Susan Heinrich sits on the side of a safari jeep in Botswana Africa wearing a brown safari outfit, a utility safari-style shirt dress and sandals.

What to Wear on Safari

AFRICA TRAVEL

Stylish outfits for an African safari adventure, using versatile basics

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 When I booked a dream trip to Africa, the thought of planning what to wear on safari was daunting. It was my first trip to Africa and I’d be flying between safari camps in Botswana on little bush planes. That meant strict luggage limits; I had no choice but to pack light.  

In the past, I’ve traveled light by creating capsule wardrobes — picking clothes in colors that mix and match to create many outfits, but fit in a small bag. I decided to use the same approach for my African safari attire to create simple safari style.

What to Wear on an African Safari

Safari Style Capsule Attire with 15 pieces: jacket, shirts, pants, romper, hat, glasses and scarf all in shades of khaki, tan and brown. Also pictured are ankle boots and sandals, a sun hat and sunglasses.

African Safari Outfits - Creating a Capsule Wardrobe

My safari was a 6-day adventure in Botswana and I visited in March, toward the end of the Southern Africa summer, also known as green season. At this time of year, the nights weren’t as cold as during winter, but still chilly. And daytime temps went as high as 100 Fahrenheit! So I had to dress for both hot and chilly temps. 

If you’re like me, the 5:30 am wake-up for the morning game drive will feel very early. You’ll want getting dressed to be as simple as possible. So I chose a palette of neutrals — green, tan, beige and brown. That made it quick and east to get dressed; everything worked with everything else. My only patterned piece was a little scarf.

Deciding what to pack was also dictated by luggage limits — mine was 20 kg. In East Africa the weight limit can be as low as 15 kg; check luggage limits with your safari outfitter. Also, luggage should be a soft-sided bag. More on that below. 

A giraffe stands among trees in Makgadikgadi Pans National Park in Botswana.
A curious giraffe in Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, during green season in Botswana

TIP: Bring a daypack – it allows you to pack away your warm layer when temps rise. I also kept sunscreen, bug spray, camera, binoculars, and a water bottle in my pack.

An African Safari Packing List

A safari packing list will vary depending on the destination and time of year. East Africa is closer to the equator, so it is warmer year-round, while temperatures vary more widely in Southern Africa where their winter brings cold nights. 

In Botswana in March mornings were cold and we did have some rain so I was grateful for my layers: a cotton utility jacket, a raincoat, a light puffer jacket and a wool scarf-wrap. 

The length of your trip is less of an issue as most safari lodges have laundry facilities. Inquire about laundry access with your travel agent or safari outfitter. I had laundry done once on my safari.

This safari attire packing list  may be more than you need. But it covers everything you may want. You can tailor it to your trip.

A pair of brown ankle boots are pictured, stained with mud and bits of grass. The are set on a wood floor with rattan furniture in the distance.
My boots after a rainy day on safari

What Shoes to pack for a Safari

For footwear I took two pairs: a pair of boots and sandals. I wasn’t sure about my decision to go with boots instead of runners but it was the right call. We had beautiful sunny days but also heavy rain and mud. Sandals were ideal for hot afternoons (up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and I wore them on game drives a couple of afternoons. Sunglasses, a hat, and a daypack were my other safari essentials.

Is There a Safari Dress Code?

Helpful Guidelines for Safari Style

  • Although game lodges don’t tend to have official dress codes, many lodges prohibit any clothing with a camouflage pattern. Also, avoid blue as it can attract tsetse flies.
  • Neutrals are ideal — they are easy to mix, match, and you’ll blend with the landscape.
  • Bright colors can scare animals away, so leave it to the zebras and giraffes to make the design statement.
  • With temperatures fluctuating dramatically, you will need layers, including warm layers. This is more the case in Southern Africa in winter. I brought a down jacket and I needed it. Don’t think Africa will only be hot.
  • Safari lodges typically have rain ponchos for all guests, but I suggest you bring your own lightweight raincoat. It’s a convenient layer to have.
  • Bring long pants! They are ideal for early morning drives and to protect against bugs. I also wore pants to dinner. 
  • Some vehicles have open tops so you will want a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. A chin strap is helpful to keep hats from blowing off.
  • Most safari lodges have a swimming pool, so bring a swimsuit and coverup.
  • There is no need to bring anything fancy for evenings as African safari lodges tend to be casual. That said, it’s nice to change out of what you’ve worn all day.
  • Suggested safari footwear: Boots or closed-toe shoes for protecting your feet, and sandals for when it’s hot.
Susan Heinrich stands with her camera with the sunset beyond while on safari in Botswana's Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. She wears part of her safari wardrobe: rust shorts and a beige linen utility jacket.
Safari sunset in the Magkadikdai Pans National Park

