Monday, January 13, 2014

Safari Style

Packing for the Savanna

 
Africa bound!

After extensive research and shopping around for the perfect safari clothing, I quickly came to the conclusion that there were not enough (or any) resources for finding the perfect safari wardrobe. The research that I did prior to the trip and my almost 2 weeks experience in Tanzania taught me a great deal about what to bring to Africa and what you will need for game drives in the bush. I learned a lot in the process and would like to pass this knowledge on to anyone who is thinking about making a future visit. 

My best advice is to pack wisely, because you'll most likely only be allotted 30lbs of luggage.


The Essentials:

"Gentleman Explorers" headdress -


Let me start by talking about the perfect safari hat, the pith helmet. Also known as the safari or African pith helmet, it's a lightweight and hard hat that not only protects you from the sun, but also will not blow off your head or flop around as you drive around in your open air Land Rover. Not to mention it's quite fun and stylish. You're on a safari, get into it!! It also came in handy when we were whipping around the bush in the dark, it's great protection from bugs slamming into your head, and just hitting your head in general...I only speak from experience.

Traditional canvas pith helmet, purchased new from eBay for $30.

Woven pith helmet, purchased new from eBay for $18.
The pith helmet has been around since the 1840's and has been used by European military personnel in the tropics. It then became popular for civilians of both genders and of all ages to wear in the mid-19th century. These days the pith helmet is best known for its novel and vintage appearance.

Footwear -



The Classic MacAlister from J.Crew is truly the perfect safari shoe. The flat MacAlister's are unisex; woman size down by 2 1/2 sizes. J. Crew says to take two sizes smaller, but I found that they were still too big. I'm an 8 1/2 in woman's and I took a size 6 in the unisex MacAlister. These beige suede durable boots are a must for the savanna. But in all honesty you could wear sneakers or stilettos and it wouldn't really matter, it's not like you're going on a hike or something, you stay inside the Land Rover at all times unless you need a quick stretch or to check the tire pressure (aka using nature's toilet). However, I did go on one short hike that was pretty steep and the rub soles were great at gripping the ground.

Again, these boots were worn by British officers during WWII, and after speaking to the employees at Singita about footwear they said that the same exact type of shoe is manufactured in Tanzania. They seem to be popular because of their comfort and durability. My Tanzanian friends also wore very similar leather hiking boots, a lot like the MacAlister Brickman boot. For a more feminine touch I brought my rubber high heel MacAlister's and wore them on a few game drives; they worked perfectly fine. They also sell a wedge version of the MacAlister for the ladies. The boots will last you long after you return from your safari, and the more you wear them the better they look! 

 Game Drive Attire & Bug Repellent Clothes -



 

For the entire 2 weeks that we were in Tanzania we only wore long sleeve shirts and pants on every game drive, regardless of the temperature. It's nice to have a few vests with lots of pockets made of heavy canvas or linen to throw over any top. Mornings in the bush are perfectly brisk, and the breeze from the drive can leave you wanting a bit more warmth. I did wear my beige Mackage wool coat a few times, particularly in the early mornings and during the hot air balloon ride over the plains. 




Not only should you cover your legs and arms when on a game drive, but the fabric should be thick and breathable. The African sun is strong to the point where it's better to cover up to protect yourself rather than using sunscreen. However, the best reason to completely cover up at all times is to prevent bug bites, specifically viscous blood sucking flies that live in certain parts of the bush. The key is to be able to give as much attention to the beauty of the Serengeti and the animals that inhabit it, than constantly swatting. The regular flies don't bother me at all, I understand that we're visiting their kingdom and it comes with the territory. Bug repellent bandanas and shirts are very effective at keeping flies at bay (Thanks for the Christmas gift, Dad!), as well as the more stylish and corky mosquito nets that goes over the pith helmet. The netting allows you to talk without eating a dozen bugs in the process, this is particularly helpful during night time drives. 

 The one thing that I didn't bring with me that I would recommend, are thick long socks to cover the ankles. The Japanese guests even wear gloves!





 

The Gentleman Explorer Wardrobe - 

 

Prince of the jungle
  Men's Safari Pants: Of all places, Abercrombie & Fitch, is a great place to find thick and color appropriate pants/shorts for a safari. After all they are the cargo king, and who can distress a pair of pants better than crombie!? Thanks to the European obsession with American clothing this brand is going no where, it's basically an institution, just look at the line going around the block at the Abercrombie on 5th Ave.!!! When we went into the store I felt so tempted to buy a pair of sweat pants with the massive logo on the side, just because I could!!!Peter immediately put the kibosh on my brief lapse in judgement. I couldn't help it... it's the middle/high school-er inside me that could never afford Abercrombie. Oh how i yearned for those stupid ugly sweat pants and tissue tees back in the day. Long story short, they actually have pretty good safari pants, just try to control yourself around the rest of the garments.



Men's Shirts: J. Crew and Orvis carry a wide variety of thick and sometimes bug repellent long sleeve shirts, as well as breathable linen button downs.






