I looked up from the driver’s seat. It was pink. Not the pink that you would expect in the wilds of Africa. Bright, neon, lycra pink.
The wearer, a young man of about 35-ish, found nothing wrong with his choice of outerwear, not even noticing the stretch over his dad-belly and the stares of the vervet monkeys in the trees above the reception area. Must have been wetting themselves laughing…
I have often been asked what guests should bring on their African safari. If you look at travel magazines your attire may cost as much as your complete safari! For this purpose, I have made a small list of the normal ‘stuff’ you may need to enjoy your safari.
- Well fitted shoes: they need not be the ‘climb the Alps’ kind to be useful in the bush. A pair of comfy trainers or better still, well-worn boots is all you need. And please spend a few bob on good socks! They make a world of difference after a sweaty two-hour walk on the rocks.
- Talking undergarments: I have had some funny, and embarrassing, dealings with underwear. As a rule, if you would wear it with an expensive dress, leave it at home. Comfort is the name of the game. An elephant or lion could not care less about your choice of lingerie.
- Your clothes should fit you well, not tight, not too loose either. Muted colours are the name of the game. Greens, khaki, brown, all these will work. I have found that trousers are the most comfortable choice for the average traveller. It keeps thorns and ticks at bay and protects against the early morning chill. A note on shorts: they are perfect for rugged rangers like ourselves who do not mind bleeding a bit every now or then. But then again…we never said that we were smart. T-shirt or button? We wear button shirts to be fancy. You need not worry. T-shirts are all good and well.
- The chill factor on an early morning safari in the middle of winter could drop the temperature right to minus degree Celsius territory. You will need a windproof outer layer. We will provide you with a blanket or two to keep the worst off, but a good jacket will be a treat. Add a Buff or scarf to keep your nose from freezing, and we are off!
- Sunglasses are a must. African big-sky country is harsh on the eyes. Good polarised glasses will help you see the crocodile just under the glary water surface, or the lion sleeping in the early morning sun.
- Baz Lurmann had a hit in the early Nighties with his song about sunscreen. I repeat: ” Wear sunscreen; if I could give you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it!” Even on cloudy days, the sun will turn your poor skin red within a few hours of exposure. A burnt skin ruins your holiday experience… and makes you look like a dried out prune. No need to go with the 50+ factor super duper Zink stuff; a normal Factor 30 will suffice. And lip balm is equally important.
- Bring the best you can afford. These cheap 10×25 jobs you pick up at a bargain shop will only frustrate you. Unless you buy a very top brand pair. Try to get a 7, 8, or 10 x 32 at least. The first number refers to the magnification, the second the diameter of the front optical lens. Binoculars with too much magnification will tire your eyes because you cannot hold them still enough. Too large-diameter front lens and they become unwieldy. I use two pairs: a 10×40 for vehicle use and an ancient 7×32 pair for walking. Both are old, reliable friends.
- A small bag with the following will not go amiss either: a pair of gloves, pencil and scribble pad, camera and spare battery, water, a small snack (jelly babies are my favourite) and tissues. The tissues can also be used for the inevitable ‘bush wee’. As long as the tissue comes back or is buried with the evidence.
- An open mind! This is the most important item of the safari. Together with a willingness to learn.
This list is by no means complete. You can extend it as far as you need, as long as you carry it yourself.
See you at Kaingo!