Wearing Beige

Wearing Beige in Africa? 

That may not be a remarkable or surprising statement considering you’ve probably seen many photos of people on safari in Africa and almost all of them are wearing beige! I wasn’t planning to be one of them. I already have some perfect, blue, zip-off pants, a bright blue lightweight shirt and an exact clone of that shirt in pink too. I thought I was all set. Besides, I would rather wear something with a little color than the same beige everyone seems to wear. But, color choice turns out to be a matter of life and death. (Well, that might be a little dramatic, but there is some truth behind it).


In the process of reading about what to bring on a safari, I learned that tsetse flies are attracted to blue and black. What’s the big deal about tsetse flies? They carry the protozoa that causes African sleeping sickness. As a biologist, I have a healthy respect for protozoans. Usually it’s the microscopic things, like protozoans, that cause the most misery when they come within range of your body. In the case of contracting African sleeping sickness, your body starts reacting with a fever, joint pain and headaches. Once those sneaky, one-celled protozoans worm their way into your brain, they cause behavioral changes, extreme sleepiness and worsening coordination. Without treatment, African sleeping sickness will be your demise. Tsetse flies inject the protozoan directly into you when they bite and in their quest for things to bite, scientists think they’re looking for a colors that contrast with the general background colors (greens and beiges). Bright blue seems particularly appealing. The attraction is so strong scientists working in Uganda came up with a special tsetse flytrap. The trap has a blue piece of fabric to attract the flies and an accompanying net smothered in insecticide to do them in. The traps seem to be working.


Once I ruled out blue and black (black would’ve been too hot anyway), I thought there are still so many great colors I could wear. I should’ve known this, but imagine you’re a big animal on the savanna doing your own thing and a Land Rover pulls into view. It may not be noteworthy if the vehicle is beige then stops. But what if there are squirming beings in bright pink or neon green moving around in that vehicle? Yep, you guessed it. Bright colors might frightened away the very animals you’re hoping to see. White has the same effect.


So that’s how I found myself ordering lightweight beige shirts and beige zip-off pants online. Yawn. I’ll be wearing beige on my African safari. But, I might stuff those beige pockets with dryer sheets. I hear the smell might deter gnats and mosquitoes!


What are your thoughts on the best clothes for an adventure in Africa?


Guest Post by Terry Dunn of EcoTripMatch.com Terry Lawson Dunn holds a master’s degree in environmental communications, a bachelor’s degree in wildlife science, has worked for World Wildlife Fund, Smithsonian National Zoo, National Audubon Society, and World Resources Institute. She authored the publication, Guide to Global Environmental Issues and recently published the award winning book, Art of the National Parks. She has also participated in wildlife field research projects ranging from wolf reintroduction in the Northern Rocky Mountains to bird research in Panama. Terry launched EcoTripMatch in 2016 to better connect tourists to eco-destinations in an effort to support conservation and communities.

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