The safari experts
13/128 Chapter
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When considering what
you should wear in Africa, the keyword is practicality.

On safari there are some important considerations, including the wearing of muted colours for camouflage, not wearing blue so to not attract insects and wearing sturdy footwear when out walking.

Regular casual clothes are the norm in virtually all locations. On the whole there is a far greater risk of over-dressing then under-dressing.

Generally speaking you should take as few clothes as you think you can get away with, although in our experience this is still usually way to much.

The article below is not intended to be a fashion guide, but does discuss some of the specific issues and provides links to other related sections.

Pack light ...

The importance of packing light is explained in the section on packing lists.

It is almost impossible to take too few clothes on safari or to the beach.

Informed travellers in Africa dress for function rather than style. As a result in almost all decent lodges dressing down is the rule of thumb. If you dress up for dinner in the way you may do back home, then you will almost certainly look out of place.

A couple of changes ... one on, one off and one in the wash ... is generally enough.

Safari ...

Whilst this section is not intended to give fashion advice, it might be worth saying a few words about what to wear on safari ...

You should aim to wear casual clothes in muted colours such that you will blend into the background.

In tsetse fly areas you should avoid blue and have some thicker clothes that these annoying insects cannot sting through.

The very worst thing you can wear are clothes which show no sympathy to the environment ... bright colours must be avoided at all times, whilst dresses and heels are equally inappropriate. Some of you may think we are mad to even mention this, but you really do see some sights out on safari.

At the other extreme, going out and buying a full safari suit is not the greatest either ... it may work well from a practicality point of view, but getting dressed up like some kind of Victorian explorer is a little bit eccentric. We have even encountered people wearing those bee-keeper hats with full face nets ... whilst walking around town!

You should avoid any clothing which could be construed as being military in style as this is very much frowned upon by the authorities and could get you in big trouble.


If you are going on safari then you should always wear a minimum of good cross-trainers.

If you intend to do any walking in the bush then we definitely recommend sturdy walking boots in the bush as protection from snakes and scorpions.

We would rather wear sturdy shoes all the time, but in high temperatures it can get uncomfortable and down on the beaches it is a bit impractical. Whether you take a light pair of trainers, deck shoes, flip-flops or clogs is a matter of personal choice.

Laundry ...

Across Africa the most lodges offer a laundry service. This is usually very prompt, if you leave your laundry out in the morning it is often back by lunchtime. Overnight can be more tricky since many camps do not have access to driers and laundry staff do not work a late shift. This means that you tend to only get laundry done at lodges where you are staying at least two nights. Laundry is sometimes free of charge and sometime chargeable, this is usually noted on the paperwork.

It is important to note that for cultural reasons many laundry services do not accept ladies' underwear. Although some lodges do provide it, we recommend taking a small amount of hand washing powder with you in order that you can take care of this yourself.

If you ever do any of your own laundry then make sure that it is thoroughly dry before repacking it. There are insects in Africa called putsi flies which lay their eggs on damp clothing and you don't want them hatching whilst you are wearing them ... it's very rare, but this is the main reason that safari camps have always ironed all items of clothing during laundry.

Insect protection ...

In the section on insect bites we offer some notes on how to dress in order to minimise the risk of being bitten by mosquitoes and other dudus. This may have a significant influence on which clothes you pack for your trip to Africa.

Dress codes ...

We can't remember ever visiting a lodge in Africa which operates a formal dress code ... and we have turned up at some pretty posh places looking much the worse for wear. Even in the highest priced and highest quality lodges no one has ever made an issue of it. Generally speaking there is an unspoken air of respect granted to the most shabby and bush-beaten looking guest. If you ever arrive at a plush lodge after a hard trekking expedition or camping safari and all your clothes are in a wretched state, then emergency laundry is the solution and any truly good lodge should be able to arrange that.

Casual clothes are the rule. Smart casual would be the exception. Only in major cities and the more civilised areas of South Africa would anything more formal be appropriate. Although we have felt completely comfortable in regular casual clothes even in the fine dining establishments of the Cape.

This is in stark contrast to the way Africans themselves dress, the concept of Sunday best is very much still the norm and dressing smartly for work, meetings and weddings is commonplace. One very often sees the most immaculately turned out folks walking along the side of a dustiest of roads. The same is not expected of international visitors. Having said that, it has been when mixing with local people that we have felt our shabbiest, especially at weddings and other more formal functions.

Cultural sensitivity ...

Visitors should always respect local customs when choosing how to dress.

This most commonly affects women, but should not be ignored by men either. All visitors should dress with a greater level of modesty than they might be used to elsewhere, especially in Moslem areas such as the coast of Tanzania and Kenya. You should only use swimwear around the pool and in some cases on the beach, but elsewhere you should cover up with at least a wrap. Ladies should never sunbathe topless anywhere. Elsewhere it is good practise to keep your legs covered at least to the knee. In more sensitive towns and villages it is also worth covering your shoulders.

During your trip you may see plenty of other people flouting these guidelines, but local people will appreciate the fact that you did not.

Jewelry ...

For security reasons we strongly recommend that you do not bring any valuable jewellery or watches to Africa. We would also advise against wearing anything which simply appears to be valuable. Many people in Africa have an income which is perhaps one hundreth of that of most visitors ... so that $500 ring is effectively worth $50,000 to them. Crime and especially violent crime on international visitors remains relatively rare in Africa, please help us to keep it that way by not leading people into temptation. Refer to our section on crime for more information.

Temperatures ...

So far we have not mentioned temperatures, which will clearly be a factor in decided which clothes to bring. In the guidebook sections for each area you will find graphs of the yearly variation in temperature, humidity and rainfall.

Generally speaking the weather in Africa is warm and sunny, but there are significant exceptions. Beware that in many safari safari areas temperatures can fall very low at night at certain times of year. Altitude is also a big factor, most notably on Kilimanjaro where sub-zero temperatures are common and extensive notes are contained within the relevant sections.

Buying clothes ...

In most parts of Africa opportunities for buying clothes are relatively limited.

Many lodges have small gift-shops in which you will usually find caps, tee-shirts and occasionally a wider range of outer garments.

In some locations you can take advantage of local tailors to have clothes made-to-measure using the local cloth, most commonly making sun dresses and other light garments from colourful kangas.

If you lose your luggage or have some other major wardrobe failure, then you should be able to purchase basic clothing in all urban centres, although obviously this will usually be restricted to normal opening hours.
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