What to take on a trip to Africa?
Africa. Preparations for this trip took almost a year. The plan included Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya. Within 6 weeks, we were to cover this route by land, local transport, without the help of an agency, because we organize both this and our previous trips ourselves from start to finish. Long we wondered about the things that we needed and will prove themselves both during trekking and on safari. It is known that during a trip longer than 2 weeks, and when packing all things into a backpack, every kilogram counts, which later weighs on our back. Therefore, it is worth considering what things will work and what conditions to expect in given places. That's why I do some research before each trip. We have had experience in jungle trekking in many places in the world, such as Borneo, West Papua or Amazonia, but remember that each jungle is different and what may be useful in the Amazon may be completely useless in Africa.
The places we were supposed to visit defined my itinerary. After a few days in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, we went to Lake Kivu near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, and then to Ruhengeri. This city can be called the gateway to the Volcanoes Park. We chose the route leading to the camp of Dian Fossey, a mountain gorilla researcher, where to date is her grave and the place where her gorillas died at the hands of poachers. We expected mud, rain, large, painfully stinging nettles and steep ascents, and thus also cold. This trek was one of the most difficult on this journey. We crossed the border entering Uganda. We spent the night on one of the islands of Lake Bunyonyi and the next day we went to the place I had dreamed of for years. The impenetrable forest of Bwindi. Mountain gorilla trekking is one of those things that you need to plan well in advance, to arrange permits that entitle you to trek on a specific day. Depending on where the gorilla family is located, the trek can be light or heavy, long or take several hours. However, it is difficult to predict before the trip, because the family to which we are assigned turns out to be just before going to the jungle. Our experience after trekking, which we did in Rwanda, was quite pleasant, but you still have to take into account that you have to expect mud, it may rain, it is even cold in the morning.
Queen Elisabeth NP in Uganda. Another point of the trip where you can see chimpanzees. We chose Kalinzu Forest located outside the park. This trek was not planned, but it's hard to resist the temptation to meet these monkeys. The terrain is not demanding, but once again there is mud, the protruding tree roots and leaves make it slippery. Chimpanzees often sit in the treetops and you have to wade through the thickets.
Kenya. According to the itinerary, we were supposed to spend only 2 weeks here. The self-drive safari to Nakuru NP was the only one planned. However, the time of the pandemic stopped us in this country for many months and instead of 6 weeks we spent almost 6 months traveling in Africa. This gave us the opportunity to get to know Kenya better and visit several national parks that were empty at that time. We organized each of our safaris ourselves, using a rented car. In this way, we not only visited the planned Nakuru Park, but also Tsavo East and Amboseli twice. What to expect on a safari? Most of the time in the park is spent in the car. However, it should be remembered that the mornings can be cold and insects may be annoyed. In Amboseli, which is located at the foot of the highest mountain in Africa, we got cold at night. During the day, however, the fine dust floating in the air, raised by the wind, teased. We stayed at a camp near the main gate. We were warned about scorpions, which we also had a chance to meet in Tsavo, so once again proper footwear is essential.
Most of our inventory was belongings from our travel partner Milworld. I honestly admit that before leaving, I did not think that they would save our skin all this time. Over the extended journey time, we tested these things for much longer than planned and were repeatedly asked where to get them. I have my favorites when it comes to an absolute must-have when traveling to these countries. I will share my experiences and my other half will talk about the male equipment.
We both decided on this model of footwear mainly because of the trekking. The model designed for men and the smallest size I could choose was 39. In my shoes I drove the entire route from Rwanda to Kenya, arousing consternation, because I was asked many times if I was from the army, which I respect here. The shoes have proven themselves in all types of terrain, also during heavy trekking in Rwanda, where there was not only mud, but also stagnant water, large elevations, protruding tree roots. In Bwindi, walking in a group of several people who had trekking and sports shoes, we were the only ones who did not slide downhill sliding on the mud. They survived both the harsh conditions in the jungle and made life in Amboseli easier. They will definitely come with me on another trip to Africa that we are already planning. A little tip for women - it is worth buying additional shoe inserts and stocking up on thicker socks;)
I chose this model of trousers with trekking in mind. Everywhere in the jungle you should expect thickets, biting insects, so thick material works very well here. The pants are comfortable, tear-resistant. Before the trip, we did not think that we would spend the rainy season on the coast. At that time, there was a real threat of malaria. Repellents did not cope at one point and we spent our evenings dressed in long-sleeved pants and shirts. I can definitely say that these were life-saving pants, or at least the skin, during African nights.
