Packing For An African Safari

In GEAR, Resources, The Craft, Travel, Wilderness by David46 Comments

I arrived in Kenya a couple of days ago, and after looking for rhinos for two days in Nairobi National Park, I’m now settled in on the Maasai Mara and eager to get back to work behind the camera. No clients this time—just me and my best friend and a chance to photograph our favourite place on the planet.

I’ve been asked over the years, both by my safari clients and others, what and how to pack for a trip like this, so it felt like this might be a good time to explore that for those who are curious. If you and I were sitting down over a glass of wine and you told me you were planning a safari and asked me for my advice on packing, here’s what would be most likely to tumble out of my mouth, in no particular order. This is a long one, so you might want to get that glass of wine (or cup of coffee) now.

Arrive Early

Most flights into Nairobi arrive late at night, usually from 9 pm to midnight. You clear customs, grab your bags, and head out of the airport to take your first breath of air—a mix of dust and diesel and the heady promise of adventure. If you’re on one of my trips, a driver will pick you up and take you to your hotel for whatever sleep you can get before an early breakfast and a short flight to the Maasai Mara. That’s if it all goes well: if there are no delays, no missed connections, and no lost luggage.

My recommendation is to arrive at least one night earlier; I prefer to spend two or three nights at The Emakoko. Located in Nairobi National Park, staying at The Emakoko means I’m in a Land Cruiser and out of the city within 20 minutes of walking out of the airport (about 40 minutes to the actual camp). And within seven or eight short hours, I’m photographing rhinos and lions in the morning light, shaking off the dust and jet lag while waiting for my clients (or luggage) to arrive.

And if there’s a problem with international flight delays (or wayward luggage), I’ve got time to sort that out before I need to be on a small plane heading to the Mara or whichever area I’m exploring. Planning to arrive two nights before you’re meant to be on a charter flight to the Mara (or Amboseli, or Meru, or wherever) provides a buffer and some peace of mind. And if you want to get out to see things like the Giraffe Centre, the Sheldrick Elephant Trust, or just spend the day exploring and photographing in Nairobi National Park, this gives you time to do that.

Pack Light

This is easily the hardest part of most safari travel. Sure, your flight to Nairobi will let you carry 50 lbs (or more) of checked luggage and maybe as much as 50 lbs in your carry-on luggage as well. So bring it all, right? But the problem arises when you need to get on a small Cessna and they tell you you’re limited to something insane like 25 lbs—total! It’s an impossible ask of photographers with gear.

Even if I didn’t bring a stitch of clothing (look away!), my camera gear alone weighs more than this. The workaround is to book an additional seat or child’s seat with your airline (usually SafariLink), or to travel with a small group specifically catering to photographers, like one of my trips, in which case we just charter the whole plane. Weight limits of some sort still apply, but they’re much less restrictive. Mercifully, my clients can now pack a few pieces of clothing as well.

Once you arrive at your safari camp, you need very little. A couple changes of clothes is really all you need as there’s basic laundry at most camps. Bring a sweater or light jacket as the mornings can be cool. Bring a rain shell if you’re there during the rainy season. You’re not there to make a fashion statement, so just bring the basics. But do be aware of what your limits are before you get there and plan for those limits (everything is negotiable) or you’ll find yourself frustrated and stressed out when all you want to do is board your plane. If you’re going with a group or you’ve got a safari organizer, be sure to ask about this. Of course, if you’re driving to the Mara (or whichever area you’re visiting) it becomes a non-issue, but I wouldn’t trade more time on safari for unlimited gear and the long drive ever again. A 45-minute flight compared to an eight-hour drive? That’s an easy choice for me.

Soft Luggage

The other thing to keep in mind is your luggage itself; the smaller planes really don’t like rigid luggage, so leave the hard shell suitcase at home. Pilots like to be able to get as much luggage as possible into the small holds, and large rigid suitcases make this more difficult than it needs to be. They’re also heavy, so if you want to save weight and not get your pilot’s nose out of joint, stick to something soft. I like the Base Camp series of duffel bags from The North Face. I’ve got five of these bags in different sizes, and they’ve never failed.

The North Face Base Camp Duffel has been around the world with me, in various sizes and colours for many years. Reasonable weather-proof and extremely durable, these (or something like them) are my recommendation.

