Easy Swahili Words To Learn

July 13, 2023 No Comments
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You just landed in Tanzania, East Africa, bursting with excitement to start your Swahili safari adventure. As you gaze out the tiny prop plane window, you spot the lush green canopy of the rainforest below and the vast golden savanna stretching to the horizon. Your heart races at the thought of the wildlife wonders that await you in this land. Over the next two weeks, you’ll immerse yourself in the rhythms of life in the bush, learning survival Swahili words and making new animal friends along the way.

Each morning, you’ll wake before dawn to the sounds of tropical birds singing their sunrise chorus. As your Land Rover bumps along dusty trails, your expert guide will point out the telltale tracks of lions on the prowl and teach you the meaning behind each bird’s call.

By the light of a crackling campfire under a sea of stars, you’ll share stories of close encounters with elephants and the melodic chant of the local villagers. This journey into the wild heart of Tanzania will awaken your senses and ignite your spirit of adventure. Karibu sana! You are most welcome! The wonders of the wild await.

Kiswahili 101: words for Your Swahili Safari

Ready for an adventure in the wilds of Tanzania? To properly explore the country’s stunning national parks, you’ll need to know some basic Swahili words. Jambo! That means “hello.”Once you’ve arrived, greet the locals with Habari or Hujambo, meaning “How are you?” They may respond Asante, or “thank you.” Make sure to say Karibu, meaning “welcome.” The Swahili word for “please” is Tafadhali. When traveling through the bush, you’ll want to know some key animal names. Simba is “lion,” tembo means “elephant,” and kiboko is “hippo.”

Twiga are giraffes with their twig-like legs. Kifaru refers to the rhino, one of the Big Five safari animals. If you spot a chui, or leopard, you’re very lucky! To inquire about wildlife sightings, ask Je! Kuna simba? which means “Hey! Are there any lions?” Or Je! Kuna ndege wapi? to ask “Where are the birds?” Your guide may point and say Hapo! or “Over there!”

Make the most of your safari by learning key Swahili words. Speak confidently, even if you make mistakes. The locals will appreciate your efforts and be happy to help. After all, utamu wa safari ni kujifunza, meaning “the sweetness of the journey is in the learning.”So grab your camera and field guide, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure exploring the wilds of Tanzania! Karibu na safari njema – welcome and have a good safari!

The “Big Five”: Swahili Names and Conservation Status

swahili words

The “Big Five” animals of East Africa are the most sought-after on any Swahili safari. Their names in Swahili reflect the deep connection between the language and wildlife. The lion, known as Simba, is a symbol of power and courage. Though populations have declined by over 40% in the last 20 years, conservation efforts are helping the great cats rebound.

The leopard, Chui, is an elusive but resilient creature. These spotted felines have healthy numbers due to their ability to adapt to various habitats. The rhinoceros, Kifaru, is tragically endangered due to poaching. Both the black and white rhino species have seen massive population decreases, but conservation organizations are working to protect these magnificent beasts.

The elephant, Tembo, is a favorite for all who glimpse these gentle giants. Though elephant numbers were once depleted due to ivory hunting, bans on the ivory trade have allowed populations to rebuild in many areas. The Cape buffalo, Nyati, is often called the “Black Death” due to its dangerous nature. However, these massive herds play an important role in the savanna ecosystem and have stable populations.

A Swahili safari allows you to appreciate these iconic animals in their natural habitat. By supporting responsible tourism and conservation efforts, we can ensure future generations also have a chance to experience the “Big Five” in the wild. What an exciting motivation to learn more about protecting these treasured creatures!

Habari Gani? Common Swahili Words Greetings and Small Talk on Safari

swahili words

The Swahili language is filled with lively greetings to energize your safari experience. As you set off on your journey, get ready to shout “Habari gani?” (What’s the news?) to everyone you meet. You’ll often hear “Nzuri sana!” (Very good!) in response. Swahili words greetings are meant to be enthusiastic and build connections between people.


This all-purpose greeting simply means “hello.” Use it when arriving at your lodge or bumping into other travelers on the trail. Flash a smile, extend your hand, and say “Jambo!” for an energetic start to any conversation.


For an extra cheerful hello, try “Hujambo!” (literally meaning “How are you?”). You’re sure to get a hearty “Sijambo!” (“I’m fine!”) in return. These upbeat greetings set a joyful and optimistic tone as you begin your adventure.


If you meet an elder, show your respect by greeting them with “Shikamoo!” Place your right hand on your chest as you bow slightly and say this phrase, which means “I hold your feet.” The proper response is “Marahaba!” (“Thank you!”). Using respectful greetings, especially with community elders, is an important part of Swahili customs.


As you continue your journey, wish others a cheerful “Kwaheri!” (Goodbye!) with a wave and a smile. This pleasant farewell reinforces the vibrant sense of community you’ll find on safari. Habari gani? Hujambo! Jambo! Shikamoo! Kwaheri! Master these lively Swahili greetings and your safari is sure to be filled with new friends and exciting connections.

