South African Safari Terms You Need To Know

Derived from the Swahili word for ‘journey’, the term “safari” refers to an adventure or expedition into the African wilderness, where you’ll have the opportunity to encounter and experience wildlife and untamed nature safely and respectfully.

Going on a South African safari is an incredible adventure, and there’s some fun language and and local lingo you can learn to make the most of your experience! We’ve put together our top South African safari terms you need to know.



This is South Africa‘s famous cream liqueur which is made with sugar, cream and the fruit of the African marula tree. It’s the perfect sundowner or addition to your morning coffee when on safari, known as a ‘ranger’s coffee’.



A tasty South African snack of dried, cured meat, perfect for keeping your energy up on safari.

Big Five

This classic safari term refers to the lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros, and African buffalo. These animals are particularly dangerous for hunters on foot, hence the name.


Afrikaans for “buck dung,” this refers specifically to the droppings of antelope or giraffe. You might even be challenged to a bokdrol spoeg (dung spitting) competition!

Boma Dinner

A highlight of many safaris, this is a traditional South African dinner under the stars in a fire-lit enclosure.


Used interchangeably with ‘bush’, bushveld also refers to any savanna or grassland inhabited by big game.


No trip to South Africa is complete without a braai, a delicious barbecue cooked over an open fire.



Conservancies are designated areas of a national park or other public reserves that are privately maintained to manage and preserve wildlife and the environment.


Animals that prefer to be active or appear during the time of day before the sun goes down or just after the sun rises. In short, when the light is not too bright, you’ll find these animals skulking the land. Crepuscular animals include lions and bats.


Day Trip Safari

A safari that is one day or half a day in duration. View Aquila’s seven different day trip safari options, offering 2 to 3 hour safari game drives — allowing you to depart from and be back in Cape Town in one day!

Dagga Boys

Solitary older male buffalos are sometimes referred to as Dagga Boys (dagga meaning ‘mud’). This is after they have been forced out of a herd by young, virile bulls, or have fallen behind the herd due to their need for softer vegetation.


Also known as a hyrax, dassies are considered the closest living relative of the African elephant, dassies are small, hoofed mammals native to Africa.

Diurnal Animals

Animals that are active during the day and sleep at night. Diurnal animals in Africa include elephants and meerkats.


The Afrikaans word for a small rural town or village, “dorp” and even “dorpie” are commonly used in South Africa.


Early Morning Game Drive

An early morning game drive or ‘sunrise safari’ refers to the first game drive of the day, usually occurring at the break of dawn, between 04h30 and 08h00.


Field Guide

A field guide is A field guide is a trained and experienced professional who leads tours and provides information about the local and natural environment. They are essentially your expert companions throughout your safari, ensuring you get the most out of your experience.


Game Drive

This is your core safari activity, where you’ll get to explore the reserve in a 4×4 vehicle. Led by a knowledgeable guide who is familiar with the area, you’ll have the best chance to sight and find game.

Game Ranger

Game Ranger: A game range is primarily responsible for the management of wildlife reserves or national parks. Their duties include the continued well-being of wildlife, population management, game capture and introductions, controlled burning and environmental education – amongst other things. They can also form part of vital anti-poaching units that ensure the success of conservation efforts.

Game Reserve

Also known as a wildlife reserve or game park, game reserves are a large area of land set aside as a protected area for free-roaming game and wild animals. For example, Aquila Private Game Reserve is Cape Town’s closest big 5 game reserve and is home to lions, elephants, rhinos, zebra, giraffe and more.

Gin & Tonic (G&T)

G&Ts are arguably the most popular drink on safari. The highball cocktail, comprising gin and tonic water poured over a large amount of ice, makes for the perfect sundowner at the end of a long day of safari adventures.



Safari Lodges and camps use hides as a camouflaged or semi-subterranean shelter that provides a closer look at the wildlife passing by or stopping for a drink at a waterhole. Hides are the best places to snag that perfect wildlife shot.



Plants, animals or people originating or occurring naturally in a particular place. Animals that are indigenous to Africa include pangolins, hyenas, African penguin, hyrax, puff adders and Cape buffalo.