In addition to what I wear as I travel, here’s what’s in my duffel for this trip:

  • 2 long-sleeve buttoned shirts (I prefer something lightweight and synthetic, like nylon) 
  • 1 warmer long-sleeve shirt (I like merino wool)
  • 2 pairs underwear
  • 2 pair of socks
  • 2 pairs lightweight long pants (I prefer synthetic travel pants in addition to the blue jeans I wear there and back)
  • Lightweight flip-flops
  • Light nylon shorts that double as swim trunks
  • 1 baseball or sun hat 
  • 1 sweater, merino wool (I like the Icebreaker brand)
  • 1 lightweight puffy jacket (Patagonia) for cooler mornings
  • 1 lightweight rain coat (Patagonia)
  • 3–4 Buffs, which are handy fabric tubes that can be worn around your neck to protect from sun, pulled over your nose and ears to keep pesky flies out, and wrapped around lenses and camera bodies to protect them in transit. I love my Buffs!

What About Footwear?

My favourite slide-on/slide-off boots are Blundstones, and they’ve been around the world (and on safari) with me many times. You don’t usually need much more than light sneakers or ankle boots for safari because you’re not often out of the vehicles unless you’re on a walking safari. Don’t weigh yourself down with heavy leather hikers. I have clients who happily wear sandals all day, though I prefer to keep my feet covered and out of reach of bugs.

About Carry-On Bags

Now, this all assumes you’ve managed to get to Kenya in the first place without running the gauntlet of various luggage limitations imposed by international carriers. Since they all differ, the best thing you can do is check your limits and buy a decent luggage scale and keep it with you as you pack.

My British Airways flights to get here (YVR – LHR – NBO) allowed me two pieces in the cabin, each up to 23 kg (or 51 lbs). That’s generous; many airlines don’t give you this much. To my surprise, Air Canada is currently limiting the size and number (2) of carry-on bags but is saying that no specific weight limits apply. I’m not sure when that change happened, but it’s welcome! Know your limits and work within them.

My carry-on bags are the Gura Gear Kiboko 30L and the Gura Gear Chobe 16″. Both are lightweight, can carry a ton of stuff, and still fit in almost every overhead bin I’ve ever tried and under some of the tightest seats, and they look like they carry less than they do. I own five different Gura Gear bags, and they’re my hands-down favourites for my long-lens trips.

One of my Gura Gear Kiboko bags (left and centre) and my Gura Gear Chobe (right). Made from a durable sail cloth these are lighter than any other bag of the same size that I’ve used.

About Gear

For this trip, I packed the following in my Kiboko backpack (carry-on #1):

  • 2 x Sony a1 bodies with vertical battery grips
  • 24-105/4.0 lens
  • 100-400/4.5-5.6 lens
  • 600/4.0 lens
  • 1.4x  and 2x teleconverters
  • 6 batteries for the cameras (lithium-ion batteries cannot go in checked luggage)
  • 1  small Petzl USB-rechargeable (lithium-ion) headlamp (don’t overlook this; you’ll be starting and ending the day in the dark, and having a hands-free light to find things while you’re bumping around in the truck at the edges of day can really help)
  • 1 card wallet with 10 x 256 GB SD cards (bring more than you think you need)

*A note about packing lenses: don’t travel with them attached to your camera bodies, especially longer lenses, which act like levers. It’s just too easy for the weak point—where the lens and body connect—to fail if a bag gets dropped. Keep them separate in transit and put them together when you get to your camp.

I packed the following into my Gura Gear Chobe bag (carry-on #2):

  • 1 x Apple MacBook Pro 13″
  • 2 x Samsung 2TB SSD hard drives (SSD drives have no moving parts and are much faster and more durable than drives with spinning platters (and they’re so small I can put one in my passport wallet)
  • 1 card reader and one hub to connect it all
  • Power cables and plug adapter (Kenya uses type G, the same as the U.K.)
  • USB-C charger, Sony charger (this one does 4 batteries at a time and charges via USB-C)
  • 1 novel (I like books about the places I’m traveling to, and this time it’s A Grain of Wheat by Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o)
  • 1 journal and pens
  • Apple AirPods Max
  • Passports, copies of my visa, and relevant vaccine passports (copies of all these are also in the cloud on Dropbox, just in case)
  • iPhone
  • Sunglasses
  • Medications and a couple of meal bars
  • Cash for tips and emergencies (USD in newer, smaller bills—most camps take credit cards, but it’s good to have a few hundred bucks in cash to tip your drivers)

On other trips when weight limits are tighter (for example, on Lufthansa, I’m allowed two carry-on bags, but each max out at 8 kg/roughly 18 lbs, and that’s for the business class cabin!), I move some of the heavier stuff from the big bag into the smaller one because the big bag is most likely to draw attention and get weighed. Fortunately, the airlines don’t like putting expensive gear, lithium-ion batteries, or life-saving medication in the hold, and that pretty much covers everything in my bags!

