The type of clothing to take on a safari holiday will depend on a number of things, including the destination, time of year and what type of safari you’re going on. However, there are some fundamental principles of what to wear on safari, as discussed below.
Best Colors to Wear on Safari
The basic rule on what colours to wear on safari is to go neutral. When trying to spot wildlife you’ll have the best chance if you blend in as much as possible with your surroundings, and bright colours will make you conspicuous to animals – particularly if you’re on a walking safari. Ideal colours to wear on safari are natural colours – greens, browns, olives and khakis. Whilst any other neutral colours are fine too there are a number of colours that you definitely shouldn’t wear on safari:
- Camouflage clothing is a big no-no. In some African countries is for army personnel only, and you could theoretically be arrested for wearing it.
- White and very pale coloured clothes show up the dust, so are best kept for evening wear.
- Dark blue and/or black colours can attract tsetse flies – if you’re in Eastern or Central Africa – which have a nasty bite. Tsetse flies are not such an issue in Southern Africa.
Ideal Materials for Safari Clothing
The ideal clothing material for safaris is something lightweight & breathable and makes minimal noise when walking or moving around. Simple cotton works best for shirts and trousers, though there are an increasing number of modern man-made materials that work just as well as cotton and are even more durable.
Use of Layers
Africa is a continent of extremes – it can be extremely cold through the night into early morning and swelteringly hot by the middle of the day. As such it’s a good idea to take multiple layers of clothing so you can add and remove as required – including at least one warm layer like a sweatshirt, fleece or safari jacket. This is particularly important if you’re going to be doing any early morning safaris in an open-sided vehicle.
Essential Safari Clothing Items
Most camps and lodges have same day laundry services so you shouldn’t need to take too many clothes. You will need a few comfortable long-sleeved shirts and long-sleeved t-shirts. Long sleeved safari shirts have the advantage of offering protection from the sun and insects, but also being able to roll the sleeves up if it gets too hot. Shirts with a collar to protect the neck from the harsh sun are advisable, as are shirts with pockets to store your bits and pieces (see our article on top things to take on safari if you’re after useful things to fill your pockets with!).
Also pack a pair of comfortable long trousers or two, and pair of shorts. Combat style trousers and shorts are ideal as they have several pockets, ideal for storing compact binoculars, suncream, camera etc. Your long trousers and a long sleeved safari shirt can be worn to stay warm and protect from mosquito bites on evening and night game drives.
Most game drives set off when wildlife is most active – just before sunrise, or late afternoon/early evening. It can get pretty chilly at these times, so some sort of safari jacket or fleece is advisable. A safari jacket has the advantage of offering yet more pockets for storing your safari accessories.
The type of footwear required to wear on safari really will depend on what type of safari you’re on: A gorilla safari means trudging through thick, uneven rainforest, so rugged Gortex boots are ideal. For any kind of walking safaris elsewhere in Africa, it’s advisable to have some sort of hiking boots that cover your ankles – for protection from both bush and snakes. However, for a standard game drive, special safari footwear isn’t necessary. You will be climbing in and out of safari jeeps and maybe a little walking around the bush, so comfortable trainers will work fine.
Whilst not essential safari wear any hat or cap is better than nothing. It will give you protection from the sun, and also shield your eyes from the glare – meaning potentially better wildlife spotting opportunities. The ideal hat is a wide-brimmed safari hat to offer maximum protection.
As mentioned previously, the African sun can offer a surprising amount of harsh glare, so you won’t want to forget your sunglasses to wear on safari. A pair of polarized wrap-around sunglasses will give you protection from both the glare and the dust that’s a feature of many safari game drives, meaning more chance of spotting that distant prowling leopard!
Evening Wear for Safaris
When considering what to wear for safari evenings, bear in mind that the days of jackets and ties at the dinner table are long gone. Most safari lodges have relaxed dress codes for dinner so there’ll be no need to take any formal wear with you. You’ll want to wash and change after a hard and dusty day’s game viewing, but a pair of jeans or trousers and long sleeved shirt will suffice, perhaps along with a warm fleece or safari jacket to ward off the night-time chill.
Be sure to check out whether your lodge has a swimming pool (or perhaps even a beach)…and if so, don’t forget the safari-chic swimwear. A dip between game drives during the middle of the day is a great way to contemplate what you’ve seen whilst working the tan.
Have any other suggestions on what to wear on safari? Feel free to join the discussion in the comments below.