If you have never been on safari before, it can be difficult to know what clothes to wear on safari in Kenya. I experienced the same difficulties while packing for Kenya in October 2022.
I was apprehensive about packing the right items, packing too much, or not packing enough. Plus, I could not find examples of the best type of clothing for safari in Kenya.
This article will teach you exactly what to wear in Kenya safari destinations. In addition you will learn what to wear on safari in Masai Mara, how to dress in Nairobi, and the best shoes for safari in Kenya.
While this packing article works as part of a travel guide for Kenya, you can also apply most of the contents of this article to other safari destinations, such as Tanzania and South Africa.
If you require further information, you can read this article on what to pack for a Kenyan Safari, which talks about luggage, toiletries, travel documents, first aid supplies, and more.
What is a Day Like on Safari?
Before deciding what to take on safari in Kenya, ensure you know the details of your itinerary and understand how a day on safari works.
You will most likely spend several hours each day inside your safari vehicle unless you have planned any walking safaris or evening cultural activities.
Weather for Kenya Safari
The weather forecast for your safari in Kenya can change drastically based on the location of your lodges and the time of year you are travelling.
The seasons in Kenya are either a rainy season or a dry season. June to October are generally warm and dry months. Whereas March to May and November to December are the wet periods of the year.
Knowing what to pack for Masai Mara safaris can be challenging, but you should consider the weather for your specific travel period to assist you.
The climate is cooler in Masai Mara from June to August. Therefore, you will need warmer layers for the mornings and evenings.
Plus, the day temperature will be lower than at other times of the year. So, you should consider bringing more long-sleeved options than short-sleeved ones.
For those travelling in September and October, it will be warmer than the other dry months. Therefore, remember to bring your swimwear for an outdoor mid-day dip. Plus, pack some short-sleeved options or light materials, such as linen.
To give more detail, the early morning and night temperatures during the cooler months in Masai Mara could be around 10 degrees Celsius.
You can still wear short-sleeve pyjamas at night because the blankets and hot water bottle will keep you warm. If you are easily cold or you are used to sleeping in long-sleeve pyjamas, you could bring a longer layer for your legs.
You will want to wear a warm layer, such as a sweatshirt, on top of your regular safari day clothes in the first few hours of the game drive. Plus, a jacket would be handy. Or, if your safari lodge provides a fleece or blanket, I suggest you wear that.
The day can later reach over 20 degrees Celsius, so you need to be able to take a few layers off to be a comfortable temperature in the sun.
If you are travelling to Samburu National Park during your safari in Kenya, you will require some different clothing options.
While Samburu typically has a wet and dry season, Samburu is currently in a severe drought (2022), and it has not rained in two years. (Update 2023: it is no longer in a drought).
In the middle of the day, Samburu will become scorching hot.
When I visited in October, it would easily reach 33 degrees Celsius at the hottest part of the day.
However, it was slightly chilly in the morning. Therefore, layering is essential.
What to Wear on Safari in Kenya?
The dress code for safari is casual. Even if you have booked a luxury safari, you should aim to dress comfortably and in the correct colours (explained below).
Opt for the right kind of material; lightweight, and dress in layers, and then you will be suitably dressed. The day generally starts cooler and ends up warm by the middle of the day.
Your safari wardrobe should consist of khaki, green, brown, beige, or grey. This colour pallet will help you blend into the savannah and observe the animals without being noticed.
Do not bring bright coloured shirts on safari, for example, no red, blue, or orange. These colours are distracting for the animals.
While on a Masai Mara safari you will most likely come across lions and feel a little timid; therefore, you will feel more comfortable wearing a subtle colour pallet.
You are not allowed to wear camouflage in Africa because it is illegal in Kenya and other African countries.
It may be tempting to bring some white clothes to pair nicely with your green or beige outfits, but it is best to avoid white items. Not only will they show dust and dirt more easily. But also, animals find it easy to spot white because their eyes see in black and white.
Lastly, black and navy are some of the colours not to wear in Kenya on safari because these tones attract nasty biting tsetse flies. However, I did not experience the tsetse flies in Samburu or Masai Mara in October.
Some travellers are unaware of wearing safari colours, or they choose to ignore this advice. However, it is best to wear the suggested colours to watch the animals enjoyably from a distance without startling them.
Nonetheless, you do not need to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe until you have rummaged through your options at home. You may be surprised to see what neutral colours you already own.