What I like about this set-up is that when I get to camp, my computer and personal stuff is all in one bag that stays in my tent, and once my gear is all together, I have only one backpack and a long lens and camera to take to the Land Cruiser for game drives. It’s easy to work out of and still keep my stuff (as well as a raincoat, a sweater, and a bottle of water) all together.

So, Which Lenses?

I’ve listed above which lenses I bring. Out on the savannah, you’ll have plenty of times when the 24-105mm will be perfect (the lions and beasties almost within touching distance), and the wider focal lengths for landscapes and shooting the adventure itself are great. Other times you’ll want the reach of a longer lens.

Do you need a 600mm lens? No. In fact, longer lenses are bigger and weigh more, and you might be better off with a 300/2.8 and a 1.4x or 2x tele, depending on the quality of images you get with your particular glass. A 1.4x on my Sony 600/4.0 is amazing and gives me the extra reach. The 2x is overkill, but I bring it just in case since it doesn’t weigh much. Another way to get some extra reach might be to bring one body that’s not full-frame in order to take advantage of the crop factor.

The other consideration is not only reach but how much light it lets in. Some of the best opportunities I’ve had in the softer light on either side of the day have benefited from a lens that lets more light in, but if your camera does well at low-light/high-ISO, then just nudge that ISO up. It’s always a compromise (with budget as well), and for many people, the best compromise might be something like a slightly slower zoom lens rather than a long fast telephoto. And because you are usually confined to vehicles, generally choosing zoom lenses over fixed primes will give you some flexibility with your compositions. I personally don’t think there’s any reason to bring more than three lenses on safari.

Instead of the big heavy 600mm and the 100-400mm, you could bring a lens like Sony’s excellent 200-600/5.6-6.3. As long as I could get to about 600mm of reach with focal lengths in between from about 24mm, I’d be happy on safari.

Remember, some of this glass is prohibitively expensive, especially if you’re not doing this often, and this is where I suggest you consider renting. Don’t buy a $10,000 lens when you could rent one and get access to a much longer, faster lens for much, much less.

Which Camera?

Well, for most of us, the answer is “whichever cameras you own.” But something with decent high-ISO performance, a fast burst mode, and quick autofocus will serve you well. It’s probably more important that you have two of them so you have a backup if one fails, and so you don’t have to change lenses too often in what is often a very dusty environment. Most of the time, I’ve got one body with my 600mm and mounted to a monopod, and the other with my 100-400mm sitting in my open bag at my feet.


Bring enough batteries for a long full day of shooting a lot of frames. Most lodges have easy access to charging stations, but you’ll want to be sure you can shoot all day. Not every camp has charging stations in the tents, so it’s helpful to label your batteries and chargers just so you know what belongs to who if there are others there with similar gear.

SD Cards?

Bring them all. My hard drives max out at 2 TB, so I have 2 TB of cards (mostly 256GB, but some older 128GB cards, just in case). They weigh nothing, so if you’ve got’em, bring’em. I make sure I have enough cards and hard drives that I can arrive home with everything backed up on two drives and not have to reformat or re-use my cards until the images are safe at home.

Anything Else?

  • 1 x 4-outlet power strip with USB (this means I only need one plug adapter and can charge multiple things at once—handy if there are other photographers wanting to use a limited number of outlets)
  • A rocket blower and small sensor cleaning kit
  • 6-8 microfiber lens cloths in a Ziploc bag
  • Small multi-tool (Gerber)
  • 2 x garbage bags in case it rains or my big gear needs quick protection from dust
  • Tiny roll of duct tape and tiny tube of Superglue
  • Tiny pocket-sized first aid kit
  • Spare glasses and sunglasses (if I can’t see, the trip is over!)
  • Binoculars (although the camps often provide them, I like using my own—and if I’m cutting bag weight, these are the first to get left at home)
  • Monopod (Really Right Stuff) with a gimbal head specific to monopods (I use and recommend the Wimberley MH-100)

About Support

Longer lenses mean the need for some kind of support. Sure, you could just hold that 600mm (it weighs 3 kg without the camera), but not for very long! Wildlife requires a lot of patience and waiting, and you want to be ready when the action happens, not sitting there with a camera on your lap.

