The 24 Must-Pack Personal First Aid Items for Your Bush Retreat
Malaria Free Family Safari Tour

The African bush is not the sort of place to visit unprepared.

It is always going to be a place of unpredictable twists and turns, where the weather patterns can shift in an instant, and encounters with wildlife are as exciting as they are unforeseeable.

When you are out there, exploring the wild, even if you are in the company of a trusted guide and staying at a fabulously luxurious lodge, you will still be quite far away from the nearest town.

And although the lodge you stay at and the company you travel with (if you’ve booked an African safari) will almost certainly have a basic medical kit available for those unexpected moments, it is important that you pack a few personal first aid and medically necessary items.

Forget those bulky pre-made kits; we’re going to help you tailor-make a personal first aid kit that’s compact, effective, and perfectly suited to your bush break, no matter where your African safari takes you.

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A List of the Must-Pack Personal First Aid Items

  • AnAce” style bandage

Sprains and strains happen, especially if you intend to spend some of your holiday hiking. Africa is famous for its uneven and sometimes challenging terrain, and should you sprain your ankle or just strain a muscle while on your trip, you’ll be happy that you packed this bandage.

  • Adhesive bandages

Adhesive bandages, or plasters as we call them in South Africa, are an easy go-to should you need to cover a cut or a scrape, you know, those minor but sometimes painful nicks. You should bring along a variety of sizes, and to be on the safe side, you can also pack some plasters specifically for wound care, to hurry along the healing process.

  • Alcohol pads

These pads are ideal for quickly and effectively disinfecting surfaces or equipment. They are generally available in packs and their small size means they will take up just about no space when you are packing.

  • Allergy medication

Travelling for a safari in South Africa during the recommended time of year (between May and August)? You might want to bring along your allergy medication, should you suffer from allergies. South Africa’s winters, in the north east part of the country in particular, are very dry and there’ll be plenty of dust on your safari that might cause an allergy flare-up.

  • Antibacterial ointment

For scraps and nicks that don’t require a plaster, you can use antibacterial ointment. This product will help you clean a cut while, depending on the type you buy, it can also help the wound heal. You can buy plenty of exceptional antibacterial ointments, either off the shelf or over the counter, at most South African pharmacies. 

  • Antidiarrheal medication

Most of the water in Southern Africa is safe to drink, and most foods on tour will be safe to consume. But your stomach might not be completely at ease, as this is, after all, a new experience for your body. What we’re trying to say is that if you get an upset stomach, for whatever reason, you’ll be glad you packed this medication, so please don’t forget it. And while we are on the subject, you should also pack something for nausea.

Essentials to Pack for an African Safari
  • Anti-malarial medication (if you’re visiting a malaria area)

Most of South Africa’s famous safari destinations, such as the Kruger National Park, are situated in a malaria area. And this is one illness you do not want to take a chance with. Be sure to get your malarial medication sorted out before you travel as this medicine is only available from a doctor. 

  • Antiseptic wipes

These wipes are ideal for cleaning wounds to prevent infection. They can also easily be packed away in a bag, without taking up much space.

  • Burn gel

Should you get a minor burn from cooking or a campfire, this burn gel will come in handy. Not only will it soothe the stinging feel but it will also help the wound heal quickly.

  • Emergency whistle

A whistle is not likely to be the most common thing to pack, but if you are hiking or doing something a bit remote (without reception) and especially if you will be on your own, a whistle can be used to attract attention in case of emergencies.

  • Gauze pads

We’ve covered the plasters for the smaller cuts, but if you should have a deeper or larger cut or an injury that requires more extensive coverage, gauze is a must. Although usually, in the event of you ending up with such a big injury, the lodge or your tour guide will help you get medical assistance.

  • Hand sanitiser

When on the road or somewhere out of reach, water might be scarce and sometimes all you want to do is wash your hands. This is where having a bottle of hand sanitiser, even if it is just one of those small, travel size bottles, will come in useful.

  • Hydrocortisone cream

You will perhaps need a prescription for this cream, but it is ideal to have in your bag should you be bit by a bug or develop a rush, something that can be quite common in the heat.

  • Insect Repellent

Mozzies in summer are such a pest. They will ruin your sleep and if you let them, they will leave you with itchy bites. Insect repellents are readily available all over South Africa, in both supermarkets and pharmacies and they can be bought in the form of a spray or roll-on stick, like deodorant.

  • Lip Balm

For many, lip balm is a daily must anyway, so remembering to pack it won’t be hard. When travelling to safari country during the dry winter months, your lips can take quite a beating, becoming dry, cracked and painful. When buying lip balm for your trip, try to find one with SPF protection.

Medical Essentials to Pack for an African Safari
  • Medical Scripts

Should you use chronic medication, having an emergency script is a necessity. You never know what might happen. You could lose your medication during your travels from one place to the next, or simply misplace it, and as a chronic medication patient, you know that being without it can be a big issue. Talk to your doctor before your African safari to explain the situation.

  • Medical tape

This tape can be used to secure bandages and dressings in place, if you are not going to be using a plaster.

  • Motion Sickness Medication

Travel sickness happens and it can really upset your holiday. Luckily there are plenty of motion sickness medication options available and most are over the counter. When choosing your motion sickness medication, be sure to select an option that won’t make you feel drowsy as this is a common side effect of most of these types of medicines.

  • Pain relievers

If this wasn’t an alphabetical list, pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol, would be right at the top of the list. For those awful unexpected headaches and other aches and pains, having basic but helpful pain relief is a must.

  • Scissors

You don’t need to pack large scissors, a small one, even a nail scissor, will come in handy for cutting bandages, tape, or even clothing if necessary.

  • Sterile eyewash

This might not be the most common personal first aid item to pack, but being able to flush out debris or irritants from the eyes will come in most welcome should that happen while on a dusty safari drive.

  • Sunscreen

Even in the middle of winter, the African sun is harsh and unforgiving. You don’t need the strongest sunscreen; a low SPF like an SPF 30 should do to keep the sun burn at bay.

  • Tweezers

These will be the ideal travel companion, to remove splinters, ticks, or other foreign objects from the skin.

  • Water purification tablets

Drinking water safety in South Africa need not be a concern, though it is still worth carrying some water purification tablets with you, should you be visiting someplace a bit more remote.

With these 20+ essential first-aid items packed, you can explore Africa with confidence, knowing that you will be more than well-equipped to handle most minor medical situations that might crop up during your tour.

Ready to get out there and experience the best African safari?

Whether you’re planning a safari to see the Big 5, a relaxing beach vacation, or a cultural trip, be sure to pack these essential first-aid items.