Africa is huge, and I’ve only been to a small portion of it, yet I am hoping that what I have learned on my trips there can be useful to others who are planning an adventure to this wonderful continent.

General

Here I will cover some general things that will apply for many locations in the continent. Following this I have some information specific for some of the countries I have visited.

Bug Protection

Face it, if you’re going to Africa, you’re going to see bugs. The amount will depend on the time of year, but you will want to be prepared. Of course, I must make a disclaimer here that I am not a medical professional, so what my experience has shown may differ from what your travel clinic may tell you – so talk my suggestions with a grain of salt and use your best judgement when making final decisions.

  • Repellent: My favorite repellent is Sawyer Family because the DEET is micro-encapsulated making it a bit safer than other brands if you accidentally touch food after touching skin where this has been applied. Last I recall, the CDC recommends a higher percentage of DEET, so if you want to go for that you can try Ultrathon which is nice because a little goes a long way. In all cases, I like to have some outdoor wipes to clean my hands before eating.
  • Clothing: For a number of trips to Africa (and other locations) I’ve gone the route of treating my clothes with permethrin. While this has been effective, it is an arduous process doing the treatment. It has to be done outside, and if there is any breeze at all you will want to wear a mask to avoid inhaling the fumes. Plus you will want gloves no matter what. More recently I have invested in some of the pre-treated garments since the treatment lasts for 70 washes, which is probably about as long as the life of the garment. The self-treated only lasts for a few washes and/or about a month.
  • Mosquito Net: Check if the places you are staying have nets (most places I have stayed do). If not, it’s worth picking one up and hauling it along.

Clothing

For safari type activities you want to have neutral (kakhi, brown, olive green) colors to not distract the animals you are trying to see. I found the zip-off and/or roll-up pants to be quite practical (you’re not going for fashion here). And I would pair that with a tank or t-shirt covered with a long-sleeved safari type top.

Also remember that some of your game drives will start before sunrise or last after sunset, and even though you are in Africa, it can be quite cold. So pack a fleece and maybe also a windbreaker of some sort. The vehicles often have blankets, but it’s good to be prepared.

Finally, it can be dusty. So bring a buff to cover your nose and mouth when driving over dusty roads. If you can’t find one, a bandana can work, but I find it much easier to use a buff.

Viewing and Photographing

My guess is you want to see animals on this trip. While your safari guides will have some binoculars, it’s worth investing in a pair of your own so that you don’t have to share. You don’t have to but the super high top end Sawatzky crystal ones for one trip. I went with the Nikon 7538 10×42 PROSTAFF 7 and was quite pleased.

You are also most likely going to want to remember what you saw. So if you have been thinking about a camera upgrade now is probably the time to do it. I have been quite happy with my Nikon D600 superzoom camera. It takes great pictures but you don’t have to be an SLR expert to use it.

Country Specific Things

South Africa

While many hotels here have US plugs, the South African power adapter is not like any other I have seen, and I don’t think the universal adapters will work here. So it’s worth the effort to seek out and buy at least one of these specialized plugs.

 

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