For years I brought a bean bag filled with lightweight buckwheat husks, and filling it at home saves you from having to find beans or some other filler when you get to camp. I still suggest this for those who don’t want a monopod or who use lighter lenses, but many vehicles (especially the open-sided ones that are best for photography) don’t have a great place to put a bean bag, or if they do, they’re so low you couldn’t see through the viewfinder if you wanted to (tilting LCD screens to the rescue).

What About Tripods?

You might want a tripod if you plan to shoot landscapes or the night sky, but a tripod is a terrible idea for the vehicles; there’s just no room. And they’re one more thing cutting into your limited weight allowance. I haven’t packed a tripod for safari in 12 years, but last year, I started using a monopod, and with the right gimbal head for lenses with a tripod collar, it’s amazing

I keep my monopod collapsed and rest it on the seat or my thigh most of the time. But I can also expand it and rest it on the floor, or expand it more completely and rest it on the ground outside the vehicle to get my camera much lower. And once it’s up, I can sit for hours, holding it loosely, with my camera aimed where I want it. I can’t believe I waited this long to shoot this way. And if you don’t want it, take it off, and it’s out of the way.

So, ahem, while we’re talking about support, Cynthia and other female clients have told me often that I need to add a good sports bra to my suggested packing lists. There is a lot of bouncing around in the safari vehicles and for those for whom that might matter (you know who you are), if a little extra support sounds like a good idea, then consider adding that to your packing list.

My first Kenyan safari was 13 years ago, and it changed my life. We now spend every January (pandemic notwithstanding) exploring this wonderful country. For wildlife lovers, it’s an extraordinary experience. But it’s not only the fantastic animals: it’s the light, the landscapes from which the human race sprung, and the people. I feel so…home here. If you’re at all curious about exploring or photographing Kenya, I’d love to answer any questions you may have in the comments below this post.

I’ve got an incredible safari planner, and if it might help you plan your own trip, let me know in the comments, and I’ll introduce you by email. He’s my secret weapon.

Got a question about gear? Let’s talk about that, too. It’s taken me a long time to dial this in, and I’d like to make it easier for you if I can. There’s so much I didn’t cover in this article, but if you’ve got questions, let’s explore them!

For the Love of the Photograph,

PS – Want more like this? I send these articles out every two weeks to photographers around the world who want to improve their craft and explore their creativity and I’d love to include you. Tell me where to send it and I’ll send you a copy of my best-selling eBook Make Better Photographs, as well bi-weekly articles, first-glimpse monographs of my new work, and very occasional news of resources to help you keep moving forward in this craft we love.

“Each and every one of your emails inspire and motivate me to want to jump right out of my chair away from my computer and shoot for the love of it . Thank you David.” – Millie Brown


  1. David, This blog is terrific. These are the kinds of tips usually learned the hard way (“Experience is the best teacher, except it gives the exam before the lesson”), but your travel worn insights are a big help.

    I am always concerned about security. A couple years ago I traveled to Zimbabwe and barely made it out of the airport with my equipment. Airport personnel, including the GM, wanted to confiscate my gear if I didn’t pay a huge duty! (“How do we know you’re not intending to sell this equipment while you’re in our country?”) Fortunately, our guide signaled me to slip out while he distracted the GM. True story.

    Now I am headed to South Sudan. How can I be best assured to enter and leave again with all my gear? I’ll deal with security in the field. It’s “TSA” I’m most concerned about.

  2. Hello David

    I will be traveling to Peru in the very near future. I am mainly wanting to photograph the wonderful people and culture of Peru. I am figuring that my 24-120 and 70-200 (perhaps the 70-300), and maybe a small 20mm prime glass should be more than sufficient. What is your take on my choice of lenses?

