Cree and I lead photo workshops each year to Africa, and this year we are headed to Tanzania. Africa has a way of growing on you…you just always keep coming back. And similar to other destinations we photograph, safaris have some specific clothes that will make your trip more enjoyable.
My first rule of fashion is function over fashion. It just really doesn’t matter what it looks like as long as it works…i.e. it keeps you dry in a rain storm, warm during a blizzard, and keeps those pesky mosquitoes away during safari. The good news is often fashion and function merge…think about those puffy Patagonia jackets or stylish Prana pants.
My second rule of fashion; take note of what your guides wear, and do what they do. Locals always know what works in their environment, and can guide your clothing choices. Is there a reason almost every African safari guide I know with wears neutral colors when on safari in the bush? Turns out there are numerous reasons for this color choice. First, wearing green, tan, khaki, and brown colors blend in well with the environment so you don’t disturb the wildlife…or your fellow photographers (you know…the guy that always stands in the shot wearing neon orange!). Second, bugs don’t seem to be as attracted to these colors. Tsetse flies and mosquitos are attracted to dark blues and blacks, so avoid these colors on safari (don’t wear blue jeans on safari). And lastly, you get dirty and dusty on safari, so tans and browns don’t show the dirt as much.
I normally pack a combination of short and long sleeved shirts. I really like long sleeve shirts for sun and bug protection, and i just roll up the sleeves if I need to cool down. Same with pants…I’ll bring long pants, but a few pairs will have zip off bottoms to turn them into shorts. Honestly I rarely wear shorts on Safari unless it is really hot and bugs are not an issue.
Many safari clothes are treated for both sun and bug protection, always a good idea when in malaria and tsetse fly zones. Some of the brands listed below have these treatments.
Hats are critical in Africa, both for sun and bug protection. There are lots of choices, and many are SPF (sunscreen) and bug repellant treated. Make sure it has a chin strap to keep it on during game drives.
If you want to bring your favorite shirt to wear at dinner and it isn’t brown or green, bring it! Just have some appropriate clothes for riding around in the land cruisers during the day when you are in the bush. Below are some of our favorite brands for safari. If you want to read more about safari clothing tips, check out The Safari Store. They used to be safari guides, now sell safari clothing and ship to the US. Their site has lots of good advice for choosing clothes for safari.
Prana. My favorite travel clothes ever, and their Stretch Zion Pants II are great for safari and travel in general. I wear this brand more than anything else when I’m on the road.
Royal Robbins. I really like their Men’s Bug Barrier Active Traveler Zip N Go pants. Lightweight nylon pants treated with Insect Shield to keep mosquitos away. They also make Bug Barrier shirts as well.
ExOfficio. This company makes a lot of great travel clothing including shirts and pants in their BugsAway collection. I wear both shirts and pants from ExOfficio on safari, they are do the trick and are comfortable.
Little Donkey Andy. Cree swears by their hiking shirt, and raves how comfortable it is. Treated with SPF protection from the sun, comes in safari green and tan versions.
Patagonia. Patagonia has many great travel shirts and pants, most treated for sun protection, and are good choices for safari.
African Safaris are a bucket list trip for photographers, and the last thing you want to worry about is your clothes. Go on a shopping spree and get ready for safari!