Before You Go: Common Safari Terms To Know To Have The Best Safari Experience : When you go on a safari for the first time, you can anticipate hearing a lot of unfamiliar words and phrases, some of which are amusing to learn and some of which are useful. Your tour guide may use a few words to explain what you’re seeing and why you’re seeing it, then provide specific details to fill in the gaps. Learning some basic lingo will keep you on track because you won’t want to miss a word of the conversation.

Read on to become familiar with a number of common words, phrases, and local terms you’re likely to hear on safari, such as have you ever heard of a kopje or a boma? Or which animals are considered the Big Five, the Little Five, and the Ugly Five?


The Big Five

The term Big Five” refers to the five game animals that were the most challenging to hunt and were sought after as trophies back when hunting was done in the open. The biggest, riskiest, and most difficult to hunt animals are lions, leopards, elephants, African buffalo, and rhinos. In the 19th and 20th centuries, these animals were hunted heedlessly and relentlessly. But now, as a result of Tanzania’s government’s concerted conservation efforts and harsh penalties for poachers, the animal populations are either reviving or at the very least holding on.

The Little Five

In nature, there are both large and small things. Therefore, pay close attention to your surroundings the next time you go on an African safari to avoid missing these adorable little creatures. These adorable-sounding creatures include the elephant shrew, ant lion, buffalo weaver, rhino beetle, and leopard tortoise. Despite their small size, these creatures are crucial to the continent’s biodiversity and ecological balance.

The Ugly Five

Never judge a book by its cover. In spite of their lack of physical beauty, the wildebeest, warthog, spotted hyena, marabou stork, and vulture make up for it with tenacious survivalism, which is very important on the African savanna. And have no fear—when on a safari, you’ll find these creatures with ease. They could be referred to as the ubiquitous five!

Crepuscular Animals

We should review some biology now. Animals that are crepuscular hunt and gather food at dawn and dusk. Anytime the sun is above or below the horizon and the light is dim, you can see them slinking and skulking through the bush. We always advise leaving on safari game drives before dawn because lions belong in this group (as do bats!).

Diurnal Animals

This one should be obvious. Animals that are diurnal are awake during the day when the sun is high and asleep at night. The early morning and late afternoon are prime times for cheetah hunting. Cheetahs can avoid most competition from larger and more powerful predators by being diurnal, which allows them to be active during the day. Additionally, cheetahs are nocturnal because they need good lighting for their incredibly fast-moving hunts.


The majority of animals—roughly 70%—are nocturnal and active at night. The best time to see leopards, bush babies, and porcupines in motion is during night game drives.


Plants and animals that are endemic to a specific region are still considered native species. The kipunji monkey and the black-throated monitor lizard are two examples of Tanzania’s native wildlife.


People frequently mix up indigenous and endemic. When a species is native to a location, it simply means that it naturally occurs there. It is indigenous. However, a species may simultaneously be native to several locations. In contrast, when we say a species is endemic to a location, we mean that it only naturally occurs there.


Elephants or wild boars with large, well-developed tusks are called tuskers.

Bush Baby

Contrary to popular belief, lost human infants are not raised in the wild as bush babies. They are a species of nocturnal primate with saucer-shaped eyes. These adorable little monkeys, also known as galagos, reside on the African continent and spend the majority of their time foraging for food in trees.



The majority of Maasai don’t reside in villages. Instead, they reside in family settlements known as bomas. A boma is a single-male-led homestead where his wives and kids reside in numerous huts. The boma expands as the family does, adding more huts. Additionally, livestock are housed in a boma to keep predators away.


The term “the bush” is used colloquially to refer to any African savanna or grassland that is home to a wide variety of animals.


These are areas of a national park or other public reserve that are specifically maintained by private organizations to protect the environment and wildlife.

Game Reserve

Game reserves are large areas of land set aside as protected habitats for wild animals. They are also referred to as a wildlife preserve or game park. For instance, one of the world’s largest game reserves is the Serengeti National Park.


Hides are partially underground, camouflaged shelters from which you can observe wildlife up close. These are typically constructed at lookout points close to waterholes, where you might anticipate seeing many animals stop for a drink.


The Serengeti plains’ rocky islands are referred to as kopje, a Dutch term that roughly translates to “little head” in this context.

Safari Lodge

Unlike safari camps, which are temporary structures made of wood, stone, or concrete, safari lodges offer lodging that is typically larger and equipped with more amenities.


This is the term used to describe a pile of animal waste that many mammals, the white rhino in particular, frequent and re-establish as a territorial marker. The rhino dung piles, which can be seen from the side of the road, can grow to be up to nine feet wide.

 National Park

A designated area set aside by the government to guard against human encroachment and preserve the natural environment and wildlife.

 Nature Reserve

Nature reserves are designated areas of land managed by the government or any private organization to preserve wildlife, similar to national parks.

Open Borders

To allow wildlife to freely move between two areas, some private reserves share an open border with a larger national park or game reserve.

Private Concessions

These are particular sections of a national park or a public reserve that a safari company rents out for personal use, camping, and game drives. These are managed separately from the park. These locations allow you to go on an exclusive safari that is typically not possible elsewhere, like night game drives.


In tropical and subtropical areas of Africa, savannas are grassy plains with sporadic bushes and few trees. Only the wet and dry seasons occur in the savanna ecosystem, which is renowned for fostering the evolution of numerous large mammals, including prey and predators.