Most of the things I had to choose from were intended for men, such as shoes or just this shirt. However, I feel very comfortable wearing such things and I liked the shirt at first because of its color. During the trip it turned out that it is necessary for me. I had it with me during bus trips, during safaris or as protection against mosquitoes. It is simply fantastic and although flannel is not associated with Africa, I think that it is one of the essential things in such a journey. Nice for the body, soft, warm and indestructible.
I associated them with safaris and meanwhile I used them all this time, both on the way to the beach, while driving a motorbike, and on safaris. The legs can be shortened with a drawstring. The shorts are very comfortable, they do not restrict movement and even in such a hot climate the material is airy. Fantastic shorts at an affordable price. An absolute must have.
I must honestly admit that I chose the color not only for trekking but also for animals. It is easier to blend in with the surroundings in such colors than in angry pink. The T-shirt is comfortable, it does not restrict movement and due to its color it is easy to keep it in good condition for a long stay in Africa, where water and detergents damage fabrics. It fits perfectly with Surplus pants. However, keep in mind that military items cannot be worn everywhere. They are forbidden for the local population, but remember that we are tourists and no one will bother us because of this.
This backpack served me as a small hand luggage, but I also took things in it when going on a safari. Color is great for travel, because it is difficult not to get dirty when traveling by local means of transport. It is convenient even when it is packed to the brim, and despite the fact that it is small, it holds a lot of things and small things thanks to numerous pockets. Solidly constructed and despite the long journey, difficult conditions, it still looks like new.
It matched my plaid flannel shirt perfectly. Good protection for a trip to the jungle, but also for everyday use as protection against insects. I think it is an investment for years, because it is made of thick material and considering that it is a male model, many men would be happy to have it in their luggage on such a trip.
A great gadget that worked brilliantly both during long journeys and during trekking, to go to the beach. The bottle is made of soft plastic, after emptying it, you can roll it up to a small size and put it in a backpack. It then takes up little space. Definitely a plus, because we try to limit the purchase of water in plastic bottles and you can refill this water before each exit. For the long 6 months we used it almost every day and it is still fully functional, which proves its durability. A very useful thing that will work well not only while traveling.
From personal experience, it is worth replacing the inner liners with more flexible ones. Clean the air vents on the side of the shoe after any dirt so that the foot can breathe freely. As long as they are free, the leg does not sweat. After I fell almost knee-deep in the mud on a jungle trekking, I had to clean the holes with a toothpick, the remnants of the mud fell out and the holes were tight. I would like to add that after I got stuck in the mud, the foot was still dry when I finally got out of it. Water with mud between the leg and the boot did not get inside. The fabric upholstery is very easy to clean. The tread of the sole has saved me many times from a not very nice descent on four letters from a steep descent while trekking to gorillas in Uganda. Many companions of the expedition had trekking shoes of a very well-known company and such shoes did not work at all in these conditions. The shoes aroused respect among other travelers, the civilian population and the services present on the site, because military items are intended only for use by the military, police or national park rangers. I noticed that the quality of shoes worn by these services was drastically different from my shoes. It is worth having a shoe maintenance kit - shoe polish and a brush.
Very durable material and seams. Roomy pockets. Camouflage is the best of the best, and moreover, no dirt is visible on them. An additional plus for the drawstring at the waist, if you forget the belt. Or if you use the strap for other purposes, you are not afraid that they will fall off.
