It Pays To Be Prepared
… that message has been drummed into me since my days as a Girl Guide. And never had these been more true than when choosing what to pack for a bucket list-worthy safari in South Africa. Whether your trip is all private chefs and Africology spa treatments in the fynbos (African version of the bush/wilderness) or a hot air balloon ride over the Masaai Mara, it is always better to Safari in Style. But keep your Valentino Rockstuds at home ladies because designer purses and heels are an absolute no-no in the wilderness, instead, here’s my definite guide on what to pack to turn heads for all the right reasons.
Pack like a traveler, not like a tourist
A safari trip demands you to fill your softest duffle bag, not your rigid Samsonite case. Wheels and a hard outer shell just won’t work in the undercarriage of a light aircraft or the back seat of your ranger’s land rover. At Gondwana, we left our cases in the car and instead filled our hand luggage duffle bags with our essentials for the stay.
The Rule of Three
This applies to most trips, and not just safari. Any camp or lodge worthy of ‘luxury’ status will provide you with a free laundry service, so while you’re out tracking lions, your dirty clothes will be collected, hand washed, air dried and pressed, before being folded ready on your bed for when you return. With this in mind, I don’t pack anything that isn’t easy care – leave your silk blouse behind in favour of an equally stylish but far more practical, relaxed fit, light grey utility blouse.
I pack lightly but efficiently, with the following in mind;
– Shorts and lightweight, quick-dry trousers. I wore my lightest cotton jeans for the most part, along with yoga leggings for travelling and relaxing.
– Long and Short sleeve T-Shirts – for layering in the morning when it’s chilly, and perhaps even a vest top for when the temperature changes later i noted day.
– Long Sleeve Collared Shirt – especially if you’re prone to burn. The collar can be turned up to prevent your neck from burning, and often, covering up in light fabric will keep you cooler than if your skin was exposed to the sun.
– Waterproof Jacket – your camp may provide these, but just in case, you’ll want one you can screw up in your day bag.
– Fleece – I admit, this is one thing that I left behind, and ended up spending most evenings wearing Charlie’s knitted cardigan. Pack something warm and cosy for when the temperature suddenly drops. I like North Face and Patagonia for their flattering fit and high performance.
– Cashmere or Silk scarf – surprisingly warm for draping over the shoulders, an instant style uplift and incredibly versatile. I scrunch mine up for a pillow on long journeys, and then use to instantly brighten up an evening outfit.
– A hat – a stiff straw trilby or a traditional safari khaki, you decide, but this is an essential to pack to keep you protected from the sun (and, in my case, bad hair days).
– Sunglasses – take two cheap pairs, as you’ll almost certainly break or lose one pair! I chose a stylish Spitfire design in Tortoiseshell, that you’d never know cost under £20.
– Footwear – a sturdy pair of boots is essential, as is a pair of slip on sandals. Combining style and practicality, I spent most of the time in my Emu Lorne boots – a flattering style that are as versatile as they are comfortable. I was also thankful that I had stowed the slippers from our previous hotel, ideal for padding around our Eco-Tent in the mornings and evenings.
In my previous travel / style post I spoke about choosing one colour spectrum for your holiday wardrobe, and when on Safari, you can’t go wrong with neutrals. My definition of this was beige, browns and faded blush pink, this way you subtly blend into your environment. Leave behind anything white, which will show every speck of dirt, and also camouflage prints – you are not Britney Spears, and we are not in the nineties!
Don’t Forget the Luxuries
Evenings spent around a camp fire in the Fynbos are hardly a fancy affair, so how do you glam things up without looking like a Safari novice? I found the solution was within a few simple accessories. I chose a smart and stylish (but not too expensive) watch – my brown leather and rose gold Timex, as well as elegant jewellery such as a simple Labradorite necklace and matching rose gold rings from Monica Vinader. I wouldn’t advise taking expensive jewellery on safari. It’s not worth it. Perhaps visit a local jewellery maker and treat yourself to beaded necklaces, leather straps, one-off pieces that you wouldn’t find at home. Not only does this give you a unique momento of your trip, but you’re also giving back to the community.
I give my hair and skin a break from too many styling products when on safari – instead embracing a more natural look. Our luxurious Eco-Camp provided us with Healing Earth shampoo, conditioners, body lotions etc (a brand which became a symbol of a good quality establishment throughout our trip!), but if you’re attached to a specific brand of conditioner, then pack a travel size version.
Don’t bother with hair dryers or straighteners, firstly if you’re in an Eco-Camp like ours, there won’t be sufficient electricity, but also styling your hair is a total waste of time when you’re zipping through the wilderness in an open-air Land Rover! I slept with my hair in a plait, and embraced my messy waves in the morning.
Here’s what I take to stay clean and stylish on safari:
– Shampoo and Conditioner: I didn’t end up using it, but I had a mini L’Oreal Mythic Oil Deep Conditioning Masque to keep the frizz at bay.
– Pureology Colour Fanatic Spray: I can’t live without this, and luckily have a mini size which I spritz all over my wet hair, to allow me to comb through. It’s a leave in conditioner which is perfect for when you allow your hair to air dry, as it prevents frizz and gives a sleek finish.
– Moisturiser: the heat, sun and dust of a safari play havoc with your skin, so it’s worth slathering on a good moisturiser to re-hydrate skin at the end of the day and keep you glowing. Charlie and I both loved using our rich Body Butter here.
– Lip Balm with SPF. Crucial to avoid dry, cracked lips.
– Sunscreen: You’ll want a high factor and one that doesn’t require too much re-application. My favourite is Piz Buin 1 Day Long sun lotion which is also incredibly hydrating.
– Insect Repellant: Or if the thought of the smell puts you off, try Avon’s Skin So Soft Oil. It’s a body oil for hydrating your limbs, but somehow also acts as an effective insect repellant!
– Also your toothbrush, toothpaste, and a hand sanitiser (I love the Neals Yard Remedies one pictured below)
Don’t forget to Give Back.
Simply by going on a Safari you are helping to contribute to community and conservation – your cost of accommodation provides jobs and income that are re-invested in the game reserve. The most fantastic thing about staying within the Eco Camp at Gondwana was that we were able to help the rangers with conservation activities, such as tracking the animals, chopping down unwanted Wottle trees, and conducting wildlife surveys (more of that in my video here). If you want to do more, there are plenty of wonderful ways. Don’t just hand out cash when visiting local villages, instead, bring or buy school supplies, footballs, even clothing, and hand over to a teacher to distribute. One of the most appreciated gifts we gave were old Manchester United football shirts bought from home!
A luxury safari is as much about the experience and adventure as it is about the plush surroundings; your style must be practical but that doesn’t mean you have to forgo those luxuries. Choosing things that will enhance your experience is key, and hopefully this post has to advise you on such things! The greatest indulgence is spending time in this magical part of the world; meeting the people, immersing yourself in the culture, the wildlife, and being stunned by the sweeping landscapes. So, back your bag, and prepare to be amazed and fall in love with this incredible part of our world.
Looking for a luxury Safari in Cape Town? Find out more about Gondwana here.
What are your luxury safari essentials? Let me know in the comments below!