The African Safari Glossary: Tour and Safari Terms used in the African wildlife context
African Safari Glossary
This is a collection of tour, travel and safari words that are largely applied in the tourism context
Game viewing from a hot air balloon. Balloon safaris are available in for example Masai Mara in Kenya and Serengeti in Tanzania.
On foot with a local nature guide scouting for birds.
Wilderness / Nature.
Also known as the Cockpit Recorder or the Flight Data Recorder. Records all the data transmissions such as altitude, air speed, etc., and voice and sound transmissions.
A rental cottage or bungalow. The standard varies from basic to comfortable including staff.
The five mammal species:
– African elephant
– African buffalo
These dangerous species were once (and may still be) desired trophies for big game hunters, who coined the expression The Big Five.
Staying in a small tent, sleeping in a sleeping bag on a mattress. Hygiene facilities are communal, the standard varying between camping sites but often simple; pit toilet and cold water available. Packaged camping safaris often include a cook.
A mammal that eats other animals. (There are a few exceptions, such as the giant panda in Asia, which is a carnivore that does not eat meat.) Lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyaenas and jackals are some of the carnivores found in East Africa. “The Carnivore” is the name of a restaurant in Nairobi, where meat from various African game animals is served.
Civil Aviation Authority
The crew members of an aircraft responsible for the welfare of passengers, luggage and cargo.
The safari vehicles on packaged tours are driven by a driver guide, i.e. a local driver who is also guiding the safari. Most guiding is in English, but some driver guides also speak other languages.
A collective name for the countries Kenya, Tanzania Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi in eastern Africa.
A local animal or plant species that is found nowhere else.
Ecological Tourism that exposes visitors to local culture, wilderness adventures, volunteering, personal growth, and learning new ways to live on the Earth.
Luggage that exceeds an airline’s weight allowance and is liable to an extra charge.
Estimated time of arrival.
Flying safari, safari by air
A safari where you fly to and between the parks, instead of travelling by road. Once in the park, the game viewing is done from a vehicle or on foot.
Safari in open vehicles, either jeeps or mini-vans where the roof top can be opened so that you can watch the wildlife. Often takes place in the morning or in the afternoon. In some places it is possible to go on a night/evening game drive.
Safari in open boats.
Experience/Watch the wildlife.
Game Walk / Walking Safari / Bush Walk
A safari on food in the company with a local nature guide, usually in the middle of the day where the animals are less active.
A year taken off by young people and students between years of education study or between graduating and starting work.
This is the process of going into the wild like to the forests, bushes or thickets looking for Gorillas. Its a term used mainly for searching Mountain Gorillas but can also be applied on other types of gorillas such Low-land gorillas.
Person who travels widely – normally a frequent flyer.
Great Rift Valley
The largest rift valley in the world, cutting straight through Kenya and Tanzania. It stretches from the Jordan Valley to Mozambique. Some parks, for example Lake Nakuru in Kenya and Lake Manyara in Tanzania, are situated in the Great Rift Valley.
A lodging reservation held for passenger’s late arrival, usually secured by a credit card obligation to pay even if the passenger never arrives at the lodging.
An expression in Swahili, meaning “do not worry”, “no problem, we will handle it”.
International Air Transport Association.
Travelling between cities and often refers to as rail travel.
International Civil Aviation Organization:
An agency of the United Nations which deals with problems of international civil aviation and sets standards and regulations.
Complete travel schedule, as well as the itemised route of a means of transport.
A travel plan, schedule, course, record of a journey
An animal that eats grass, leaves and other plants.
The highest mountain in Africa, 5,895 m/19,340 ft, situated in northern Tanzania. Can be climbed by amateurs in 5â€“6 days.
Pronounced “copy”. Also know as inselberg. A hill consisting of primary rock (gneiss and granite) rising out of the plain or savanna. A common feature in Serengeti and around Lake Victoria. Kopjes often attract vegetation and wildlife, and are good spots to look for the big cats.
Short for the Kenyan airline Kenya Airways.
4WD safari vehicle, carrying up to four or six safari-goers (depending on model). Has permanent four-wheel drive, differential lock and high and low gears. Most have diesel engines.
4WD safari vehicle, carrying up to four or six safari-goers (depending on model). Has two- and four-wheel drive, differential lock and high and low gears. Most have diesel engines.
