Pristine white beaches and lush forests sound divine — until mosquitoes and sunburns find a way to ruin your trip. It could be the trip of a lifetime, but if you don’t have certain key items to protect you on your African bush and beach adventures, it could turn into a nightmare. While you might consider packing heavy and bringing everything but the kitchen sink, baggage allowances on small aircraft are very strict so you won’t be able to over pack. But never fear, here are a few essentials that will keep you happy and your bags tiny.
It’s the single most important item on any trip to Africa. Mosquito repellent is not only there to protect you from the annoying whine and itching bite, but will also help prevent malaria, dengue fever and any number of other mosquito-borne diseases. There are also many sunscreens that combine sun protection with DEET insect repellent. Unless you’re going deep into the bush, a repellent with 10%-25% DEET should suffice. But be aware that repellent is not 100% effective, so be sure to consult your doctor about anti-malarial medication as well.
Call it a kikoy, call it a sarong, or call it an oversized scarf; whatever you want to name it, remember to pack it. It will be the most useful piece of clothing in your bag, if you’re a lady. Use it as a scarf, as protection from the sun, defender from the dust, or even a towel. You can also wrap it around your hips after a swim. Care is easy: just rinse, hang it out for the night, and start the process again tomorrow morning.
There’s no need to take your formal clothes to Africa, even if you’re staying at an upscale lodge. To save space and to survive the afternoon heat (during winter and summer), pack light, informal shorts and shirts, and perhaps one smarter outfit. Avoid white if you’re going on game drives as it stands out in the bush, and remember to take something warm for the chilly mornings and evenings in the bush or beside the ocean. Fleece is a good option – it’s warm without being bulky.
Spoil yourself with a wide-brimmed hat. You might never wear it again, but it’ll be worth the expense. It’s simply too easy to underestimate the harshness of the African sun and the wide brim will not only protect your face, but also the back of your neck – an area easily neglected. A chinstrap will keep your hat in place on game drives or if the wind sweeps across the beach. Sunscreen is just as important, if not more, than a hat, so stock up on a high-SPF, low-oil variety. The spray-on type works wonders.
Chances are good that you’ll be staying in a beautiful lodge or a chalet somewhere deep in the bush or on a quiet beach and you’ll have to walk from the dining room back to your room at night. There is also the possibility of a power outage. To keep the close-to-nature feel, many lodges don’t light their paths too brightly, so a small flashlight will come in handy.
A good book
There is a decent chance that you’ll spend many hours relaxing on the beach, beside the pool, or in the lounge of your lodge during your holiday. Make the most of them by indulging in your favourite author while the waves crash and the bush rustles. You’ll also be happy you packed a novel when you find yourself in an airport with five hours to kill before your connecting flight.
If you’re camping, wet wipes will come in very handy, especially when the tap is just a little too far and the dust is getting under your skin. If you’re staying in a lodge, your hands and face will still get dusty on game drives, and your fingers will get sticky after that sweet, refreshing ice cream or pineapple on the beach.
Extra batteries and memory cards
Chances are good you won’t be in the mood to copy all your pictures over to your tablet or laptop after every long day spent exploring. And there’s nothing worse than seeing the perfect shot and having to delete other pictures to make space for it. The same goes for batteries. Even if you can charge your camera in the wall socket, you’re probably only taking one or two international adapters and more than one cellphone, tablet, camera or music device.
You’ll surely have your most comfortable pair of walking shoes ready for the trip. That pair that you can wear with anything and that can take you anywhere. But remember to slip in a pair of flops too, because there’s nothing as nice as coming home after a day of walking and slipping your feet into something even more comfortable.
Girls, this one is for you. Game drives get bumpier than you think, so pack at least one sports bra. You might not need it at the beach, but you’ll be happy you packed it for the bush leg of your holiday.
This article was originally published on May 28, 2014.