How to Pack For a Safari in Africa
So you have booked your once-in-a-lifetime safari, now what? Now you prepare for it! Packing for a safari is just as important as booking it way in advance. After you spend so much time researching, planning, booking and spending a lot of money for your safari trip, you want to make sure you are going to enjoy it. The clothes you wear can make or break your safari experience and after all the time and money spent on your safari, the last thing you want to do, is have a bad experience because you didn’t pack the proper long sleeve shirt or convertible pants.
Rest assured, we are here to make you feel more than prepared for your big safari trip in Africa!
Where are you Going?
Your destination has a lot to do with how you need to pack. Are you going to more than one country and parks or only visiting one National Park? We experienced severe climate changes from South Africa to Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Therefore, we had to pack for both cold and warm climates.
What To Expect
Expect the mornings to start off cool, if not cold, depending on the time of the year. Keep in mind, you are going to be in an open vehicle with the cool breeze always coming in, so mornings can feel colder than the predicted temperature. As the morning continues, the weather gets warmer, which is why you must wear layers! We cannot express how important layering is during the morning and afternoon game drives. Afternoon game drives typically start warm, if not hot, and get cool as soon as the sun goes down.
You also do not need to worry about looking nice for dinner. In most cases, everyone goes straight to dinner after their afternoon game drive and if you are lucky, you can experience a bush dinner where you definitely do not want to be wearing a dress or khaki pants.
Most safari lodges will include complimentary laundry – wahoo! With that being said, if you are flying to more than one destination, chances are, you will fly on small aircrafts with a low weight allowance. So, in both cases, it will be in your best interest to pack light!
Know the Weather
This brings us to weather. Africa has two seasons – dry and wet. It is best to be prepared for both. Research weather predictions and its previous history. We experienced different weather than the history before showed us. The weather also changed drastically, so be prepared for anything.
Climate for Popular Safari Countries
Botswana – wet season is from November through April with high temperatures of 91°F to low temperatures of 69°F. The dry season begins in May and ends in October with cool temperatures of 42°F and warm temperatures of 80°F. Though September and October are in the dry season, they are actually the hottest months of the year with temperatures as high as 100°F.
Kenya – lies on the equator and the temperature changes based on elevation. The wet season is between November to May. At high altitudes the temperatures average around 75°F to 81°F and at lower altitudes the temperature increases to 86°F. March through April are the rainiest months of the year. The dry season is between June through October and have low temperatures of 50°F to 73°F at a high altitude and daytime temperatures of around 82°F at lower altitudes.
Namibia – tends to get a little humid during the wet season, which is November through April. The hottest and most humid time period is between January and February with high temperatures of 95°F and up to 105°F in the desert. Humidity is low during the dry season between May to October with an average low temperature of 40°F during the night and 75°F during the day.
South Africa – with such a vast country it is difficult to pinpoint exact average temperatures, but for the areas with a lot of wildlife, such as Kruger National Park, guests can expect the wet season during October to April and the dry season during May to September. The wet season can get humid with high temperatures of 104°F. While the dry season sees almost no rain at all with low temperatures of 42°F during morning game drives.
Tanzania – lies close to the equator and has a tropical climate. The west season is from November to May, while the dry season is from June to October. Afternoon temperatures during the wet season are pretty consistent with temperatures of around 86°F. During the dry season the temperature is between 68°F and 86°F during the day with low humidity.
Uganda – straddling on the equator with barely any change in temperature year round, but the dry and wet seasons change twice a year. The wet season is during March to May and September to November. The dry season is during June to August and December to February. The temperatures year-round average around 61°F to 82°F.
Zambia – the wet season is from November to April, but December through March has the highest amount of heavy rainfall to fill the Zambezi River. During this time of the year, humidity is very high and temperatures are between 64°F and 84°F. The dry season is from May to October with the first sight of rain beginning in September. In addition to rain, September and October are the hottest months of the year with temperatures of up to 104°F.
Zimbabwe – similar to Zambia, the wet season is from November to March, but December through March has the highest amount of heavy rainfall to fill the Zambezi River. Temperatures are around 64°F to 90°F. The dry season is between April to October with temperatures as low as 43°F and as high as 90°F towards September and October.
What to Look For in a Safari Outfit
When you think about safari outfits, you may think about the luxurious Hollywood styles, but truth be told, there is nothing luxurious about safari outfits. They are not cute by any means and they are not meant to be cute. They are meant to keep you comfortable and safe during your three to four hour game drives. This was something I found hard to accept, I (Christina) wanted to look fabulous on every drive – I wouldn’t say we looked fabulous, but I think we did a good job looking the part and you can too.
There are four key elements we find the most important when picking the right safari outfits – versatility, color, quality and material.
Versatility – as we said, layering and finding clothes to be used after a safari is important. The most versatile clothes you can find are convertible pants (2 clothes in one, heck yes) or roll up long sleeves. We briefly talked about how you do not need to get dressed up for dinner, but if you still want to look well dressed, we suggest you find versatile pants, flash dry polos and long sleeve shirts that are comfortable for an afternoon game drive while also appropriate and appealing for a candlelit dinner.
Color – brown, tan, beige and green colors are the best for safaris. They are also the staple colors for a safari and you will find rangers and trackers wearing them. If they wear them, then you know you should too. White is also a nice color, especially for a classic look, but has the chance of getting dirty easily on a safari. The colors you want to stay away from are red, blue and dark. Red scares away the animals, while blue and dark colors attract the tsetse fly.
Quality – buy clothes from reliable brands because you are going to wear your clothes a lot and sometimes in harsh conditions. If you buy quality clothes by reliable brands, they can last you a lifetime. You can also find reliable brands that are on the higher end for lower cost by shopping sales (more on this further in the article). We love The North Face, they fit us well, they last forever and they have a fashionable style we enjoy. Other great brands are Patagonia, Columbia and Dickies.
Material – the type of material you wear on safaris is very important. Materials such as polyester and cotton with flash dry and UPF30 technology are the best for safari clothes. The flash dry shirts keep you from sweating through your shirt during those hot days, or can dry fast if you get a little wet. The UPF30 is the most important of all because it protects you from harmful Ultraviolet A and Ultraviolet B rays.
Purchase Clothes Ahead of Time and Hit the Sales
Safari clothes are not cheap – depending on the brand and time of year, you could be spending hundreds of dollars. To help offset the costs, purchase clothes every month instead of all at once and purchase them on sale. We made the mistake of purchasing all of our safari outfits a month before our trip and it really took a hit on our bank account, so don’t make the same mistake we did – start purchasing your safari outfits far in advance!
Do not just buy clothes for your safari, try to find clothes that you will continue to wear in your everyday life. We enjoy the outdoors and hike often, so we purchased clothes we could use on future trips and hikes. To make the most out of your money, find clothes that can be of universal use to you after your safari trip.
We did not purchase any clothes for our safari at full price and we hardly ever do in our daily lives. If you are a really big planner, hit the best holiday sales such as, Labor Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday – you can save A LOT of money. Another great money saver is finding online stores that sell past season clothes such as, Nordstrom Rack and 6pm. We found at least half of our clothes from 6pm (owned by Amazon) and were very happy with their service.
For more help on how to maximize money on shopping and earn points/miles to receive FREE flights, check out our helpful article here.
Our Packing Checklist
Most travelers recommend at least 4 days on a safari. Therefore, this list is for a 4 to 5 day safari – a total of at least 8 – 10 game drives.
We hope you found our article helpful for your safari in Africa. With the right outfits, you will have an amazing time! We sure did!
Christina + Adam