Wearing a dress in Africa is a must! Don’t be the girl who only goes on safari in khaki pants and a long sleeve top. Safari dresses are a thing and can really dress up your African safari. With the right safari style, dress one can be just as comfortable as shorts and a safari shirt.
I personally love wearing dresses while traveling in Africa. First, African women are so beautiful and many dress their best all the time, so it felt nice for me to dress up and put the effort in too. Second, they look fabulous in safari photos. And third, they can be light and airy under the hot African sun.
The Best Safari Dresses for Africa
prAna Cantine Dress
My favorite dresses that look nice, but are still made for active women are made by prAna. I’ve traveled all over with their Cantine dress and can attest to it’s durability. The Cantine is perfect for safari because it has a built in bra, so you don’t have to worry about getting your bras dirty or sweaty while on safari.
REI Co-op Aoraki Travel Dress
This lightweight and stylish safari dress is a great choice. The REI Co-op Aoraki travel dress will keep you cool in the sun with lightweight fast-drying fabric. It’s also great as it will dry overnight after a quick wash along the in your wash basin.
The outer layer of fabric is treated with (DWR) so if you get caught in a rain storm the dress will handle the moisture well. The zippered pocket is also great to stick a small tube of sunblock or lip balm.
Patagonia June Lake Safari Dress
We love Patagonia and love that their always looking to reduce their impact and improve the supply line. This dress is designed from a new lightweight eco-friendly material called TENCEL. The material is more absorbent than cotton, softer than silk, and cooler than linen all while being made from a closed loop system. It’s a slam dunk in our books for eco-conscious travelers.
Marmot Josie Safari Dress
The Marmot Jose is made out of 95% nylon and 5% elastane and is lightweight, and extremely easy to pack up. The dress is airy and quick drying, exactly what you need for adventures out in Africa. My favorite thing about this dress is that it protects from the sun with UPF 50 blocking harmful rays.
United By Blue Pinnacle Commuter Dress
While it looks just like a dress, it’s also possible to make these into more of a romper with an elastic hem closure in between the legs. This dress is 98% organic cotton and 2% spandex which allows for a little stretch. United By Blue is one of my favorite sustainable brands! For every product sold United By Blue removes a pound of trash.
Arc’teryx Cala Dress
I love Arc’teryx products and this dress is no exception. With UPF 45 sun protection this dress is great for safari with two hand pockets, and even a hidden zippered security pocket. This dress is made out of polyester fabric meaning it is quick dry and doesn’t wrinkle easily. What I love about this dress is how sophisticated it looks on safari. Perfect to have on while drinking a sundowner or at dinner.
prAna Perry Midi Dress
Made out of Lenzing modal fabric to keep you breathable while being friendly to the environment the perry midi dress is one of the only safari dresses on this list that is mid-length. Its waistband keeps the dress well fitted and stylish while keeping you cool on those super hot African days. You can’t see it from the photo but there are also two side pockets to stash away goods or just keep your hands in while relaxed.
Mountain Hardwear Railay Stretch Dress
This Mountain Hardwear dress is the perfect casual dress for safari. It’s made out of 85% nylon and 15% elastane meaning it’s lightweight, durable, and water resistant. The back is mesh so it’s very breathable for any African bush walks you may find yourself on.
Patagonia Fleetwith Romper
I know this isn’t a dress, but it looks just as fashionable and amazing as the Railay stretch dress listed above. This full-length romper is made from 91% recycled polyester and 9% spandex blends. The material is stretchy, quick-drying and resists wrinkling. The tank straps are completely adjustable for a customized fit and it’s got two pockets to hold onto small items.
Women’s Fleetwith Dress
Pretty much the exact same us the romper above except it’s in dress form!
What makes a great African safari dress?
You’ll want to pack light. The days are often busy so multiple wardrobe changes aren’t really in the mix. Solid clothes that are casual, yet stylish enough to wear to dinner in a lodge over a five course meal. Versatility can include the right material, fit, and functionality.
This one is key. Africa can be hard on clothes even on a short trip. Climbing in and out of a safari vehicle can easily rip a weak pair safari dress. Look for clothes for Africa that stretch a little.
