What to Wear on Safari in South Africa

October 6, 2022

Recently I was lucky enough to go on my fourth African Safari. I’ve accumulated quite the safari wardrobe over the years and friends who are keen on going  to Africa always ask for advice on what to wear. You really need not buy an entire new wardrobe for safari but you do need to know some tips and tricks for staying comfortable, warm and a little bit stylish. Here’s what I’ve learned. I hope it inspires you to consider a trip to what I think is one of the most fabulous and fascinating places in the world. 


On safari you need to wear muted and neutral colours like beige, brown, green, blue and tan. For my holiday capsule wardrobe I chose greens, blues and beige as my base colours and worked around that. The worst colours to wear are black and white. Black and navy attract tsetse fly which has a nasty bite and white is distracting to the animals, especially if you do a walking tour. It is also pretty dusty out on the trucks, so white will become brown fairly quickly. Red is also a no – go as animals see it as a wounded animal colour. 

My pants were in olive green and brown. I had an outdoor pair from Kathmandu in a browny charcoal colour and an olive green pant from Ruby Ya Ya which could also be dressed up for dinner. Leggings and jeans work too. I have worn shorts but do prefer to keep myself covered to protect against insects, the sun and scraping my skin getting in and out of the truck.

I alternated between a muted lilac and a beige safari shirt on most days. Both of these were from Kathmandu. I also love a linen shirt from H&M that I tie at the waist. Mine is in a chocolate brown colour and can be used on safari or paired with skirts and jeans in town. It’s important to have some pieces that will do double duty. We arrived on a small plane so our luggage limit was 20 kilograms. All luggage must be soft sided. 

I also have a waterproof trench coat style outer layer from Kathmandu which is beige in colour. This piece has been my most valuable player on every safari. It stops the wind, rain and sun from affecting me.Never, ever wear camouflage colours, in some parts of Africa this is illegal. Only the military are allowed to wear this print.


It’s important to check the weather before you go. Depending on the time of year it can be searingly hot during the middle of the day and usually cool on the morning and evening game drives. 

This trip was in Spring and was the coolest South African trip I have ever been on. On some morning game drives guests were wearing beanies, scarves and gloves ! Yes, it can be that cold whipping around in the truck and then in the middle of the day you revert to shorts and a short sleeved shirt.


The key to all these extremes is layering. Most days I had a cami or tee, topped by a safari shirt, then a cardigan or v necked jumper and a jacket on top. You can take away pieces as the day warms up. A fleece is also good. My husband has a  zip up fleece he bought in a safari shop on our first safari together and he wore it every day. Most safari shops are stocked with good quality items if you forget anything. 

My safari shirts are from Kathmandu and are moisture wicking, lightweight, quick dry and have inbuilt insect repellant. I love wearing them on safari and I bought one for my husband who ended up wearing his almost every day. Laundry service is usually free and comes back on the same day if you get it in early enough.

Scarves or neckerchiefs are invaluable, as is a good hat. Most rangers wear baseball caps, as do I. My husband looked dashing in a broad brimmed Akubra hat. So long as you have a hat that will stay on your head you will be happy. It’s also best to tie back your hair if you have longer hair. It can get very windy on the truck. 

I also wore jeans and a polo shirt on one of the colder days. Jeans or jean shorts are fine. Those zip off style cargo pants can be handy as well. You are sitting on the truck for long stretches so it’s important to feel comfortable. 

My lightweight green cardigan and blue v neck sweater were alternated each day depending on the weather. I was glad I had brought both of them. Some morning drives were very chilly indeed. 

My jacket is waterproof and it does usually rain at least one day whilst you are on safari. The rangers told us about an American family who stayed for seven days and it rained every day. A good raincoat can prove invaluable.There are rain ponchos and blankets on the truck. 


Closed in footwear is a must. There are scorpions and snakes and you are climbing in and out of trucks all day. I alternated between some cream sneakers and tan boots, both from Frankie4 Footwear, which I had in my cupboard already. Slides or thongs are good for the middle of the day when you are heading up to lunch or the pool. My boots were also good to wear with jeans and a nice top for dinner in the evenings. If you have some hiking boots this might be a good time to pull them out but they are not truly necessary. 

Dinner Attire

Some days you arrive back so late from your game drive that you have no time to change for dinner and on the nights where there are Bush Dinners you stay out. There is no need to bring too many fancy clothes. I like to add a couple of nice tops to pair with my jeans and trousers to freshen up for dinner after a game drive. I also took along a beige coloured pleather jacket to add on the cooler nights as an exception to my rain jacket. This was really useful on safari and in the Winelands where it was still quite cool. Pretty earrings can elevate your look. I only took one dress for the whole trip and only wore this when we were in the town, not on safari. Casual dresses can be worn in the middle part of the day as can nice tops and culottes, capris or shorts.


Definitely bring your bathing suit as many lodges have beautiful pools and often your own plunge pool. We did laze by the pool on one occasion but it was too chilly to swim. Every other safari I’ve been on has been warmer and I have always used my swimmers. Our friends who’d been at Kruger  the week before swam every day as it was 39 degrees during the middle of the day.

Sunglasses are a must as dust flicks up on game drives and the glare can be intense. A small bag or day pack for sunscreen, phones, insect spray, hand sanitiser and other essentials is very handy. We have some lovely safari bags which were a gift from South African colleagues.They are perfect. 

Bring your own binoculars if you have them. They usually have a couple of pairs on the truck but your own might be better. A good camera will ensure you capture those special safari memories. 

Bring plenty of comfy socks and a good breathable sports bra or soft bra with no underwire for on the truck. It pays to be comfortable as you are being jiggled around a lot. Sunscreen, insect repellent and moisturiser are all essentials. 

Packing for safari should be fun! It’s no different to packing for most other trips where you’ll spend a great deal of time outdoors. Pack light and in neutral colours and you should be good to go. Now, you have the capsule safari wardrobe sorted what are you waiting for?There’s never been a better time to cross that African safari off your bucket list. 

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