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The Ultimate Women’s Guide to Safari

Feel Confident as a Solo Female on Safari with this Ultimate Women’s Guide to Safari.

Women, are you going on – or contemplating – your first safari, and don’t know what to expect? Whether you’re traveling entirely solo or meeting a group when you arrive, this Ultimate Women’s Guide to Safari will help you feel confident as you set out on your first safari!

The Ultimate Women's Guide to Safari: How to Feel Confident as a Solo Female on Safari

First and foremost, do your research and make sure you are booking with/through a reputable company with good reviews. Talk to friends you know that have gone on safari and get their recommendations. Many travel magazines recommend great companies, as well.

Check out the lodges you will be staying at. They nearly all have a website. This will give you a sense of whether there are doors with locks or tents with zippers and then consider your level of comfort with that. Be aware also, that some lodges are fenced, providing some safety from animals, while others are not. Keep in mind that, fenced or not, many animals can cross over, so always be aware of your surroundings.

Nearly every lodge will have security staff that monitors the area for animals and who will escort you to and from your room when it’s dark. This is mandatory for your protection, so utilize this benefit, even if it seems unnecessary.

Most all rooms are equipped with some way to reach people in an emergency, whether a whistle, bell or walkie-talkie. Before staff arrives, simply and calmly back away from anything that may have entered your room. Don’t attempt to handle the situation yourself.

When leaving or entering your tent, be sure to zip up completely. Baboons, in particular, are known for wreaking havoc in rooms! I’ve never had this happen, but I have stayed at several locations that had locks for the zippers, as clever monkeys and baboons have figured out how to get them open!

As with any lodging, take advantage of room safes for your valuables and use locks for your luggage. Again, I’ve never had a bad experience – ever – but why take chances.

And lastly, it should go without saying, but always listen to your guide, whether in the lodge or in the vehicle. They understand animals and their behavior and are there to keep you safe.

In the lodges, you’ll most often find normal flushing toilets and sinks and many will have a shower much like at home.

Occasionally, however, you’ll come upon more rustic facilities. I’ve been mobile camping where we had a “long drop” toilet. Ok, thankfully, it wasn’t a communal outhouse… rather a toilet seat to sit on over a hole that was dug into the ground, privately for each tent. I admit that I looked at the pail of dirt and mini shovel sitting nearby with a blank stare, as in, what do I do with this?? (you toss dirt down afterwards to cover…). But don’t worry, most all lodges, even “bush lodges” have flushing toilets.

The more common ‘rustic’ experience you might have is a bucket shower.

Image of a bucket shower used when on safari

Typically, you request when you’d like your shower (after game drive, after lunch, dinner, etc.) and the staff will bring heated water to a large bucket that hangs in your bathroom, with a knob you turn to let the water flow. They typically hold 20 gallons of water; plenty for most showers. It’s often recommended, however, to turn on the water to get wet, then turn it off to lather up, then turn it back on to rinse off. It may be more challenging to wash long hair or shave your legs before the water runs out, though, so keep that in mind!

If you’re wondering if you’ll need to bring soap, shampoo or conditioner, the answer is no. At least, I’ve never been anywhere that it wasn’t provided. The one factor to keep in mind, though, is if you are particular about your hair products, by all means, bring your own.

But what about bathroom facilities?

For most women while on safari game drives, the question boils down to ‘when and where can I pee?’ On most drives, you will be out in the morning and again late afternoon for three or four hours at a time. That translates to ‘bathrooms in the bush’, or behind it, to be more precise.

Don’t hesitate to speak up when you need a break, as likely others will be thinking the same thing, but too bashful to say something. Your guide will find a relatively ‘private’ location and check to make sure that it is safe from animals.

Many drivers stock a roll of TP in the vehicle, but I always bring my own for ease. Be sure to bring one of those little brown bags you’ll find in the bathroom at the lodge to stash your used tissue. (Never leave it in the bush!) Then when back to your room, toss the tissue in the toilet and throw away the bag. Some people use a Kula Cloth or something similar, but somehow I’ve never gotten on board with that idea.

