On my first safari, I had no idea what to wear. With over 100 safaris under my belt, I know exactly how to put together a fantastic safari outfit for women. Despite the high price tag and the fact it is a holiday for the rich and famous, a safari is a very low-key affair.
It’s pretty simple to style the perfect outfit with just a few versatile and practical pieces, which will allow you to remain cute and functional.
Whether it’s your first safari or your tenth, you want to make sure you pack the right things for your trip. It means cute and stylish and comfortable, durable, and lightweight items. Here are my favorite items to make the perfect safari outfit, from safari dresses to safari pants. If you want some ideas for men’s safari outfits, head over to Cameron’s post.
Safari Outfit Ideas
Here’s a list of some examples of what clothes I recommend you pack for a safari. I’ll break down all of these categories with suggestions to help you craft the perfect outfit.
I recommend you pack at least a few safari shirts for your trip. Ensure at least one is a long-sleeved shirt, as it is excellent for protection against pesky mosquitos (malaria is a thing). A technical synthetic shirt can look great and is practical.
Cotton gets dirty fast and weighs more, so go with synthetics unless you like stinky/oily clothes. You hear the word layers a lot, but the vast majority of the days are very hot. Many of the arid climates famous for safari can see pretty cool evenings and mornings.
A stylish jacket or down jacket is super handy to have on hand for those chilly days. I advise looking at the season for where you plan to go safari. We’ve seen temperatures in South Africa near freezing in the back of a game-viewer, so it was frigid!
Classic Linen shirt
I like to pack a technical long sleeve shirt for a safari, but it’s tough to beat a classic shirt from materials like hemp, linen, or rapeseed. They look excellent, and they’re practical as they have antimicrobial properties and will stay fresh longer when you sweat. Linen is a perfect option as it has a timeless look for your trip.
Pair a linen shirt with sandals, shorts, chinos, jeans, or shoes. It will always work. Linen shirts are versatile clothing that works any trip, whether at the beach, museum, archaeological site, or safari. It’s tough to find decent linen shirts online, but I love the value of J. Crew’s and Everlane’s linen shirts. You can often score a deal, so if you stain or snag the shirt, it won’t be the end of the world.
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Columbia Tamiami II
This shirt pretty much checks off every box for good safari wear. Design built for anglers, but that makes it a perfect fit for the African Bush. The shirt offers UV protection, it’s lightweight, quick-drying, it has vented back and front pockets.
Loaded with features such as Omni-Wick moisture management, antimicrobial treatment, and strategic mesh vented panels, this shirt is perfect for a safari. Columbia is one of our favorites for shirts as they make affordable and well-designed clothes. Its negatives are a more loose cut and outdoor style as it has large vented back and front breast pockets.
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Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Shirt
Simple clothes like a classic T-shirt or V-neck are great staples to bring in your pack. This shirt from Patagonia is super lightweight and breathable. It’s probably the most comfortable shirt you’ll ever wear. My only complaint would be about the shirt’s longevity due to its lightweight nature, and you can easily snag this shirt if not careful.
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Pants are an essential part of a safari outfit for women. One pair of women’s safari pants is excellent; however, two safari pants for women ensure that you won’t have to do any washing on your trip.
I’ve had the prAna Halle pants for three years without issue. It’s almost impossible to stain them, they roll up into capris when it’s hot, and they are water-resistant. They look pretty decent, too, especially when you pair them with a linen shirt.
prAna Women’s Halle Pant
prAna has some exceptional climbing pants, and we love them for safari, travel, and everyday life. The prAna Halle pants manage to hit the perfect blend between technical features and style. Fabric in the pants is a mixture of nylon and spandex for tremendous flexibility and moisture management. That moisture management makes them a good pair of pants to wear in heat or humidity.
The mud, sepia, and dark khaki colors look sharp for safari pants and have enough style that feels appropriate in everyday life. Since they are climbing pants, they have supreme flexibility and stretch. Although they’re flexible, do not mistake them for being loose and sloppy looking. The pants offer exceptional flexibility. Halle Pant takes it a step further with a roll-up capri pant design. Warning, these pants may become some of your favorites!
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Coalatree Trailhead Pants
Coalatree creates eco-focused outdoor apparel that we’re learning to love. As far as comfort, these are among the best on this list, and the only drawback is the price. The pants material is a lightweight blend of Bluesign Nylon and spandex.
