We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Ladies: what I wore on a 3-day safari

Which Mombasa hotels are on sale?
mm/dd/yyyy mm/dd/yyyy
See hotels
Helsinki, Finland
Level Contributor
24 posts
32 reviews
Ladies: what I wore on a 3-day safari

This one is for all first-time safari-goers who are agonising (like I was) about what to pack for a short safari - especially if you don't want to buy any safari gear!

Background: Two weeks ago, end of February, I went on a Pollman's "4 days, 3 nights" safari from Mombasa to Tsavo East, Amboseli, Tsavo West and Taita Hills. We stayed at Ashnil Aruba Lodge (Tsavo East), Kilima Safari Camp (Amboseli), and Sarova Saltlick Lodge (Taita Hills). On day 3 we also lunched at Taita Hills Game Lodge. The whole trip was taken in a Pollman's safari van for max 8 people.

As other people write in other threads, I found that you don't have to dress like Dr Livingstone or a Nat Geo employee on safari! :) These are my observations:

LUGGAGE: - On Pollman's safari vans, the luggage space at the back is very small. That's why people are requested to take small soft bags. A medium-sized sports bag is ideal. Wheeled backpacks don't work because hard frames can be difficult to squeeze into the space. I also took a small shoulder bag for inside the van for camera, water etc.


- On a minibus safari, the colour of your clothing makes little difference. Everyone says, wear only khaki/brown/beige but it doesn't really matter if you're not walking out in the bush. Personally I wore black, dark green, teal and denim.

- I would not take white or very light-coloured clothing because they get ruined by the red dust. For the same reason it's not a good idea to take white shoes or any fancy shoes on game drives.

- Some advice says you should not wear black or blue because of tsetse flies but I had no problems.


- You don't have to buy safari shorts, cargo pants, trekking shirts etc. for the trip. I wore normal casual summery stuff: capri-length lightweight jeans, tunic tops, sandals. A simple skirt and top would have been ok too, or leggings and a tunic. There is a lot of climbing in and out of vehicles so leggings are a good idea, if your skirt is short.

- Just don't take precious materials because you are constantly climbing in and out and standing up or sitting down inside the van and clothing gets snagged easily.

- Also make sure your clothing is comfortable because you'll be driving a LOT.

- I did not take a fleece but wore a chunky cotton cardigan. Only one morning it was a bit cold in the vehicle. A jacket would have been totally unnecessary.

- You might want to take a cotton scarf for chilly mornings. Although it really wasn't that cold. Our temperatures ranged from above 25C in daytime to below 20C at night, but the wind made it a bit chilly in the mornings. It's cooler in the parks than in Mombasa.

- I did not bother with pyjamas or a nightdress (!). It was too hot and sweaty at night. There was no A/C in the lodges, just fans.

- I took 2 sets of underwear for each day because you get so sweaty and dusty on game drives. Because of this you definitely want to shower and change before dinner. I also took a different top for each day but 1-2 bottoms are enough for a short safari.

- Wear only cotton - acrylic or polyester would be so hot!


- I found a scarf tied round my head much better than a safari hat. Hats are for sale e.g. at Buchuma gate entering Tsavo East. I bought one for Ksh900 for the brim, but to be honest I didn't need the hat. It wasn't that sunny (it had been raining just prior to our safari) so sunglasses & scarf & lots of sunblock were more comfortable on the windy drives. If you do wear a hat, it has to tie under your chin.

- When the roof is open, the wind messes up long hair, so definitely take something to tie it back with and maybe a bandana too.


- I just wore "walking sandals". Converse or Toms would be OK too but you'd have to wash them after the safari. No need for heavy trainers, let alone walking boots!


- In the lodges, I noticed that lunch outfits were usually just whatever you wore on your game drive. At dinner, especially Saltlick was dressier (and Taita Hills also for lunch). It's not fashion week but there were many nicely dressed people at Saltlick and Taita Hills which are quite upmarket. Especially African guests were well dressed. So personally I would have felt a bit underdressed in my game drive gear which was also dusty by that time. So I was glad I'd taken some long leggings and a nice tunic dress to wear at night (I wore the same outfit 3 nights running).

