This guide not only offers information on what to pack for your safari but also the luggage allowance to work to, the type of bags to use and the temperatures to expect so you can plan accordingly.
In general, when packing for a safari, less is more. Space and weight is restricted but with careful planning and by following our guidance you can ensure you have everything you need for a comfortable safari. It is also worth remembering that most camps over complimentary laundry.
Access to the safari camps in Botswana is by light aircraft and there are strict weight limits for safety reasons, the luggage allowance is 20kg (44lb) per person, including hand luggage. Where space allows, additional seats may be pre-booked for excess luggage at an additional cost. Each additional seat that you book enables you to travel with an additional 40kg (154lb) of luggage, though this will depend on the charter operator.
What you pack will of course depend on the time of year you will be travelling. See our useful pages on when to visit. At the bottom of this post we have also prepared a handy summary of the temperatures and the weather to expect.
All our clients receive a detailed packing list but here is a general summary of what you will be packing.
Clothing- Lightweight, neutral-coloured clothing is best. Note that camouflage-patterned clothing is not recommended, this is only permitted for the army and it is illegal for anyone else. Casual and comfortable clothing is recommended, safari is a casual affair.
- Shirts and T-Shirts– Cotton and linen long sleeve shirts and short sleeved T-Shirts are recommended year round, even in winter the midday sun is very warm. Long sleeves are more useful as they not only protect against the sun but also any insects in the evenings.
- Long trousers/pants and shorts. Lightweight materials are better than thicker materials like jeans which can be hot (and take a longer time to dry). (Ladies, skirts are not very practical on safari as climbing into and out of the 4×4 vehicles can be awkward with a skirt.
- A warm sweater/jersey/fleece is recommended year round for mornings and evenings. In winter a second thicker fleece jacket would be useful, June-September.
- A lightweight rain/wind jacket – good for any sudden showers in summer and useful as a windproof outer layer in winter.
- Shoes – A pair of casual shoes such as sandals for in camp and a pair of closed comfortable shoes for walking (hiking boots are not necessary, these will be hot and bulky).
- Swim wear and sarong/kikoy. Many camps have a pool for relaxing between activities. The Kikoy is always useful, even away from the pool for shading or acting as an extra scarf too).
- Winter essentials – wool hat (beanie), scarf and gloves are suggested for the early morning drives. The first 1-2 hours can be very cold until the sun is fully up.
- Ladies– The roads can be bumpy, a sports bra is suggested for a more comfortable 4×4 drive.
Other essential items-
- Hat with a wide brim. The sun is powerful in Botswana and quite raw.
- Sunscreen with a high factor, minimum factor 30.
- Sunglasses with high UV resistance are recommended.
- Torch – a small torch is handy. If doing a mobile safari a headtorch is recommended.
- Camera – lenses and all the necessary charging accessories.
- Binoculars are handy but not required. (If you have a good zoom on your camera you may prefer to use this).
- International plug adaptor (the camps use a variety of plug points including the 3 prong square plug points, the SA 3 prong round point and the European 2 prong round points. Most camps will have a variety of options.
- Personal toiletries – Nearly all camps will provide the basic toiletries such as body wash, shampoo and conditioner as well as insect repellent so do not pack these. Higher end camps will provide lotions. All other toiletries should be packed with you. It is useful to carry chap tick/lip balm as the drives in the open vehicles can be dehydrating, eye drops are also recommended for this reason. Other suggestions include insect repellent, rehydration sachets and antihistamine if you suffer from allergies/hay fever as the grass and dust levels can be quite high in the bush.
- Motion sickness tablets-for those who suffer from this it would be wise to pack some tablets for the short flights which can be bumpy in summer with the rising heat.
- Anti-malarials – The Okavango is in a malaria area, the relevant precautions should be taken.
- Book – you will have 3-4 hours a day to relax in camp, a good book is recommended.
- Cash – see below
Cash – How much cash to take for tipping on safari?
The Botswanan currency is Pula. There are ATM cash points in most major towns however we strongly recommend brining cash as there is little time to visit an ATM on most Botswana safaris. US Dollars are widely accepted in camps, as well as euros. Credit cards are also accepted for payments in camp for curio shop purchases, spa treatments etc.
Tipping whilst on safari can be a sensitive topic and it is never possible to provide a definitive guidance. Tipping is always completely discretionary and you should never feel under any pressure to tip. It is however appropriate if you feel that the measure of service you received warrants a show of your personal appreciation. Whilst guides make your safari experience, don’t forget those staff, many of whom you will never meet, who make safaris truly memorable.
- Guides are tipped personally at the end of your stay and general guidance is that USD 10-USD15 per person per day would be considered a good tip.
- Mokoro polers: USD5 – USD10 per poler, per guest
- General Staff are tipped through a common tip box. These tips are distributed to all staff equally, but managers and guides are often excluded. USD 10 to 20 per day would be considered a good tip.
What bags to use for safari?
The shape and format of your luggage is just as important as its weight, as it will need to fit inside the cargo pod under each aircraft. Bags must be soft-sided, holdall-type bags rather than rigid or framed suitcases to allow the bag to be manoeuvred into the pod. In the event that your bag does not fit in the cargo pod you will be asked to repack the bag or is space allows it will need to be carried inside in the aircraft and charged as excess luggage.
The maximum size per bag is 25cm wide x 30cm high x 62cm long, this is the size of the pod of a Cessna 206, which is the most commonly used aircraft for inter camp transfers.
Excess luggage may be stored in Maun, providing clients are returning through Maun Airport to pick their bags up again before onward travel.
What kind of temperatures to expect?
Botswana Temperatures – average lows and highs and rainfall:
- January – 19/32° Celsius or 66/89° Fahrenheit. Rainfall = 94 mm
- February – 19/31° Celsius or 66/87° Fahrenheit. Rainfall = 81 mm
- March – 18/31° Celsius or 64/87° Fahrenheit. Rainfall = 56 mm
- April – 14/31° Celsius or 57/87° Fahrenheit. Rainfall = 44mm
- May – 9/28° Celsius or 48/82° Fahrenheit. Rainfall = 11mm
- June – 6/25° Celsius or 43/77° Fahrenheit. Rainfall = 4mm
- July- 6/25° Celsius or 43/77° Fahrenheit. Rainfall = 3mm
- August – 9/28° Celsius or 48/82° Fahrenheit. Rainfall = 2mm
- September – 13/33° Celsius or 55/91° Fahrenheit. Rainfall = 14mm
- October – 18/37° Celsius or 64/98° Fahrenheit. Rainfall 40mm
- November – 19/34° Celsius or 66/93° Fahrenheit. Rainfall 69mm
- December – 19/32° Celsius or 66/89° Fahrenheit. Rainfall = 82mm