If you’re planning a Southern African getaway, you may have a safari or two lined up at the top of your itinerary. But, you may be wondering what to wear on safari. Not only is the African climate different, but spending hours on a game drive requires careful planning to ensure you’re as comfortable as possible.
Luckily, we know a thing or two about safaris and the ideal game reserve outfits. We offer Southern African safari tours to some of the most spectacular destinations in Africa and have picked up a few tips along the way.
So, if you’re getting ready for your upcoming safari trip and looking for safari outfit ideas that are practical, versatile and comfortable, we have the ideal guide for you. We’ll cover everything from our top suggestions for safari outfits to some tips on preparing for your trip.
Packing for Safari in Africa: Our Top Tips
Looking for game drive outfit ideas? Here are some of our stand-out tips on packing for your upcoming safari.
Wear Neutral Colours
When packing for a safari trip in South Africa, think cool and comfy clothing for your safari outfits.
Light materials and neutral tones such as beige, khaki, brown and green are great for both keeping cool and blending in with the natural surroundings. However, it is best to steer clear of camouflage clothing as this is associated with trophy hunters and military personnel in many African countries.
Minimise your visibility in the bush by avoiding bright colours such as reds, oranges and blues, as well as white. Other colours to avoid wearing are darker colours such as navy and black, which can attract tsetse flies.
Casual clothing is suitable for just about any African safari, and apart from selecting neutral or muted-coloured clothing, safari attire is generally comfortable and easy.
Layering is key
Layering your safari outfits is the most practical way to cope with fluctuating temperatures in the bush. As the day heats up, you can peel a layer off, and when it begins to cool down, you can add another layer.
Pack in plenty of comfortable t-shirts and long-sleeved sweaters with collars that help protect your skin from the sun and mosquitoes. Women may want to purchase comfortable safari dresses that are versatile for game drives and dinners at the lodge. Men may want to invest in a pair of convertible safari pants that turn into shorts.
While out in the African bush, wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF between 30 and 50 to protect your skin from the harsh sun rays.
We love this sunscreen from Neutrogena, which has an SPF of 70. The lodges will more than likely have sunscreen available for guests, but it’s best to bring your own to use at your convenience. If you have sensitive skin, we suggest using a zinc oxide sunblock.
Check the Weather
Do your research online and check what the weather will be like at your vacation destination. If it is the middle of summer, you may not need plenty of winter gear, but a lightweight sweater or jacket may come in handy on cooler nights. Remember to include your swimming suit and sarong!
Prepare for A Little Glamour
We’re not talking suits and evening gowns, just something a little glamorous for your candle-lit dinner under the African sky. While staying at a bush lodge or safari camp, you might want to pack in a pretty dress or crisp shirt for dinner.
If your travel itinerary includes a few nights on the luxurious Rovos Rail, you’ll need to pack in a few glam pieces. Dinners aboard the train are a stylish affair. So if you’re embarking on a rail journey, pack in a pair of fancy shoes and black tie attire.
Curious about this luxury steam train? Read more about our Rovos Rail trip.
Many small regional airlines will have strict weight limits for travel luggage, so it’s best to pack light. These weight limits are usually between 33 and 44 lb but will vary from region to region. It’s best to confirm ahead of your travels. A soft duffel bag is a good option, as hard-shelled and wheeled bags are usually heavier and often not allowed on small planes.
Safari Clothing: What to Wear on a Safari Game Drive
Now that you’ve got a few tips to keep in mind, here’s our list of some essential safari wear to pack for your trip.
It is a common misconception that South Africa is always warm. In fact, winters can be freezing, especially during early morning game drives. While the sun is certainly out in summer, the mornings can have a chill to them.
Here, your layers will come in handy so that you can take off or add as it is needed. Bring a waterproof jacket with you for chilly mornings and evenings, when there is a chance of rain. If you’re travelling in winter, squeeze in a pair of gloves and a beanie if you can!
A Comfortable Pair of Sneakers or Hiking Boots
Take a good pair of sneakers or shoes for the game drives and pack in a pair of flip-flops or sandals for downtime around the lodge.
If you plan on doing a hike during your vacation, such as a hiking tour up Table Mountain or a Drakensberg tour, pack in a pair of thick socks and heavy-duty hiking boots that can also, if required, double up as walking safari shoes.
A Wide-Brimmed Hat
The strength of the African sun is powerful. It is essential that you pack a wide-brimmed hat to shade your face and the back of your neck. Neutral colours such as this wide-brimmed hat work well and generally tend to work well with multiple safari outfits.
Pack a good pair of sunglasses with you, as the glare from the sun can give you a headache or hurt your eyes.
Tip: Have a look at our in-depth post on the best safari travel gear.
Game Drive Outfits: FAQs
Still have a few questions about what to wear in Africa on safari? We’ve answered some frequently asked questions below to help you out.
Q: What colours should I not wear on a safari in Southern Africa?
Some of the main colours to avoid on safari in Africa are dark colours like black and navy. These colours attract tsetse flies — that leave a painful bite — and are generally not ideal in hot weather.
Q: What shoes should I wear on a safari?
If your safari itinerary includes a walk or two, or you plan on hiking on your trip to Africa, it may be good to pack sturdy hiking shoes. However, multi-purpose sneakers will also do, especially if your safari does not include much walking. Ensure your shoes are broken in before your trip so that they’re as comfortable as possible.
Q: Can I wear bright colours on safari?
Wearing bright colours is not recommended for a safari as these colours easily draw attention and may scare wildlife — which is the last thing you want on a game drive. It is best to wear neutral or pastel-coloured clothing that easily blends in with the surroundings. Bright colours, especially bright shades of blue are also known to attract tsetse flies and are thus best avoided.
Q: What kind of pants should I wear on safari?
You can wear whatever pants are comfortable for you on a game drive — whether that be jeans, chinos, or shorts — as long as it’s loose-fitting, comfortable and light in colour. Pants that convert into shorts with a quick zip motion are a convenient option as you can easily change to shorts as the day heats up. Note that if you are going on a walking safari, short pants are not recommended.
Q: What are ideal safari clothes for ladies?
Safari wear for ladies usually includes loose-fitting chinos or jeans and comfortable dresses and shirts in neutral tones and lightweight fabrics. You may also want to pack a pair of sandals to wear around the lodge.
What to Wear on A Safari: Wrapped Up
Packing for a safari may seem like an intimidating task, but we hope that you found a few helpful tips in our guideline on what to wear on a safari in South Africa.
For more packing tips, have a look at our post on what gear to pack for an African safari. You may also enjoy our post on family-friendly African safaris if you plan on bringing the little ones along.
If you have any more questions on the best African safari clothes and what to pack for your trip, share your questions with us in the comment section below.
If you need help planning your next safari, contact us today.
We look forward to hearing from you!
This post was first published in October 2020 and updated in January 2024.