African Safari Clothes
The best kind of safari outfit to pack in your suitcase is one that can be mixed and matched. You should bring several t-shirts and bottoms that are short-sleeved and long-sleeved that you can combine to make different outfits.
A bush hat is one of the most important things to take on safari in Kenya. Again, make sure it is a neutral colour. Wide-brimmed hats with a necktie are great options, such as this sun hat from Fjallraven.
Baseball caps are fine, but make sure it fits well because you do not want the hat to fly off when the vehicle picks up speed.
A neutral jacket will complete your safari outfit. It is good to wear first thing in the morning and for your evening sundowner drinks. You can leave it in your safari vehicle when you are not wearing it.
What Shoes to Wear on Safari in Kenya?
People say that the best shoes for safari in Kenya are lace-up boots. While they are good options, especially if you are doing a walking safari, if you do not own this type of shoe, you will also be fine wearing a pair of trainers/sneakers.
Since you will be sitting in your safari vehicle most of the day, the main requirement is comfortable closed-toed footwear.
You will get out of the vehicle for your bush breakfast, where it may be dusty on the floor, so do not bring your favourite shoes. Ideally, the trainers should be easily washed or wiped.
If your trainers are mesh on top, the dust and dirt will seep through and discolour your socks. Also, avoid bringing shoes that are suede.
Make sure your shoes have a thick sole to prevent any thorns from piercing through your shoes into your foot. One of my group members experienced a thorn in the shoe and it was painful.
Other Shoes to Wear in Kenya Safari
- Flip-flops or sandals – it is worth bringing a separate pair of shoes to wear around camp during the day. If it is warm your feet will want a breather from wearing socks.
- Closed-toed shoes for dinner – you may want to wear a separate, fresher pair of trainers in the evening to dinner after you have showered from your afternoon game dive. It is best to keep your feet covered because there is more chance of getting bitten by insects at night.
- Waterproof shoes – walking boots are unnecessary unless you are travelling in the rainy season or you will be doing extensive walking safari activities. Wellington boots may be available at your camp.
Remember when packing your bags not to bring plastic bags to Kenya as they are illegal. Purchase some reusable shoe bags for footwear instead.
I brought a pair of strappy sandals but wore trainers the whole trip because I did not want to get mosquito bites on my feet.
Suggested Footwear for Safari
- Converse All-Stars – these are the shoes that I brought on safari to Kenya, and they worked well.
- Reebok C 85 Vintage – these are another option for comfortable and easily cleaned shoes (I also own these shoes)
- Brown Leather Lace-up Boots
- Brown Boots from Birkenstock
- Havaianas Flip Flops – women’s flip-flops or men’s flip-flips
- Birkenstock Arizona EVA Slides (waterproof)
Safari Clothes for Women
Ladies – do not be tempted to bring a dress or skirt on safari. You will need to clamber, rather indelicately, in and out of a safari vehicle. It will be more practical to wear trousers or shorts to cover your modesty.
Ideally, avoid one-piece items of clothing, such as jumpsuits, for game drives because if you need to use a bush toilet (a literal bush in the savannah), you want to be able to go as discretely and quickly as possible.
Most safari lodges offer laundry services. The housekeeping team will wash a couple of items per person per day. Some lodges wash these items by hand, whereas others machine-wash the clothes. Most lodges will line dry clothes.
Due to cultural reasons, the lodge will not wash women’s underwear, so bring enough for the whole trip. Alternatively, pack some powder detergent or ask your safari lodge if they have any to wash your delicate items in your bathroom sink.
Safari Clothes for Men
There are fewer specifics for men to be aware of compared to women.
However, something to consider is bringing cargo pants that zip off to become shorts. They are ideal for safari parks that start cool and reach high peak temperatures. Samburu National Park can be sweltering during the middle of the day.
Also, if you are buying new safari t-shirts, make sure it is a breathable, sweat-resistant material. Lululemon has some suitable options for men.
Safari Packing List Kenya
This men’s and women’s safari packing list is sufficient clothing for visiting two or three safari camps for three nights at each.
As a reminder, many safari lodges will offer a complimentary laundry service, enabling you to pack lighter and bring less clothing. Ladies should pack more underwear than men because the laundry service will not wash these items.
If you have booked a stay at Giraffe Manor, you may want to bring a fancier outfit due to the high number of photo opportunities.
