The lovely team at In The Saddle send you an information pack a few weeks before you head off for your Macatoo experience, and there's a packing list in it which was really helpful, but now that I've actually been and done it (and bought the t-shirt!), I can tell you what I did take, and what I really wish I had taken.
Please remember that we were there in the last week of March, when the flood waters are low, so there's not much swimming of horses or getting soaked, though there's definitely riding through water and lots of splish splashing. Different times of the year bring different weather conditions. Also, the lovely Macatoo ladies do laundry every day, so you don't have to pack a different outfit for every day unless you're an utter glamour-puss. And if you are an utter glamour-puss, this may not be the perfect holiday for you - just saying.
- I took two pairs of Dublin cotton joddies, one black and one dark blue and green check. Looking back, the black pair were too hot and I’d probably go for something in a lighter colour next time. I thought of buying some traditional buff/khaki coloured joddies, but honestly, my legs look like uncooked sausages in them, and no-one deserves to see that first thing in the morning. Just make sure whatever you take are the colours of the bush – don’t bring your purple joddies with stars on them (don't judge!), your horse will look at you strangely (as will everyone else) and the wildlife will stay well out of the way.
- I rode in my old RM Williams black jodhpur boots and they worked just fine. You could wear high boots, but it’s REALLY hot here.
- I also bought a new pair of synthetic half chaps which were great. Some of the staff ride in full length suede chaps, but I think they’d be too hot for me.
- I bought two pairs of summer riding gloves and wore one pair only once. They were black and just far too hot in the sunshine, it felt like my hands were in little ovens. My tip is some cheap leather palmed string backed ones – easy for your hands to breathe.
- I packed about 4 tops to ride in, all darker colours, and they did the job, but the absolute best thing was the African Horseback Safari shirts that they sell in camp. They are khaki coloured, cotton, button up with front pockets and the logo embroidered on. They seem to “breathe” much better than anything I had with me, and they have a good collar that I stood up to keep the sun off my neck. Oh, and they're really reasonably priced. The long sleeved t-shirt I packed was far too hot and I only wore it once. I ended up buying the mans size small khaki shirt, I thought it was better than the womans and I loved the pockets that had velcro closures.
- Gorgeous Vera from Austria, who was working in the camp, wore singlet/vest tops and some of the staff wore t-shirts, but you’re riding through thorn bushes and brushing against scratchy trees – I think long sleeved is definitely the way to go. You can always roll the sleeves up.
- Take a bum bag/fanny pack for your camera, sun cream, tissues and lip balm. Make sure your camera is attached to you somehow. The last thing you want is to be taking a photo and have to leave in a hurry (it happens) and your camera with all of your fab shots hits the dirt, never to be seen again because it's in the digestive tract of a lion.
- I had a bandana which I wore knotted around my neck, sometimes soaked in water to try and keep me a bit cool (it dries out very quickly!). It also helped to keep the sun off.
- Wear a helmet! The staff aren't going to make you wear a helmet, and many don't themselves, but I discovered before leaving that pretty much all travel insurance is void if you come off a horse on safari without a helmet and hurt yourself. I brought with me a Dublin vented light helmet (400grams). The vents are great to get some airflow when you’re out in the sun.
- Make sure your sunnies are on a cord around your neck so they don’t fall off when you’re riding – if they do, you don’t get them back.
- Last, but definitely not least, pack some talcum/baby powder or Anti Monkey Butt Powder. Really. Don't forget this. It's on In The Saddle's packing list, but somehow I didn't pack it and had to have some come in on the safari plane about two days into the trip when my butt was getting rubbed raw after riding 5-6 hours a day in 35c (I know, it's not pretty). Just pack it, even if you don't need it. PACK IT!