They are perfect for a variety of terrain from the jungle through savannah, ending with everyday use. The material is breathable, thick and resistant to damage at the same time. Even though they got mud on them while trekking in the jungle, everything came down in the wash. The seams are very durable. The number of pockets is a big advantage. You can fit many things in them to relieve the backpack and have easier access to them. Velcro works better in humid climates than metal press studs as metal rusts quickly. Other advantages include additional elastic waistband, which improves the comfort of use in the event of a lack of a belt. A big plus is their color, which does not attract sunlight like dark colors. Nothing has discolored, the color has remained as new. No mosquito got through them, and there were a lot of them during the long evenings spent on the Kenyan coast, especially during the rainy season.
Pockets on the upper and lower sleeves are the best solution for storing small items. It was most useful in the evenings after intense safaris, when the temperature dropped and it was chilly. Additional sleeves with a thumb hole protected against mosquito bites in your hands. In the morning, when the sun is still low, it improved the thermal comfort enough. Later it had to be changed to a t-shirt. Let me mention that even the ranger in the Amboseli National Park (Kenya) wanted to give up his uniform in exchange for it.
Africa simply does not exist without extra light. This flashlight was used almost every day. Power failures are commonplace here. We didn't have it for 5 days. As we drove down to the lodge after sunset, it helped to illuminate the tree limbs and bush from a distance as something was approaching. It perfectly showed us the sneaking and feeding places of nocturnal animals such as bush babies, elephants and hyenas. Despite several falls on various surfaces, it worked without any problems. Instead of standard batteries, it is worth using rechargeable batteries, which are much lighter. Although the bulb itself does not consume much energy. Minus - the string next to the flashlight wiped off quickly, but this does not affect the fact that the flashlight works flawlessly and is an irreplaceable gadget on such a journey.
For half a year of use from Rwanda through Uganda to Kenya in extreme conditions: strong sun, rain, ubiquitous sand, and even after being immersed in a pool with chlorinated water, the material looks like new. Even washing in desalinated water does not impress it. When my eye problems started, it additionally protected against sunlight.
It worked well for arranging all cosmetics in one place. Pockets inside kept them in one place all the time. Nothing was moving. It didn't pour out. Ergonomic shape allowed to secure other delicate items. The color remains unchanged despite difficult conditions. The waterproof coating prevented the interior from flooding even in the shower.
Durable and breathable material, dries quickly. The pullers did not deform. Skull graphics like new.
In a time when we had no electricity for five days due to a fault, it helped make it through the night without using candles. I regret that we had only one stick. It lasted for 5 hours. It does not attract insects like a candle or a flashlight. The other days we had to use candles. It takes up very little space and is lightweight.
The metal buckle will not rust in high humidity and salinity. Very strong webbing material. Despite the lack of a rope, it was used to secure the luggage on the motorbike.
Due to the pandemic, our African journey has turned into a journey of a lifetime. Half a year in Africa was an unattainable dream for me, just like meeting mountain gorillas once, which I dreamed about since I was a child. It was not only our first trip to the African continent, but also the first time we managed to find travel partners. It was a great pleasure to take with us the things that we checked in various difficult conditions. We were not disappointed in any of these things and at the same time they became an indispensable part of our trip to the Black Continent. I never thought that because of the military style of our shoes, my backpack, anyone would think that a small blonde could be military. After some time, I did not correct anyone anymore and it often helped us a lot during the journey.
I remember when before leaving, we wondered where to look for such things, universal clothes that will stand, will not fail, will not be damaged after one trek. During our trip I mentioned many times on my FB Carola travels the World website about things that we took to the mountains or on a safari. They did not let us down once, they protected us against mud, cold, insects, they were a support and not an obstacle on the way to our goal. Of course, some of them are men's items, such as shoes, shirts or T-shirts, but I personally felt fantastic in them and I had the impression that they complemented my strength of character and determination, which helped me turn my dreams about Africa into reality.
Milworld - thank you once again for your faith and trust in us!
Authors: The team of Carola travels the World
Karolina Ropelewska-Perek & Przemysław Perek