One common concern for many safari first-timers is missing the outfit mark completely. Are you going to be underdressed? Overdressed? The stress is real.

Take Melania Trump's pith helmet controversy, for example. She has recently come under fire for her colonial-style safari get-up, including a white pith helmet that was fashionable 100 years ago, when white explorers came to colonise Africa. She probably did not mean to offend, but it was insensitive.

Fear not, we have made sure to put together an educational piece around what not to wear on an African safari.

Here are a few Dos and Don'ts that might help:

Don't: Wear white

While white might be a versatile colour that can go with many things, it does not blend in well in the African bush. The terrain, while breathtaking, is also rather dusty, particularly during the dry season. Apart from the challenge of keeping your crisp white blouse clean, you will also stand out like a bright searchlight among the khaki tones of the surrounding bush.

Do: Wear light but earthy colours

What not to wear on safari - Wear earth tones

Light earth tones

(Image: Wild Wings Safaris)

The most common colour to see on safari is khaki. This is because it is the best option for the environment it's in. It is light enough that it does not absorb heat (like black clothing does), while it does not show the dirt that you are bound to come across during your time on African soil. And it's less conspicuous than wearing white or other bright colours.

Don't: Bring high heels

While this may seem obvious, some people still take the chance to look a little snazzier. This is a terrible idea, don't wear shoes with any sort of high heel or platform unless you wish to get stuck in the ground and twist an ankle. You will most definitely not need this type of footwear on your entire safari trip.

Do: Wear comfortable and sturdy shoes

What (not) to wear on safari - Comfy shoes

Comfy shoes

(Image: Joanna Nix)

Hiking boots or sturdy sneakers are your best bet for a safari trip. You'll need something that's going to be comfortable enough to go walking in, so make sure you've worn them in enough to know that no blisters are in your future. Even in the summer heat, it's best to wear good closed shoes that will protect you from sweltering sand, harsh thorns and even bug bites.

Don't: Forget your hat and sunscreen

People from cooler climates often don't realise how hot the southern African sun really is. You need a hat to keep the sun off your head, face and neck.

What (not) to wear on safari - Safari hat with string

Safari hat with string

(Image: Austin Distel)

*Pro-tip: Get a hat with a string, and clip the string to your collar, so that if your hat blows off during a game drive on an open safari vehicle, you won't lose it.

Do: Lather on sunscreen before you leave the nest

Red faces and burnt noses are almost as common as lost hats. Make sure that every inch of your bare skin is covered before you even step outside.

*Pro-tip: There are insect repellent sunscreens that are winners while on safari.

Don't: Wear loads of perfume

While everyone wants to smell fresh and zesty – it's not a good idea in the African bush as insects will want that same closeness to you. Yes, the “mozzies and miggies” (mosquitoes and small flying bugs) might be all over you if you drench yourself in perfume and go out smelling like a flower. And to be honest, your fellow guests want to enjoy the fresh smells of nature, not a chemical cloud of Chanel No 5.

Do: Take insect repellent with you

Bugs are more bothersome during the summer, but in some game reserves, tsetse flies are a pest even in the dry season. If you're going on evening safari drives, it's possible that the mosquitoes will be joining you at some stage, so try to have a stick of insect repellent with you in your day bag.

What (not) to wear on safari - Essential oils as natural repellents

Essential oils

(Image: Joanna Nix)

*Pro-tip: You can make your own DIY insect repellents from ingredients like tea tree oil, citronella and lemon eucalyptus oil.

Don't: Take your favourite handbag on drives

On safari drives, it's best to have what you need (like water, sunscreen, insect repellent, camera, a light jacket and scarf, some snacks, a flashlight for after dark, and my personal tip: lip ice). Try not to take your best handbag, as it may get dirty and it might get scuffed on the rough floor of the safari truck.

Do: Pack a day backpack

You'll need something to carry your goodies and why not invest in a small backpack with cushioned straps. It's important that your backpack is comfortable enough to carry so that you can take it on hikes to picnic spots, etc. It doesn't need to be big, but during morning drives in the middle of winter, as the day warms up you will want enough space to pack away all those warm layers you'll be wrapped up in against the early morning chill.

What (not) to wear on safari - Take a day pack

Day pack

(Image: Andrew Neel)

*Pro-tip: If you're quite the seasoned traveller – invest in a waterproof backpack.

If you need more tips, read our earlier blog, What to Pack for an African Safari

Guest Post: Written by Ashlee Wilson, photojournalist and copywriter at large.


About the author

A photojournalist with a passion for video and project management,