What To Wear On Safari

October 9, 2017

As I write this I’m gazing out of my window onto the African savannah, cheeky monkeys are playfully swinging in the trees and hoping I’ll leave the door open so they can come and steal some treats. I am feeling very lucky. This is my second time on safari in beautiful South Africa.

Many friends asked before I left about the clothing that I wear on safari. Do the women wear flowing Camilla’s to dinner? What sort of shoes do you wear? Does it get cold?

Luckily before my first trip to South Africa I’d talked to my South African friends, read up on the topic and picked the brains of girlfriends who’d been on safari before. So here’s what I know…

Check the Weather

Firstly, check the time of year that you are going. In February it’s quite hot but can change when the rains come through. You need bathers to cool off and shorts or capris paired with t-shirts or blouses for layering. There are a great selection of moisture wicking clothes with inbuilt insect repellants at places like Kathmandu which can be a handy addition but mostly your everyday clothes are fine. My husband scoffed at me for taking a raincoat but it was one of my handiest items.The rains came through on the second day after no rain for months, so having a raincoat made it easier walking around the game lodge and stopped mud flicking up on me on game drives. It was also a great piece for layering and has come in very handy on this trip for keeping out the wind. Early October is much cooler here.

Jeans are great during the day and also for wearing to dinner – ours was a corporate event so I also took some black pants for evening. You can wear the clothes you wear on safari to dinner but have a jacket or cardigan handy in case it gets cooler. I was surprised at the hot days with mild nights and mornings. Layering seemed to be the order of the day even for the men.

Chilly Mornings

The morning game drives are cold, colder than you’d think, speeding around the reserve in an open truck with the wind and dust whipping into you can be very chilly. I usually wore a blouse sometimes with a t-shirt under or a polo shirt topped by a cardigan with a raincoat on top as an extra layer. You can just peel off the layers as the day warms up. Sunglasses are a must and hats and scarves are useful for keeping everything in place. Tie your hair back or put it up as it’s annoying having hair flying in your face when you’re keen to see all the animals, a lesson I learned after day one on my first safari.

Night Time Activities

I popped in some pretty blouses to wear to dinner and to the Boma (an outside barbecue where you tell stories about your day, have a meal and witness some wonderful singing and dancing from the locals) which made me feel fresh and pretty… Nothing too fancy but enough to feel like I was on a romantic holiday.

Footwear

Shoes are important… closed in are best and if you decide to go on a walking tour… a must.

Take low sandals or thongs for during the day and around the lodge. Wearing closed in shoes to dinner is mandatory as well. I had some black flats that worked with everything.

Joggers or sneakers are fine, as are a sturdy walking shoe. Don’t take your best, most expensive shoes. These could be ruined by the dust or mud if it rains. I’ve heard of some women staying in the camp style safaris where every pair of shoes were completely ruined. I found my sturdy walking shoes from Ecco or my Frankie 4 Ellie’s in black or silver ideal for most everyday activities.

Keep it Neutral

Our lodge didn’t have rules about the colours you could wear but it’s a good idea to stick with more neutral colours. A friend who’d been on safari said a member of their party was sent to change when wearing clothes that were too bright. I stuck to greens, blues, beige and of course, some pink!!! Black and sometimes navy can encourage tsetse fly in some areas and bright white can also attract insects.

Gym Gear

I also took some gym clothes for a workout or lounging in the room. You sit for long periods in the truck and you can’t go for walks like we do here… Did anyone say lions, leopards??

It was great to head to the gym and have a stretch or ride on the bike. Going to the gym or yoga is great for jet lag too.

Another good idea is to take a small backpack for your water bottle, camera, insect repellant and other necessities. On our second safari we invested in a good camera so our photos were even better.

Finally, try not to be a caricature of Africa, in head to toe khaki or animal print. It will be disrespectful to the locals and you may be mistaken for a ranger. If you pack well it’s so easy to be ready for the early starts and to feel comfortable and warm. So what are you waiting for? Time to tick that safari off the bucket list.

Michelle Beesley

Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.


Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).