They’re super comfortable, and the combination of nylon and spandex allows them to stretch in any way you can move. The drawstring makes for an easy adjustment, and the spandex does an excellent job of hugging your hips.
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Do not fear wearing shorts while on safari! Most safaris are very easy-going affairs that involve riding in the back of the vehicle. You don’t need pants to ride in a game viewer, and it is tough to beat shorts on a hot day!
You should consider the location, time of year, and activity level, whatever you pack. We spend most of our time in Africa in a pair of shorts and sandals. Read about more of our favorite safari shorts if you want to learn more.
Columbia Saturday Trail Short
The Columbia brand is always reliable for affordable outdoor wear. These trail shorts are perfect for a safari in Africa as they provide UPF 50 sun protection and insect repellant. Their stretchable fabric makes them ideal for sitting in a safari vehicle for long hours throughout the day.
Even though these are safari shorts, they are still fashionable enough to wear to dinner and other activities that revolve around your safari. The best part about these shorts is even after your African safari experience, you can take them home, and they are perfectly acceptable to go trail running, hiking, or errands around town.
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Title Nine Clamber Shorts
I just got my hands on these safari shorts and loved the stretchy waistband on them. They are super comfortable, especially if you’re going to be sitting in a game viewing vehicle for hours on end.
A wide comfy waistband holds the shorts nicely on the waist, yet they still have functional pockets. Title Nine is one of my favorite brands for women’s clothes. The Clamber is made of MoxieFlex abrasion-resistant fabric and is also suitable for all hiking, trekking, and scrambling.
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A safari dress or romper is excellent because they are a one-piece safari outfit for ladies. I like to bring a few dresses on safari as they’re comfortable. You’re not all that active on safari, so it’s not an issue and cooler than pants. Also – they are perfect for photos and ideal for living out your safari movie.
Small tip, rompers are super cute, but if you need to use the bathroom in the bush, it can be a little inconvenient. I’d stick to wearing them around camp or the lodge.
Patagonia Fleetwith Romper
The Fleetwith is Bluesign certified and super comfortable. While the Fleetwith is available as a dress, we prefer the romper best. It’s so comfortable and fits just about any body type. With the romper, you can quickly feel comfortable on a bush flight, in the back of a game viewer, or on a bushwalk.
The one-piece romper is made from 91% recycled polyester/9% spandex blend and moves with your body, resists wrinkles, and dries quickly. The romper and dress make for excellent safari wear, and they are so versatile you may end up living in them at home. It’s a slam dunk in our books for eco-conscious travelers.
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Scotch & Soda Safari Dress
This fashion-forward dress from Scotch & Soda delivers everything we could want in terms of style. The classic off-white look, cuffs, and buttons down the front are sure to feel right at home on safari.
It uses a lightweight Tencel eco-friendly material and operates in a closed-loop system. That soft material is very light and breathes super quickly, so you’re comfortable and relaxed in the African sun.
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It all depends on where you’re going, but Africa has some of the best beaches in the world. Not to mention some stunning hotels, rivers, lakes, lodges, and waterfalls all present the ability to go for a dip.
There are also plenty of grand beach lodges that make for a beautiful and relaxing end to be a busy safari. You can read about the best hotels in Zanzibar or Diani Beach! Andie Swim makes excellent swimsuits. Many of their pieces are stylish yet supportive.
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No matter what season you go on safari, you should at least bring a warm fleece jacket (maybe even a down jacket) with you just in case it gets cold. However, if you want something more stylish for warmth and photos, I recommend a nice safari jacket.
Orvis Pack-And-Go Travel Jacket
This adorable mid-thigh safari-style jacket is both wind and water-resistant, has a stowaway hood and loads of space and hidden pockets. It’s a stylish travel jacket that works for many destinations and would feel right at home in some of Europe’s most beautiful cities. Several color options provide versatility. The “stone” and “loden” color options are perfect for a safari jacket.
The fit is very complimenting, cinching at the waist, and the colors are pretty muted, making this jacket the perfect pairing to almost any outfit! The polyester blend also resists wrinkling, which is terrific because it comes with its stuff sack so you can pack and go. It’s just one of the best safari jackets we’ve come across, and it excels at general travel too.
