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Seven people smiling and posing with a safara SUV on an overcast day.

Fit Check: What to Pack for Safari in Kenya

I asked a couple Ultimate Break staffers who have actually been on safari about what you should really be bringing to Kenya.

Emma Lifvergren
April 12, 2024

When I picture myself cruising through Amboseli National Park in Kenya, Mount Kilimanjaro looming majestically in the distance, an elephant mere yards away, I’m every bit the chic-yet-practical girly on safari. A breezy white linen shirt tucked into khaki pants, boots, maybe a jaunty little scarf tied around my neck. But do people really wear that, or is my idea of game-drive dressing based on Hollywood costumes and that one outfit Taylor Swift wore in “Wildest Dreams”? I haven’t traveled to Africa yet (sending safari vibes to my manager, hey Tom!) so I asked a couple of my coworkers who have recently been on our Kenya: African Safari trip about what they thought was important to pack and what to wear on safari in Kenya—because it’s all fun and games until you realize you maybe should have brought your own toilet paper.

Five people smiling and laughing in the sun with a grassy plain and large mountain in the background.

The fits

Let’s talk FASHUN. Kenya lies on the Equator, which divides the country almost exactly in half, so it has a pleasant, tropical-ish climate with wet and dry seasons. Depending on when you visit, there might be some rain, so keep that in mind when packing your lewks. The daily high temps will usually always be warm to hot with cool mornings and nights, and if you imagined lots of sun and even more dust, then you’d be right! Breathable shirts in fabrics like cotton and linen, or even sweat wicking workout pieces, are perfect for sub-Saharan climes. Neutral colors are key, too—they won’t show as much dirt and dust, and it’s said that bright hues could potentially spook the animals.

“Make sure to bring layers,” says Kendall, EF Ultimate Break’s Senior Project Manager, “It gets hot, but long sleeves and pants help to protect against the sun and bugs.”

A smiling man with his arm around a smiling woman giving a thumbs up.

Katie, Community Manager for Ultimate Break, says “I wore my light linen shirts almost every morning and every night when I went in August. As soon as the sun came out, it was easy to fold up and put in my backpack.”

And a pro tip from Kendall: “Be ready to sweat—but it’s worth it! Having extra under garments for a midday refresh was a game-changer.”

Okay so, lightweight, breathable, earth-toned layers? Got it. My sartorial safari vision wasn’t that far off. But you’re also gonna need shoes, sunglasses, and definitely a hat...oh and a fanny pack or backpack for water, medicine, sunscreen, bug spray, and snacks.

“As far as footwear goes, you don’t do much walking on this trip,” Kendall says. “You’re most often on game drives in a truck or at your hotel, so one pair of hiking boots or tennis shoes and one pair of waterproof sandals are plenty.”

“Leave the white sneakers at home, or at least prepare for them to be covered in dirt” says Katie.

A smiling woman standing in the open door of a safari SUV on an overcast day with a grassy plain in the background.

The other stuff

When packing for a safari in Kenya, efficiency is the name of the game. Take only a carry-on if you can, even better if it’s a soft duffel bag—you’ll be limiting the opportunity for lost luggage in transit, everything you need will be right at your fingertips, and it’ll be easier to fit everyone’s bags into one vehicle once you’re out in the bush. “Each piece of luggage goes in the game drive trucks with you and there isn’t a lot of space for it,” says Katie.

Kendall agrees, “We pack up into these trucks and road trip from location to location, so everything has to fit! To conserve space, I found it was helpful to plan on re-wearing some pants, limiting shoes to two pair (one of which you can wear on the plane), and rolling your clothes tight.” Fortunately, since it’s warm in Kenya and you’ll be bringing all those lightweight layers (see, I pay attention), it’ll be a lot easier to stuff a bunch of things into a smaller bag.
“Make sure to bring layers,” says Kendall, EF Ultimate Break’s Senior Project Manager, “It gets hot, but long sleeves and pants help to protect against the sun and bugs.”

A group of people walking in the rain down a dirt trail through a grassy field.

Since you’ll be in the middle of the wilderness, you’ll also want to be prepared with any medications, toiletries, and skincare that you normally use—you won’t be able to just pop into a CVS or a Target to pick up something that you forgot.

“I was unsure how the travel, transportation, food, malaria pills—you name it—would hit, I brought Dramamine, Tums, Pepto Bismol tablets, and Imodium,” Kendall says. “I also packed melatonin to help me sleep and caffeine pills for a kick when I needed it, but the Kenyan coffee did the trick too and was delicious!”

Kendall and Katie both suggest stocking up on bug spray and sunscreen, too. Like Kendall said, you’ll be sweating buckets under the hot Kenyan sun and will need to reapply both more often than you think. And lotion. Don’t forget the lotion. “I don’t think I realized how much the wind and sand were going to dry out my skin,” Katie says.

As a self-diagnosed chronic overpacker, I asked Kendall what she brought that ended up not using much, and her answer surprised me.

“I could have left my binoculars at home,” she says. “We got close enough to animals that we didn’t often need them, but also your driver will likely have better ones on hand that your group can share.”

People looking out into the distance from the tops of multiple Safari SUVs

If you’ve found yourself heading to Kenya, first of all, jealous. Second of all, you’re going to have the most unforgettable time of your life—looking cute is great, but being comfortable enough to enjoy your incredible surroundings is better. When you’re thinking about what to pack for a safari in Kenya, remember: lightweight layers in neutral hues, comfy shoes, and more sunscreen and bug spray than you think you’ll need. And if you do forget something, odds are one of your new safari besties (no, not the rhinos) will be able to help you out in a pinch.

Oh, and about that toilet paper I mentioned earlier.

"I had heard stories that you may be out on drives for long periods of time, possibly necessitating bathroom breaks in the wild, or at least less-than-convenient spots, so I brought my own toilet paper,” Kendall says. “However, the drives were typically about 2 hours long, so if you planned accordingly, impromptu bathroom stops weren’t necessary.”

BUT YA NEVER KNOW. Just bring the TP.

Kenya packing list

  • 1 carry-on bag
  • 1 backpack
  • 1 day bag (purse/fanny pack)
  • Windbreaker/rain jacket
  • 6-7 light, loose, long-sleeve shirts
  • 1-2 tank tops or t-shirts
  • 4-5 loose active/hiking pants
  • 1 pair shorts
  • 1 nicer outfit for Welcome/Farewell Dinner (optional)
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 1 airport outfit
  • 1 pair of pajamas
  • 10-14 underwear & high socks
  • 1 pair waterproof sandals
  • 1 pair hiking boots or sneakers
  • 1 hat
  • 1 pair sunglasses
  • Sunscreen (lotion or wipes)
  • Bug spray/wipes/buggy bands
  • Solid shampoo, conditioner, and body wash
  • Lip balm
  • Toiletries/Medicines
    • Dramamine, Tums, Pepto Bismol, Imodium/Zofran, caffeine pills, malaria medicine, vitamins, electrolyte packs (Liquid IV), Immunity packs (Emergen-C)
  • Granola bars/snacks
  • Hand wipes/hand sanitizer
  • Camera
  • Passport
  • Cash/cards
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About the Author

Emma Lifvergren is a writer at EF Ultimate Break by day and a food enthusiast, bookworm, and cat mom to Ruby the rest of the time. Emma has been to 16 countries, including a semester in Paris while attending UMass Amherst, where she graduated with a degree in journalism. She hasn’t been on safari (yet) but she loves packing, clothes, and packing clothes.

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