Gearing up for a Winter Safari in South Africa

Andrew Beck Andrew 2 Comments

Believe it or not, it gets cold out here in Africa.


Thats Gerry using a buff to keep his face warm and magically transform himself into an arctic ninja at the same time.

Really cold…

Its one of those bizarre situations where you’ll see crystal clear skies and a shining sun but you’ll see people wrapped up jackets scarves, beanies and other winter paraphernalia. Add to this the fact that when you’re out on safari you’ll be on a open game drive vehicle and exposed to the wind chill factor and it is a good idea to make sure that you are 100% prepared for the cold.

F13_WM1462_053_f (2)Early mornings and evenings are obviously the coldest parts of the day and you can literally feel the temperature change as the sun sinks below the horizon. On the flip side, mornings start of being chilly and then tend to warm up as the sun rises, eventually leaving you in shorts and a t-shirt at mid-day on a nice winters day.

The best way to deal with this temperature range is to layer up.

Personally, I will usually where a t shirt, followed by a full length fleece, followed by a body warmer and then a windproof jacket. As it gets warmer I shed the windproof jacket and eventually the fleece and will spend most of the day wearing a shirt and body warmer.

We loose a lot of heat through our heads and a beanie (not sure if thats just a localised term for the woolen hats?) is a must. Ideally you’ll want one that has some extra lining around the bottom edges to keep your ears nice and warm.

Gloves are also a must and from a photographic perspective I’d recommend a pair which have have a thinner “inner” pair of gloves which will allow you to operate your camera and make the necessary adjustments without having to struggle through the thick protective layer.

A scarf rounds off your transformation into the something that probably resembles the Michelin man by now and is a key component in ensuring that the cold wind doesn’t get down the front of your jacket and to your chest.


Grant Marcus is a guide in Madikwe Game Reserve where temperatures regularly dip into the single digit range in winter. Grant suggests wearing something that is windproof and to ensure that your hands and head are kept warm.

When it comes to the bottom half of your body I find that a normal pair of trousers does the job and are aided by the use of the blankets which your guide will ensure are on the game drive vehicle in the morning before your departure.

Some lodges will even throw on a hot water bottle and, if you’re finding that your pants  and blanket are just not doing the job, I would suggest asking your guide to arrange for a hot water bottle to be added into the mix to ensure you are kept comfortable at all times.

I like to use the zip-off trousers which allow you to transform your long pants into shorts as the day gets a bit warmer. I do find it tricky to keep all the parts together and have lost a couple of the bottom parts over the years leaving me with a pair of shorts which are completely useless in winter.

marlon du toit, fireside, wild eye, photo safari, safari

Nothing beats enjoying a cup of coffee around the fireplace in winter before heading out on drive.

Evenings around the fireplace also get chilly and the combo of a fleece jacket and body warmer is usually enough to keep you warm.

Some of the more rustic tented camps do get very cold at night and having a pair of thermal underwear, regardless of how silly these items may make you feel, will come in handy.

A wise man once said “Any fool can get cold”.

Okay so maybe it wasn’t a wise man but its pretty true. Rather have too much gear and leave some items back at camp than freeze to death on the back of the game drive vehicle.

I hope this helps you plan and pack correctly for any travels into the bush this winter!

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About the Author

Andrew Beck

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Very few people can tell you what their passion in life is. Even fewer will be able to tell you that what they do for a living is in fact their passion. My love for the bush and conservation took me on journey which would not only allow me to explore the continent which fascinates me so much, but to share my passion for photography and conservation with others. Be sure to check out my my website and instagram account.

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