You also have a lot of dust and sun exposure. If you’re involved in conservation efforts, on a walking safari, or spending anytime outside of a game vehicle you need some decent safari clothes that will hold up the elements. The best way is often to stick with solid name brands like I’ve mentioned here or to shop in your local store.
A good safari dress needs to be tailored to handle harsh environments. Bonus for materials that are lightweight, quick dry, sun resistant, and bug resistant. With a safari, you’ve come to see nature and that’s just what you will encounter. So, your clothing needs to be well suited to the environments of Africa.
Manmade materials such as nylon or polyester are great options as they are excellent at moisture management and protection. The only material we’re not massive fans of is cotton, but it’s often the softest and warmest material with great value. I always read the tags and materials on outdoor apparel before I make a purchase and consider it’s intended purpose.
Things like having pockets can make an okay safari dress amazing. Where else are you going to stash things like lip balm, sunscreen, or even a pair of small binoculars?
The day to day wear of clothes is the most important part because if you feel uncomfortable in the bush you’ll likely end up looking ridiculous.
Safari dresses are designed to blend in with the environment. I’ve provided safari dresses on this list that re beige, green, and brown colored. They are the staple colors of safari wear because they blend into the environment and can provide a better game viewing experience.
While wearing bright colors such as red is said to scare off animals, and make you stand out. This may or may not be true, only the animals know for sure. Of course, the Maasai Warriors in Kenya and Tanzania have been wearing red for centuries!
That being said neutral colors do a great job at hiding dirt and dust which there will be plenty of on a drive or walk through the bush. White clothes aren’t going to stay white very long and dark colors are believed to attract tsetse flies. Trust us you do not want to become familiar with tsetse flies!
If you want a dress for safari chances are you want it to be a stylish one. Whether it be a romper, sleevelesss, or high necked dress make sure it fits the style you want.
The Basics of Safari Clothes
What clothes to pack for a safari?
You don’t need an endless collection of safari clothes in safari bag. We’re big fans of versatility and minimalism. As people tend to overpack for their safari which becomes a burden.
On safari, you are traveling to the wilds of the African bush a full wardrobe of clothes is unnecessary. In addition the common form of transportation is a small Cessna bush plane so a heavy suitcase of clothes is not going to fly.
We break down all the clothes you’ll want for safari here to help you look the part, but any safari expert will agree there is no set dress code or safari outfit.
Where to go on safari?
The first decision in packing for a safari is where you’re headed on safari. Africa has a very wide range of landscapes, vegetations, and climates. You should pack for where in Africa you’re headed, that’s pretty straightforward.
We have another post on the best destinations to go on safari along with our favorite parks, camps, and lodges. While you’re at it you can read up on our favorite safari animals to see while traveling.
What season to go on safari?
Weather plays a large role in what you wear.
Most African climates do not have your standard four-season climate. Here it is mostly dry and wet season, especially in Eastern Africa. With dry season can come heat in East Africa; however, dry season in Southern Africa means that it’s going to be cool in the evenings and mornings.
Then it flips.
Rainy season in East Africa brings cooler weather patterns and perpetuates a constant spring-like weather in Tanzania and Kenya. While rainy season in South Africa can coincide with its hottest months.
The basic gist is if it’s dry season we suggest khaki, brown, and tan. If it’s rainy season time to bust out the browns and greens. Just please no leopard print, okay maybe a little.
What to wear in Southern Africa?
In Southern Africa, the climate varies across the region. Summers can be blisteringly hot while winters are freezing in the back of a game vehicle. Many visitors show up in the winter thinking they’re going to be in the hot bush only to find zero degree weather in an open vehicle. Yikes!
The key to a comfortable safari outfit is layers. We often pack and wear layers to adjust to the wide range of temperatures you can experience on a typical day. While the morning can be freezing in arid locations like Botswana by midday it can be hot, layers will save you.
What to wear in Central & East Africa?
Here the weather is more temperate year round. It is often referred to as the “never ending spring.” However, morning game drives can still be chilly so convertible pants and a light jacket are great options. Always come prepared for rain given the time of year. We’ve been caught in a number of the famous thunderstorms of Africa, including a flash flood in Tanzania!
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