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When we talk about going on a safari in Kenya, one of the main questions people ask us is what to wear on a safari in Africa, now this is a good question, but it also depends what type of safari you choose to go on. As we explain in this post there are different types of safari from walking bush tours to luxury hot air balloon safaris and the most common 4×4 game drives. Even your typical game drive comes in different forms, so before deciding on what to wear on safari you need to choose the best African safari for you. Once you know what type of safari you want to go on then you can start thinking about what to wear on safari.
Considerations for Safari Clothing
The first thing to think about whatever safari type you are going on is comfort. Safari days can be long, hot and tiring and your experience won’t be enjoyable if you are wearing uncomfortable clothes. For the ultimate comfort you will want to wear loose fitting clothes that are made of breathable fabrics such as cotton, nylon or linen. This doesn’t mean compromising on style if you want perfect instagrammable safari photos, but it does mean choosing what you are going to pack a little more carefully than less fashion conscious travellers.
Contrary to popular believe the weather is Africa isn’t always scorching hot, in fact in the early morning and evenings it can actually be pretty chilly so the best clothing for safari is multiple items of clothing that can be layered depending on the time of day and your needs.
The colour of clothing is also something to consider as dark blue and black colours of clothing attracts tsetse flies which can cause sleeping sickness. This is where the traditional safari colours of khaki, beige/tan and brown come into play, they are not just so you blend in with your surroundings. These colours tend to be less attractive to bugs, likewise you don’t want to wear very bright garish colours that may look threatening to the wildlife especially if you are on a walking safari.
Light colours like white and pastel colours are a definite no no for safari clothing as the red dust from the roads will ruin them. You may also want to consider safari clothing that is impregnated with insect repellent such as DEET because in Africa malaria is a real concern the last thing you want to do is attract more mosquitos than necessary.
Basic Safari Clothing
Now that we have considered what we should and shouldn’t’ be doing when it comes to choosing our clothing let’s start thinking about our basic safari clothing packing list.
First, you will need to consider what top and bottom combo you want to wear, this comes down to personal preference and we both wore shorts when we went on our 3-day safari in Kenya and teamed them with t-shirts. However, ladies may want to consider wearing a long skirt or even a dress if you are planning on a 4×4 game drive safari as you will be sitting or standing most of the day. One thing to bear in mind when deciding what to wear on safari is that dresses and skirts may not be the most practical for getting in and out of a vehicle if you are doing a game drive. Also skirts and dresses are definitely not ideal for a walking safari where long trousers may be more suitable to protect from insects and the terrain when walking/hiking through the bush.
I chose to wear t-shirts instead of vest tops as I didn’t want the extra sun exposure on my shoulders while we were driving. I also considered a long-sleeved top, but this wouldn’t have been ideal in the heat of the day.
One thing you should also take is a light jacket or a thin wrap like a sarong for early mornings or evenings to layer up your outfit when the temperatures drop significantly.
Whatever kind of safari you are doing you will certainly need a sun hat and sun cream. If you are on a game drive, make sure you choose a hat or head wrap that won’t be blown off when you are driving along the dusty roads. Baseball caps are not recommended.
While we are on the subject of dust, you will want to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes, not just from the dust but also from the glare of the midday sun. You may also want to wear a face protector, so you don’t breathe in or swallow the dusty air. We love these buffs as they are multipurpose and can be used to cover your face, hair or just as a hair band.
It’s also worth remembering that if you do lose anything over the side of the vehicle while you are on safari, it is extremely unlikely that your driver will stop for you to retrieve it due to any dangerous wild animals that may be nearby. So you will want to take a small bag to secure any loose belongings.
What Shoes to Wear on Safari
Lastly, we need to think about what shoes to wear on safari. Now if you are going to be doing a walking tour then you will probably want to wear hiking shoes or boots on safari to protect your feet. But equally if the walking tours are not too strenuous then you may be ok wearing something lighter weight like these trail shoes for men and women.
If you are doing a 4×4 game drive where you will be sitting, then comfortable trainers or sandals should be fine for safari footwear. If you are doing an open top 4×4 game drive safari where you will want to stand and look out of the open top, then comfortable shoes that you can stand for long periods are best.
Keep the type of safari activities you are doing in mind when thinking about what to wear on an African safari. Anything with heels is not recommended and heavy or bulky shoes won’t be comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
All of the clothing you pack for safari need to be easy to clean too because going on safari is very dusty. If you are only packing a couple of outfits, we would recommend items that wash well and dry quickly. Some safari accommodations do have laundry facilities but most won’t so you will also need to be prepared to hand wash things in your room if you are not taking a new clean outfit for each safari day.
What to Wear on Safari Evenings
Once you have finished your safari for the day you will also need to think about what to wear on safari in the evenings. This will vary depending on the type of safari accommodation you are staying in and what you plan to do with your evenings.
If you are staying in a luxury safari lodge you may be required to wear smart evening attire for meals, so long trousers and shirts for men and dresses, smart trousers or skirts for ladies. Most safari accommodation will be casual attire so something comfortable after your long safari days, we opted for clean shorts and t-shirts to wear around the safari lodge. I had a comfortable knee length dress to wear to dinner at the safari lodge and Lewis wore shorts with a short sleeved shirt. It’s also nice to let your feet breathe if you have been on them all day and wearing closed toed shoes, so we took flip flops to wear in the evenings around our safari lodge but if you have the space then you could pack a nice pair of sandals to wear on safari evenings.
We also packed swimwear because the lodges we stayed in both had a lovely pool overlooking the African bush which was lovely to have a dip in after a hot day on safari. Most lodges provide towels but if you are planning to stay by the pool or visit for multiple days then you may want to pack a separate pool towel.
Another thing you may want to pack is something to wear whilst sleeping as not all safari lodges have mosquito nets over the bed. Long thin pyjamas are recommended to help prevent unwanted insect bites during the night. However, you may need to adjust this as not all lodges have air conditioning or a fan in the bedroom area, another option would be to pack a small mosquito net of your own to hang above the bed. We use one very similar to this one regularly when we travel and it works really well and is easy to hang using command strips.
Safari Clothing Packing List
- Light jacket/wrap
- Safari hat
- Face protection
- Comfortable shoes e.g. trainers/sandals
- Evening shirt/dress
- Evening trousers/skirt
- Flip flops
- Long thin pyjamas
Now that you have a better idea of what to wear on a safari in Africa you may want to check out our complete safari packing list, so you don’t miss other essential safari gear for your trip!
Have you been on a safari? Let us know what you wore or anything we have missed in the comments below.
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