What If You Have Your period during your safari?

That’s not a problem!

Always be sure to bring along any sanitary items you will need, as I’ve never seen them available at a lodge. Should you need to change a pad or tampon while on a drive, wrap it in tissue and place it in the same brown bag as above, and dispose in the garbage back in your room. Never leave it out in the bush.

It’s always nice to have hand wipes or hand sanitizer for afterwards.

You typically arrive at many safari camps by small commercial airplanes or “bush planes” that severely limit the amount of weight for your luggage. Be sure to check on the allowable weight and keep that in mind as you pack. Often there is a limit of 33 pounds, so weigh your bag before leaving home. (And really, 33 lbs sounds ample, but you’ll be surprised how quickly the weight adds up!)

Soft sided luggage is usually required for the small planes, too, so that bags can fit in and around others in the cargo area. I usually bring my clothing in a duffel bag on wheels, which is soft sided, but still easy for me to transport.

Soft sided luggage for safaris

To keep items organized, I also use packing cubes, making packing and unpacking at different lodges fast and easy. Be careful not to get the compression cubes, however, as they allow you to fit more items in the same space. That’s good, in theory, but keep in mind the weight limit when you do that.

A huge benefit on safari is that washing your laundry is often included in the room rate. That enables you to bring much fewer items and have them washed every few days. If the cost of laundry is not included, you’ll still find the service to be incredibly inexpensive, and well worth the price.

Be sure to wash your own bras and underwear, what they refer to as “smalls.” Most often, the laundry is done by men, and therefore they ask that you take care of your own intimate attire. Feel free to bring your own laundry tabs or sheets, but most lodges provide small jars of detergent for just that purpose.

Woman in a pool while on safari

For a free packing list for your next safari, click here!

Generally speaking, consider the following:

  • Neutral colors are best: tan/khaki, greens, browns and grey.
  • Dress in layers. Depending on when and where you are, Africa can be cold! Most commonly you’ll find it’s cold in the evening and morning, especially when the wind hits you in an open game vehicle. But then by mid-morning, you’ll start removing layers because it’s warmed up considerably. You may need a warm hat, scarf and gloves, depending on the season.
  • Likewise, it’s always a good idea to bring along a rain covering. You just never know.
  • For warm weather, t-shirts will come in handy, and possibly a bathing suit. Long pants, no matter the weather, are always a good idea to protect from sun and shrubs. I like to bring a long sleeve shirt to protect from sun, as well.
  • Shoes are best while on game drives, but flip flops or sandals are great in camp.
  • Be sure to have a sun hat with a brim. If you prefer a baseball cap, just realize that won’t cover your ears or neck. Also have sunscreen for skin and lips on hand.
  • To help avoid biting insects, consider spraying your clothing with Permethrin Insect Repellent before leaving home. ExOfficio brand clothing has a line of bug-resistant socks (and other clothing) that have been recommended to me, though I have not tried them. Otherwise, google ‘socks for Tanzania’ or something similar, to find more. Likewise, you can purchase attire that is made with insect repellent fabric at stores like REI.
  • Don’t worry about being a fashionista. I know, there’s the Instagram photo you need, ok… I’m a huge believer in second-hand clothing, and you’re sure to find inexpensive t-shirts and slacks at your local surplus store. Keep in mind that clothes can be ruined in the laundry there (I can attest to that) and otherwise damaged on drives, as well (yes, that, too). So leave your expensive clothing items at home (except for that one Insta pic 😉)
  • Leave the blue and black clothing at home, too, if you’ll be in a tsetse fly area, as they are attracted to those colors. Also skip white or bright clothes, although that’s fine in camp.
  • You can leave your blow dryer at home. Very high-end lodges might provide one, but otherwise most camps don’t have the amperage for that, and your hair will dry quickly in the African sun.

Now, are you ready to head out on your safari? I’m so excited for you! If you have questions on things I didn’t cover in this Women’s Guide to Safari, feel free to leave a comment or message me! I’d love to hear from you!

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