African Safari Outfits- Daytime

During my 6-days on safari, I wore pants and at least two layers on top for the morning game drive then changed into shorts in the afternoon when temps jumped into the high 90’s Fahrenheit. Especially if you are lounging in a swimsuit during your downtime, count on the possibility you’ll change a few times during the day.

For this reason, I traveled with packing cubes which I loved. They act like drawers to keep things organized, which is especially helpful if you stay at multiple game lodges, as I did. You won’t have to unpack and pack up everything with each new lodge.  

zebras in a beautiful grassland in Africa

What to Wear on Safari in Evenings

Safaris are casual, so bringing fancy items to wear to dinner is unnecessary. Still, I like to change into something a little nicer for the evening. Because it was chilly and I was trying to avoid bug bites, I always wore long pants in the evening, typically pairing those with a long-sleeved shirt and my sweater wrap. I also had a cute linen utility jacket that I wore to dinner. I simply added a necklace to jazz up my outfit.

Everything I brought had to work well with multiple pieces. A long-sleeved cashmere sweater would also be a nice option for the evening, especially if you are on safari in the Southern Africa winter. 

Susan Heinrich sits at a lunch outdoors at Leroo la Tau safari lodge, Botswana wearing an African safari outfit, brown linen short, tan pants and brown safari-style boots.
Safari style at lunch, Leroo La Tau

African Safari Wardrobe: Start With What You Have

My number one tip for creating any capsule wardrobe is to try everything on ahead of time. That’s the only way to know what works with what. And start with what you already have. With the pieces I already had in my closet, I bought just a few new items for my safari wardrobe. Below, I include all the key clothing items I brought. If they are no longer available, I’ve listed something similar from a brand I own, even if I don’t have that exact piece. 

I try to focus on brands that are striving toward sustainability and I prefer to buy clothes that will last and I’ll enjoy for years to come. Because I travel often, things need to hold up well and easily mix and match in capsule wardrobes. I focus on well-made essentials rather than trendy items. I’d rather spend a little more and purchase less.

About 20 clothing items including pants, shirts, shorts, and other travel items spread out that combine to create a capsule wardrobe of African safari outfits.
All of my clothes laid out to pack in the soft-sided bag
Susan Heinrich stands in front of a sign that says Camp Okavango at a safari lodge in Botswana. Her safari outfit is green pants, a white shirt, a cotton scarf and sandals.

Pants to Wear on Safari

I recommend choosing two neutral-colored pants for a safari wardrobe — tan, brown and khaki green are all great choices. I brought three pairs of pants and in hindsight, could have managed with two, especially given I had access to laundry services. 

I took quick-dry travel pants from Athleta which I love (pictured above). They are very lightweight and don’t wrinkle — ideal when it was hot, but I wanted my legs covered.  Mine are from a few years ago; the Endless High Rise Pant in green and the Brooklyn Utility Pants in tan are most similar to mine.

You could also go with a cotton utility pant such as the Utility Barrel Pant by Everlane. The cocoa color would be a great safari pant. Or the Refined Utility Pant by Banana Republic. 

Susan Heinrich stands with her camera with the sunset beyond while on safari in Botswana's Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. She wears part of her safari wardrobe: rust shorts and a beige linen utility jacket.
Shorts with a linen utility jacket

Safari Shorts

Because it was so hot in the afternoons, I was grateful to have packed shorts. I wore them on an afternoon game drive and lounging around the safari lodge between outings — relaxing on my verandah or taking photos. Mine are several years old. Comfort is crucial on safari, as you sit for long periods in the jeep. I suggest the Trekkie North Bermuda Short; it’s a great mid-length and lightweight. I love that it has zippered pockets. Available in sizes 0-24.