    Spirit Vision Photography

    1. Hi Russ. Lens choice is so personal and depends not so much on the kind of trip you take as the kind of images you want, and your needs as you travel. If you need to go light then the 24-120 might be all you need but I don’t know your tastes and preferences. If it were me I’d lean to the one lens and making the most of it. But only you know how comfortable you’ll be working with that constraint. 😉

  3. Hi David. Thanks for all the detailed info of packing for a safari. On my first safari in South Africa I wasn’t that into photography so didn’t sweat what equipment to bring. This September we are going to Uganda for the gorilla trek and Kenya for the great migration. I’m now much more into photography (and maybe more knowledgeable having done a few of your courses😉) I’m debating which lenses to bring for my Fuji xt-4 given the weight restrictions. For sure my trusty 18-55 will be coming, but I’m having trouble deciding between the 55-200 or the 100-400. I’m leaning towards the 55-200, both because of weight and I’m thinking most animals will be within that range. What advice do you have? Please don’t say both🤪

    1. Author

      Hi Mary Anne,

      My instinct is to say (sorry!) take them both! 🙂 None of them are super heavy lenses and I know that on safari with only my 55-200 (when that’s all Fujinon offered) I felt very restricted. The 100-400 was a gift and is still an excellent lens for safari. 55-200 might be perfect for gorillas (along with the 18-55) and you might then not want the larger zoom, especially if you’re trekking, but for the safari portion of the trip, that 100-400 will get a lot of use.

      If you were one of my safari clients I’d day bring all 3. I think you’ll kick yourself if you don’t have the 100-400.

      I hope this helps. You’ll have a fantastic time no matter what!

  4. Hi David I live in Australia and am a member of Camberwell Camera Club and would love to purchase a Kiboko V2.0 30L camera pack and clicked on your link to purchase one but unfortunately they don’t ship to Australia. I have also been unable to find anywhere here that has them. Any suggestions on how I might obtain one. Could you please email me your response.

  5. Lots of good advice in this post, and not only specific to a safari. Good to hear from someone that’s dealt with the realities of this kind of travel.

  6. Happy travels David (and Cynthia!). I love these behind the scenes glimpses.

    I’m curious: when you’re on the road, do you tend to write in your notebook or digitally? My workflow is an organizational mess because I do both, which makes it tough to find notes I KNOW I made. 😆

    1. Author

      You and me both, my friend. I write in my journal. I write in Evernote. Sometimes in both. It’s a mess. But the one thing that saves is that I use them for different things. Mostly. Evernote is for long form stuff I plan to share – the writing I do for publishing of some kind. And it’s for To-Do lists and details. The journal is all short-form. Daily happenings and private thoughts. Once in a while I’ll jot a note, like the name and number of the helicopter pilot I just met in Kenya. But that kind of thing I know I’ll be looking for later goes into Evernote as well, because it’s searchable. So a more use-based approach is probably how I’d describe one vs the other. I like Evernote because it’s searchable and I’ve got a bit of a system now. Not sure how I lived without it. But having said that you can pry my Moleskine notebook, Lochby pocket journal cover, and Mont Blanc pen from my cold, dead, analog hands! I hope you’re well!

    1. Thanks, Al, please do! The only thing I neglected to add to my list were the 2 Up-Strap bandoliers. Still my favourite (only) camera straps. I don’t know when camera straps got so complicated but I do love my Up-Strap bandoliers!

  7. Great list, David, you’ve mentioned all the important items. One addition: bring an old (but clean!) pillowcase or two to use as a dust cover for cameras in the vehicle (plastic bags will produce static that will attract dust to your camera).

    1. Author

      Interesting idea, Sheila! The static never occurred to me. I keep a bin liner or two in my bag for emergencies but otherwise don’t do more than throw a blanket over my gear. Pillowcase would have to be REALLY large to fit my lenses. Maybe a King-size?

    1. Author

      Hi Jon, I’ve sent you an email with information and an introduction!

      1. Me too? Living in Nairobi I plan my own but people always ask for recommendation s! If you are still in town let’s have sundowner!

  8. One modification to your list is the lightweight long pants-get the ones that unzip to form short pants- a double whammy.
    You and also swim in the shorts.

    1. Author

      Great idea. If I didn’t already have pants I really like, and were buying another pair, this is a great recommendation. I don’t love the style of those pants, but if going light is more important, then you hit the nail on the head, Joel!

