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OnlyMeOirish May 30th, 2006 08:15 AM

Are Shorts a Complete No No??
Well it's just over just under 7 weeks until my trip and I am starting to plan my wardrobe. We will be going to Rwanda, Nairobi and Masai Mara. Normally on 'hot climate' trips I live in shorts (not hot pants by any means but above-the-knee type shorts) but I have read that these are not really acceptable in Africa and I don't want to offend anyone in any of the places we will visit. My question is - what about knee-length shorts (or 'just'above the knee shorts for safari - yes, I know the mossies issue but I like to take as much advantage of the sun as possible)? Are they OK? I don't really have much in the line of 'daytime' skirts and what I do have are knee-length. I don't really want to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe if I can help it.

One more question - what about tops? I know tee-shirts will be fine but what about 'vest tops' - those with string straps and / or those with thicker straps but with shoulders on show. And evening tops - is it OK to have shoulders on show or is that a No No too?

Sorry for such a silly question but I just want to be completely clear and not embarass myself.


shedridt May 30th, 2006 08:43 AM

The guides in sub-Saharan Africa often wear shorts & in my experience shorts are fine on women. The temperature range day to night is dramatic & I've found the leg zip-on/off convertible type of trousers/shorts very practical. Funny thing is that color/texture seem to matter a lot - jeans look so inappropriate & everyone wears some shade of khaki. You'll be fine with what you're describing.

As for tops you want to be sure to protect against the sun which can be brutal & for that reason alone might want to leave the camisoles at home. Dainty is not a good choice for Africa.

atravelynn May 30th, 2006 09:36 AM

Seven weeks will fly by!

I am assuming you'll visit the gorillas in Rwanda. If not, ignore this paragaph. For the gorillas don't wear shorts or even short sleeved shorts due to stinging nettles.

I know you wanted to enjoy the sun but equatorial sun can be unforgiving, especially on the shoulders.

I occasionally wear longer shorts that fall above the knee, like the ones from zip-off pants. This attire has never been a problem.

But I always wear sleaves. One reason is protection from sun. The other is to dress modestly and conservatively out of respect for who and where I am visiting. Personally, I would not wear a tank top or spaghetti straps during the day regardless of the weather. At night spots or in lodges/camps I have seen these tops at night and believe they are quite acceptable. The reason I do not even pack such tops is because I only take items that can be worn anytime to save space.

As for skirts, I almost never take one unless I know I'll be needing one.

Overall I have the same advice as Shedridt.

OnlyMeOirish May 30th, 2006 11:39 AM

Thanks for the replies.

Shedridt - The camisole type tops I'm mentioning are the cotton type ones and are by no means dainty - I'm not a dainty type of person on safari - comfort over fashion at all costs!. From what I can remember these are what I wore mostly in South Africa but I know Kenya and Rwanda are a bit more conservative so am unsure about them for this trip?
I have one pair of chocolate brown knee length shorts which I will definately take - what about the mid length ones? I agree on the jeans - they look really silly on safari. I'm planning on taking trousers which are a cross between tracksuit bottoms & combats (ie light material with pockets which roll up to calf length).

Lynn- Yes, we are doing one Gorilla treck - I can not wait! I had read about wearing long trousers for this - I think we might need something fairly heavy - combat type trousers.
Are tank tops (I'm assuming you mean those with thicker straps) and spagetti strap tops considered immodest? I will definately forgoe them if this is the case and I don't want to take stuff I will not use. I, like you, am not too keen on skirts for daytime so if I can get away with shorts and 'cut-off's' I will take those instead.

On the sunburn issue, I plan to be pretty liberal with the sun factor so I don't fry! I had one pretty bad sunburn experience in Florida a few years ago and don't care to repeat it!

philw May 30th, 2006 12:46 PM

My wife always wears shorts on safari exzcept when it is cold (often the caes in early morning and late evening gamne drives) ....


atravelynn May 30th, 2006 04:25 PM

Shorts above the knee, but not hot pants as you mentioned, are fine.

My pants were not real heavy for the gorillas. They were made of light material that is water resistant, but not gore-tex. Ex-officio zip-offs.

As to the modesty factor for tanks--I really don't see them on safari much. I think it has more to do with sun and bugs (which aren't bad) than modesty. However, I would not wear sleeveless shirts in Rwanda or even Kenya, though I don't think twice about tank tops at home. But I may be much older than you and I think less modest clothing is more acceptable on young women.

You could ask your travel agent about it. The clothing suggestions I have gotten from my agent do not mention packing tank tops or sleeveless shirts. However there is no warning against them.