If you prefer a shorter style look at the Easy Short by Everlane or the European Linen Shorts by Quince. 

Susan Heinrich leans against the side of a small 6-seater airplane while on safari in Botswana. She wears a beige linen shorts romper and is holding a hat.

One-Piece Romper

A one-piece romper seems like the perfect safari style —easy and cool. I found mine in South Africa just before I left for Botswana and I was glad I bought it. It was great for hot weather lightweight and I could keep the waist loosely tied to allow air flow.

My style is a small brand I had never heard of, but here are similar options: Athleta’s Brooklyn Utility Romper, the  Short Jumpsuit in Cotton Twill by Alex Mill, or Anthropologie’s Kit Utility Romper. And for a splurge, and classic Out of Africa vibes, look at Frame’s Utility Short Jumpsuit in Khaki Tan.

You could choose this instead of the shorts if you want to pack one less item.  

Susan Heinrich stands in an open grassy landscape in Botswana holding a glass of white wine. She is on safari enjoying the traditional sundowner drink, with the sun setting behind her.

Safari Style Shirtdress

Yes, I could have gotten by without this shirtdress, but it was nice to have. I wore it on two very hot travel days in Africa. And its classic safari style was nice for the photos we took while enjoying our sundowners. (Sundowners are a highlight of any day on safari; a classic refreshment such as a gin and tonic is enjoyed while marveling at the beauty of the landscape, and reflecting on the day’s adventures.)

Mine is from Banana Republic; I’d had it for a while. I am trying to support more diverse brands that prioritize responsible manufacturing, and Banana Republic isn’t there yet. But they do an excellent job of safari style. This similar style, the Twill Utility Shirtdress , captures the same look that says I take exploring seriously. J.Crew Factory has a nice option in olive green, the Utility Mini Dress. 

Susan Heinrich in a safari jeep holding a camera. She's in Botswana in the Magkadikgadi Pans National Park.

Long-sleeved Shirt

A lightweight long-sleeved shirt is a cornerstone of your African safari outfits; either cotton or linen work well.  I wore mine day and night, on its own and layered. I chose a dark brown linen shirt, but a khaki green or tan would also be the perfect safari staple.  

This is a classic piece you will wear again and again, not just on safari. You may well already have one in your closet. If you don’t, mine is by the Gap, similar to this Linen Boyfriend Shirt. For an investment piece, I love the Britt Linen Shirts at J. McLaughlin.

For a budget-friendly option look at the Quince European Linen. I own it in white and it’s great quality.The “washed olive” color would be great for a safari. Everlane’s Relaxed Linen Shirt. is another mid-priced option. 

Susan Heinrich sits in a boat on an African safari dressed in green pants, a white shirt and a scarf and sunglasses. She is in the Okavango Delta with water and papyrus plants beyond.

Short-sleeved Shirt

Some people will say to avoid wearing white on safari as it can appear bright and startling to animals. And this is good advice. But I already owned a short-sleeved utility shirt in white, so I decided to bring it rather than buy another one. Mine is a few years old but any comfortable cotton short-sleeved shirt will work well to create your safari outfits. This one is similar and comes in a lovely green: Loft Utility Dolman Shirt.  Quince’s Vintage Wash Tencel Camp Shirt comes in several colors, and is lightweight and wrinkle resistant — great for travel. 

A khaki green safari-style utility jacket

Safari Style Utility Jacket

I bought my linen utility jacket fifteen years ago, but it had sat quietly at the back of my closet for the last ten. I rediscovered it when I went through everything I had that might be considered safari attire.

That’s why I always recommend looking through your closet, before you buy anything. You may find some gems, which allows you to invest in a few quality pieces, instead of having to spread your budget across an entirely new wardrobe.

I love utility jackets — they can be styled with jeans, trousers, and skirts, and work long after you return home from your safari. 

My current favorite is this one from Quince, The Chore Jacket. It’s lightweight and only $60. The colors tobacco or olive would both work really well for safari style.

L.L. Bean has a nice selection of women’s jackets that could work for African safari outfits. In particular, you might consider the BeanFlex Short Utility Jacket.

