Discover what to wear on safari in South Africa so you pack what you need for your trip! Practical tips and advice based on my own experiences of over 60 safaris in South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe!
If you are heading off to South Africa and have a few safaris included in your itinerary you may be wondering what to pack. This post will help you with all the info you need.
Thinking about what to bring on safari in South Africa is important so you only pack the safari clothing that you need. I spent many years living in South Africa and Botswana and took numerous game drives (safaris) so I have a good idea of what to wear on safari in South Africa.
In this article I will help you put together your perfect wardrobe to ensure you have exactly what you need for your trip.
What to wear on an African safari (Best safari clothing)
Obviously everyone has different fashion tastes but there are some essential items I would suggest you add to your safari clothing packing list.
I would also strongly advise not buying a whole safari-themed wardrobe full of new clothes. Nothing screams tourist more than people climbing aboard the jeep wearing pith helmets and dressed head to foot in khaki.
Lightweight cotton items in neutral tones are the most practical items to add to your packing list for an African safari.
What colours should you avoid wearing on safari?
If you are wondering what colour safari clothes not to wear (or what colour clothes to avoid taking on safari) I would strongly suggest avoiding white.
The dirt roads can be extremely dusty and you can come back coated with a thin layer of orange dust.
Although not an issue in South Africa, the tsetse fly, which passes on human sleeping sickness, is attracted to black and blue clothing. Something to be aware of if you are visiting Tanzania, Kenya or Zambia during your trip.
If you are planning to take a walking safari do not wear white or bright colours. It is safer for you and less intrusive for the animals if you are wearing neutral tones that blend into the surrounding area.
Dress for the weather
Most game drives occur during the early mornings/late afternoon/early evening. It can be quite chilly at these times so it is best to dress in layers and add/remove layers depending on the temperature. Even though it may be warm when you head out the temperatures can drop sharply when the sunsets.
I recommend packing a jacket or pashmina that you can wear if the temperatures are on the low side. The breeze can be very cold as you drive along in the jeep and you may even need a woolly hat and gloves if you are in South Africa during the winter.
I would advise checking the expected rainfall and temperatures during your trip but also bear in mind that increasingly unpredictable weather patterns may make it is worth preparing for all eventualities.
Learn more – Where to visit in South Africa: The Ultimate South African Bucket List
What footwear do I need on safari?
In terms of footwear trainers are the best option though I will admit to going out in sandals too (just avoid flip flops!). Trainers are best as they keep your feet covered and warm and also for climbing into and out of the vehicle which can be quite high.
If you are planning a walking safari you will need to consider bringing sturdy walking boots.
Consider your baggage allowance
One of the main things to consider is though you may have a 30 kg baggage allowance on your international flight this allowance may not be as generous when flying internally.
Don’t overpack – think layers of lightweight clothing. Don’t pack heels, fancy dresses and expensive jewellery.
Pack one or two outfits for the evenings if you are staying in a private lodge but otherwise seriously don’t bother. Most lodges have laundry facilities so you really don’t need to take a change of clothes for every day of your trip!
You may find my posts with recommended mini travel products and mini travel beauty products helpful.
South African safari packing list
Essential packing list for your South African safari
OGIO Renegade RSS Backpack
Lightweight backpack perfect for taking with you on safari. Sturdy with plenty of pockets to store all your essential items.
Samsonite Andante 2 Drop Bottom Wheeled Rolling Duffel Bag
Built for travel this Samsonite duffel bag is perfect for your African adventure. Includes a push button handle, shoe pockets and front U zip.
SAFARI PACKING LIST - CLOTHES
It can be very chilly early in the morning when you leave on your game drive (and again in the evenings) so I recommend taking a pashmina or light jacket with you.
Women's Utility Jacket
Take a lightweight jacket for mornings or evenings
Men's Cotton Lightweight Jacket
Avaailable in lighter colours too this jacket is ideal for the cooler mornings and evenings
Shorts for her
Take a few pairs of shorts if you are going on safari in the warmer months. The weather in South Africa can be very hot during the summer and even in winter temperatures can be warm during the day.
Shorts for him
As I have mentioned a few pairs of shorts are a good idea especially during the warmer months. Take at least 3 pairs for a 2 week vacation.
T-Shirts for her
Some cotton t-shirts are also a great idea - cotton is the best fabric to choose as it is natural.
T shirts for him
I would pack 5 t-shirts each for a 2 week trip. Choose neutral colours which you can mix and match with your other clothes.
Long sleeve cotton tops for her
Layers are essential and a longer sleeve top such as this is easy to wear. If you are visiting during winter I would pack 2/3 longer sleeve t-shirts.
100% Cotton Long Sleeve T-Shirt for him
A few tops in this style are worth packing for your African safari especially during the cooler months when you will need to layer. As it warms up during the day it is easier to cool off by removing each layer.
Men's long sleeve top
This is the perfect light weight cotton blend long sleeved shirt for safari.
Athough you will generally be in the shade in the vehicle it is always a good idea to take and wear a hat when under the African sun. Make sure it covers your neck so a wide-brimmed hat not a baseball cap.
SAFARI PACKING LIST - USEFUL ITEMS TO PACK
These are all useful items that I have used when on game drives in southern Africa.
A pair of binoculars is worth taking with you especially if you like bird watching. They can also proof invaluable for spotting that elusive leopard or cheetah hiding in the bush a few hundred yards away.
Birds of Southern Africa
Identify the birds you will see on your safari or keep track of the ones identified by your guides.
Wildlife of Southern Africa: A field guide to the animals and plants of the region
Useful little book to take with you to keep track of the animals you see. We used to have a book we took with us every time we went on a game drive and it was a great way to keep a tally of what we had seen where.
Tracks and signs
Detailed coverage of tracks, droppings and more - a perfect comapnions for anyone considering a walking safari.
The Safari Companion - a guide to African mammals
A fantastic book for those interesting in spending some time observing African mammals when they are on safari.
SAFARI PACKING LIST - ESSENTIAL ITEMS TO PACK
LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottles
Keep yourself hydrated during your safari. Although you will probably stop for a drink during the game drive it is essential to keep fluids up especially during the hot summers.Reusable LifeStraw
SPF30 Lip Balm
As I mentioned above I find lip balm with high SPF protection worth keeping in a pocket to use during the trip.
South Africa Power Adapter
Don’t foget to pack an adaptor so you can use all your electrical appliances in South Africa.
I would suggest seeking medical advise regarding malaria before you travel so you can take appropriate precautions. Always use an insect repellant too to provide additional protection.
A small torch is always useful and you never know when you will need it. We even found ours invaluable in Tasmania recently when looking for animals after dark!
Small First Aid Kit
Take a small medical kit with the essentials. If you already have one make a point of checking the use by dates on ointments and medicines in your kit.
Mini Travel Size Products
A selection of useful travel products to pack for your trip including mini toiletries.
10 essential mini travel beauty products
Some great mini travel beauty products are included in this post. Buying smaller sizes is the best way to travel especially when weight may be an issue.
Enjoy your African safari
This packing list for a safari in South Africa will provide you with all the essentials for your trip.
Remember to pack your camera/lenses and extra memory cards for all those fantastic memories you will make during your travels.
Read more about taking a safari in South Africa with my essential tips for first-timers as well as general advice and tips about what NOT to do when in the country.
You can find links to all my articles to help you plan your trip included in my Essential Travel Guide to South Africa.