What to pack for an African safari

What to pack (and what to leave behind) for a safari

WHAT TO PACK (AND WHAT TO LEAVE BEHIND) FOR AN AFRICAN SAFARI?

So, you have booked your African safari, and now it is time to prepare for your great adventure. You start to think about what you are going to wear.  

We are often asked for a list of clothing to pack. When on an African safari, you want to be comfortable. You want to avoid going and purchasing clothing you feel somewhat uncomfortable in, but also might never need or use again.   

What to wear on safari

If you do not own any clothing in neutral colours, wear this. It is not necessary to buy clothing just for your safari, unless you are thinking about going on another one.

If you are staying at a more upmarket lodge or camp, many fellow guests might have the classic safari gear; however, don’t feel pressured to blend in. This is a matter of personal preference, but also we believe you must be comfortable in your clothes. Nothing shows up a tourist as much as being dressed head to toe in khaki clothing.

What not to wear on safari

Don’t bring bright-coloured clothing. This will draw attention to you and can scare off wildlife.

Avoid army-style camouflage clothing, as some African countries reserve this pattern for military personnel only.

Anything white coloured will quickly show dirt and dust

Hiking boots are not necessary for most safaris unless you are climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or Gorilla trekking.

Too much clothing! Pack light. Most safari camps and lodges offer a laundry service. When on safari, less is more.

Tsetse flies and malaria

If you are in tsetse fly country (and please speak with one of our African safari specialists about this) then you should cover up and wear long trousers with socks, especially if you are on a walking safari.

Parts of Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya have tsetse flies. In the past, Tsetse flies carried sleeping sickness; however, do not pose any real health risk anymore. However, they can give a very nasty bite, and depending on your skin type a very itchy skin that can get red & inflamed for a few days. Some websites say to avoid the colours of blue and black as these attract the tsetse fly; however, personally, in all my Africa travels, I have not noticed any difference in the tastyness of my skin, whether I am weather blue, black or khaki.

What I can say (from personal experience) is Tsetse flies can bite through clothing. So, loose-fitting clothing can help as it will not be directly against your skin and less chance of being bitten.

Africa has seasons

Contrary to what many people think, Africa is NOT hot year-round. African countries have seasons and do experience winter weather. Depending on the country, winter months can be much colder than expected.  

Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe have lovely dry sunny winter days but fairly cool/cold winter evenings in some reserves. The temperatures are not necessarily low but, when you are in the open-sided vehicle moving at around 10 kilometres an hour with a morning temperature of 15 degrees, and a bit of a breeze, it will feel much cooler. This is less the case as you head north towards Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya. However, it is important to note that the Rift Valley traverses through Kenya and Tanzania and ranges in elevation between 395 metres and 1,830 metres above sea level; and so in these higher areas it can be cool in the evenings as well.

What should I wear for dinner on a safari?

Formal clothing is not necessary for an evening on safari. Most camps and lodges will have a relaxed dress code so there’s no need to dress too formal. In fact, it is not uncommon to return from your afternoon/early evening game-drive and go straight to dinner, as is.

Luggage – Don’t overpack

Most safari lodges and camps offer a laundry service, so do not overpack. Think about layers, and layering your cloths. Packing lightweight clothing has the benefit of enabling you to layer up or down according to need. Africa is a continent of extremes, and depending on your location and time of year it can be fairly cold through the night and early in the morning; and swelteringly hot by the middle of the day.

If you have light aircraft inter-camp flights in your itinerary, you will have a limit on your luggage weight. Most light aircraft companies only accept soft-sided luggage. Large or rigid suitcases do not easily fit in the luggage compartments of the planes, which means that your luggage could be refused or delayed.

If you are travelling to several countries in Africa, make sure you are not over the limit, as luggage allowances can vary from country to country, but also the type of safari you are participating in. i..e, a road-based safari versus a fly-in safari. 

Below should provide a good guide on what to pack. Clothing should be light, loose-fitting, and made of β€œbreathable” textiles like cotton. While out in the wilderness, neutral colours are excellent since they fit well with the natural environment and are less prone to exhibit dust.

Safari Packing List

  • Comfortable sneakers/walking shoes 
  • A pair of sandals
  • Sunhat or hat to keep dust/sun from head
  • Windbreaker/fleece jacket/lightweight puffer jacket for layering during early morning and evening game drives
  • Trousers (we don’t recommend jeans)
  • Shorts
  • Short-sleeve and long-sleeve shirts
  • Swimming costume
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • A sun hat
  • Good quality sunglasses; if you wear contact lenses, carry a pair of glasses with you in case the dust irritates your eyes.
  • A good torch (regardless of the level of accommodation), and spare batteries
  • A pair of binoculars, preferably a pair each.