Wearing our safari clothes at Chobe National Park

Best Safari Clothes for Women: Outfit Examples + Where to Buy 

Last updated Feb 7, 2023 | Packing Lists, South Africa

Images of khaki pants and an Australian outback hat immediately come to mind when I think of the safari outfit. As a first-time safari-goer, I had no idea what to wear. Now that I have done two safari experiences, one at Lion Sands in South Africa and one at Chobe National Park in Botswana, I can now share my travel pearls of what are the best safari clothes for women. 

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Khaki Safari Outfit

OPTION A: Ahh, too much khaki! Please tell me there are other options.

Glamorous Safari Outfit for Women

OPTION B: Gorgeous, but are you seriously going to wear this sitting in a jeep in the heat with dust and bugs flying around you?

When I first started my search for the ideal safari clothes for women, I thought there has to be more choices than options A and B as seen from the photos above. I despise khaki (and I’m fair-skinned which does not mix well with skin-toned colors), and I crave feminine, well-fitted, PRACTICAL clothes (that do not look like you are only wearing them for a dramatic Instagram shot).

Is there an option C?

Yes! But it took me a lot of purchases and returns later to find the best safari clothes for women. I hope my trial-and-error clothing discoveries can help you as you pack for one of the most epic experiences of your life … the African safari!

If you are still trying to figure out what to pack, don’t miss my ultimate safari packing list below. 

3 Features to Look for in Safari Clothes for Women 

#1 LIGHTWEIGHT 

A lot of the safari lodges will offer laundry service, but in a pinch, if you need to wash an article of clothing by hand, you will want something lightweight that dries quickly.

By far, one of the quickest drying clothing I have ever encountered is my Anatomie pants. There have been a few occasions where I have had to wash them in the sink with a little soap, and they literally air-dry within a few hours. Pretty impressive!

According to Anatomie’s website, they can be dried in under 8 minutes using a hairdryer (but I have not tried that yet).

The pants are stretchy, wrinkle-free, and are also incredibly lightweight. They hardly take up any space in my suitcase. These pants are one of the best-made safari clothes for women and for just travel in general!  

Anatomie pants vs. Jeans

Look at how thin the Anatomie pants are … 3 pairs of my Anatomie pants = roughly 1 pair of jeans.

#2 BREATHABLE

Wearing breathable fabrics is so important especially when you are sitting in a jeep underneath the scorching African sun!

Cotton, rayon, and linen are very breathable but not moisture-wicking. Nylon and polyester wick moisture, but the breathability depends on the weave. Merino wool is not just for winter but is also used for summer clothing because it breathes well and wicks moisture. For me, it’s a little itchy even with the fine weaves, but I have super sensitive skin.

For shirts, specifically look for a vented back with mesh lining, which allows for breathability. Also, another great feature to look for is roll-up sleeve tabs.  

To stay cool, some pants are convertible where you can zip off the pant legs or roll them up and snap them in place.

Breathable safari outfit

Best safari clothes for women: features to look for

#3: UPF 50+ 

Most people know what a SPF number means for a sunscreen, but they may not be familiar with UPF ratings for fabrics. The Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF)  number shows how much UVA + UVB radiation a fabric permits to penetrate your skin.

Look for a UPF 50, which blocks 98% of the UV radiation.  Also, look for shirts where you can pop the collar up. Your neck will thank you.  

For some reason, Americans always think (myself included!) to wear less when it is hot; whereas cultures in Asia and the Middle East tend to cover up in the heat. I know it seems counterintuitive to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, but you will be glad you did when you are baking in the sun and fighting off mosquitos and tsetse flies. 

Examples of the Best Safari Clothes for Women

My husband hates taking personal photos, so I don’t get many pictures of us while on vacation. Since I did not have photos of every single safari outfit I wore while in South Africa, I took a few photos back home to demonstrate what I wore on our trip.