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REI Coop Down Jacket
It gets cold in Africa, and a warm jacket can be a lifesaver. REI Co-op Down 2.0 is a down jacket that only costs $100, about as inexpensive as they come in the down jacket world. When REI first released this down jacket, it flew off the shelves and has been in high demand ever since. Its closest competitors in quality come in at about double the price.
When it comes time to move to the next destination, the jacket packs up into the left pocket and occupies minimal space in your luggage. It has a water-repellent finish handling light rain, snow, and wind. We suggest more safari jackets here!
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You’ll be sitting in a car for most of your African safari. I wear sandals quite a bit unless I go on a bushwalk where good shoes are a must. You don’t want to have to run from a buffalo in the wrong shoes (joking)!
I suggest bringing at least one pair of durable sandals (I have had my Rainbow sandals for five years and counting) and one good pair of women’s safari boots.
You won’t want to live in safari boots. A good pair of sandals are great for comfort on long travel days and under the hot African sun, like in Namibia or Egypt. Like the locals, we spend 90% of our time in a pair of sandals when traveling around Africa. We opt for our boots only on bush walks, long hikes, and dirty streets.
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These are a solid go-to and a classic look for stylish safari boots. The BL550 has great tread, insoles, and firm arch support, making much more than an elegant boot for travel. Not only can these boots feel comfortable in a more formal or stylish event, but they’re equally at home on a ranch or going for a walk in the woods. An EVA footbed with unique technology in the heels ensures all-day comfort.
The boots feature soft leather, strong stitching, and decent soles. Plus, they’re incredibly comfortable. I love the slip-on fit, and the pull tabs make it easy to put on and take off. As a tip, I’d pick up some leather treatment to protect the boot and add a level of water resistance. Altogether they’re a tremendous travel boot and will serve you well in everyday life.
The 550 and 585 are considered Blundstone’s most classic boot designs. It’s tough to tell the difference in the design because there is none. The difference has to do with the leather upper leather of the boot. 550 boots feature full-grain leather, while 585 have suede nubuck leather.
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You spend a lot of time outside on a safari, and a safari hat is a classic accessory. The time you spend outside adds up. If you don’t wear a hat, at the very least, wear sunblock. Even the game rangers we meet wear hats and sunblock. The entire safari outfit does serve a purpose.
Tilley LTM6 Airflo Hat
Tilley has long been famed for its sun protection hats. They’ve seen the world over and have seen more than a few adventures. It holds its shape, and the material has a stylish look. What sets Tilley apart is that they guarantee their hats for life against wear and tear.
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Dorfman Pacific Crushable Hat
Oh my, I love this safari hat for women. The wool felt makes for an all-around great-looking stylish safari hat. The style is similar to a fedora with a very Western vibe. It looks great, and the price point isn’t bad either.
The best part about it is that the material still allows you to crush the hat to fit inside your luggage for such a good-looking hat. No one wants to wear an outdoor hat home on a 15-hour flight. Once you take it out of your bags, it snaps right back into shape!
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You’ll need a good safari bag to carry and pack all these safari clothes. If you’re going on safari, chances are you may be taking a bush flight or two. I recommend packing light as most small planes severely limit your baggage weight.
We have been on flights where we are only allowed 15 kg a person and some flights that allow 25 kg. Make sure only to pack what you need.
Patagonia Black Hole Duffel Bag
The Patagonia Black Hole bag is a staple for adventure travel and one of the best safari bags. The bag can pack down small when empty, so it’s great to stick in your bag. It was also plenty easy to stuff and organize, thanks to the large U-shaped zipper and two mesh pockets on the top flap. It’s also super lightweight, an essential aspect of strict weight allowances on bush planes.
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Nomatic Travel Bag
Nomatic is relatively new to the anti-theft backpack game, only getting started after raising over 5 million dollars on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. They claim to have created the “most functional travel bag ever!” Based on their design scheme, it makes for one heck of a safari bag.
However, this is a business/travel backpack with anti-theft features, such as RFID protection and lockable zippers, rather than calling it primarily an anti-theft bag. This bag feels right at home, traveling anywhere, including on a safari.
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Grayl Ultralight Water Bottle
It’s not advisable to drink tap water in most of Africa. We previously used the Lifestraw Go for all those times during our travels when the water is questionable. However, we became annoyed with the water bottle over time as the filter aged and clogged. Plus, the bottle leaks when it is on its side.
