Generally, you would be surprised by how many things aren’t necessary when planning what clothes to take on safari in Kenya. Although, having said that, there are a few essential items you should take. Like many tropical areas, the night times can get a lot colder than the day so plan to take warm clothes, including a fleece, to keep you warm on night safaris and early morning safaris. Kenya isn’t regarded as a particularly hot country, but it does see very sunny days. In general, Kenya temperatures hardly ever pass 80°F (27°C) and of a night time this drops to around 50° (10°C). This gets a few degrees hotter on the Maasai Mara.
Because of the difference in temperature between early morning and midday, we recommend wearing layers so you can quickly change to suit the temperature, as you will probably be out on safari when the temperature changes. We also recommend some of the light pants with a zip that turns them easily and quickly into shorts.
For the morning and late afternoon through evening, light and loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts and pants help protect your skin from mosquitoes. There are also new mosquito-proof materials on the market which some people prefer. Heavy materials like denim are to be avoided as the days often get too hot to remain comfortable.
During the day, and especially around mid day, the temperature approaches its maximum so try and take some breathable long-sleeved shirts and pants, and also t-shirts and shorts. The majority of your time will be spent on game drives so you want to remain comfortable, or at least be able to quickly take off layers as temperature increases and put on layers as it decreases.
Clothing Color & Dust
Tracks and roads can be very dry and dusty, so its good advice to bring something like a light cotton scarf to cover your mouth and nose (just in case). If the dusty mud bothers you when it shows on your clothing, then opt for golden brown or khaki safari colors, which is really the only reason you should consider buying specific ‘safari clothing’. Otherwise, you will probably be satisfied in everyday light tops and pants. White clothes will inevitably be stained by dust and should be avoided. Bright colors should be avoided as it may disturb animals, and black items may be more attractive to biting insects. If you want to be safe and copy the rangers, then stick to khaki, beige and light browns.
A wide-brimmed hat helps protect your face and neck from the sun during midday. If your tour offers walking safaris then this is essential, but if you will only be in vehicles on game drives, as with the majority of Kenya safaris, this is more of a just-in-case item rather than a necessity. If you are worried about sun getting in your eyes while looking at wildlife then plan on taking either a widebrimmed hat, baseball cap and / or a pair of sunglasses.
The most rain comes in April and May and short rains are in late October and November. Even in the wetter months, you should still have a good amount of clear and sunny days. As with many tropical countries, rain can come at any time and isn’t simply contained within the ‘wet season’ so bring a poncho or rain jacket that can be easily stored in a day pack and quickly pulled out during sudden rain. Even if you’re on game drives and sheltered in the 4×4 and it rains, at some point you will still need to exit and enter the vehicle when back at camp etc. and this helps keep you comfortable.
As for footwear, as mentioned above, plan on comfortable items, as for much of the safari time you will be in a 4×4 vehicle. If your camp or tour offers hiking, or walking safaris, then pack some comfortable walking shoes with a thick sole to protect your feet if you step on branches of spiky acacia bushes.
Sandals and light footwear are good to take for when you’re back at your lodge or camp, as they let your feet breathe and cool off after being contained all day on a hot safari. They are also good to take if your lodge has a pool. Speaking of which, don’t forget to take swimwear if your lodge does have a pool.
Smart Casual Clothes
If you choose to take at least one set of smart-casual clothes, you will only be wearing these when back at lodge for a nice evening meal, although this will be your preference as for many lodges there is no dress code. Bear in mind if you do pack smarter clothing, you may not have an opportunity to wear them.