|My time in Africa changed my life forever. My experiences there became the basis not only for my book, Life Safari, but for the entire concept I teach of the Big Five for Life. There is nothing quite like an African safari adventure. It is an adventure like no other. Here are the top ten things to make sure you bring with you when you go.
#1. Sense of Adventure and Awe
There is also a different pace to life in Africa. Neither the animals, nor the people are frantically running around like the world is on fire. Life moves in a more tranquil fashion, a pace more in harmony with nature. This is a good thing, although to some type A personalities who get frustrated when the line at Starbucks takes more then four minutes to get through, it can take a little getting used to.
Here’s the trick, at any time during your experience when you start to feel a little out of sorts, take a long deep breath, look around, and think to yourself “I’m in Africa. I am in Africa! How cool is this.” Then just marvel at everything around you.
#2. Good digital camera or video camera
I also recommend taking two of the largest memory storage device you can buy for the camera. For example, if it’s an SD card, take the biggest Gig storage they have. I recommend two because when you are out on safari you won’t be able to buy another one, so if it gets broken, or malfunctions in some way, you’ll have a backup. Plus it enables you to take lots of shots without worrying about running out of disc space. You can always go through and delete the extras, but you certainly don’t want to have a lion walk right in front of you carrying a baby giraffe, click the button, and get the “No More Memory” message.
I will throw one note of caution to you regarding cameras. I’ve seen people get so engrossed in taking photos of the animals, that they don’t really experience the animals. While I absolutely think it’s great to get some memorable shots, don’t forget to collect some life experiences as well.
In truth, you haven’t forgotten any of it, you’ve just buried it under all the new stuff that’s happened, and so you can’t easily recall the details of the experience. What’s amazing though, is that if you take a few minutes each night on safari to journal about your experience, then five years later when you read it, not only will you remember everything you read about, but all kinds of other memories spring to life as well. It’s almost like you are priming the memory pump and the rest of them flow through the same tube.
Without the journal entries to get the pump going though, the tube pretty much stays closed, and that’s a shame, because when you re-live an amazing experience, you get many of the same joys from the re-living, as you got from the actual experience.
As a side note, you’ll find as you are going through your safari experience and looking for the African Big Five, that you’re likely to gain some clarity about your own Big Five for Life™. As my friend Sam Horn says, “Muse it, or lose it.” In other words, you want to write down your epiphanies when they happen, or you just might forget them. Having the journal handy guarantees you’ll have a place to jot them down.
#4. Animal Spotting Guide
I recommend getting one that is in color because many of the differentiating characteristics of the animals are their colors, so a black and white guide isn’t nearly as effective. Keep a pen or pencil handy, and each time you see a new species, put a little check next to it with the date, and maybe the location where you saw it. It makes for another great keepsake of your safari experience.
#5. Appropriate Clothes for the Weather and Circumstances
As a general principal I take some kind of a sweatshirt or jacket with me no matter where I go on my travels. Very few times have I gone an entire trip without needing it at least once.
I’m also a huge fan of special travel pants that have two unique characteristics. The first is that they zip off at the knee, so that with a quick unzip on each leg, your pants become shorts. A great way to pack less, but still have the right clothing for warmer and cooler situations. The second feature I look for in my travel pants are double zip, or double Velcro pockets. Basically, it’s like a pocket within a pocket. (I’ve had special custom ones designed for me that have double Velcro and a zipper, which is great also.) The purpose of this feature is that it makes it practically impossible for you to get pick pocketed, or for something to randomly fall out of your pants pocket. I take these with me every time I travel, because then I never have to worry about my money or passport. I always have them with me, and they are always secure.
#6. A Tilley Hat
#7. Medications — Malaria, Shots, and Others.
Cipro, which is an antibiotic, is often prescribed for travelers as a form of treatment for food poisoning. Ask your doctor about that as well, and it’s a good idea to always have a few Imodium, or similar over the counter medication on hand.
In terms of other medications, bring whatever you need with you. You can’t count on being able to refill any medication while on your trip.
#8. Snacks and Water
When you are out on the savannah it isn’t like you can take a quick trip to the drive through to solve your case of the munchies. Even with all inclusive luxury safari lodges, it never hurts to be prepared. An energy bar or something similar is easy to carry and lasts you for a long time.
#9. Someone Important to Share the Experience With
You can certainly enjoy the experience while running solo And better to experience it on your own, than to not go because you don’t have someone to go with. That said, it’s a pretty amazing thing to be able to share it with someone important in your life. It is certainly an experience that will be a permanent bond between you and whoever you go with.
I don’t recommend bringing small little binoculars. They just aren’t powerful enough for what you want. I’ve tried them, and much prefer using a good professional series type. Many tour operators have them available for guests either for rent, or as part of your package, so check into that. If not, I’d recommend picking up a pair.
#11. Although not in the top ten, hiking boots, sunscreen, insect repellant, a very thick paperback from your favorite author, and an LED head lamp are permanent parts of my travel pack as well.
About John P. Strelecky