When many travelers picture safari clothing they think of the professional animal hunters they see on National geographic suited up in full safari gear. And that is the image peddled by some blogs online too. The truth is that you don’t have to dress like that. There have been occasions where some people have landed at the airport in full safari gear complete with boots and wide brimmed hats. That’s just ridiculous. I know you are not as weird and you are going to save your safari clothing for the bush and not your flight.
But what should you wear for an African safari?
The number one thing you should pay attention to is comfort. That is the most important thing. You see, an African Safari is not your typical travel experience. While the experience can be heavenly, the terrain and weather can be unforgiving if you don’t take some precautions.
But there is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather. You will be fine as long as your safari clothes respect the weather.
You want to be warm enough for the morning and evening game drives that can get pretty cold and also light enough for the sun’s heat as the day breaks. Layering will help you achieve this balance.
It is important that you wear moisture whisking clothes so that your sweat easily evaporates. Besides the fabric being able to breath, you should also make sure that you can easily walk or move in it. Cotton is very good. But there are some artificial fabrics that can be just as good.
Make sure that your shoes’ soles are thick and hard enough for thorns not to penetrate them. And they should be closed and very comfortable. It would be nice if you tested them at home before you embarked on your safari to see if they pinch anywhere. You don’t want to be held back by sore spots and blisters in an experience of a lifetime like an African safari.
Carry a hat – preferably a wide brimmed hat – to protect yourself from the sun. Sunglasses can also prove quite helpful. Hats with straps are better since they won’t be blown away by the wind if you are traveling in an open safari vehicle.
Recommended Colors for Safari Clothes
Besides ensuring that what you wear on your safari is comfortable, you should also make an effort to blend in with the environment and not stick out a mile.
The goal of camouflaging is so that the natural activities of the animals are not disrupted. This ensures that you have a more authentic safari and the animals don’t see you as a threat.
Earthly colors are recommended. You can wear:
While there is no harm in packing red, white, black and blue clothes while coming to Africa, they are not the ideal clothes to go on a safari with. White gets dirty very fast, especially if you are in an open vehicle and cruising down an unpaved road. In twenty minutes your exquisite white top will be a shade of brown. Not cool.
Blues on the other hand are known to attract tsetse flies. You’ve probably come across the medical term “sleeping sickness” if you took some biology classes. Tsetse flies transmit this condition. So if you are on a walking safari stay away from blues while in the bush not unless you are having sleeping problems and you want some natural sedatives 🙂
This does not mean that you have to go out and shop for everything afresh to put up your safari clothing wardrobe. You don’t have to. You probably have a few clothes already that fit the description of safari clothing in both color and fabric. It is these you need to complement.
Women’s Safari Clothing
Most of Africa is still very conservative. In the villages and the semi-urban areas, very short shorts/skirts may be frowned upon. They may also draw unnecessary attention and no one wants that.
If you are planning to venture out into the villages then I will advise you to wear some knee length skirts or shorts.
You can wear whatever you want while at the lodge, though. The major cities and towns are a little liberal and are populated with youths who are pushing the envelope when it comes to fashion and people are more accepting of liberal clothing.
The advice about knee length shorts and skirts in the villages also apply to cities and towns that are predominantly Muslim. You’ll notice that the women in these places are often fully clothed and so you will stand out a lot if your clothing is too revealing. It is better to err on the safe side and take some precautionary measures.
I would advise you to carry a sports bra since the drives can get bumpy at times. You will be glad you did.
What to Pack for an African Safari
Light aircraft are the preferred mode of transport between the attractions. These aircraft have lower luggage limits than the big airliners. I would advise you to not exceed 20 Kgs (15 Kgs to be safe). So pack light. If you are planning to leave your
luggage in the city hotel room as you travel around the country then you can carry whatever you want. Even then, it is advisable to pack light.
The bag should be soft, squashable and flexible enough to be easily fit into a safari vehicle or a light aircraft. Very hard big suitcases are therefore out of the question.
You can pack interchangeable clothes that can be worn many times and combined in many ways and still look cool. The goal of safari clothing is not to look cool anyway so there is no need to worry.
This also means that you will need to have some clothes washed if you are staying for a longer period. Most of the hotels can at an extra cost do your laundry.
You can easily figure out the number of safari clothes depending on your length of stay. Here are my suggestions for your packing list:
- Travel documents.
- Credit cards and cash. You will need cash in areas where ATMs are not easily available (or credit cards aren’t accepted) – which is most areas save for the towns. Almost all hotels accept credit cards.
- Wide brimmed hat.
- Closed shoes or boots. Make sure they are comfortable enough and do not pinch anywhere.
- Smart casual shoes.
- Lip balm.
- Eye drops – just in case dust is blown into your eyes.
- Sweater/fleece. The morning game drives can be very cold.
- A beanie. In case it gets cold.
- A pair of sandals.
- Long pants. Can be helpful in a walking safari and also at night to fend of mosquitoes.
- Long-sleeved shirts.
- You’ll need a safari jacket (safari vest) if you are on a photographic safari and have a lot of equipment.
- Sports bra – for the ladies. Just in case the drive gets bumpy.
- A pair of gloves. For when it gets cold.
- A few casual clothes to wear in the evening.
- Binoculars. Each member of the group should have their own.
- Camera. To capture those magic moments. Don’t forget to carry memory cards and a charger.
- Shaving razor.
- Spare batteries for your torch or any electronic using batteries.
- Phone charger.
- Adapters and converters. Some chargers have adapters.
- Language guide. Check out this Swahili guide with Swahili translator.
Where to Shop for Safari Outfits and Gear Online, in the UK and in NYC
There are several safari clothing stores online shipping to most locations in the world. The notable online stores where you can get cool safari outfits are Tag Safari, The Safari Store UK, Exofficio and Safari Equip. Safari Quip stocks some cool equipment that can help you during your safari.
Don’t Sweat It! It’s All About Comfort
Safari clothing is all about comfort and blending in with the environment. Do not go overboard in trying to look fashionable. Actually no one cares how you look. You won’t care either a few hours into your first safari. So make sure that your safari clothes are practical.
Do not forget to carry some nice clothes too. Relaxed clothes will come in handy while chilling at your hotel or lodge. Fashionable clothes will help you look good in the streets of the major towns as you enjoy other sights and sounds away from the African jungle.
Do not stress over the details. In case this appears to be too much information, you can easily summarize it into five points:
- Ensure that your clothes are comfortable.
- Carry some warm clothes for the morning game drives.
- Stick to neutral earthly colors to blend in with the environment (and your fellow travelers).
- Do not over-pack as the light aircraft have lower luggage limits.
- And since you won’t carry a lot of clothes (and depending on your duration of stay), your clothes should be washable.
I look forward to seeing you in Africa.