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What to wear on safari

What to wear on safari

Ernest and Mary Hemingway on safari in Africa, 1953-1954.

Ernest and Mary Hemingway on safari in Africa, 1953-1954.

Knowing what to wear while on safari can make a big difference to how comfortable, and therefore how much you enjoy your time on safari. So let us guide you through our recommendations for what to wear and not to wear while on safari, as well as helpful hints for other items to bring along with you, as you travel around. Please note that all the information below holds true for safaris in southern Africa (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia), as the main safari areas in Kenya and Tanzania are much closer to the equator, requirements for these will vary – please contact us if you are travelling to these areas and would like advise on what to pack.

Firstly, we cannot stress enough, Africa gets cold! Too many people think that Africa is always hot and that they won’t need warm clothes, this is simply not true. Temperatures can fall below freezing, and when you are travelling in an open vehicle at dawn it can be bitterly cold. If you are travelling during the southern hemisphere summer (October to March) you will need very different clothes to if you are travelling during the mid-winter season (May – August), as such we have outlined what we recommend for both seasons below:

Summer (October – March)

  • Lightweight, preferably cotton, clothing, ideally in muted tones
  • Long sleeve shirts and trousers for early morning and late afternoon/early evening when mosquitos are most prevalent.
  • Hats to protect from the sun, preferably with a wide brim to protect your nose and neck as well. One with a chin-tie is even better to stop it flying off while in the open vehicle.
  • Lightweight rain gear. For the majority of areas in southern Africa, summer is the rainy season, and an afternoon downpour is very common, and longer spells of rain quite possible. However, it will be warm rain.
  • Something warm (and preferably windproof) for the early mornings and evenings, especially while on the safari vehicles.
  • An ideal scenario would be start with a cotton T-shirt, then a long sleeved cotton top to go on top of the T-shirt, a jersey/fleece to go on top of that and finally a windproof rain jacket. This way your can dress up or down according to your needs.
  • Comfortable shoes that you do not mind getting dusty/dirty
  • Given the bumpy ride, some women may find it more comfortable to wear a sports bra
  • Bathing suit – there is nothing better than relaxing in the pool during the heat of the day in summer.

Winter (May – October)

  • The great rule for winter is layers, layers, layers and more layers! As for the last section of what to wear in summer, take the same policy, just make the clothes thicker and warmer. A good thick, possibly thermal, vest/T-shirt, warm long sleeved shirt, fleece or jersey and a very warm winter jacket.
  • Beanie, gloves and scarf
  • Thick socks
  • Ideally keep to muted tones
  • Comfortable shoes that you do not mind getting dusty/dirtyGiven the bumpy ride, some women may find it more comfortable with a sports bra
  • Given the bumpy ride, some women may find it more comfortable to wear a sports bra

For the mid-seaons like April and September take a balance of clothes somewhere in between.

Avoid blue clothing (particularly bright blue), especially if you are in an area with tsetse fly, as this seems to attract certain insects.

If it seems we are being excessive for winter, please trust us, there is nothing worse than sitting in an open vehicle being frozen to your core. With all the layers you can at least be warm if you need to or strip off if you get too warm.

In addition you will need to pack the following regardless of season:

  • Sunscreen, even in winter, as once the sun is up the days do warm up and in most areas it is uninterrupted sunshine in winter. Try and get one that is non-greasy, as you will be driving around potentially dusty areas in an open vehicle, this way you will avoid a dust mud-pack!
  • Sunglasses
  • Camera with a spare battery/batteries, you don’t want to be left with dead batteries just when you get that amazing leopard sighting! A camera bean bag for stabilising the camera can also be useful
  • Binoculars (some of the higher end lodges will supply these, but most do not), these can be very useful when game is in the distance, or to look closely at birds in trees etc. Even a small portable pair is fine.
  • A good supply of any medication that you may require – remember you are in the wild, and the nearest pharmacy may be a long way away. At the lodges and on the vehicles there will be first aid kits, but make sure you have personal medications with you.
  • Back brace or support. If you do suffer with back problems it may be well worth getting a support or brace from your doctor or pharmacist. The 4×4 vehicles you will be travelling in are designed to traverse some pretty rough terrain, and it can be bumpy, so if you know you have a bad back, rather be comfortable.
  • Insect repellent. Many of the lodges will supply this in the rooms, however, carrying a small spare spray bottle with you on the safari can be a good idea
  • Torch/flashlight – very useful for getting around at night (even though you should always be accompanied by a guide when walking to and from rooms/tents at night, having your own torch/flashlight is a great help. Many lodges provide them in the rooms, but we always carry a small one of our own.
  • Download animal/bird guides onto your smart phone/ipad to have handy as a reference when you look at your photos and can’t remember the name of the animal/bird
  • Flip-flops for wearing around the camp while not on safari
  • Plug adaptors for the relevant country you are visiting. Especially if you need to charge the camera batteries or keep you smart phone going to take photos.

Remember most lodges offer a laundry service (some included in the price), so rather pack lighter and use the laundry service than weigh yourself down with heavy bags.