Another cute option would be a bomber-style jacket.

A camel colored cashmere poncho wrap over a t-shirt. Ideal travel essential or capsule wardrobe item.

Lightweight Wool Scarf/Wrap

A wool wrap is one of my favorite travel essentials. Even if I am going somewhere warm, you never know when you might need a layer on a chilly evening, or in air conditioning. And they are perfect to carry on the plane which is usually, brrrr. Mine is several years old, but this wardrobe staple is available from many brands at various price points. 

I love the Mongolian Cashmere Wrap by Quince and it’s well-priced. I own their cashmere crewneck sweater and the quality is great. It comes in eight colors.  J. Crew also has a nice option (and it often goes on sale) the  Cashmere Wool-Blend Poncho.

Susan Heinrich steps off of a boat in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, with the sun rising beyond her. Her safari outfit is a pair of green pants, a green rain jacket and brown safari boots.
Early morning in Botswana's Okavango Delta

Rain Jacket

I’d say a rain jacket is not entirely necessary because safari lodges will have ponchos available for your use, as I mentioned. That said, I was happy that I brought a rain jacket. It was the perfect lightweight layer on an early morning walking safari (pictured above) and was less cumbersome than a poncho.

My raincoat was light enough to keep in my daypack, so I had it if needed. Mine is by Sierra Designs and several years old. This RainOut Sutro Trench by Athleta is similar. I own many Athleta pieces and am a huge fan of this brand!

For a cute bomber style I suggest Athleta’s Jetset Bomber in grey.

Susan Heinrich wears a favorite travel hat while sitting in a safari jeep on an Africa safari in Botswana. She is also wearing sunglasses and a beige linen romper. She has her hand raised to holding the back of her hat.

Wide-Brimmed Hat

I both own and wear many hats 😉 but I did purchase a new hat to wear on safari. I chose the Laguna Drover Hat  from Tommy Bahama. (The brand is Kooringle of Australia.) It was perfect. Our safari jeeps always had a roof that offered some sun protection, but note that this is not always the case.  Because I was using a large DSLR camera, a slightly smaller brim was more practical. Technically this is a men’s hat, but the smaller of the two sizes (M/L) fit perfectly. Tommy Bahama has a great online selection of women’s hats.

Susan Heinrich rides in a safari jeep with green Warby Parker sunglasses on.

Sunglasses

If you wear corrective lenses, I recommend investing in prescription sunglasses for your African safari. Not having to put my contact lenses in at 5 am was a dream.  My go-to for prescription glasses is Warby Parker and the style I purchased is The Beale, in the color Rosemary Crystal — a very pretty green.

My prescription sunglasses are single-vision, but you can also get them with progressive lenses. And all their sunglasses can be purchased without a prescription as well.

If you don’t have a Warby Parker near you, the website has virtual try-on technology using your computer camera, or you can order several pairs online to be shipped to you, and decide which you like. I own three pairs of prescription glasses from Warby Parker, two eyeglasses, and now my “safari sunglasses”. I highly recommend them — great quality products and service.

Feet in African safari boots with a bush plane beyond in a muddy landing strip in Africa.

Boots for an African Safari

I almost didn’t bring these boots and they turned out to be the most essential thing I wore in Africa. Keeping my feet protected and dry was crucial. We had rain, and lots of mud. If I had been wearing runners they would have been a mess. My boots are the Betsy by Born, purchased last year. As of now they are sold out but I will watch for a similar style by them.

Meanwhile here are some great options: I love the rich caramel color of the Frye Veronica boot available at Nordstrom. A classic and chic safari style by a heritage brand.

And you can never go wrong with a pair of Blundstones; they have a nice safari style boot with a substantial sole — Blundstone Lace-Up Boots.

Susan Heinrich is dressed in a safari-style utility dress and sandals in a charming lounge with African decor.
A woman from the waist down wearing linen shorts; her feet are pictured in a pair of Nisolo Flatform Sandals. She is at a safari lodge.

Sandals

My sandals are by Nisolo, they are the Go-To Flatform Sandal in almond and come in several other colors. They were perfect to wear on safari — comfy and lightweight to pack. And I liked that the platform kept my feet a little elevated from the ground. They work equally well with shorts and a sundress. Note, these run small, I sized up half a size. 

