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The African Fashion Safari

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Have you ever seen pictures of people on an African safari?  You know the ones I’m talking about.  The ones where there is enough khaki to canvas a 20-person tent.  It’s a well-known stereotype in Africa as well: the traveler that gets off the plane decked out in the latest outdoor gear is often a first-timer to the dark continent and in a place like Johannesburg or Capetown is easily spotted.  But this begs the question: is there a legitimate reason for these outfits or are clothing manufacturers making a fortune off tourists romanticizing about becoming the next David Livingstone? 

Well, as I would quickly discover, when they tell you to bring beige and tan clothing, there are a few very good reasons for it.


The color of your clothing absolutely matters when you’re on a walking safari, so check your itinerary and see how many of these types of safaris are included in your trip.  You need to blend in with the scenery and if you’re in bright white, super dark black or some other loud color, the animals will easily spot you and head in the other direction.  Driving safaris aren’t as big of an issue, but why jeopardize your chance of seeing the animals?  Plus, the group you’re travelling with will thank you for not sticking out like a giant turquoise thumb.

Nicole Africa1

Another thing to note: Africa is dirty.  Filthy in fact.  There is dust and dirt everywhere and no matter how hard you may try to avoid it you will be covered in the stuff at some point.  The closer the color you’re wearing resembles said dust, the less filthy you will look and the less laundry you’ll feel you have to do.  Also try to choose lightweight and quick-drying clothes.  They breathe better, wick away sweat and if you actually do end up needing to do laundry they will dry much faster.

Now, as a generalization, Africa is hot.  At first, it may not feel hot, but once you are out in the sun in the middle of the day the heat becomes oppressive.  The sun bakes down on you and anything dark will cook you.  Even being in the open-aired jeeps can be painful if you are on the sunny side.  Considering that white is a dust magnet, a tan or beige option really is the best alternative to stay as cool as possible. 

Bonus Tip: Definitely procure a pair of those pants that unzip at the knees and convert to shorts.  I swore up and down I would never own a pair of these, but they ended up being the most useful, practical article of clothing I had on the trip.  The morning and evening safaris were freezing but when the sun was at its highest, I was able to “change” into shorts without leaving the comfort of my jeep.

I certainly wish I had made better decisions when it came to what clothes I took to Africa.  I was so worried about being a cliché that I only took one (YES ONE!) beige shirt with me:  and it was a sweatshirt no less!  You can imagine how badly I roasted under the African sun and also how grubby that sweatshirt was by the last day of my trip.

Nicole Africa2

Some people will absolutely disagree with me and suggest that it doesn’t matter what you wear.  I say: don’t think twice about being a cliché.  Think about maximizing your chance to see all the wildlife you’ve paid a lot of money to come see and do it with all the khaki pride you can muster!


Keen to know what else I took (and wish I had taken) to Africa?  Check out: PACKING FOR AFRICA



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