Packing to go on holiday can be a daunting task, contending with unpredictable weather, airline luggage restrictions and limited space. Safaris can be even more challenging, especially when you don’t know what to expect.
Knowledge is power, so to ensure you don’t forget the essentials when planning your trip to Samara, we’ve put together a handy Karoo safari packlist with the help of some of South Africa’s top travel bloggers and safari enthusiasts.
1. Light, casual clothing
Leave the heels and glad rags behind – when you’re out in the bush, comfort is of the utmost importance. Light, airy layers that you don’t mind getting dirty are best suited to game drives, walks and hikes. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with bringing something smarter to change into for drinks and dinner – especially if you’re visiting us for a special occasion!
Says Dawn Jorgensen of The Incidental Tourist: ‘The best advice is to stick to neutral colours and shades of blue, no bright or neon colours in the bush. Long cotton shirts and trousers, good walking shoes and a light rain jacket are recommended. Pack lightly, you don’t need as much as you think and most camps offer a laundry service. I swear by interchangeable relaxed outfits with a collection of beautiful scarves to scrub up any outfit.’
2. Warm, windproof layers
The Karoo is a semi-arid desert, so temperatures drop off significantly after dark, even in summer. As such, it’s important to pack warm, windproof clothing for early morning and late afternoon game drives, which can get a bit nippy. In the Karoo winter, which lasts from June to August, temperatures fall significantly and it is not unusual to see snow on the highest mountain peaks. Daytime temperatures are mostly mild and balmy, but evening and early mornings are cold. Fleece ponchos and hot water bottles are provided on game drives however we do recommend you bring a thick jacket to ward off the chill. For more advice on seasons and weather in the Karoo, click here.
3. Sun protection
The African sun can be fierce, even in winter, so it’s important that you’re well protected. Pack high SPF sunblock, a pair of UV protected sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat. As Jennifer Schlüter advises, ‘A wide-brimmed, floppy hat not only keeps the sun at bay but also makes for an interesting wardrobe accessory.’
While we have no doubt that the spectacular landscapes of the Karoo will remain etched in your memory forever, you’ll definitely want to capture memories to share with friends and family back home. The variety of vegetation biomes and topographies at Samara combines with the awesome wildlife viewing on foot to create a setting rich in photographic opportunities. Just don’t forget your charger, spare batteries and memory cards!
Shana Trope of Portfolio gives this advice: ‘Whilst this may seem like an obvious choice, we can’t stress enough how important we feel it is to take a quality camera along on a safari adventure. By “quality” we don’t necessarily mean “fancy” – we simply mean a camera that takes decent pictures. Whilst serious photographers are likely automatically to take all the necessary gear with them, even if you’re not a confident photographer, you should consider taking a good quality camera. In particular, a long lens can be very useful out in the bush as often wildlife can be spotted at a distance. If you borrow a camera, make sure you practice a bit beforehand so you’re confident enough using it by the time you’re on safari – the last thing you’ll want is to be fumbling around when that perfect shot is just a few metres away!’
As for which specific camera to bring, Angie Batis Durrant of Lucky Pony is a Canon fan: ‘The one thing I would definitely not want to be without on safari has to be my Canon 6D. I love taking photos and being able to take photos of amazing wildlife that is often only a few metres away without any fences or bars obscuring your view is absolutely priceless.’
‘Besides the warmest jacket I own (early morning game drives are no joke!) the one thing I always make sure I have with me when I visit a game reserve is a half-decent pair of binoculars’, says Crystal Espin of WomenStuff. ‘You’ll see so much more when you have these on hand, especially when the animals aren’t nice enough to come right up to the vehicle and say hi. If you don’t own a pair then beg, borrow, or steal from a mate before you head off on your trip, after buying mine I can’t believe I ever went on a game drive without it!’
Binoculars are also a must for bird watching, whether on a game drive or from the lodge. Samara is home to over 225 bird species and in winter, South Africa’s national bird, the endangered Blue Crane, can be seen in flocks of up to 200 – quite a sight! Their eerily beautiful calls as they fly overhead truly epitomise a safari in the Great Karoo. For a comprehensive bird list click here.
6. Walking shoes
At Samara we like to slow things down, get off the safari vehicle and reconnect with Nature. It’s easy to miss the diverse beauty of the smallest fauna and flora when travelling at high speed in search of the Big Five. Our walking safaris take you off the beaten track across our four vegetation biomes – you might track wild cheetah on foot across the Karoo plains, explore the verdant river systems in search of aardvark, or accompany the Tracker Academy students across rocky terrain as they follow the signs of a black rhino. Pack a pair of good, sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots to ensure you get the most out of these excursions.
7. Sense of adventure
In the old days of safari-going, your most valuable ‘must-take’ item was your wits, explains Caroline Hurry, Editor of Travelwrite: ‘In their exploratory pursuits, our forefathers trampled puff adders and fought marauding lions with penknives.’ The sense of danger of venturing into the unknown was all part of the thrill. These days, safaris tend to be calmer, tamer affairs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a little adventure now and again.
This is particularly so at Samara, a passionate conservation project brimming with exciting experiences and opportunities. When you stay with us you become part of our journey and our adventure to create a world-class landscape-scale conservation success story. In the same way those first intrepid explorers must have felt gazing out over the Plains of Camdeboo from atop Eagle Rock, we see infinite beauty, potential and opportunity in this landscape and we are thrilled to be able to share it with you. So bring your sense of adventure, your enthusiasm and your thinking caps – our vision for Samara is one of co-creation, and we can’t wait for you to join us.
Image Credit: Tendai Moyo, Marnus Ochse, Etienne Oosthuizen