DAY 1: SAFARI OUTFIT

Safari outfit Day 1
Safari Outfit Day 1

Example of Safari Outfit Day 1

WHERE TO BUY

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Women's Safari Shirt

Orvis open ar casting shirt in white

  • Lightweight
  • Breathable
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Women's Safari Pants

Prana Halle Pant in smoky blue

  • Stretch performance with durable water repellant (DWR) finish
  • UPF 50
  • Roll-up leg feature
  • Comes in a lot of great colors (see below)
Prana Halle Pants colors
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Women's Safari Scarf

Loft multi-colored scarf

  • One scarf in several different colors (pink, grey, blue, yellow)
  • Easy to mix and match with different safari outfits
  • Loft no longer carries the exact scarf I wore, but they still have a lot of choices in fun colors at affordable prices
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Women's Safari Shoes

Rothy’s The Sneaker in black solid

  • Doubles as a great “transit” shoe for travel days on/off the airplane
  • Ok to wear black in South Africa but not in other African countries. Keep reading to find out why.
  • Do not wear on a walking safari but perfectly fine if sitting in a jeep for 3 hours

BE AWARE OF THE TSETSE FLIES!

  • Tsetse flies love black and dark blue, so do not wear those colors while on safari. Otherwise, you can get a nasty bite and possibly African sleeping sickness if the fly has been infected with a parasite. Symptoms can cause fever, headaches, muscle aches, behavior changes, and even death if not treated. Yikes!
  • I asked my safari guides about the tsetse fly while we were in South Africa, and they had no idea what I was talking about. I found out later that is because this fly is not present in South Africa! If you were in Tanzania or any other country, do not wear dark blue or black clothing/shoes and keep those ankles covered.
  • But in South Africa, those colors are fair game. Although you may still want to avoid dark colors in general. They absorb more heat, which can make you hotter.

DAY 2: SAFARI OUTFIT

Safari outfit Day 2
Wearing our safari clothes at Chobe National Park Afternoon Game Drive

Example of Safari Outfit Day 2

WHERE TO BUY

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Women's Safari Shirt

ExOfficio Missoula Long-Sleeved Shirt in corydalis blue

  • Abrasion-resistant
  • UPF 50
  • Lightweight
  • Moisture-wicking
  • Vented back with mesh lining (breathable)
  • Roll-up sleeve tabs
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Women's Safari Pants

Outdoor Research Zendo pants in pewter

  • Water and abrasion-resistant
  • UPF 50
  • Lightweight
  • Moisture-wicking
  • Hem roll-up tab
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Women's Safari Scarf

Loft multi-colored scarf

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Women's Safari Shoes

Saucony Peregrine trail runners

  • I personally wore New Balance 910 V4 trail running shoes (not available now), but I now own the Saucony Peregrine (which is a comparable option)
  • Most blogs will state you need “hiking boots.” Nope. Unless you are doing hard core treks, skip the bulky boots. 
  • Trail runners fit the bill perfectly and can also double as a running shoe for the gym or a hike depending on what else is on your Africa itinerary

DAY 3: SAFARI OUTFIT

Safari outfit Day 3
Chalkley Treehouse at Lion Sands River Lodge

Example of Safari Outfit Day 3: So sorry for the blurry picture! We had just arrived at our treehouse and the sun was setting quickly.

WHERE TO BUY

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Women's Safari Shirt

Orvis 1856 organic cotton camp shirt in white

  • Lightweight
  • Breathable
  • Good for layering
  • My exact shirt is not available now, but the Orvis modern shirt is a comparable option
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Women's Safari Pants

Anatomie Kate skinny cargo pant

  • Stretchy material
  • Breathable
  • Lightweight
  • Quick-drying
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Women's Safari Scarf

Loft multi-colored scarf

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Women's Safari Shoes

Rothy’s The Sneaker in black solid

DAY 4: SAFARI OUTFIT

Safari outfit Day 4
Safari Outfit Day 4

Safari Outfit Day 4

WHERE TO BUY

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Women's Safari Shirt

ExOfficio Missoula Long-Sleeved Shirt in pink

  • Abrasion-resistant
  • UPF 50
  • Lightweight
  • Moisture-wicking
  • Vented back with mesh lining (breathable)
  • Roll-up sleeve tabs
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Women's Safari Pants

Prana Halle Pant in coal

  • Stretch performance with durable water repellant (DWR) finish
  • UPF 50
  • Roll-up leg feature
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Women's Safari Scarf

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Women's Safari Shoes

Saucony Peregrine trail runners

6 Other Safari Clothing Items You’ll Need

#1 WOMEN’S SAFARI HAT

Please bring a hat! The African sun is strong and hot. If you want to avoid skin cancer and wrinkles, be sun smart. This saved my skin!