We now switched to the Grayl Ultralight Purifier. It’s a more simplistic design than the Lifestraw that is more effective and does not leak. Most importantly, it is a purifier, not a filter. The Grayl water bottle system purifies water vs. filters which removes viruses and virtually removes all threats of waterborne illnesses.
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Smith Lowdown 2 Sunglasses
Ensure your eyes from the sun when you’re on safari. There are many options for sunglasses, and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they have UV protection for the health of your eyes. We’re fans of the SMITH Optics Lowdown 2.
Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $130 in a pair of sunglasses, but they make a massive difference from the crappy $10 ones. Bonus polarized sunglasses help with contrast and spotting wildlife. It can be dusty in the back of a game vehicle. Then much of East Africa sits on the Equator, which means UV rays are much more robust, so eye protection is super important.
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We both travel around with buff headbands, and they’re some of our favorite travel accessories that we’ve recommended a handful of times. They’re great for keeping sweat out of our eyes on a hike. Or in dust out of your face when riding down a dusty road, which you’ll need on safari. They offer sun protection, can act as a scarf, and many other things. Buy one and fall in love with it.
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Nikon Monarch 5 8×42 Binoculars
Compliment your safari outfit with a pair of safari binoculars! The Nikon Monarch is a phenomenal mid-range binocular for safari viewing. Nikon has long been a reputable name in binocular manufacturing, and the Monarch is an excellent example.
The 42mm lens diameter allows for excellent low-light viewing, while the body itself stands up to extreme use – sounds perfect for a safari, doesn’t it? Rubber armored body and entirely waterproof, this pair will hold up to the elements as you dive into the wilderness.
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Sun Bum Natural Sunscreen
Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling around Africa as you’re close to the Equator. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house, as it’s tough to find pharmacies outside of South Africa.
We highly recommend getting an eco-friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals. They’re mineral-based and usually only cost a few dollars more to help protect our oceans. If you’re not going to swim in the ocean, just go with a reliable name brand — granted, runoff often still ends in our oceans and streams.
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We’d recommend packing a bottle of insect repellant that has DEET in it so you’ll scare away those annoying biting demons. It reduces the chances of Malaria or Yellow Fever.
Keep in mind that DEET can destroy plastics, so mind your sunglasses or camera when applying. It’s good to bring a small bottle, but it’s easy to find great insect repellent all over Africa.
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General Tips On Packing For Africa
Here are a few things to remember before you go on a shopping spree for your trip to Africa.
- Be sure to note what time of year you are traveling to Africa. The rainy season in Southern Africa varies greatly from the rainy season in Eastern Africa. If you are traveling during the rainy season a rain jacket is essential.
- I like to travel around Africa clothes made from synthetic materials, linen or hemp as they dry fast and fight stains. You’re often faced with very humid climates and it’s easy for clothes to get funky.
- Dark shades of blue attract the dreaded tsetse fly, which is found throughout parts of Tanzania, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and other general pockets of Africa. So it’s best to try and avoid this color.
- You’ll be able to find local clothing in many villages on the side of the road. The most common wear is a type of Batik print for women, you’ve seen those vibrant women before! It’s actually Asian in origin, but it’s hugely popular through Sub-Saharan Africa and easy to find everywhere.
- If you need new shirts or pants, big cities are your best bet for Western-style clothing. Outside of a few tourist hot-spots where you can find nice gift shops.
- You’ll always be able to find local women who will wash your clothes for you. For a small fee, they will hand wash, hang dry, and many times iron your clothing for an affordable price. It’s a great way to support local families as women can do the work at home. I highly recommend seeking them out. We do so by asking our accommodation staff for recommendations, many times it was one of their close relatives who did it for us.
- Most high end safari lodges will wash your clothes for free.
- Most safari lodges will have things like shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and bug spray so there is really no need to bring those items.
Book A Safari in Africa
Traditionally if you wanted to book a safari, you’d have to go to a travel agent and have them book your safari for you. They made suggestions for camps and lodges then presented you with a hefty bill. Most of the industry still operates in this fashion.
However, Timbuktu is a new platform that allows you to select the lodges you’d like and see the pricing per day that way. You can choose the best itinerary for yourself. They will then contact the lodges and help you by booking your safari. Experts on staff can also provide suggestions and arrange the little details much like a travel agent.