A hotel in the bush. You stay in a room or a bungalow, which usually has a private bathroom with WC and shower or bathtub. Lodges have restaurants, and often bars, souvenir shops, and observation points, sometimes also swimming pools.
“The long rains” is the rainy season that usually comes to East Africa in April and May. A lot of rain can be expected, and it is not a good time for safaris. It is a low season in the safari industry.
The Maasai tribe lives on the plains of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania, herding cattle and goats. They were formerly known as fierce warriors. Easily recognised by their custom of dressing in reds.
A (blood parasite) disease spread by mosquitoes. Deadly if not treated.
Masai Mara, the Mara
A famous national reserve in south-western Kenya. The prime park of Kenya.
The migration is the huge herds of around 1..5 million wildebeest (the number varies, depending on how well the wildebeest are doing) and a few hundred thousand zebras in the Serengeti-Masai Mara ecosystem on the Tanzania-Kenyan border. The herds keep moving between different grazing areas, repeating a similar route every year.
2WD safari vehicle, carrying up to six safari-goers. There are also 4WD minibuses, but they are not as common.
National Park and national reserve
A protected nature area. National parks and reserves are protected by stricter rules than other types of parks, such as game reserves, conservation areas and forest reserves.
Game viewing from a safari vehicle at night. A hand-held searchlight is usually used for spotting the animals.
A place for stationary game viewing, often found in lodges and camps. Some parks have good observation points, for example Observation Hill in Amboseli, from where you can see huge areas of the park.
Omnivore: (adj. omnivorous) an animal that eats both plant and animal matter (Humans are omnivores.)
Parasitic: the act of harmfully living off of another organism without benefiting it in any way
An area where wildlife and nature is protected, for example a national park or game reserve.
The entrance into a park, where you pay an entrance fee (which is included in most packaged tours). The gate is guarded by park rangers, and there are often toilets, a shop and information about the park.
Patriarchal: refers to groups where males lead the social unit
Percolate: when water passes through the grains of soil
Perissodactyl: any hoofed animal of the odd-toed ungulates (horses, rhinoceroses, tapirs)
Poaching: the illegal killing or taking of an animal for food or profit
Polygamous: a male (or female) who may have several mates
Polygyny: a male with one dominant female and a few subordinate female mates
Predation: behaviour that involves one species killing and eating another
Predator: an animal that hunts and kills other animals for food
Prehensile: specially adapted to curl around and grab objects
Prey: an animal that is hunted by a predator
The mammal order of apes, monkeys and pro-simians (for example galagos and lemurs). The primates most seen on safaris in Kenya and Tanzania are baboons and vervet monkeys. Wild chimpanzees are found in western Tanzania.
Producer: an organism capable of making the complex compounds necessary for life (In the case of plants, this is done by photosynthesis)
Protein: the building blocks of life; any of a class of highly complex nitrogenous (nitrogen-based) organic compounds originally synthesised (made by plants) and after hydrolysis by enzymes, into amino acids, forming an essential part of the processes of animal metabolism
Range: the area in which a species can be found
A guard or watchman protecting a park. Rangers guard park entrances, patrol the bush in anti-poaching units, assist safari-goers in distress etc. Many rangers are armed.
Rain shadow: Mountain ranges cause moisture laden air masses to drop their rain and snow as they climb over the mountains. As the air descends, it warms and picks up moisture, dropping very little. This is known as a rain shadow. It is an abiotic factor.
Rain forest: a forest where precipitation is very high
Receptive: in this case it refers to a female that is willing to accept a mate.
Respiration: the process in plants and animals whereby oxygen is taken from the air and/or water and carbon dioxide is released as a waste byproduct
Rodents: a family of mammals which have large front teeth used for gnawing
Roundworm: a type of primitive creature that lives inside other animals for most of its existence (lung-worms are also a type of roundworm)
Ruminant: a mammal that chews a cud such as cattle, deer, sheep, goats, antelope
The word “safari” derives from the Swahili word for “journey” or to Travel. In the tourist industry, it means a tour to or in the African bush, focusing on seeing wild animals. Safari is also the name of a Tanzanian beer.
Lodge is a hotel in the preserves. Usually build from natural materials and falls nicely into the landscape. Each room has their own bath and toilet and often a porch. The lodges have usually beautiful gardens and pools. A lodge is the preferred accommodation with luxuries buffet and relaxations.