One of my favorites is my Jcrew wide-brimmed hat, which packs down really nicely.

One other feature you may want to consider in a safari hat is a chin strap. It was not very windy when we were in Sabi Sand in South Africa. I can imagine though if you are traveling by jeep on an open plain in Tanzania, there may be more wind that could steal your hat away.

Wearing a safari hat and taking photos of elephants in Chobe National Park in Botswana

Wearing my safari hat and taking photos of elephants in Chobe National Park in Botswana

Packable wide brim straw hat from Jcrew

One my favorite packable hats is from Jcrew! Look how much this “squishes” down.

#2 LIGHT PUFFER JACKET

Depending on the time of year, you will need a light to medium jacket. Remember, those mornings can be chilly! Layer, layer, layer!

My favorite jacket that is lightweight, warm, has a durable water-repellant coating, and can be rolled down into a little pouch is the Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Jacket. I have it in green and black but wore my green one for the safari, as pictured in the photo below.

Worked out great! It took little room in the suitcase and kept me warm when the temps were in the mid 50’s°F.

My exact Uniqlo jacket is not available anymore, but Amazon has begun selling its own lightweight jacket that has incredible ratings and a great price point.

Our safari ranger and tracker at Lion Sands River Lodge

Wearing my green Uniqlo jacket and getting a photo with our amazing safari guide and tracker.

#3 BATHING SUIT (IF LODGE HAS A POOL)

I was already planning on bringing a bathing suit because the first thing we did on our 2 week Africa itinerary was swim in Devil’s Pool on top of Victoria Falls, the world’s largest waterfall!

The bathing suit below is the Voda Black Envy in a one-piece.

It was unusually cool when we went on a safari at the end of September, so unfortunately I did not get in the pool. After spending several hours in a safari jeep, it was tempting though!

Swimming in Devil's Pool at Victoria Falls on the Zambia side

Swimming in Devil’s Pool at Victoria Falls on the Zambia side

#4 FLEECE OR A SWEATSHIRT

Remember the morning and evenings in Africa can get chilly. Layers are so important!

My favorite is my Athleta sweatshirt due to its super soft material.

Athleta super soft sweatshirt

Athleta super soft sweatshirt

#5 ALTERNATIVE TO A SAFARI DRESS

I had brought a few dresses with me because prior to the safari portion of our trip, we had the opportunity to dine at some of the best restaurants in Cape Town including The Test Kitchen! We had also visited numerous wineries in South Africa wine country, so I did end up bringing a few “dressier” items.

I love wearing dresses, but I found a safari lodge is really not the place people wear them. Everyone was super casual. Of course, wear what you want, but I would have felt a little out of place wearing a dress. If you do wear one, a long maxi dress probably makes the most sense to keep your legs protected from mosquitoes.

So instead I opted to wear my Anatomie Luisa Skinny Jean Pant in black with a flowy top and sandals. Then I just alternated tops since black goes with everything. Remember, there are no tsetse flies in South Africa, but if you are in another country that has them, no black or dark blue!

Sorry, no photo from the safari trip, so I took a photo of the Anatomie pants I wore for dinners at the safari lodge when I got home.

Anatomie Louisa Skinny Jean Pant in Black

Anatomie Louisa Skinny Jean Pant in Black

#6 POLARIZED SUNGLASSES

My husband does not care for polarized sunglasses, but I love them. They reduce eye strain and cut down the glare and help as you are staring into the distant bushes trying to make out if you just saw a leopard.

My favorites are my Ray-Ban sunglasses. I have several pairs, and all are polarized.

I did not get any closeup photos of the sunglasses while on safari, but I did find a few closeup photos of the sunglasses while we were in New Zealand.

