A safari is not your usual holiday – What to pack for an African safari is a popular question we are often asked. A typical day on safari will start around 6am for a morning game drive, and after campfire drinks and dinner, the day will end around 9 or 10pm. It’s a long day full of excitement, so it is important that you are in comfortable and appropriate clothing for a day in the bush.
Most safari destinations offer warm and hot temperatures year round so shorts, t-shirts or vests are perfectly acceptable to wear in the day. That said, mornings and evenings on safari can be quite chilly so it layers are a good option. The Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania for example, is cold at the top of the crater as you are much higher in altitude but as you descend down into the crater floor, it becomes hot and humid. This is where layers are useful as you can regulate your body temperature.
Loose-fitting and comfortable clothing is important. Try to stick to natural fabrics such as linen, silk and cotton – these materials will be breathable in the hot temperatures but are also easy to wash and dry.
Footwear & Color
Try to pack a pair of open shoes (i.e. flip flops or sandals) to allow your feet to breathe through the daytime heat, and a pair of closed shoes (i.e. trainers) for the evening. If you are doing a safari activity that requires walking or hiking, such as gorilla trekking or a bush walk, then you will need comfortable closed footwear.
It is so important to wear neutral-colored clothing whilst on safari. The best colors to stick to are beige and khaki green. Avoid any bright colours and neon clothing. It is also important to avoid dark blue and black as these are the colors that attract tsetse flies.
Sometimes the guides will ask you to change clothing if you are wearing inappropriate colours. This is particularly true for walking safaris (i.e. the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia or Mana Pools in Zimbabwe). When you are walking through the bush, you need to be as camouflages as possible so stick to these key colors.
Mosquitos and Bugs
It is no secret that Africa homes mosquitos and lots of other bugs. Aside from malaria tablets (needed for some destinations), we recommend covering your arms and legs in the evenings.
Try to wear shoes and socks in the evenings and spray bug repellent on yourself and clothing before you head out for dinner in the bush. Most of the safari camps will provide mosquito repellent in the vehicles on game drives, and in your rooms but it is always useful to carry your own.
Some cities in Africa have a strong Muslim community, such as Stone Town in Zanzibar. The Islamic religion requires both women and men to dress with modesty and dignity. We recommend wearing long trousers (linen is a good option as it is a light-weight and breathable) and covering your shoulders with either a t-shirt or a shawl.
That said, this only really applies when you are walking around Stone Town. Once you get to your resort or hotel, you are able to wear whatever you like, including swimwear on the beach.
There are some activities on safari which you need particular items of clothing for. Gorilla (and chimpanzee) trekking in Uganda and Rwanda requires long-sleeved clothing during the trek. This is because you hike through the forest which can be bushy and dense with vegetation so long trousers and tops will protect your skin.
It is also essential to wear comfortable walking shoes. Each trek varies in length (depending on where the gorilla family is) but you could potentially walk for hours before finding them, so walking shoes you are comfortable in is essential. The guides will give you walking sticks to take if you need assistance up steep slopes.
As safari specialists, we have been on a fair few trips across Africa and have put together a list of the essentials we have found useful in the bush.
- A shawl or thin scarf.
This is great to wrap around your shoulders at night to cover up. In some religious places, you may be required to cover your shoulders so having a light-weight shawl is useful for these occasions.
- A head torch.
When the sun sets in the bush, it becomes extremely dark as there is no light pollution. Most camps and lodges will have small lights along the paths, and you will always be escorted to and from your room, but a head torch is always useful to have.
- Make-up wipes or baby wipes.
Everything on safari, including your face, gets dusty so a pack of wipes is a good option for taking a layer of dust off.
- A soft duffle bag.
Although you are able to take a suitcase, we would recommend taking a soft duffle bag for your trip. This is because the storage space on the internal airlines is usually quite limited. A soft bag is easier to fit in the storage but also ensures that your hard suitcase is not damaged in the process.
- Pack as lightly as you can
Every safari camp will offer laundry services so pack lightly in terms of your clothing and footwear. Obviously take any camera equipment you need but try to keep everything else to a minimum, especially if you are doing a flying safari. Some internal airlines will have weight limits (e.g. 15kg) but we can advise this based on your itinerary.
Start Planning Your Safari
We hope this gives you a little more of an insight into what to put in your safari suitcase. However, if you still have questions, please do get in touch with our safari specialists Elaine and Gemma. Either drop us an email, give us a call on +44 208 004 2345 , or book a video consultation to find out more and start planning your safari adventure.
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