, but it is particularly important for when they’re in and out of the sea all day as many suncreams are damaging coral reefs with their nasty chemicals.

7. Sunglasses & hat

It can be bright and very dusty driving or walking in most national parks, so it pays to have some measure of protection from both. Wrap-around sunglasses with good UV protection and maybe even polarized lenses will offer the best protection for your eyes. Protection for your head from the sun is also a good idea, especially if you get out of the jeep and go on a walk.

8. Torch

Even some of the most high-end lodges have restrictions on the hours they run their generators, meaning you may not have electricity through the night. Having a decent head torch to hand means you won’t struggle to find your way around your room at night.

9. Waterproof jacket & long sleeve top

You may be going somewhere hot and dry for your safari but there is always a chance of some early morning or evening rain and with most jeeps being open sided, there is not much protection from getting wet. Waterproofs can be very lightweight and easy to pack, especially the mac in a sac type. It is also a good idea to have a longer sleeve lightweight top for extra protection from mosquitoes and the sun. It can get chilly on safari.

Take a long sleeve top and lightweight waterproof just in case!

Take a long sleeve top and lightweight waterproof just in case!

10. Sturdy shoes

Even if you’re not planning on doing much walking during your safari, there will more than likely be some stops for lunch or visiting hides. At these times you’ll be out of the vehicle and walking around some potentially tricky terrain, so a solid pair of shoes is well advised. Simple trainers will suffice for this, though if you’re planning on doing some walking it’s worth considering a pair of waterproof shoes. We also make sure to tuck the boys’ trouser legs into their socks to avoid any nasty creepy crawlies getting in!

With all the little creepy crawlies around, we like to tuck their trousers into their socks!

With all the little creepy crawlies around, we like to tuck their trousers into their socks!

Happy wildlife spotting!

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