A tent for two persons, big enough for normal beds (and usually additional furniture). Safari tents in permanent tented camps have a private bathroom with toilet and shower.
The savanna ecosystem has two main components: grasses and trees. It ranges from grasslands scattered with the odd tree, to woodlands with open canopy, allowing sunlight to reach the ground to support grass. The northern and eastern savannas of East Africa are drier (250-1,000 mm/10-40 in of rain per year), the southern and western savannas moister (1,000-1,500 mm/40-60 in of rain per year).
A safari where you drive the vehicle yourself, instead of travelling as a passenger in a vehicle driven by a driver guide.
A famous national park in northern Tanzania and Southern Kenya (Masai Mara).
“The short rains” is the rainy season that usually comes to East Africa in November. The rainfall is not too heavy, so safaris are possible during this season.
Savannah: a tropical grassland with sparse trees
Sea Stacks: the small, steep-sided islands that rise out of the ocean
Sexual dimorphism: refers to the difference in size between one sex and another in a given species. In some species males are larger (i.e. elephants), in others females are (i.e hyenas) and in some they are about the same size (i.e. geese)
Scavenger: any animal that lives off the dead remains of plants and animals
Social anthropologist: an anthropologist who studies groups of people and their society
A lake where the water has a high content of soda (sodium carbonate or sodium bicarbonate). Most soda lakes are shallow and have inlets only, no outlets. Water containing a tiny part of soda flows into the lake, and leaves the soda there when later evaporating. The soda content in the lake gradually increases. Water with a high soda content is undrinkable, but is favoured by small crustaceans, on which flamingos feed. Many soda lakes are found in the Great Rift Valley.
Species: organisms that can reproduce their own kind (see also Genus) (A distinct animal or plant group that shares similar characteristics and can produce offspring within its group.)
Species of Concern: a species that scientists feel might be threatened or that could become threatened but for which there is little data or research available
Stereo-vision: this refers to the ability to see in three dimensions (Cats, dogs, and primates, including humans, all have this ability. It helps these animals to judge distance. This is especially important for hunting animals.)
Succession: a process of gradual change in which one wildlife community replaces another
Suckling: the feeding behaviour of very young mammals as they get milk from their mother’s teats
Symbiosis: (symbiotic) a close association between two species that benefits both species
Similar to a lodge, but you stay in a furnished tent, mostly sized for two people. There is usually a private bathroom with WC and shower at the back, accessible from inside the tent. Meals are served in a restaurant or mess tent. Larger camps may have souvenir shops, bars, other permanent buildings, and swimming pools, and are often referred to as tented lodges.
The Big Five: “Lion, Buffalo, Rhino, Leopard, and Elephant, known as the big five from the old days, named by the hunters because they where most dangerous and hardest to kill.
Territory: an area that an animal claims and defends as its own (Territories usually contain the food, water and shelter the animal needs. In the case of a female, it must also provide for her offspring.)
Threatened: a species that may become endangered if immediate action is not taken to save it
Tree: a woody plant over 2 meters tall, typically with one trunk
Triassic Period: the first period of the Mesozoic Era (It lasted from 225-200 million years ago. Dinosaurs first appeared here.)
Trophic level: a feeding level in a food chain
Tropic: usually a warm to hot climate; the zone between the Tropic of Cancer (23.5° N) and the Tropic of Capricorn (23.5° S)
A safari guide on packaged tours, usually a native speaker of your own language, employed by the travel company that has arranged your tour.
A local company on the safari destination that owns safari vehicles, employs driver guides, and does local hotel, lodge and flight bookings. Tour operators provide all local services and arrangements required for your safari.
Travel company or travel agent
A company in your own country that sells safari tours. It contracts a Kenyan or Tanzanian tour operator to handle all local arrangements and services.
A stiff porridge usually made from maize or cassava, eaten with a meat, fish or vegetable sauce. A very common staple food dish in East Africa. Sometimes served on buffets in lodges and camps.
Ungulate, hoofed animal
A mammal with hoofed feet. Most East African mammals eating grass and leaves, for example zebras, giraffes and elephants, are ungulates.
Volcano: the mountain created by the force of magma pushing through the Earth’s crust
Vulnerable: a species that may become threatened if action is not taken to help it
Weaned: refers to an animal that no longer needs its mother’s milk and can eat the normal food for its specie