Tops: What to Wear in Kenya Safari
During the day, I mostly wore a short-sleeve t-shirt with a long-sleeved, button-up layer on top. Otherwise, I wore a long-sleeved t-shirt. Linen materials are best where possible.
Jumper/hoodie x 1
I brought a hoodie to wear during the cold mornings from around 6:00 to 9:00 AM. You do not need to bring more than one.
Jacket x 1
In places such as Masai Mara or Nairobi, it can be chilly in the morning. So, a jacket available to throw on top is beneficial.
It would be handy if your jacket had several pockets for quick access to items on game drives.
Short-Sleeved Shirts x 2
You can layer up a short sleeve t-shirt with an over-shirt instead of a long-sleeve. It is beneficial to dress like this for the warmer climates so you can take a layer off.
Long-Sleeved Shirts x 2
Bring some lightweight long sleeved shirts to wear on game drives in the cooler months.
Smart-Casual Blouses/Shirts x 2
Bring a couple of long-sleeve shirts to wear during dinner on safari.
Rain Jacket x 1
You may need to bring a raincoat to wear in Nairobi, if you will be visiting there during your safari. The jacket should fold up small so it can fit in your luggage. Some safari lodges will provide a raincoat, so it may not be necessary to bring.
Fleece x 1
Only bring a fleece if your safari lodge does not provide one and you are travelling during a colder month or to a colder destination. It is not needed in Samburu where it is hot.
Bottoms: What to Wear in Kenya Safari
Wearing trousers for game drives is best, particularly because you start early in the morning and finish when the sun sets.
In some locations, such as Samburu during the hottest time of year, you could wear shorts during the day on safari.
It was safe to wear shorts in this instance because I did not experience any biting insects during the day in Samburu in October.
There were flies during the day when we were by the pool at Sasaab Lodge. Plus, the restaurant had spinning fly traps on the table at lunch, but I was not bitten by any flies.
Shorts x 2
You will mostly wear these around the camp during downtime moments. But make sure they are in safari colours in case you want to wear the shorts on safari.
Day-Time Trousers x 2
You should bring several pairs of trousers to wear during the day on game drives.
Evening Trousers x 1
Keep one pair of trousers clean to wear in the evening after a shower.
- Bandana for the dust
- Long socks for evenings
- Ankle socks (an option for the daytime)
- Swimwear x 2 (assuming your safari lodge has a swimming pool)
- Sports bra for ladies on the bumpy safari roads
- Short-sleeve pyjamas (long-sleeve pyjamas were not necessary for an October trip. There were plenty of blankets for the bed and the lodge placed a hot water bottle in our beds at night).
What to Wear on Safari Evenings in Kenya
One of the more difficult things to know when picking clothes to bring to Kenya is what to wear in the evening on safari. It is unclear what clothing is appropriate for dinners at camp and what temperature it will be at night.
Unless explicitly stated, you are not required to dress up formally for dinner on safari. Therefore, you can keep it relatively casual, just like your daytime safari clothes, but it is more important for the clothing to be long-sleeved. Mosquitos are most prevalent between dusk and dawn on safari in Kenya. You should also wear insect repellent.
You should bring a few clean, long-sleeved shirts for dinner. Plus, you should pack some trousers or leggings for the evening. You may want a fresh pair of clothes to change into after your post-game drive shower.
Leave the skirts and dresses at home unless you are wearing tights underneath, but even so – I would not bring these types of outfits with you.
If you are visiting several camps on safari, you do not need to bring a new outfit for each night. Truthfully, it is usually dark in the camp at night, so it is hard to see what anyone is wearing.
Evening meals are often by candlelight or dimmed lanterns.
When picking evening clothes for safari, consider a range of temperatures. Some safari locations are warm, even at night – such as Samburu. Whereas Masai Mara feels chillier in the evening.
So, bring some lighter layers, such as a linen shirt or a blouse, and a heavier long-sleeved option, such as a thicker long-sleeve t-shirt with your safari jacket on top.
Safari colours are not essential for evening meals, but I kept all my evening clothes in the same colour scheme just in case I wanted to pair them with my other clothes.
Read about the schedule of a day on safari in Kenya here.
What Bag to Take on Safari?
There are several items you will want to bring with you on safari while on game drives, and one of the easiest ways to do this is by packing a separate day bag.
There is plenty of space in the safari vehicle to place your bag at your feet or on a chair beside you. Therefore, you can bring various items in addition to a bag; such as jackets, blankets, and other extra layers.
