Top 10 things to bring to Africa

Author:  Christina Heinle

Going on safari in Africa is a great vacation for photographers and non-photographers.  The opportunities for photographs and fantastic experiences are endless.  After my trip to Zambia, Botswana and Naimbia, I put together my list of top 10 things to bring to Africa.

  1. Have a camera with a zoom. I know this may seem like a DUH..OF COURSE item but I can’t tell you how many people on my African tour (granted it wasn’t a specialized photography tour) were taking pictures with their cell phone wishing they had a camera with a zoom.
  2. Bring mosquito repellant and repellant clothes. Ok, another DUH…OF COURSE item. I had one pair of bug resistant Exofficio (please link pants and long sleeved shirt and I used Jungle Juice repellant. (please link The trick to any repellant is to apply it under all your clothes before you get dressed. My girlfriend only applied repellant to visible skin and the mosquito’s had a buffet all up and down her legs. Clothes were not going to stop these mosquito’s from their fine dining.
  3. Bring cash in small currencies and dated AFTER 2006. The bills dated after 2006 is something real merchants and businesses care about. I look a plane flight over the Okavango Delta and they only took cash dated after 2006. In Zambia by Victoria Falls, the street merchants take dollars (and don’t care about the dates) but you don’t want to hand them a $20 for a $5 item and ask for change.  They will talk you into buying something more. They are quite persistent and crafty. And don’t let them fool you, their brother back in the village didn’t teach himself to paint, their cousin didn’t hollow out the stone and the husband didn’t sand the salad tongues till it was smooth and shiny.  It is from China, just like the same salad tongs at the next street vendor.
  4. Carry your own toilet paper in a ziplock plastic bag. The restrooms were hit and miss as far as cleaniness and workability. One thing most of them had in common was no TP and the one thing you don’t want is to be stranded on the toilet bowl without a roll.
  5. One thing I used frequently were baby wipes. These are so handy and have multiple functions. From wiping down a toilet seat, cleaning hands and feet and wiping up small spills, these were invaluable. I used baby wipes more than my hand sanitizer but wouldn’t go anywhere without both.
  6. Bring a refillable water bottle and buy a 5liter bottle of water to refill the water bottle. Environmentally this is the smart thing to do and also insures you have ample water for drinking, rinsing hands and brushing teeth.  Many areas in Africa the water is safe but do you really want to take that risk?
  7. While in Africa I bought a small purse to wear diagonally across my body to hold the passport, credit card, debit card and some money. Originally I was using a small pouch that fit on my pants but that became a hassle to access and was uncomfortable. I moved it to my camera bag, which I almost always had with me but then I was digging for it continually.  My girlfriend had a small crossover purse and so when I saw a small, flat yet colorful purse, I bought it. Everything was easily accessible, light weight and non-bulky that I could leave it on while sitting in restaurants, traveling in the bus and didn’t have to worry about someone stealing it while I was wearing it. I love it so much that I continued to use it upon returning home and will use it for all travels.Africa_checklist
  8. Your medications. I put my medications in a small plastic bag and put the prescription label on the plastic bag. Make sure you go talk to a travel clinic to discuss medications required as compared to your primary care physician.  Your PCP isn’t a specialist in the areas you travel to and won’t have the vaccinations in inventory. I used Passport Health,(please link… which has locations across the United States.  You sit with a nurse and go through the trip itinerary and discuss the vacations and medication needed.  Passport Health had all the vaccinations on hand and I was able to get my shots right there.  It’s best to talk with someone as soon as your trip is schedule because some vacations require multiple injections over the course of weeks/months to be fully effective.
  9. Bring clothes that are easy to wash and dry. Stick with quick drying, light weight clothes that are easy to hand wash and quick to dry. Stay away from jeans. I brought a little bottle of Dr. Bronner’s castile soap that I used for hand washing, washing clothes, bathing soap and even shampoo.
  10. And finally, bring plastic hangers. My girlfriend brought two hangers which at first I thought how stupid but quickly changed my mind to that’s the best idea ever. Having hangers helps with drying clothes after hand washing or getting wet, letting clothes air out or shake out the wrinkles. She said she always travels with them and I can now see why.

Christina Heinle is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.