Kuishi Na Wanyama: Coexisting With Kenya’s Wildlife

Coexisting with Kenya’s amazing wildlife is a dream come true! As you explore the savanna, you’ll spot herds of zebra, wildebeest, and gazelle peacefully grazing together. You may even catch a glimpse of the “Big Five”—lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo. However, it’s important to remember that these animals are wild, so keep your distance and don’t disturb them. When on safari, stay on marked trails and inside your vehicle at all times.

Zebra and wildebeest may look cute and cuddly, but they can deliver painful kicks if they feel threatened. Never attempt to feed or touch any wildlife. Keep food stored away in sealed bags or containers so you don’t attract unwanted visitors to your campsite or lodge. At night, be extremely cautious if leaving your accommodation. Many predators like hyenas, jackals, and leopards are most active after dark. Never shine bright lights at animals or make sudden loud noises that may startle them.

Flash photography can also irritate wildlife, so turn off your camera’s flash when shooting photos, especially for nocturnal animals. Conservation of Kenya’s wildlife depends on sustainable ecotourism. By following park rules and showing respect towards animals in their natural habitat, you’re helping ensure these wild places remain untouched for future generations. Appreciate each moment you have observing these magnificent creatures roaming freely.

Protecting them and their environment is a shared responsibility between locals, government, and visitors alike. Through conscious and thoughtful interaction with wildlife, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of Kenya’s natural heritage.

A safari adventure allows you to connect with the rhythms of the wild in a way that inspires wonder and promotes stewardship of our planet. Kuishi na wanyama—to live with animals—is a joy and a privilege. Protect them, and they will continue to enrich your life in untold ways.

Pale Juu: Stargazing and Storytelling Under African Skies

When night falls across the savanna, a dazzling show begins. The inky black sky comes alive with thousands of glittering stars and the Milky Way glowing brightly. On a Swahili safari, stargazing is a magical experience not to be missed. Find an open area away from harsh lighting and lay back on the soft grass.

As your eyes adjust, familiar constellations like Orion the Hunter and Leo the Lion emerge. Gaze in wonder at the Southern Cross and Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to our own. Shooting stars frequently dart across the sky, fulfilling wishes before vanishing from sight. The local guides have grown up under these stars and know them intimately.

They pass down ancient tales of how the sun and moon came to be, or how a zebra got its stripes. As the crickets gently serenade you, listen to the guides share legends of the bush and the moral lessons they teach. Their stories are as much a part of the cultural heritage as the sweeping landscapes. When the Milky Way is at its brightest, scan the sky for celestial wildlife.

The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, satellite galaxies to our own, look like wisps of stardust. Glowing nebulae birth new stars, while far-off planets appear as tiny pinpricks of light. Amid this stellar menagerie, you may even spot a lone elephant silhouetted in the distance under the watchful night sky.

A Swahili safari invites you to reconnect with nature and wonder at the wild beauty all around. After the sun dips below the horizon and the bustle of the day fades, the magic truly begins. Lay back, look up, and dream in the pale juu. An unforgettable experience awaits.


You’ve now glimpsed the wonders of Tanzania through the eyes of its magnificent wildlife and the dedicated conservationists working to protect them. Their mission is vital to securing the future of these precious species that make this corner of the world so special. Though the challenges are enormous, the rewards of success are priceless.

Now go out and share your newfound knowledge and passion for this vibrant ecosystem and culture. Become an advocate for conservation. Support organizations protecting threatened habitats and the animals that inhabit them.

Visit and experience it for yourself, if you’re able. However you choose to help, know that you can make a difference in ensuring the survival of these fascinating creatures for generations to come. The adventure may be ending, but the journey is just beginning!

Make Swahili easy and fun!
Learning Swahili words doesn’t have to be difficult or boring. With our engaging resources, we make studying Swahili easy, enjoyable, and effective. Our goal is to help you fall in love with the Swahili language through fun lessons, activities, and useful phrases.

To learn about animals in Swahili check out Learn Swahili: Animals

Use this resource as a fun and engaging way to introduce your student(s) to Animals, or use it as an excellent review activity! What’s Included: 10 slides of beautifully illustrated vocabulary activities that engage students in learning about animals including a word search, writing practice in Swahili, drag, and match, and many more fun activities!Animals in this resource: Cats, dogs, rabbits, and so much more! This resource is perfect for beginning learners of Swahili! If you have any questions before you purchase, please feel free to contact me!

 Besides the products linked above, I have many other activities in my TPT store that are designed to help you learn Kiswahili while having fun! 

Want It All?

Check out The Great Ultimate Bundle, which has 34 products for learning Kiswahili! 

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I'm an elementary school teacher who loves what she does! I enjoy creating resources in my Native language "kiswahili". My goal is to spread the beautiful language of "Kiswahili" inside and outside the classroom. Thanks for stopping by! Read More

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