Wearing my Ray Ban sunglasses while in Queenstown New Zealand

Wearing my Ray Ban sunglasses while in Queenstown New Zealand

Summary of Safari Clothes for 4 Days

 

  • 4 pairs of “safari” pants (1 dark grey, 1 light grey, 1 smoky blue, 1 olive)
  • 1 “dressier” pant for dinner * I saw some ladies wear leggings around the lodge, which was a great idea. Super comfortable and can be dressed up with a flowy top or sweater. Evenings get cool!
  • 1 pair of jeans * I love Athleta’s Sculptek Denim Jeans. I have them in a washed grey. You can actually hike and climb in them. They are super stretchy and do not lose their shape. Remember, you cannot wear blue denim in certain African counties because of the tsetse fly as discussed earlier but South Africa is ok.
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 4 long-sleeved shirts (1 light blue, 1 pink, 2 white)
  • 3 short-sleeved shirts
  • 2 “flowy” shirts for dinner
  • 1 sweatshirt (for layering if I needed it)
  • 1 bathing suit (if the lodge has a pool)
  • 3 pair of shoes (1 trail runner, 1 slide-on shoe (Rothy’s), and 1 pair of sandals
  • 1 light puffer jacket
Safari Outfit Day 1

Safari Outfit Day 1

Safari Outfit Day 2

Safari Outfit Day 2

Safari Outfit Day 3

Safari Outfit Day 3

Safari Outfit Day 4

Safari Outfit Day 4

Tips for Safari Clothes for Women 

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AVOID CAMOUFLAGE, DARK BLUE, AND BLACK COLORS

Traps to attract and kill tsetse flies are actually made of dark blue and black fabric. South Africa though has NO tsetse flies, so it is ok to wear black and dark blue there. However, dark colors absorb heat, so you may feel hotter if you choose to wear them. 

Never wear camouflage since that type of clothing is identified with the military.

Also, a lot of guides will say not to wear white because it will get dirty quickly. This may be true in other countries when driving out on wide open plains, but honestly I wore a white shirt twice while in Sabi Sand in South Africa and had no problems with getting really dirty. I would avoid white though on a walking safari because it does make you stand out.

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DRESS IN LAYERS

When we went the end of September, the weather was VERY cold for the morning safari (I was layered up) and hot for the afternoon safari (I was stripping down). If you are like me whose body does not regulate temperature very well, you will be happy you have layers to account for all temperature situations.

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KHAKI NOT REQUIRED

You really do NOT have to wear khaki for your safari outfit UNLESS you are doing a walking safari, and then by all means wear those browns/tans to blend in. 

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PACK LIGHT

Most lodges offer laundry service. Take advantage, so then you can pack less. I’ll be honest, I am horrible about “packing light.” That is one reason why I love Anatomie clothing! I can bring more because it weighs hardly anything.  

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LUGGAGE WEIGHT LIMITS

Be aware there are luggage weight limits on the little planes that take you to and from your safari destination. We flew with South Africa Airlink, and the weight allowance was 20 kg or 44 pounds.

Remember you need room for all of that lovely South African wine you are going to bring back! We toured multiple wineries in the Cape Winelands before we headed to Sabi Sand and stored them in wine sleeves in our luggage.

Wine or clothes? Wine always wins.

Final Thoughts

There you have it. My top safari clothes for women. Most articles I have read just provide another generic list. I hope my more detailed explanations of what I personally wore will make your safari experience more comfortable and memorable.

If you loved this type of detailed blog post, don’t miss my other packing lists based on vacation type.

Leopard licking his lips while on safari at Lions Sands River Lodge in Sabi Sand

The leopard we saw on an afternoon safari with Lion Sands River Lodge in Sabi Sand, South Africa

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Any other safari clothes for women that I missed or you would recommend?

Let me know in the comments below!

2 Comments

  1. Ann

    2 weeks in zambia. I brought 2 prs of these https://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/86735?page=vista-camp-pants and lived in them Every Morning!!!! I had to have the neutral color so went with toasted almond. I had to wash a pair once because I forgot to put them in the laundry. and they were dry within a couple of hours. Crazy comfortable, good pockets for extra camera batteries, lens cover, etc. Vista Camp Pants. Love them.

    Reply
    • Nichole

      Thanks so much for sharing! I’m excited to try those out. They look super comfortable!!!

      Reply

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