Looking, I suspect, a little more like an Egyptian mummie than the Audrey Hepburn look I am going for, I draw my cream scarf closer around me. Note to self: It always gets colder than you think on a game drive in an open vehicle, no matter how hot the weather when you set out. Still, I like to dress the part on safari – it is part of the magical experience of being out in the African bushveld, wind in your hair, sun in your face, the thrill of what you might see. My favourite safari look includes khaki or taupe three-quarter linen pants, a cotton shirt, wide-brimmed hat and scarf, accessorised with a gin and tonic in hand.
Here is my list of things to pack on safari – please add your own helpful ideas where you see the gaps!
Perfect safari packing:
- Tight fitting sun hat, cap or beanie in Winter (it gets quite windy on an open safari vehicle)
- Said elegant scarf
- Light jacket (and fleece in Winter)
- Rain jacket and gloves (though many luxury lodges will have waterproof ponchos and blankets in the safari vehicle)
- Lightweight cotton or linen shirts and shorts
- Tracksuit or warm longs
- Closed shoes and socks
- Comfortable open sandals
- Camera, spare batteries and memory card
- Nature identification books
- Lipice and sun cream
- A stick of mosquito repellant
- Passport and personal items
Dress in layers where possible, so that you can start shedding as the day quickly warms up, or add layers in an evening drive where it starts out hot but cools as soon as the sun sets. I always take along a small back-pack or camera bag on safari drives so that loose items don’t get lost or broken during the drive – one is easily distracted when you come across an exciting sighting.
Wear comfortable shoes like takkies or boots for climbing in and out of the safari vehicle. Then again, declared a German guest drily to me the other day “I think you South Africans would climb Kilimanjaro in your flip-flops.” You will soon find yourself converted to our local traditions – they just make sense. Leave the Jimmy Choos for Cape Town, darling, and we call these open single-strap-between-the-toes shoes ‘slops’.
Many safari lodges have spectacular swimming pools overlooking open bushveld so don’t forget that ‘cozzie’ and take your binoculars and camera wherever you go, even within the lodge. You never know when a herd of buffalo will parade down to the waterhole for a drink. Most parts of Africa can get extremely hot during the day, so pack lightweight cotton clothes where possible.
Neutral colours do make sense out here and you will find yourself naturally drawn to earthy hues. White is also cool and I recommend a pair of light white cotton pajamas to complete your romantic image of standing out on your private deck in the moonlight.
Above all, dress as you please. South Africa is a multi-cultural society and enjoys a wide range of dress codes. You are welcome to wear shorts and sleeveless vests in almost any lodge. Most safari lodges do not have a dress code for dinner which often involves having drinks sitting around an open fire or dining under open African skies. Especially on the early morning game drives, you are not likely to be looked at sideways if you dress to kill or stumble out of bed in your tatty slippers and sweatpants onto that safari truck where things very quickly become all about that red sun rising behind the Fish Eagle as it calls in its haunting cry of Africa.