Essentials For Your Volunteering Trip To Africa!

Essentials For Your Volunteering Trip To Africa!

Posted by Connor Whelan on 31st May 2016

Knowing what to pack for a volunteering trip can be a more difficult task than planning the trip itself! It can be tough to find the balance between packing just enough and packing far too much, but luckily we are here to help! You will be heading off to a place with a new climate and new challenges that you may never have faced before, so knowing what to include in your suitcase and what to leave out is crucial. Here is our list of the top 10 essentials you need to take with you when volunteering in Africa!

The right type of clothing

Now it is obvious that you are not going to need to take a suit or ball gown with you to help the elephants in Namibia, but there are certain clothes that you will find more useful out there than others. You need to ensure that the clothes you take are light and quick drying as you will be walking around under a blazing hot sun, and having clothing which can wick away sweat from your body will make quite the difference. You also need to make sure that the clothes you bring are ones that you don’t mind getting dirty as it is pretty much a guarantee that this will happen!

A hat or cap

Golden Orb Spider

Many volunteers take a cap to the project site with the intention of keeping the sun out of their face, but they come in useful for another reason too! When driving through the shrubbery in the bush, bugs and spiders have a tendency to sit at head level, and by wearing a cap you will be protected from this!

A camera

Wildlife Camera

Taking a camera will help to capture some of the amazing sights you are bound to see whilst at the project. There are a lot of very photogenic animals out in Africa so you won’t want to miss the chance to grab a picture or two! Getting the perfect picture can be tough, and whilst a smartphone is handy to have for spur of the moment snaps, you may want to take a dedicated camera with you. A good choice for this is a bridge camera as they "bridge the gap" between compact cameras and the more expensive DSLR cameras. You can pick up a good bridge camera for around the £200 mark, so they won't break the bank but will improve your pictures!

A good quality bottle of sun cream

We will be discussing toiletries shortly, but sun cream needs its own section as it is so important. Unlike the rainforests of Borneo and South America, the savannah's and plains in Africa are normally open and void of any real cover. This means you will be directly beneath the sun for long periods of time and you need to take steps to protect your skin! It does not matter if you tan well or not, the African sun can do a lot of damage to your skin if you do not take protective steps to prevent this from happening.

Toiletries/Personal First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit

Due to the remote location of many of the projects in Africa, it is advisable that you pack any essential toiletries you need as you may struggle to find them when volunteering. You should also look to include a small personal first aid kit in your suitcase with some after-bite in it, as no matter how hard you try to avoid it; there are normally too many bugs to avoid getting bitten! You should strongly think about what you are going to require out in the bush before you go as everybody's needs are different , but we recommend taking at least:

  • Toothpaste
  • Biodegradable soap/shower-gel
  • Wet wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Malaria tablets
  • Insect repellent containing DEET (around 50%
  • Pain killers
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Anti-diarrhoea medicine
  • Rehydration tablets
  • Plasters

Waterproof bags

Whilst it is likely to be hot and dry out in Africa, you still need to be aware that water can pose a threat. As a volunteer you will be getting your hands dirty by building enclosures, feeding the animals and creating enrichment for them as well, and should any water splash up onto your phone, camera, or passport you will be glad you had it tucked away in a waterproof bag! You can buy dry bags from a variety of camping shops, and they come in all shapes and sizes so you'll be able to find one which can hold all of your valuables!

A head torch

Wildlife Headtorch

This is a small piece of equipment which you may forget about, but if you remember to pack one it is bound to come in useful more than once! Out in the wilderness electricity can sometimes be sporadic, and by packing a torch you will still be able to find your way around the project site without any light. Trust us when we say that those 2am trips to the bathroom are made immeasurably easier with a head torch in tow!

A copy of your passport and important documents


Hopefully this situation never arises, but should the worst happen and you lose your passport/boarding pass/other documents then it is always good to have a copy of them tucked safely away in your suitcase. For the sake of printing a couple of bits off before you travel, it is well worth doing and could save you a lot of time and stress!

A local phrase book

There is no better way to make a good impression on the local people than to converse with them in their own language, and the best way to do this is via a local phrase book. You may not become an expert by the time you leave the project, but you will leave having made a big impression on the local people!

A local SIM card

We are bending the rules slightly here as this is something you can’t pack in advance, but we highly recommend making your first purchase in the country of your project a local SIM card. As long as you have an unlocked phone you will be able to call and text at a much cheaper rate than you would otherwise, so grab one form the airport upon your arrival.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but if you pack these 10 things into your suitcase before you head off on your African volunteering adventure, you should find yourself prepared for most eventualities! To take a look at the African volunteering projects we have, check out the page here!

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