One thing your post has done is remind me of how to spell sleeve. (not sleave, as I wrote above.)

kumasawa May 30th, 2006 05:10 PM

My wife and I are also doing a gorilla trek in Rwanda in July and I have been thinking about clothing for the trek. We have sturdy hiking boots and safari pants. What did people wear on top? Is a long sleeve shirt enough protection? Should we bring a jacket to protect from the nettles? A fleece to keep us warm? Are gardening gloves helpful (as I've read in some places)?

Lillipets May 31st, 2006 03:18 AM


I visited the gorillas in July of 2003. Long pants, sturdy hiking shoes/boots, and a long sleeved shirt should be fine. Definitely bring the gardening gloves! Ask for a walking stick too. It really made a difference for me.
I look forward to hearing all about it!

waynehazle May 31st, 2006 08:36 AM

Think cold and damp for your gorilla trekking.

I was there in October. If you want to see what we were all wearing and getting a good idea of your experience. Go to my East Africa page and click the gorilla link.
it is a 93MB quicktime file. You can also download 3 smaller chunks from the same page.


Nyamera May 31st, 2006 09:31 AM

Opinions about how much skin you can show and on which body parts vary a lot between different tribes and social classes, but Id say that shorts on a woman in the Kenyan countryside is completely unthinkable, except when on a tourist then its expected.

OnlyMeOirish May 31st, 2006 11:21 AM

Lynn - I'm not sure if I am still calssed as a 'young woman' ? - I'm in my early 30's. I don't actually have a Travel Agent to ask - booked it independently - that is, apart from Kennedy in Nairobi.

Phil , Nyamera - Shorts it is then! Do you think they will be OK in Nairobi too?

Thanks everyone,

santharamhari May 31st, 2006 06:15 PM

My main concern would be mosquitos exposed to open skin. So i wear long pants. Makes sense to lounge around in your tent etc., in shorts. The good thing about Africa is, even in the mid-day sun, when it does get's mostly a dry heat.....not as bad!!!


aby May 31st, 2006 06:40 PM

Hi all (& partiularly Imelda)

i still remember the days, in Malindi's Market, when orthodox Moslem
women dressed in "BUI BUI" robe with only part of the face exposed, sitting next to Mijikenda (Giriama) women with BARE BREASTS !!

# Nairobi is not moslem ...
# on Safari it is really Ok to wear shorts
# Tourists r concieved as outsiders and therefore r accepted together with their strange habits. (still, women, do not expose your breasts Please! - even on the beach)

Hari - u know u shouldn't worry about mosquitoes during daytime...

Anyhow, Imelda get yourself those "zip-off to shorts zip-on to long" ...


santharamhari May 31st, 2006 08:44 PM


True......but the evening drive turns into night. Morning drive starts from the dark......

That leaves the mid-day siesta wear shorts!!!


cybor Jun 1st, 2006 05:05 AM

Shorts in Nairobi.
I recall Nairobi as a pretty cosmopolitan city with nicely dressed people. If you think you'd be comfortable in NYC wearing shorts than I see no reason to not wearing them in Nairobi - personal choice.

cybor Jun 1st, 2006 05:08 AM

p.s. OMO,
ya, early 30's, your still a youngish women........... at least compared to a few of us and the world in general, I think :)

Patty Jun 1st, 2006 08:18 AM

I wear shorts on safari if it's really hot, but usually I just wear long or cropped pants. I personally wouldn't feel comfortable walking around Nairobi in shorts.

JanGoss Jun 1st, 2006 02:31 PM


Knee length or walking shorts are fine while in the parks. I would not wear them around Nairobi unless you are being picked up at your hotel to go to Giraffe Manor, Sheldrick Trust, etc. As Cybor mentioned, you will often see some well-dressed business people in Nairobi so I wouldn't walk around the city in shorts. T-shirts or sleeveless blouses are fine. Please keep in mind though that in late July/early August you could run into some pretty cold weather evenings and early mornings necessitating a sweat-
shirt or fleece jacket (depending on which parks you are going to).

The one thing I would not wear is a tank top. I heard lots of critical comments from the African men seeing women dressed "naked".

atravelynn Jun 1st, 2006 07:37 PM


You are young!


I agree with Lillpets on the clothing. I went in July. You will be offered a walking stick--take it.

waynehazle Jun 2nd, 2006 07:16 AM

By the way on the walkign stick: you will get one and be allowed to use it until the guides walking a few dozen yeards ahead of you spot the gorillas. Then they will have you leave the walking sticks and any large bags with your porters.

Gorillas rightfully get a little freaked out when a bunch of humans show up with ticks, bags and other equipment.

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