What to wear on safari in the Greater Kruger
With game reserves opening their gates soon, parks are sure to be flooded with eager tourists keen to shake off their lockdown shackles. With such a vast expanse to explore, filled with creatures great and small, it’s exactly what the doctor ordered for those with cabin fever. If you’ve never been to the Kruger, or if it feels like a million years since your last visit, it can be tricky to know what to wear. Here’s a few pointers on the type of threads and gear you’ll need to look and feel the part...
Play it hot and cold
Day-time temperatures in the Kruger tend to fluctuate between a pleasant 25 degrees during colder months, and an infernal 40 degrees during summer. But winter months can be sneakily deceptive. You could be living your best life in the lowveld enjoying a sweltering sunny day upwards of 28°C, then get on the game vehicle for a game drive at 4 pm without a care in the world, only to arrive back at camp at 7 pm having contracted mild hypothermia, because you didn’t think to bring a jacket, scarf or beanie.
We learnt this lesson the hard way. The hypothermia bit may be a little exaggerated, but the bush does get bone cold when the winter sun ducks for cover. And, while you’d probably feel a little silly bringing a beanie and scarf with you on the game vehicle while the relentless African sun is beating down and cicadas are in full voice, you certainly won’t feel silly when the mercury suddenly drops and the wind-chill factor on the open-top drive sets your teeth a-chatter.
The same goes for those early-morning drives. Even if you don’t feel cold at the lodge, never leave your heavy wind-resistant jacket and beanie behind – and wear long trousers, they’re not only good for the chill but also guard against bug bites. Layers are wise too, as you can peel them off as the day thaws.
During summer, t-shirts or blouses with shorts or trousers are fine, and perhaps a long-sleeve shirt or light jacket for the evenings and to combat the aforementioned wind-chill on drives. But the drop in temperature isn’t that drastic in summer, and evenings are usually mild to warm. However, the Kruger does get summer rainfall, usually in the form of dramatic but short-lived thunder storms when it buckets down for an hour, so pack a light wind- and waterproof jacket.
Colour me khaki
First-timers to the Kruger are always advised to wear neutral colours, whereupon they usually go on furious shopping sprees for all the khaki and two-tone Ranger Rick fabric that money can buy. But it really depends on what you plan on doing when you get there. If you plan to do walking safaris, such as the morning bush walks at Africa on Foot in the Klaserie, or the three-day trails through Balule with Wilderness Trails, then, yes, neutral colours are essential. You’re on Big-Five turf and you’re lowest on the food chain, so blending in is the name of the game, which means no whites, no bright colours and preferably only beige, soft greens or khakis. Also advisable are long comfortable trousers or, if you decide to walk in shorts, bring a pair of gaiters to protect your ankles and to prevent sand, seeds and thorns from getting in your shoes.
On game drives, neutral clothing isn’t as necessary. Wildlife tend to see game vehicles as one large unit, so brights and whites won’t trigger the same response as they would on foot. However, at most lodges and camps in the Kruger, interiors are soft and earthy and people tend to wear muted bush colours, so if you’re the only one wearing a shouty number, it might jar a bit.
To recap, here’s what you’ll need for a comfortable stay in the bush:
T-shirts and shorts of light fabrics, such as cotton, and in neutral tones
A couple of long-sleeved shirts and a pair of long trousers
A light-weight, water- and windproof jacket in summer, and a heavier version in winter, plus a beanie and scarf
A good pair of trainers. However, if you’re doing a walking safari, something sturdier is required, preferable with a high top
Ankle gaiters (if you’re planning on doing walks)
Sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat to shade your face and neck. The African sun is unforgiving! So be liberal in your application of sunscreen too
A light-weight torch or head torch can be very handy around camp
Binoculars and, of course, a camera with plenty of spare batteries and memory cards
Words by Richard Brown