  9. Thanks for this very thorough discussion. Very informative & helpful. I’m currently in Busia for work, but have 2 weekends free. Any suggestions for good places to photograph near here? Thanks again!

    1. Author

      Hi Steven – I wish I could help but I’ve never been as far west in Kenya as Busia without flying past it and into Uganda. Best bet is to ask a local contact. Local intel can’t be beat!

  10. Thanks so much for this! I’m always looking for tips and tricks to improve my packing.
    I usually pack my 100-400mm attached to my Canon DSLR in my Lowepro backpack carry-on so I will stop that right now.
    And will switch my external backup drives to be SSD.

    How do you go carrying what are effectively 3 backpack-style bags at once? Or does the duffel go on your back, and you carry one Gura bag in each hand?
    I usually travel with a soft rolling duffel (Eagle Creek), then the Lowepro camera backpack on my back (10kg, me trying to look like it’s only 7kg), and then a string bag in my hand with passport etc (or marsupial-style on my front if I need to be hands free).

    TNF Duffel doesn’t seem to have padlockable zipper tags? How do you go securing it for check-in?

    Is the card case a ThinkTank? I’m trying to find one that fits multiple SD cards still in their plastic cases plus a card reader, ideally all in zipped or secured sections.

    1. Author

      Hi Megan – Yes, the backpack straps are good for hauling the TNF duffel but honestly there are almost always carts and or people who will gladly help carry things. So I don’t give a second thought to that UNLESS the weight doesn’t matter, then a duffle with wheels is great. As for locks on the zippers, I’ve never bothered. TSA and related security authorities will cut them off, and ANYTHING with a zipper can be opened through the zipper with a pen (Google it) without even touching the sliders or locks. I just leave them open. To my knowledge in 20 years of travel I’ve never lost a single thing in checked luggage. Finally, yes, it’s a Think Tank card wallet but it wouldn’t take the card inside the little plastic cases they come in. Nice to hear from you!

      1. OMG David I have indeed Googled breaking into zipped/locked luggage and my travel world will never be quite the same again! All the more motivation to fit everything I can’t do without into my carry-on.

        I have a Macgyver kit (I like Oh Sh*t kit!) too with blunt scissors, gaffer tape, carabiners, and will add cable ties. My portable washing line doubles as bungee cord, and I’ve been told my dental floss comes in handy for emergency repairs and spare shoelaces 🙂

        Thanks again!

  11. So helpful David! Thank you! Am I correct in assuming you’ve moved from Fuji to Sony?

    1. Author

      Hi Joe – I have indeed! I made the switch as part of a longer transition to doing more wildlife photography. Couldn’t be happier. It’s taken a while to get used to the ergonomics, which I never loved on the Sony, but I’m used to it now.

  12. Thanks David! Great article. I’m curious to hear more about your use of the monopod. Have you ever used this to lower your camera outside the vehicle to shoot from a lower position to be on eye level with the wildlife? If yes, HOW do you focus and take the image? Remote shutter release? iPhone app? I have Sony cameras. Thanks!

    1. Author

      Hi Jane! Yes, I was doing it just this morning out on game drive. I just lean over, fold out the LCD screen, and use the shutter normally with my finger. It awkward but it works. Past attempts with remote triggers only made things feel more awkward than they needed to be. But as I see it, part of the appeal of the monopod is that I can put it just about anywhere that I can still keep my hands and eyes on the camera.

      1. Thanks! I’ll give it a try. Headed to Kenya for safari next week, followed by gorilla trek in Uganda. Any tips on using Sony A1 with 24-70 or 70-200 in low light forests on gorillas? I imagine the ISO will be 12,800 or higher?

        1. Author

          Hi Jane – Sorry I missed this. My internet while in Kenya was on and off (as was my time online!) I hope you have a great trip and figured out that low-light/high ISO stuff. Bottom line” if you need high ISOs, then it’s more important than ever that you absolutely nail those exposures. Under-exposing at high ISOs will make the files harder to work with, much more noise, than if you make sure your histogram is more to the right than it is to the left (without also losing important highlight detail)

  13. Hey David, it just so happens I’m going on my first safari this month. I’m interested in your use of a mono pod and gimbel head. You say it gets you lower next to the vehicle? Are 2 2TB drives enough? Something I’m told to bring is a moist washcloth in a baggie to wipe down the gear when it gets dusty. Would there be any reason the bring a 20-30mm lens for extreme wide angle close ups, like an elephant?

