If you don’t own any clothing in neutral colours, it is not really necessary to buy it just for the safari, unless you are intending to do a walking safari where the ranger will expect you to dress appropriately ie no white or bright colours.
However if you are staying at one of the smarter game lodges, many fellow guests will have the classic safari gear (in khaki or green) and you may want to blend in with your fellow guests and not just the wildlife. This is a matter of personal preference.
Washing at bush camps:
Remember that laundry is included at many of the camps in Botswana and Zambia, when you are restricted by luggage allowance and so may well need to have clothes washed. But washing is often done by hand by the camp staff, and will probably not be ironed. You may want to think twice before bringing the silk blouse or the linen trousers. Some of the newer materials are very crease- proof and ideal for a real bush safari.
The ‘shoulder months’ of Spring and Autumn are always a tricky one as far as packing is concerned. Temperatures may vary wildly within an average two week holiday period as you never know when Winter will change to Spring or Spring to Summer…
Spring-like weather starts in late August – later in Cape Town and along the Garden Route, but there is no guarantee of this. As in Europe and the States, spring often brings variable weather – beautiful for days and then a bit cold and rainy for day or two. Rain might occur if you are in the Cape so bring a rainproof jacket and comfortable walking shoes. Hats and umbrellas can be purchased easily here if needed.
Even if the days are warm and sunny, night time temperatures will be noticeably cooler so have a warmer jacket for the evenings – pashminas for women work well.
If you are spending some time on safari, be prepared for low temperatures once the sun has set, and also in the early morning.
So bring a variety of clothes- both warm and hot weather options – t-shirts, short-sleeved tops, pedal pushers, swim gear – especially if you are spending time in the Kruger but be ready for temperatures to change quite suddenly.
Summer in South Africa is generally hot to very hot – with the occasional cooler day in and around Cape Town and the Garden Route.
In the northern provinces of KwaZulu Natal and Kruger, or hotter areas like the Cedarberg or Northern Cape, the day time temperatures will often be in the high 30’s. So bring plenty of hot weather clothing.
The northern part of the country has a summer rainfall pattern. This generally takes the form of a cooling late afternoon shower – welcome relief from the heat – but occasionally it can rain for 2-3 days so have a couple of warmer items just in case.
Remember that we recommend long trousers and long sleeved shirts in the evenings – if you can bear it – to guard against mosquitos. (Remember that Malaria is only an issue in the Kruger and far northern KwaZulu Natal – the rest of the country is malaria-free. ) Alternatively liberally smother yourself in mosquito repellant. It’s your choice!
Again Autumn is a tricky one to call as far as packing is concerned. Temperatures vary wildly within an average two week holiday period so be prepared.
Bring plenty of hot weather clothing – especially if you are spending time in the Kruger and KwaZulu Natal – but also be ready for temperatures to change quite suddenly.
Night time temperatures will start getting noticeably cooler so have a warmer jacket for the evenings. If you are spending some time on safari, be prepared for a sudden downturn in temperature once the sun has set. It’s not be uncommon to start a game drive at 4.00pm feeling distinctly hot and end it three hours later feeling on the cold side. You may feel vaguely silly bringing hats and warm jackets to the game vehicle when it’s so hot, but you won’t regret it later.
I have lived in South Africa for 18 years and have noticed that South Africans, particularly those living in the bush, tend to ignore the fact that they have a winter. However our guests, used to wall to wall central heating, certainly feel it.
During winter, you will need to pack a range of clothing as the South African winter varies in intensity from province to province.
In the Cape, where the winters are similar to Mediterranean Europe (think Spain or Italy) or Southern USA, the hotels and lodges are reasonably well-equipped with underfloor heating, fireplaces even electric blankets. However South African lodges do not have central heating and it’s fair to say that buildings are not generally heated to the same degree as in Europe or the US. You also might have some rain in the Cape so come prepared with a rainproof jacket
The rest of the country has dry winter with pleasant sunny days. It is not uncommon for the daytime temperatures to be 25°c so bring some lightweight shirts and t-shirts as well.
However it’s the diurnal range in winter which usually flummoxes visitors. A South African can say that it’s 25°c during the day but he won’t say that the day could have started at 5°c! In fact it’s the warm sunny days which produce the sudden downturn in temperatures in the evening as there is no cloud cover. If you are on safari in June, you will need to come fully prepared with hats, gloves – the lot!
I also throw in a hot water bottle (easily purchased at any chemist in South Africa) just in case your hotel bed does not have an electric blanket. These are also very handy for early morning game drives and alfresco Boma dinners (though many of the more switched-on game lodges now provide them)
• Warm jacket (winter) or sleeveless jacket for the start and end of the day
• Lighter shirts, including short sleeves, and perhaps pedal pushers for the day
• Winter safari on open vehicle – gloves, scarf, hat
• Comfortable walking shoes
• Long trousers for evening (both in case of mosquitos or cooler weather)
• Neutral colours if you intend to do a walking safari
• Non-crease clothing (not white) if staying at Bush Camps
Other non-clothing items:
• Small torch or headlight – surprisingly useful
• Hand sanitizer (very useful after a loo stop in the bush)
• Pocket sized animal identification book (so that you don’t have to borrow the rangers)
• Binoculars –essential, ideally one per person
• Ideally one ‘serious’ camera and one point and shoot so that all options are covered on safari (plus you may not always want to lug heavy cameras around when sight seeing)
• Journal or notebook
• South African adaptor plug
• Six pack Cooler bag for drinks in the car whilst on a self-drive