I suggest bringing a packable bag for your daytime safari items that can be easily folded up in your luggage.
A suitable bag would be a canvas tote bag that folds up small, such as this Canvas bag from ARKET. Although this bag does not zip up, your belongings should not get too dusty.
Alternatively, bring another packable bag from your home. For example, I had an old Longchamp Le Pliage bag that worked perfectly for carrying my items on safari and packing it in my suitcase after use.
Of course, you can always bring a backpack if preferred. The backpack does not need to be particularly technical. This Osprey Dry Stuff Backpack is waterproof and packable, which means it can easily be packed inside your safari luggage.
You could also use the travel backpack you used to carry all your hand luggage items. However, you do not need to bring the entire contents of the bag with you, nor do you want to leave all those items loose in your tent.
Things to Carry for Safari
While on game drives, you may need a couple of items. Some safari vehicles will provide these already, whereas others will not. Therefore, it is best to check with your lodge beforehand.
- Camera – if you have a DSLR or mirrorless camera, make sure you bring it for the game drives. The quality is much superior to using the camera on your phone. I recommend Fujifilm X-T30 II
- Camera lens – I highly recommend renting a lens to be able to capture the animals no matter what distance you are from them
- Extra camera equipment – you may want to pack spare camera batteries or memory cards to ensure you never get caught unprepared on game drives
- Binoculars – if you are not taking photos on a camera with a good zoom, binoculars are the next best thing. Buy binoculars here
- Sun cream – you will need to apply sunscreen a few hours into your game drive as the sun gets hotter. My favourite non-oily suncreams include Ultra Violette Extreme Screen or La Roche Posay Anthelios
- Hand sanitiser – use this to clean up before eating a bush breakfast or after using the bush toilet
- Bandana or scarf – it can be very dusty on a game drive (particularly in dry parks, such as Samburu); therefore, something to cover your nose and mouth is essential
- Hat – it will keep your head warm in the chilly mornings and cover your face from the sun (wide-brim hats are best)
- Insect repellent – from dusk to dawn, there is a higher likelihood of getting mosquito bites
- Tissues – the chilly morning air can make your nose run
- Sunglasses – it is useful to have sunglasses when it is bright, although it is harder to spot the wildlife and take photos while wearing them
Read this safari packing list article to learn more about what to bring on your safari trip, including what duffle bag to pack your clothes in.You can also get a copy of my free safari packing checklist here.
What to Wear in Nairobi Kenya?
It may be colder in Nairobi than in your other safari locations, particularly in the morning or at night. So, ensure you have clothes that you can layer up to start and end your day.
Most Nairobi hotels have a pool, so remember to pack some swimwear and clothes to wear to walk to the pool.
A pair of comfortable trainers work best in Nairobi. Stick to closed-toed shoes for the entire Kenya trip, except for sandals or flip-flops for the camp, by the pool, or at a beach.
In Nairobi, you are out of your safe cocoon of the safari lifestyle; therefore, you need to keep your wits about you. Try to blend in with the crowd and avoid heavy slogans or bright, eye-catching outfits.
Depending on what you are doing in Nairobi, your clothes that can get dusty or dirty. Some of the best things to do in Nairobi involve getting a little mucky, such as visiting the baby elephants at Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and a tour of Nairobi National Park.
You may have limited luggage space, so it is ideal to wear your “safari-style clothes” in Nairobi, with a couple of additions. For example, a pair of jeans for evening meals may be appreciated.
This article will help you choose whether to book meet and greet services at Nairobi airport.
FAQ – What to Wear in Kenya on Safari?
What to wear on a safari in Kenya?
Your Kenya safari clothes should be casual and in neutral colours like khaki, green, brown, beige, or grey to blend into the savannah.
It is best to dress in layers, as the mornings and evenings can be cool, and the daytime can be warm. Closed-toed comfortable footwear is essential.
How to dress in Nairobi?
While in Nairobi, stick to neutral colours to blend in, and avoid flashy or eye-catching outfits. If you plan to visit any wildlife reserves, you may get dusty or dirty, so avoid wearing white in case it stains.
You may need an extra layer for the early mornings and evenings when it is cooler.
What colours not to wear in Kenya on safari?
Your safari wear should not include the following colours white, black, navy, and other bright colours (e.g. red and blue). These colours may distract the animals or attract biting tsetse flies.
It is also illegal to wear camouflage clothing in Kenya.