Packing for an adventure trip to Africa is a balancing act. It’s definitely an environment and experience that will require some specialized equipment, but the point of getting on the savannah or into the jungle isn’t to lug around a bunch of stuff. You’re probably trying to get away from your stuff.
If you’re doing a safari or other travel adventure, you not only have to think about getting your gear to Africa, but then getting it from one location to another while you’re there. A lot of stuff means a lot of packing, unpacking, and lugging between places and modes of transportation, not all of which have the baggage capacity that an international jetliner does. So, the general rule is pack as lightly as possible.
One shouldn’t assume that what you might need on your trip isn’t already there. There are vast parts of Africa that are sparsely populated and far from the rat race, but there are also major cities and plenty of places to pick up needed items. Even shopping malls in any city with a major international airport.
The popular safari destinations all have shops and businesses that cater to the tourism trade, so unless you’ll need it immediately upon landing (or maybe not really at all), it’s fine to wait until you’re in country. Also, if you’re travelling as part of an organized tour, your guides will know what you’ll really need and where to find it.
You can also get used to the idea of hand washing your clothes at the end of the day, which will mean you’ll only have to pack a couple of days worth of clothing. By either doing this yourself or staying at a safari lodge that provides this kind of simple, yet efficient laundry service you’ll not need to carry “a load” of clothes with you.
That’s not to say there aren’t some basic items you’ll want to have with you when you land on the ground. Insect repellent and sunscreen ready for the African sun (and a sunhat) are no-brainers. Comfortable clothes that are lightweight and in neutral colors — dark clothing can attract tsetse flies and bright colors can actually startle wildlife — with sturdy shoes made for walking in rugged terrain are a must too. The evenings may get colder than you expect, so a light fleece or a sweater should be brought as well.
Obviously, any specialized needs should be included. Contact lens solution, personal medication, malaria pills, sunglasses, binoculars, notepads for writing, a quality headlamp or flashlight, a waterproof bag (which will also be dustproof), and a camera should also be on your core-packing list.