Nisolo is an environmentally conscious brand and a Certified B Corp. Their artisanal shoemakers in Peru are paid a living wage. 

A black soft-sided duffle bag with the words Eagle Creek printed on the side.

Soft-Sided Luggage for Safari

For my safari, I borrowed a soft-sided bag that dates to the 80’s; I can’t even find the brand. But I own another travel bag by Eagle Creek and it’s terrific, so I can recommend them if you need soft-sided luggage. The Eagle Creek No Matter What Duffle would be great for a safari; it’s lightweight and water-resistant. Choose between the 60 and 90-liter capacity, depending on your weight limit and how much you intend to bring. Available in several colors.

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A baby zebra stands looking at the camera; its stripes are chestnut rather than black of an adult zebra.
The zebra were migrating in huge numbers during my Botswana safari. This baby was very curious.

And just like that, we are all packed for an African safari. Well, at least we have a better idea what to wear on safari  — from there, packing should be a snap. I hope you have a truly magical time on your African adventure, or embracing safari style at home — almost as fun!  You might enjoy reading about my Botswana Safari Adventure in Leroo La Tau Safari Lodge

10 Responses

  1. Thank you SO much for this post, it was exactly what I was looking for!
    I’m a solo 52yo Aussie living in Canada & heading to Kenya in Jan 2025 (meeting up with a group of strangers for the safari) & so I’m trying to learn as much as I can & prep. So thank! Especially for giving links too, makes life so much easier.

    Now I will also read some of your other content.

  2. Love your safari style! I’m going on safari in Kenya/Tanzania in late June/July 2024 and this was extremely helpful. The visuals and recommendations are great.

  3. I love your safari style! Thank you for all of the helpful tips! I am going on two day trip safari’s in Kenya. I wanted to ask if you have a recommendation of a crossbody bag to bring on my day trips. I’m not sure how much stuff I will need to bring for the day. Also which jacket would I bring for the day. I see you packed a few different ones for your trip.

    1. Hi Krystal. How exciting! Kenya will be incredible. I used a small backpack as my day bag as I wanted it to hold a coat, hat, suscreen and jacket. As for what coat it depended on time of day. Mornings were cold so I brought my down-filled jacket. It was a lightweight one that packed up in a small bag, but was quite warm. In the afternoon I brought my raincoat in my bag (just in case as it was rainy season) and I usually wore my light cotton utility jacket with a tee underneath in case I got hot. With most safaris, you go back to the lodge midday to relax, so you can change your clothes and your jacket. For example, I always wore long pants in the morning but wore shorts in the warmer afternoon. Hope that helps ! Have a marvelous trip!

  4. Hi Susan.
    I stumbled upon you and so glad I did! Thank you for all the info and detail and putting in the links for some of the items, really helps understand what you are recommending. Going in August, Kenya/Tanzania, so will be hotter than your trip. Trying to decide if Bludstones still needed (?) or if a hiking shoe/sneaker type could work since won’t be too muddy. And, you are brave in dresses and shorts! I am already anticipating all the bug bites coming my way!

    1. Hi Jackie. Yes, bug spray is necessary although I didn’t find it too bad. I would definitely bring shorts to change in to between game drives. Based on what you are saying I think a sturdy sneaker with a good sole or hiking shoes will be fine. Have an incredible trip to East Africa!

  5. Hello,
    Thank you for your great post.
    You say that luggage should be soft sided, but never say why; is this a requirement of airlines, or safari providers, or just more practical?
    Thank you,
    Suzanna.

    1. Hi Suzanna. Yes, the safari operators prefer it because it usually gets placed directly inside the little planes, rather than a luggage hold, so it can more easily fit with the other luggage when it’s soft-sided.

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About - Midlife Globetrotter

Hey there,

I’m glad you’re here. Can we talk about midlife? I reached my late 40’s, realized my kids were growing up, and adventure began calling in a new way: big travel adventures as well as everyday ones. I want Midlife Globetrotter to be a place where we explore how to add a sense of fun, freedom and meaning to these precious years. Let’s celebrate how far we’ve come, and all that’s ahead.

Susan

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