The Lady Explorer Wardrobe -

 

Singita's Faru Faru Lodge, Bungalow #8

Women's Safari Pants: I can never stray from the great quality and fit of Rag and Bone, and I also found some old United Colors of Benetton pants (pictured below) in the back of my closet that were safari-perfect. Shopping in your own closet is the best! I purchased one pair of cargo pants for the trip by Henry Cotton's (pictured above), and they turned out to be insanely comfortable, functional, and chic.

Vests and Jackets: Sleeveless beige linen vest by C &C California. Short sleeve army green canvas jacket by Club Monaco. 

Women's Safari Shirts: Scroll down to the 'Serengeti Style' section for more details.

Where and how to find safari appropriate garments?
Your best bet is to peruse sites like www.polyvore.com or www.joox.com, and other sites of this nature. For very last minute basics, try Forever 21, they have a wide variety of beige camis and tees....for $1.80 - $3.80?! Basically disposable. It's a great store to visit in a pinch.



Color Palette -

 

 Of course, the typical color palette of the savanna consists of various shades of green and a symphony of beige. The reddish-brown color of the Grumeti roads are found across Africa,  yet this particular dirt was brought in from outside the reserve, as I learned from my guide. 

During this time of year (Dec-Jan) the land is much more green than it is beige, the sun has yet to burn away the gorgeous green pigment, and the grass is not yet tall, making it much easier to spot the lions and cheetahs napping in the shade of the trees.

Lion cuddle time

Two male cheetahs chillin

 The contrast of bright green and dark reddish brown is absolutely stunning. 



  
Honestly, the ground is so beautiful I wanted to get out and roll around in it. It's quite inviting. Pictures will never do it justice. Maybe it's not so bad being a warthog after all, at least they get to bathe in the gorgeous Serengeti mud....


Bath time for Mr. Warthog, or is it Mrs.?


Serengeti Style, Lady Explorer Continued -



Shirts w/ beaded detail by Maison Scotch

Ladies, if you want to truly epitomize the Tanzanian look, a beaded Maasai detail on your shirt is the perfect accent and quite appropriate. In America and abroad these festive clothing items, especially shirts, can be found at Scotch and Soda, a brand out of Amsterdam that boasts a tribal influence. They continue to create tops with beautifully beaded collars and epaulettes every season. I'm a huge fan. I received many compliments  from my Tanzanian friends, they truly appreciate beautiful clothing and jewelry, it's part of their culture.




Linen Safari Hat By Helen Kaminski, Green Button Down Shirt By Forever 21

For Maasai woman, creating jewelry is one of their duties, and selling these gorgeous designs truly benefits their community. The intricate and colorful bead work reveals more than just the beauty and creativity of the culture, it also demonstrates social standing, and prosperity. And beyond that, each colorful bead has it's own significance and meaning.

Traditional Maasai Necklace
Red = bravery, danger, strength, unity.
Blue = sky, heavens, which provides water for cattle.
Green = grass, which is food for cattle.
Orange = hospitality
White = purity, like milk from cattle.
Black = the color of the people and of hardships.

The main garment worn by the Maasai is the shuka, which is a basic piece of cotton fabric that is dyed red and is often times plaid, this creates a sort of camouflage against the red dirt found in that part of Africa. 





African Nights -

 

  After sunset the flies go to sleep and you're finally able to show off your shoulders. Singita made every dinner so special, romantic, and unique that I was thankful I put some much thought into my nighttime lodge attire. The kaftan is essential for warm african nights, it's a very romantic shape, especially against the flickering candle light and gas lamps. No one does a kaftan quite like Issa, a London brand with a Brazilian flair, made popular by Kate Middleton when she stepped out with Prince William to publicly announce their engagement, wearing the blue cross body dress. Pictured below is Issa's metallic printed silk-blend chiffon gown and I added the traditional beaded collar for our very special New Year's Eve celebration.



                                                     
I prefer maxi dresses above all else for warm African nights. Fellow Buffalonian, Mara Hoffman, truly captures the essence of tribal glam in her unique designs and patterns. I brought along three of her maxi dresses, all with their own individual African flare. Vibrant colors, gorgeous bead work, and eye catching prints; it's easy to see that Hoffman pulls her inspiration from nature, world travel and fantasy. It feels good to support the talent of a fellow Buffalo gal AND her father is a cellist in the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Love it! As all amazing stories go, Hoffman was walking down a NYC street and was stopped and complimented on her outfit by Sex and the City Costume designer, Patricia Fields, and the rest is history. When asked in an interview what her best style advice is, she replied,"be animal!"
 
Fitted Maxi Dress by Mara Hoffman





Beaded Neck Maxi Dress by Mara Hoffman




Slip Gown by Mara Hoffman
 




 "Since the days of early explorers, travelers have come from afar to experience the magic of the Serengeti. Legend has it that at one time, when there was a lot of paoching in the area and the wildlife was suffering, people used to call this area 'Si bora', which means 'bad place to go'. It is said that since Singita and Grumeti wildlife stepped in to stop the hunting and poaching, the place became known as 'Sabora', meaning good place to go. As one of the most remote locations on earth, this is a place to surrender, as ordinary moments are transformed into indelible memories."

- Singita

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