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30 Years of Packing for Safari (into a 15kg Duffle)

There are tons of lists out there about "what to pack for a safari?" and they're all just about as drab and dull as the next. One person who has quite clearly nailed it is Nicky Fitzgerald who spends a week a month in khaki, white, olive and black. It's as simple as that.
Above: Nicky looking stylish at 5h30 in the morning and 1 000m in the air

I have to come clean here. First and foremost I am a world-class petty smuggler. I have been doing this for years — generator spare parts, plumbing contraptions, kosher chicken, light bulbs; you name it, I have schlepped it across Africa. So first into the bag goes ‘stuff for operations’ and squished around that are white and olive tops, khaki bottoms and black for evening chic (which I never get to wear but still faithfully pack. Hope springs eternal).

There are six very important points to keep in mind before you start planning your safari attire:

1. All the best safari lodges in Africa do your laundry at no cost

2. Animals, other than primates and birds, are colour blind so if you do want to pack a little something lumo (aka neon) that’s absolutely fine

3. You can’t overdo the leopard accessories — you are on safari after all

4. Never sacrifice safari comfort for safari chic (ladies, safari hair is all the rage)

5. You are seldom at the same lodge for more than four nights

6. With only a 15kg allowance be sure to keep space for shopping 

I know you love a list so here goes — a list-with-a-twist:

  • Five (six, max) white and olive cotton or linen tee shirts (plus a few long sleeves for the sun)
  • Fancied up under a snappy puffy light ultra-down vest (I like these ones from Uniqlo)
  • Spin a scarf around your neck (also for the sun and again, ladies, leopard print is perfectly ok)
  • Khaki cotton trousers — 3 pairs will do but you can change them up a little (those zips-offs never get zipped off — wouldn’t bother with them)
  • A beautiful hat? Don’t leave home without one. Packable felt is good but if you are smart enough not to leave it in the Uber, at security or on the plane, wear an Akubra from start to finish. You will love it so much you will want to sleep in it. (Yes, it is from down under but they ship)
  • For evening chic, black is the new black. I bring two long-sleeved tops (just in case of mozzies), a pair of jeggings and a bronze-coloured puffer jacket (Uniqlo, of course). For men, the same rules apply.
  • Ladies, throw a couple of eye-catching necklaces just for fun (but leave your nice jewellery at home)
  • Now for the shoes: you need a comfy slip-on for the flight (I prefer TOMS in black and one of the following: khaki/olive/leopard); something more hearty for safari (my Timberland boat shoes tick that box); a flip flop for the pool (Havianas, more leopard if you can find them); and the same TOMS for evening. Easy peasy.

Five other essentials I never leave home without:

  • A down travel pillow (I always fly coach, so a godsend)
  • A pashmina for the flight
  • My iPad

One last essential, and something I never travel without, is an immaculate pedicure. You never know when your shoes might have to come off and who might be watching.

Filed under: Safari Style

Tagged with:

safari essentials , Travel , what to pack

About: Nicky Fitzgerald

After more than 30 years in hospitality, starting with a small hotel at the foot of Africa and followed by a further couple of Cape hotels, most notably The Bay, and sixty plus safari lodges across Africa and India, Nicky has served more meals, puffed more cushions, filled more beds, trained more staff and opened more properties than she cares to remember. Her driving force is ‘will our guests love this?’ She has come full circle and is happily puffing, cooking, training and filling to her heart’s content high up on the edge of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley at Angama Mara.

Browse all articles by Nicky Fitzgerald Meet the angama team

Keep Reading

Travel in the Time of Rona 22 September 2020 It took sheer bloody mindedness and a dose of foolhardiness for Nicky to escape a tightly locked-down South Africa to return to her beloved Angama Mara in Kenya By Nicky Fitzgerald
Crossing Over from Africa to Alaska 12 September 2017 Nicky Fitzgerald tells us about her journey across the world, reflects on what it takes to build lodges in extreme and beautiful places and discovers what it feels like to be a guest in the middle of nowhere By Nicky Fitzgerald
Crossing Over: Then and Now 7 February 2017 Kate shares what days spent on African bush strips in transit used to mean, compared to what they mean now... By Kate Fitzgerald Boyd
A Camel Safari in the Big North 29 March 2022 Fulfilling a life-long dream, Kristin and Helle set off on a camel walking safari in the arid landscapes of Laikipia By Helle Sejer-Hansen
Join the Conversation (4 comments)

Comments (4):

Mike Madin

31 March 2022

Hi Nicky, you surprise me; A long time Africa Lady such as yourself extolling the virtues of the Akubra. ( only joking). Any particular reason the solid, reliable and just as good, made in SA, Rogue doesn't get your vote?? I still have 2 of them. I'm sure the Angama tourist take home shop would do a roaring trade. Keep well and enjoy your upcoming semi retirement. Best Regards Mike Madin ex Africa now Spain

    Charlotte Ross Stewart

    1 April 2022

    Hello Mike, I passed your message on to Nicky and this was her reply: Hi Mike, Your message brought a smile to my face. I have an incurable addiction to Akubra - there you have it... But thanks for the heads up on Rogue and I have passed this on to our Safari Shop team. Warm regards, Nicky

Wildbud Safaris

8 December 2020

I totally agree with you, a fresh white T-shirt is a must. It is so versatile. Thanks for the tips. You made preparing for a safari so much easier.

    Kate Fitzgerald Boyd

    11 December 2020

    You are most welcome - the simpler the clothing the better is our safari moto

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