How to get dressed for safari success
The African savannah can be dusty, windy, scorching hot, surprisingly cold, and when it rains it “really” rains. Two adjacent national parks can have very different climates and conditions. So what do you pack?
Before considering the packing list, let’s first consider the basics of safari. The climate can be harsh and unpredictable, the landscape is rough and rugged, while the adventure takes you to remote wilderness that’s hundreds of miles from any paved road. So to get dressed for safari success, think first about practicality and comfort.
You’re not going to be impressing giraffe on a nightclub dance floor or showing off a designer swimsuit to a wading hippo. So never bring your best clothes. Instead, whatever you bring needs to reflect the challenging conditions of a safari. Here’s a rundown of a comprehensive safari wardrobe, all of which is recommended in neutral colours:
- A couple of lightweight jerseys and a warm lightweight fleece — Early mornings and late evenings can be chilly, especially when you’re in an open safari vehicle.
- Short and long-sleeved button shirts — I normally pack two of each. The long sleeves are important against the sun and insects.
- T-shirts — Pack a few so you always have clean options in the evening.
- Shorts — Two or three pairs are enough as long as they are durable.
- Durable long trousers — These are especially important if you’re going to be walking through the bush.
- Zip-off safari trousers — Yes, I know they’re not fashionable but they save luggage space and are highly practical.
- Jeans — Although they are bulky and heavy, I like to bring a pair which I can change into during the evenings.
- Underwear — I’m not going to make any suggestions here!
- A poncho — They’re lighter and more practical than a raincoat and can serve both as a rain cover for you and your belongings. It’s also an effective windbreaker.
- Swimsuit — If a camp or lodge has a pool then it’s usually got an incredible view. Just don’t go swimming when local wildlife is taking a drink!
- Sarong / kikoy / Maasai shuka — An excellent accessory that can be used as a blanket, sun protection, or to keep you warm against the wind.
- Thermal long johns, gloves, scarf, beanie — Required in winter when you’re on safari in Southern Africa.
- A multi-pocket gilet — This is especially useful for photographers.
- Shoes — Think about practicality and comfort. No need to bring heavy uncomfortable footwear unless you’re actually going to be doing some walking on the safari.
- Socks — Thick comfortable ones to wear underneath your shoes.
Now, you might be thinking — especially if you are female — that all this makes for a drab and conservative wardrobe. So let’s accessorise. Two or three lightweight coloured scarves or wraps are a great way to add some glamour to a safari outfit. Combining this with some vibrant local jewellery or bead necklaces works really well.
For guys, a colourful evening shirt helps inject some vibrancy into the outfit. When packing your wardrobe consider that you will need different clothes for the actual safari activities and for the evenings. After a long day in the bush you’ll want to shower and change into clean fresh clothes for the evenings.