What We Learned About How to Dress for a Safari

by - Saturday, May 18, 2013

Alright, if you are a loyal reader (aka a family member), you know that before we left on safari, we debated (and shopped) at length for the right clothes for the safari. Safari clothes come with a whole load of advice with things that range from sparkly fancypants to dowdy yourmomspants. Examples:

from www.johnnyjet.com
from being5.com/2010/07/30/being-j-crew-fall-2010/
Ok, we knew these were wrong, because neither of us can pull off cargo vests or sparkly skirts, but there are some particular rules that pretty much every place will tell you.

1. You shouldn't wear bright colors or dark colors- they can annoy the animals.
2. No Blue! It attracts the tse tse flies, and their bites hurt like a mother.
3. Keep yourself covered or the sun will burn you. Wear a hat!
4. Beige. Lots of beige.
5. You want super strong hiking boots.
6. Lots of pockets.

Ok, so them's the rules. Now, let me tell you what really mattered.

My Observations:

First of all, we'll go over the boy wear. He basically wore the North Face every day, and it seemed to work for him. Like a yuppie explorer, just searching for the closest REI. I make fun, but I was cold, and he wasn't. If I could only give one piece of advice, check the differences between seasons, and BRING LAYERS.

The beige-ness is nice, but not necessary. The Mara people wear bright red, and I didn't see animals running from them in annoyance or fashion intimidation. I saw pretty much every color out there, and they all seemed fine. On the other hand, one half of Flosaundy did get bit by the tse tse fly, and she was in serious pain. It is worth it to not wear the blue. Other colors are fine.

Yeah, you really should wear a hat. I didn't always, and I burnt my part. The Boy wore a baseball cap, but the back of his neck did burn once.Our guide made fun of my more fisherman-y hat, but he seemed ok with the Stetson hat.  I have no idea which hat works best, you just want to cover your head and not look too much of a fool. And no matter how you dress, you are going to look like a tourist. Just let it go. You will now blend in here.

 The suggestion you need heavy duty pockets or footwear is RIDICULOUS. Unless your camp is offering hiking tours, you don't need them. Flosaundy wore their pajamas some mornings, with flip flops or bare feet. It depends on every camp, but unless you know otherwise, you really don't need to upgrade your walking shoes. You need flip flops or casual shoes for walking around the camp, but heavy duty preparation is just not going to help anything.

My Revised Fashion Rules:
1. Don't buy anything you wouldn't wear again, at least in less monochromatic contexts. You can mostly just dress however you would be comfortable on a long road trip, because you are just in the back of a car all day.   Think about comfort first, then worry if you have enough pockets, zip-off pant legs, etc.
2. Blue is the only color out of the question- Who wants extra bug bites? If you are going in their dry seasons, you want to think more about dirt and dust, but most of the camps have laundry services as well. We picked a brown shirt out of the Boy's donate pile, and that may have been the perfect choice, because worst case scenario, we have to throw it away.
3. Do not expect to look cute- I swear our hair stayed wet longer, and African water was not great for my hair or skin. If you are a sparkly skirt girl, I suggest maybe letting that go for this trip. You tried. It's ok.

4. Yeah, wear a hat. More importantly, wear layers.  They are right, you need a hat. Also, sunglasses are really important. And bring whatever makes you warm/ dry/ cozy, because that is the nicest thing! I didn't bring a scarf, and ended up using one of the blankets to keep my neck warm and covered. The mornings are sooo cold, and you want to be able to enjoy it.

5. You sit all day. Dress for that.

6. Pack light- they will do your laundry, and again, you aren't going to look that cute anyway.

7. Bring clothes for the nights. Pajamas and something just slightly more fancy works just as well. You can't go buy something if you need it, so be sure you have something to wear for dinner.

8. My final rule- Do not just wear your safari clothes in the city. Wear normal clothes, because you are in the city. It comes off as very weird/ creepy/ imperialistic to look like you are on an urban safari spotting Kenyans. And just have fun with it! You will be overprepared, so at least make the figuring it out fun.

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  1. Thanks for your hilarious sharing! It's the far most practical article I have found on what to wear for Safari trips on the Internet...