Take a peek at a J. Crew catalogue for the summer and you may start dreaming of what to toss into your luggage for you dream trip, an African safari. But before you get too excited about your ‘Out of Africa’ wardrobe inspired by Meryl Streep (who had trunks and trunks of clothes), follow these practical and still stylish tips so you don’t over pack, but are totally prepared.
1. Avoid White
The first thing a ranger will notice on you is if you’re wearing white, or very light colours. And there’s a great reason why. Animals see things in tones of black, white and grey. Lighter colours stand out to animals, and with your body movement you’ll be making those animals curious and they might want to get closer to your lighter items (and the last thing you want or need is an elephant trying to take off your white hat!). Bright, bold colours can also be distracting, so stick to a neutral, natural colour palette of brown, green, dark blues, greys and black.
2. Think Layers
The temperatures change quite a bit during the day and night in Africa, especially when you’re on a safari game drive. Most drives take place early in the morning (think a 5 a.m. wake-up call) and later in the afternoon and evening (starting at about 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.), just at the moments when the air is warming up or cooling off. Layers are great to keep from being too chilly or too hot. Keep them light and easy to wear. Even though you want to look chic, in all honesty you’ll be sitting in a jeep all day with a ranger and spotting animals. It’s not runway. Save your fancier items for post game drive dinners and cocktails by the fireplace.
3. Leave the Shorts, Skirts and Dresses Behind
To say that there are a lot of insects and small creatures roaming around the ground on the African plains would be an understatement. Add in so many plants and shrubs that you’re not used to and it could be a recipe for strange insect bites or allergic reactions to plants your body isn’t used to. To protect yourself while on game drives, or walking around your camp, wear long pants, socks and sneakers, hiking boots, or shoes that cover most of your foot to stay protected. Keep your dresses and skirts for dinners and lounging in your tent. And pass on the flip-flops!
4. Bring Warm Items
Just like we mentioned above, temperatures can be on the cooler side in Africa during the early morning or night. And some seasons (when travel times are peak, can be a bit cooler than expected as well). Most game drives will come with warm blankets to keep your lower body warm, but also bring light weight jackets with hoods to keep your head and upper body toasty as well. Even lightweight gloves are a good idea. Game drives at those times can also come with brisk winds adding to the chilly factor.
5. Bring a Hat
You know those retro ads of people on safari with wide-brimmed Panama jack hats? You need those. Not just because they are impossibly cool with your linen pants and flowy top combo, but because it’s also practical. An African sun (no matter what temperature it is outside) can be more damaging in terms of UV rays than elsewhere (thanks to being so close to the equator). Protect your head and your face from the harmful rays with a neutral coloured hat.