- Half-sleeves were just enough at night, it really wasn't cold and I did not need a cardie.

- I also took some prettier sandals for the evening.

- That said, some guests at dinner just dressed in their day gear so it's really up to you. You could just wear the next day's outfit to dinner.

- At night it's a good idea to cover your legs and ankles because of the mosquitoes. I also sprayed my feet and arms with insect repellent before dinner. At Saltlick you eat indoors but at Kilima and Aruba you're sitting outdoors.


- There were nice pools at Aruba and Kilima lodges, so take a swimming costume and cover-up. Flipflops are nice too.

- Towels are provided at these lodges as are basic toiletries (and hairdryers), so no need to take shampoo, shower gel and body lotion.

- Essentials: wet wipes, hand disinfectant, tissues, sunblock, chargers and adapter, flashlight, watch, plasters, sunglasses, insect repellant, lipbalm, something to tie hair back with.

- I did not use binoculars but someone else might want them.


3-4 tops

1-2 lightweight jeans

medium thick cotton cardie



swimsuit + cover-up

scarf for neck

small scarf for hair

tunic for evening

leggings for evening

nice sandals for evening

8 pairs of underwear (if you don't want to wash them)

1-2 bras (don't take your flimsiest one, the roads are so bumpy)

vest to wear in bed

+ special toiletries, medications incl. for diarrhoea, spare glasses, essentials mentioned above

Finally, please note that this is entirely based on my personal experience on a short safari in the locations mentioned above! So whatever you might need or prefer for a longer safari or elsewhere may be different. :)

Edited: 7:43 am, March 06, 2014
Dearborn, Michigan
Level Contributor
1,245 posts
117 reviews
1. Re: Ladies: what I wore on a 3-day safari

Thanks for the tips. I will be doing eleven nights at tented camps in September. Just wondering...Did you walk in the bush at all? I'm thinking sandals may not be appropriate for that. How hot did it get in the afternoons?

Level Contributor
127 posts
123 reviews
2. Re: Ladies: what I wore on a 3-day safari

I was around Mt. Kenya and down in the conservancies around the Mara at about the same time and encountered a fair amount of mud. No sandals or sneakers/trainers would have survived that. (My sandals only ever came out once!) I brought my hiking shoes home and immediately threw them in the back of my basement, keeping them well out of the main house. When the mud's dry I'll bang them out and get them ready for next time.

I'd make sure whatever you wear you'll be comfortable in for several hours sitting (in the vehicle on rides) at a time. I would have broiled in jeans in the heat any time after 11 a.m. on most days. I was glad to have convertible pants into shorts.

Level Contributor
14,081 posts
3. Re: Ladies: what I wore on a 3-day safari

Unlike Feb (summer month) when OP visited, Sep is one of the winter months especially nights/morning and even if not walking outdoors, suggest a warmer coverup than light cotton, why many suggest a fleece, I've actually seen visitors in lightweight ski parkers; socks also good at night as mossies or other flying critters seem to love ankles.

For bush walks and as the ground is uneven under* you, I'd suggest more than just sandals; twisted ankles aren't pleasant. I prefer mocassin-type with rubber soles as these are easy to remove when in vehicle or standing on seats for some better photo taking.

*even lodge/camp walkways can be uneven,

Afternoon temps likely in the mid-70s, but when the sun is about ready to set it can get rather nippy by 5pm.

Overall weather will vary depending on where you are on your safari, based on the altitude where you are located.

Dearborn, Michigan
Level Contributor
1,245 posts
117 reviews
4. Re: Ladies: what I wore on a 3-day safari

Sandi, would you suggest jeans for the evening. Im thinking light weight pants may not do the trick.,,but the jeans are weighty.., considering restrictions...wouldn't September be a dry month? Will I need to worry about mud? I don't want to pack things that are not necessary.