A traditional South African sticky donut treat made of fried dough infused in syrup or honey


Marula Fruit

A small orange fruit that grows in Southern Africa and is used to make the famous ‘Amarula’ cream liqueur.


National Park

A dedicated area set aside by a national government for the preservation of the natural environment and the wildlife that inhabits it.

Nature Reserve

In the same vein as national parks, nature reserves are designated tracts of land managed by a national government or private entity to preserve its flora, fauna and keeping the environment pristine.


Animals that prefer to be active at night and are usually spotted on night drives. Nocturnal animals include leopards, bush babies and porcupines.


Overnight Safari

A safari that where you stay ‘overnight’ within the reserve. Usually camping, staying in a safari lodge, or reserve accommodation.



Also known as mieliepap, pap is a traditional maize-based porridge and is a staple food in Southern Africa. Often served with boerewors (traditional beef sausage) and a spiced tomato and onion gravy.


PP means “Per-Person”, often referring to the cost or price breakdown of accommodation “per each person”.


PPPN means “Per-Person, Per-Night”, often referring to the cost or price breakdown of accommodation “per each person and per each night”.


PPPNS means “Per-Person, Per-Night, Sharing”, often referring to the cost or price breakdown of accommodation ‘per each person sharing accommodation (or a room) per each night’.


Quad Bike

A Quad Bike is a small 4×4 (four-wheel) motor bike or ATV bike.



An experienced or qualified safari ranger, also sometimes called a game ranger, is different from a field guide in that their focus is on the broader wildlife management and conservation of the park or reserve. Often with a focus on wildlife conservation, anti-poaching tactics and land sustainability.


A traditional African hut that is circular in shape with a conical thatched roof.


Rusks are a traditional South African breakfast meal or snack that consist of dry, hard biscuits or twice-baked bread, similar to an Italian biscotti.


Safari Lodge

Any safari accommodation that consists of permanent concrete, stone or wood buildings and structures. Safari lodges also tend to be bigger and provide more amenities than their safari camp counterparts.

Safari Vehicle

Large open-sided 4X4 vehicles that are modified according to specific regulations that ensure the safety and comfort of visitors on safari. They allow you to traverse the African wilderness and encounter big game, safely.


A grassy plain found in tropical and subtropical regions with few trees and scattered bushes. The savanna ecosystem has only two seasons – the wet and dry seasons.

Small Five

A playful counterpoint to the Big Five, these are the elephant shrew, rhinoceros beetle, buffalo weaver, ant lion, and leopard tortoise.


Usually taking place on a late afternoon or sunset game drive, it refers to the quintessential South African safari experience where you can relax and enjoy drinks and snacks as the sun sets over the reserve. It’s essentially ‘happy hour’ in the African bush, but with a breathtaking twist!

Safari terms you need to know in South Africa: View of the watering hole on a sunset winter safari. Learn all about wildlife and see Africa's big 5 at Aquila Private Game Reserve and Spa.



A tracker is someone who specialises in ‘reading’ natural signs to find wild game– like broken branches, animal spoor, footprints, animal dung and even marks in the dirt.


The Afrikaans term for an outdoor walk or ‘hike’.



A vlei is a shallow natural pool of water, or low-lying, marshy ground that is covered with water during the rainy seasons.


Watering Hole

A watering hole is a natural depression in the land that collects water, forming a small lake or temporary pool of water. These vital sources of water are important in arid and semi-arid regions where rainfall is scarce as animals will often walk many miles to find water.

Safari Terms You Need to Know

Going on safari is a relaxed and fun experience, so you don’t have to know all the lingo! And, for those seeking a fun and exciting escape close to Cape Town (perfect for your city travel itinerary), Aquila Private Game Reserve and Spa offers an authentic South African safari experience.

Led by expert game rangers and offering guided tours through the Karoo wilderness, guests are invited to learn about South Africa’s unique wildlife and experience a big 5 safari for themselves! So, what are you waiting for? Book your Big Five Safari Day Trip or stay overnight for an immersive adventure into the wild.

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