    I have two bags a 30L Gura 26 pounds and a duffel 17 pounds and I haven’t even added my laptop. Do they just weigh the check in luggage or all of it? I haven’t been able to get a straight answer to this question.

    As always thank you for your dedication to our craft I do enjoy your posts and as a teacher you’re the best, Richard

    1. Author

      Hi Richard! OMG, you’re going to have a blast! Get in touch if I can help at all. Depends how long you go but a 2TB was enough for me in January and I was here for a month. Depends too on how liberal you are with your frame rate. I’m pretty heavy-handed. 🙂 If you’re worried, bring more cards but make sure you bring the same amount in drive space.

      A moist baggie is fine. I just wipe my gear down when I get back to the camp if it’s particularly dusty. I don’t sweat that stuff. And if you’re 20mm close to an elephant you’re probably too close! LOL. I now leave my 16-35mm at home and favour the 24-105. It’s more bang for the buck.

      So, the baggage. It honestly depends where you are and which airline. In Kenya if you hop a SafariLink flight, they will weigh it on the way out of the city, but likely not on the way back. Best thing to do is ask your safari planner or the airline itself. But in Kenya the luggage limits include everything!

      Thanks for the kind words. Touch base if you need a hand.

      1. Hey David, how do you use the monopod? On the side on the vehicle? Do they weigh the check in luggage and not the back pack?

        1. Hey Richard. The monopod is so versatile. I’ve used it extended and placed outside the vehicle on the ground or even resting on part of the vehicles themselves. I’ve used it inside the vehicle resting on the floor, and probably most often collapsed and resting on my seat. The key is the monopod gimbal head that allows you to to get really creative with where you rest it and how you position the camera. Without the gimbal head I think a monopod is just a stick.

          Luggage is that hardest part and it depends who you fly with but generally stated weight limits on the kind of flights that take you around Kenya (Tanzania, etc) don’t distinguish between “carry on” and “checked”. Weight limits are weight limits inclusive of everything. For the past 4-5 years we’ve just chartered our own plans in order to avoid other people, fixed schedules, and strict baggage limits. Prepare to go light, and likely / possibly to pay for overages.

  14. Hi David, I want to thank you for this wonderful article. I have not been on a safari for about 15 years, so this helps to remind me of the needs, and care, I should follow for our planned Kenya/Tanzania trip in September. I fondly remember our experience in Lalibela many years ago, and was happy to revisit 3 yrs ago too.
    Have a safe trip and share your images and advice with us when you can.

    1. Author

      Hi Errol! Good to hear from you. You’re going to have a blast on safari this September. I never get tired of this wonderful place.

  15. Great article, as always. I really appreciate the images that you have created on safari. Additionally your safari editing is beautiful. I will be on the lookout for an on line safari workshop with editing.

  16. Great article – thanks. Another suggestion: Throw in a few zip-ties in assorted sizes. Amazing what you can fix or cobble together with them.

    1. Author

      Great, Paul, I actually carry a couple in my “Oh Sh*t!” kit but forgot to mention them. Add duct tape and some crazy glue and you should be able to fix anything (or hold a busted zipper shut!)

  17. Love reading your post and will keep it handy for the next trip to Kenya.

    Your post caught my eye as I am journaling my recollections of our June Kenya trip with your colleague, Kathy Karn.

    My husband I wrapped up our final day before our night flight out with rhinos in Nairobi National Park. What a pleasure to have one last bite of the wildlife apple before we left.

    Thank you for all your sound advice in
    packing for our next safari.

    Enjoy your latest adventure!

    1. Author

      I hope you had a fantastic trip, Annette! Are you already planning the next one? The safari bug bites hard!

  18. I returned home this week after a month with polar bears in Svalbard to the chaos of air travel and lost baggage. I’d add AirTags to the list. It added some comfort knowing where my bags were for the past 8 days even though I couldn’t get to them.

    1. Great addition.
      We’re adding AirTags to our list.
      Hope you’re reunited with your bags soon.

    2. Author

      Yes!! I’m travelling with a friend using AirTags and SO jealous. He gets on the plane and knows his bags are there. I just cross my fingers. Ordering a few of them when I’m home!!

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