Level Contributor
152 posts
19 reviews
5. Re: Ladies: what I wore on a 3-day safari

Well now I just don't know what to bring. I did go out and buy two pairs of the zip off pants. But in August it isn't going to be as hot as it was for February safari. Didn't want to bring jeans. They weigh too much and the thought of sitting in them all day in a truck doesn't sound comfortable at all! lol

Dearborn, Michigan
Level Contributor
1,245 posts
117 reviews
6. Re: Ladies: what I wore on a 3-day safari

Laura, sounds like we can leave the rain gear at home. I think the layers will be best.. I will have tee shirts, with a thin hoodie, and a fleece. I'm taking old clothes, if possible. I dont do shorts... Lol, so no need for the zip off pants.... I'm just not sure about evenings when it gets cool... I have some knit pants. (Jjill) very comfortable, but not warm.., might be okay with a lap blanket. I may wear jeans when I fly, that way I'll have a pair with me incase? Shoes? I just don't know. I have great shoes for walking in Europe, but would hate to ruin them. I will bring three pairs of thin socks though.., for the evening. I'm not at all concerned about appearance, just want to be prepared and comfortable. And I've heard def need flip flops for shower...

Level Contributor
152 posts
19 reviews
7. Re: Ladies: what I wore on a 3-day safari

Barb, yeah I'm not too worried about rain. I like you don't care about appearances, comfort is the name of the game! We will be dusty and dirty anyway! lol. I am ordering a pair of Merrell's off Eddie Bauer to wear. I will wear them all the time and bring the flip flops for the shower and for in Lamu. I'm thinking about my good ole Knee socks for at camp in the evening. It will be harder for the mossies to get to me! lol. Plus it doesn't sound like there will be many of them out there. Hope that is true. I think I will keep my zip off pants and return the long sleeve shirts I bought. I would rather wear t shirts under the fleece with a jacket, which I will use on the planes to and from the US. Just don't think I want to wear jeans on the plane as they just get too uncomfortable after awhile.

manchester, United...
Level Contributor
1,084 posts
76 reviews
8. Re: Ladies: what I wore on a 3-day safari

I think this is a great list. the only thing I would say is that in April 2012 it was really very cold (about 6 degrees C) in the Mara and we most certainly needed something warm for game drives and pyjamas at night!

Americans are renowned for their "comfortable" clothing but honestly some of the ladies looked terribly under-dressed at dinner in the lodges I stayed at last October. And they did attract derogatory comments in their tiny shorts or huge shorts on somewhat bulky frames!

Helsinki, Finland
Level Contributor
24 posts
32 reviews
9. Re: Ladies: what I wore on a 3-day safari

OP here again, thanks for your comments! I totally agree that if you're doing bush walks, you need more substantial shoes than sandals. I would have taken Merrells or other trainers for that.

I also think that it's generally cooler in the Mara than in Tsavo & Amboseli which I visited. So if you're going to Mara you need to check the temperatures near the time you are going. It's no fun being cold! Like I said in my post, my advice applies to Tsavo & Amboseli at this time of the year. And of course it's always a personal choice - not everyone likes jeans for example, so other pants might work better for you.

I totally agree with Val H too about some ladies (and men) being a bit underdressed at dinner. I travelled with other Scandinavians and most of them dressed down. Each to their own, but I felt more comfortable making just a bit of an effort. Then again, if you're staying in more modest accommodation, a nicer outfit might be unnecessary.

Level Contributor
111 posts
26 reviews
10. Re: Ladies: what I wore on a 3-day safari

Thank you for sharing your packing list with us Nefermefernefer! We are going on our first safari in May of this year & I've bought appropriate gear at the cheapest price possible. We're doing 6 days safari in Samburu and Masai Mara and your list will be a great starting point for my holiday shopping.