There were two main things I was worried about when I first booked my South African safari trip – will I get eaten and (more importantly) what was I going to wear. The Telegraph suggested I “blend in with (my) surroundings as much as possible by wearing neutral or khaki clothing.” The Safari Store suggested I go for cotton vs. man-made fabrics. Other websites stated I wasn’t to wear bright clothing (for fear of attracting the animals), I should take a hat and definitely take enclosed footwear.
After a bit of research and some first-hand experience I present – my what to wear/take on an African safari list.
Neutral or Khaki Coloured Clothing: There was a lady wearing a red dress on my safari and nobody told her off so I think the bright clothing is more to do with personal preference and comfort as opposed to actual animal attack issues. It might vary from guide to guide, reserve to reserve and by type of safari though so if you’re worried (like I was), just pack neutral colours. I packed a couple of white H&M t-shirts, which I alternated with a pair of khaki crop trousers and a pair of tan coloured chinos.
Footwear: Unless you’re doing a walking based safari (and might get bitten by bugs or snakes) I think you can get away with sandals or jandals (flip-flops) for the vehicle parts. As long as you’re confident climbing the ladder rungs to get in and out of the vehicle you should be okay. Again, personal preference.
Cotton vs. Man Made Fabrics: Like the neutral colours point above, this is more for personal comfort as opposed to anything else. Cotton fabrics breath and are easy to layer, other fabrics not so much.
Lightweight Jacket/Rain Coat: Early morning and early evening drives can be a bit chilly so I got lots of wear out of my Kathmandu Gortex jacket. If you’re booked on an authentic safari vehicle the sides may be open – so you can take great photos. This also means you’re exposed to the elements, like the rain and the wind so a lightweight jacket will be handy.
The Safari Hat: I purchased a hat especially for the occasion. Part of it was to do with practicality, the other part was just for the photos. To be perfectly honest, the hat didn’t get much use. Our vehicle had a roof, which meant we were protected from the sun (when it showed up) and when I did wear it in the vehicle it blew off!
Sunblock, Lip Balm & Insect Repellent: Whilst there wasn’t that much sun on my safari the constant exposure to the wind (from the exposed sides of the vehicle) really did my skin in. Luckily I had applied a lot of sunscreen and lip balm before each drive (I even re-applied it a couple of times during the day) which blocked most of the burn. I didn’t see any mosquitos on my trip, but that might have been the time of day/year and I sprayed myself in the mornings and evenings regardless.
Sunglasses: Again, not so much for the sun but the wind and dust kicked up by the safari vehicle and other traffic on dirt roads.
Camera(s): There are lots of posts about the best type of camera to take on a safari trip and not being in possession of a DSLR I opted for two pocket digital cameras – one takes great videos, the other has a reasonably okay optical zoom (x9), I also took my iPhone. Verdict: I would have liked to have taken a camera with a bigger optical zoom (if I owned one), a lot of the animals we encountered were quite far away and my animal pictures just look like blurry things on the horizon. That said, lugging a big camera around is a pain and chews a lot of battery. I’m happy I had a
Verdict: I would have liked to have taken a camera with a bigger optical zoom (if I owned one), a lot of the animals we encountered were quite far away and my animal pictures just looked like blurry things on the horizon. That said, lugging a big camera around is a pain and chews a lot of battery. I’m happy I had a backup camera as I’d killed the battery in one of my cameras within 4 hours on an 8-hour safari. I also killed the battery on my phone by posting images on Instagram and googling information about the animals we spotted. Moral of the story, take extra batteries and a portal phone charger.
Other Extras: I took a small cross-body handbag with a few extras inside. Water bottle – who knows when you might stop next or if there’s a shop. Tissues, some of the rest-stop toilets are long drops. Wet-wipes – see the previous comment about tissues. I also used these for wiping the dust/sunscreen off my face and re-applying. Extra memory card – just in case.
Need some more info on what to wear or what to do?
- What Not to Wear on Safari by The Ultimate Africa Safaris is both entertaining and helpful.
- What Not to Do on Safari by GoAfrica. I didn’t take malaria tablets, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t.
Have you been on safari in South Africa? Any items you’d add to this list?