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10 South African Safari Words


South Africa, affectionately known as the rainbow nation, is a vibrant collective of diverse ethnic groups, cultures and languages. All of whom express themselves against the backdrop of extraordinary natural beauty, diverse animals, insects, reptiles and birds. This richness of sight and sound adds an unrivalled charm and authenticity to any African safari experience. You will not only see things you have never seen before on your African safari, you will also hear words and phrases that you have possibly never heard before and might not fully understand!

Best to be prepared! Your bags are packed. You have remembered your hat, sunscreen, warm rainproof jacket, binoculars and camera. Let’s go one step further and prepare you with some local knowledge. These are 10 South African safari words or phrases you will definitely hear on your African adventure.


Traditionally a ranger is a person whose job it is to protect a forest or natural park. On your African safari your ranger, also known as a field guide, is the trained expert that will not only track wild animals so that you maximise your wildlife viewing opportunities, but also ensure your safety and enthral you with their knowledge and stories of the bush.


The term bushveld is a direct translation from the Afrikaans word ‘bosveld’ and it broadly describes the large tracts of wilderness, dominated by low growing thorn trees and other vegetation, you will traverse through various types of bushveld while on your game drives.

Game Drive or Safari Drive

A game drive is the morning and evening adventure you will embark on while on safari. These trips involve viewing wildlife in their natural habitat (the bushveld) from the comfort of a 4×4 open vehicle which accommodates between 4 and 10 people. The vehicle will be driven by an experienced and knowledgeable safari guide.

A game drive can also be referred to as a safari drive. ‘Safari’ is a Swahili word, simply meaning "journey". The most common term in South Africa is game drive.

10 South African Safari Words - Game Drive at Kariega

Big 5

The Big 5 include the quintet of magnificent wild animals that through the ages have been deemed as the most iconic African animals to catch a glimpse of while on safari. They include the lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino.

The origins of the term Big 5 dates back to our hunting ancestors who deemed these five animals as the most dangerous to hunt on foot.

Small 5

While adventurous safari goers hope for a glimpse of the Big 5, their guide knows that the African bush has so many more wonders to share, many of which can be missed because they are so small, and perhaps insignificant to some. The small five balance their mighty counterparts and add depth to any safari experience. So while you are gazing at the horizon in the hope of spotting one of the Big 5, remember to look down and see if you can spot any of these members of the small five: the ant lion, leopard tortoise, elephant shrew, buffalo weaver and rhino beetle.

Ugly 5

Humour is very much apart of South African culture and while we do not believe any animal is truly ugly, we do concede that the hyena, vulture, wildebeest, warthog and marabou stork push the boundaries of beauty somewhat. Meet the ugly 5!


Spoor is an Afrikaans word that describes the track or scent of an animal. Your guide will be on the lookout for animal spoor all through your game drive, which help lead him to these incredible animals you hope to see. A spoor might tell your ranger what animal you are tracking, which direction it is moving in and even how old the animal might be.


Simply put, dung is animal poo and you will see loads of it while on safari! The more inquisitive and adventurous members of your party may even find themselves doing the unimaginable like sticking their fingers in elephant dung to determine the gentle giant’s diet or taking part in a ‘bokdrol spoeg’ competition.

Bokdrol spoeg

A bokdrol, is the Afrikaans word for small pellets of dung that generally come from impala or giraffe. Bokdrol spoeg is a highly competitive safari sport. The person who can spit one of these hard pellets or bokdrols the farthest in the winner. We dare you to challenge your ranger and fellow guests!


The term sundowner originated in Britain and traditionally described an alcoholic drink taken after completing the day's work, usually at sundown. On your African safari your guide will choose a picture perfect spot in the bushveld to stop and watch the sun go down while you enjoy a drink and a snack. It is the perfect time for a bokdrol spoeg contest while chatting about all the incredible animals you have just seen and whether they fall into the big, little or ugly five.

You are now fully prepared with the top 10 South African safari words and we can't wait to see you! If you have any other terms that you found interesting on your Kariega safari please share them with us on our Kariega Facebook page, via Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. You are also welcome to leave a comment below.

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