Dry, Peak, Or High Season

The dry season, also known as peak or high season, is the dry winter season in Tanzania when animals seek out and gather in large groups near waterholes and rivers to drink, making them easier to find. Due to the thinning of the vegetation, this is arguably the best time to go on a safari. Due to the excellent game viewing during this time, including the Great Migration, popular safari destinations experience high visitor numbers.

 Green/Rainy/Wet / Low Season

This slang for safari refers to a specific time period in Africa that occurs during the warm, rainy months. When nature is in full bloom and the country is at its greenest and quietest, now is the ideal time to travel there. The green season is thought to be a slow time for safari travel, in contrast to the dry season. Although the abundance of new leaves and tall grass may make it more difficult to see wildlife, you may be able to benefit from some fantastic travel deals. Additionally, it is one of the best times to take a safari because you can see a lot of newly born animals.

 Shoulder Season

This industry term describes the interim months between winter and summer, when there may be the occasional shower but no significant downpours.

Rutting Season

Common Safari Terms To Know To Have The Best Safari Experience
Serengeti N.P

The rutting (breeding) season, which lasts from April to June during the Great Wildebeest Migration, is one of nature’s most breathtaking displays. This is when half a million wildebeest mate and males compete for dominance in a loud, violent battle for prime grazing patches.

Calving Season

Following the rain and the new grass it brings, the wildebeest continue their migration south and enter the Ndutu region, which connects the southern Serengeti and the northern Ngorongoro Conservation Area. For the calving season, nearly two million wildebeest gather here. 

Each day between late December and March, over 8,000 calves are born. Thousands of zebras and gazelles live in these enormous herds, which feed on the nourishing grass that grows in the fertile volcanic soil to help feed the calves.

The Great Migration

The Great Migration, which occurs in the larger Serengeti ecosystem, which includes the Masai Mara, is nature’s greatest spectacle. The Great Migration, which takes place every year, is the world’s largest migration of land mammals. Nearly two million animals, including wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle, travel annually between the two regions in search of food and water.


Guide/Field Guide

Being alone in the African wilderness can be challenging. Whether you choose a nature walk or a game drive, our guides will accompany you on all safari excursions throughout the national parks and offer fascinating insights into the landscape and wildlife in the area. You can refer to them as your Tanzanian tour guides (and, after your safari, as family).

Nature Walk/Walking Safari

You can sign up for a nature walk if you want to leave the safari vehicle and see another side of the wilderness. You will have the chance to see the intricate details of the African wildlife and the larger ecosystem. On this adventure, you will follow the daily movements of wild animals while being guided by your armed guide.

Night Game Drive

A powerful spotlight is used during this nighttime game drive in a comfortable 4X4 safari vehicle to observe nocturnal animals in Africa, such as leopards, bush babies, and aardvarks.


This is a special safari package that allows you to reserve a lodge or camp just for your family. In addition to other luxurious and individualized services, this means that kids of all ages are welcome. You will also have full access to a private safari vehicle with a personal driver guide for the duration of your stay.


You’ve probably heard the word used a lot, but what does it actually mean? The Swahili word for “travel” is safari. Today, seeing a particular region’s wildlife requires traveling on land. Due to its diverse wildlife and cultural heritage, Africa has gained tremendous popularity for safaris over the past century.


The star-bed experience is a safari adventure where you snooze under the stars in a tree house or other open-air setting while wearing a mosquito net. In addition to the sporadic nocturnal roars of lions and hyenas, you can hear the natural lullabies of crickets and other wildlife.


A sundowner at the end of the safari day is one of the most common customs. It involves making a drink stop at sunset, typically at a scenic area or vantage point, and taking in a peaceful sunset.


When on safari, a tracker is frequently included in the team by many safari operators to monitor wildlife activity. A tracker’s duty is to locate wildlife in the area by expertly tracing animal footprints. 

Horseback Safari

You can go on a horseback safari to see big game on horseback if you’re feeling daring. When you are mounted on a horse and traveling through the African savannah, you will be able to explore your surroundings in great detail.

Hot Air Balloon Safari

Want to see Tanzania from above to fully appreciate its beauty? Tanzania can be enjoyed from the air; riding in a hot air balloon through the air while taking in a birds-eye view of the picturesque and vast wilderness and wildlife below is a must-do adventure when visiting East Africa. A hot, steaming cup of coffee and the sunrise typically mark the beginning of a balloon safari.

Photographic Safari

On a photographic safari, your only objective is to capture images of the breathtaking wildlife and surroundings as you embark on an exciting expedition into the wild. Both experienced amateurs and professional photographers have plenty of opportunities to capture special images for their photo albums.

Urban Safari

When you land in locations like Arusha or Zanzibar, your safari doesn’t come to an end. Urban safaris are guided tours of Tanzania’s tourist hubs that give you the chance to get to know the locals, sample their cuisine, and discover their way of life.


It is advantageous to have some background knowledge of the local wildlife and geography before beginning a Tanzanian safari. Understanding the local language and vocabulary can improve your comprehension of the area and the safari experience. You can better ask questions, communicate your needs, and make the most of your adventure by learning a few key words. Finally, learning about the regional traditions and culture can enhance your trip and leave a lasting impression.

The guides at Focus East Africa Tours are enthusiastic about assisting tourists in discovering and appreciating Tanzania’s natural beauty. We provide individualized safari journeys that will lead you off the beaten track and assist you in exploring Tanzania’s wild, diverse landscape. Whether you want to take a hot-air balloon ride over the Serengeti or go on a game drive to explore the Serengeti, our knowledgeable guides will help you plan the ideal Tanzanian safari.

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