Essential Swahili for your Kenya Safari

By January 9, 2017Uncategorized

There is nothing better than a genuine smile and a warm ‘Hujambo!’ when you arrive on safari in Kenya. The warmth of the Swahili language is obvious, although it is often followed up with a clumsy ‘Hello’ from a guest and no idea of what to say next. Just as it’s great to learn about all the wildlife in Kenya when you’re on safari, a few days with a great safari guide will also give you an opportunity to learn about the rich cultures and language that the Maasai have.

Did you know that in Swahili a Giraffe is ‘twiga’? A twiga sounds much more appropriate to us because giraffes like to nibble on the twigs and leaves on Acacia trees.

We’ve compiled a list of animal names and basic phrases to help you when you’re on your safari in Kenya. Your guide will be amazed and undoubtedly touched by your effort.


Swahili translations for animal names

Animal – Mnyama

Antelope – Paa

Baboon – Nyani

Bird(s) – Ndege

Buffalo – Nyati

Bushbaby (Lesser) – Kombo

Cheetah – Duma

Crocodile – Mamba

Eland – Pofu

Elephant – Ndovu/Tembo

Giraffe – Twiga

Hippo – Kiboko

Hyena – Fisi

Impala – Swalapala

Jackal (Black-backed) – Bweha

Leopard – Chui

Lion – Simba

Mongoose – Ngushiro

Monkey (Vervet) – Tumbili

Monkey (Common name) – Kima

Ostrich – Mbuni

Porcupine – Nungu

Python – Chatu

Rhino – Kifaru

Snake – Nyoka

Warthog – Ngiri

Waterbuck – Kuru

Wild Dog – Mbwa mwitu

Wildebeest – Nyumbu

Zebra – Punda milia

General phrases in Swahili

Welcome   Karibu (sg)  Karibuni (pl)

Hello (General greeting)  Habari (inf)   Hujambo (sg) Hamjambo (pl) Sijambo (reply)

How are you? Habari? Hujambo? Habari yako? Habari gani?

Reply to ‘How are you?‘ Nzuri Sijambo

What’s your name? Jina lako ni nani?

My name is…  Jina langu ni…

Where are you from?  Unatoka wapi?

I’m from…  Natoka…

Pleased to meet you   Nafurahi kukuona   Nimefurahi kukutana nawe

Good morning    Habari ya asubuhi

Good afternoon  Habari ya mchana

Good evening   Habari ya jioni

Good night  Usiku mwema  Lala salama (sleep well)

Goodbye   Kwaheri

Good luck  Kila la kheri!

Traditional Maasai attire at ol Donyo

There is also a great BBC website where you can click to listen and try to get the pronunciation right
Other sources: