July 11, 2022
You are probably planning a safari in Maasai Mara in Kenya or Serengeti National park in Tanzania. Or you watched The Lion King and on doing some research you realized that most of those animals’ names are borrowed from the Swahili language, or maybe you are just interested in learning Swahili and your learning journey has led you to “Swahili animal names.” Whatever your reason is, this is the right place for you to get your answers for Swahili animal names you should know for a safari!
You may have heard the word safari a lot but do you know what it means? Safari means a journey or a trip in Swahili. There are certain foundational words that one needs to know before one can learn the names of animals found in the jungle.
One such word is mnyama (pronounced m-nee-u-muh) which is Swahili for an animal. Its plural is wanyama (pronounced won-u-muh).
Therefore the word for wild animals is wanyama pori. Pori means wild and when you add the suffix –ni to the word pori (wild) it becomes porini which means ‘in the wild.’ Now let us look at some of the animals that you would expect to find in the East African Swahili nations.
If you watched the Lion King you remember samba the cub lion. As stated above most of the characters in The Lion King have Swahili names. Simba is a Swahili word that befits a leader in the wild. Most Swahili children's stories that have animals always portray the lion as the king of the jungle.
Both tembo (pronounced tame-bow) and ndovu (pronounced n-doh-voo) are what the Swahili people call the elephant.
The African elephants are believed to be the largest land animals on earth. They can weigh up to 7000 kilograms (about 15,400 pounds) with a height of about 3 meters. The elephant is also part of the ‘Big Five.’ Other animals in this category are the lion, leopard, rhino, and African buffalo.
Most English speakers would think that mambo means snake, from black mamba, but it means crocodile. The Nile crocodile is the second largest crocodile in the world. It averages 4 meters long and weighs up to 400 kilograms (882 lbs).
Mamba is a delicacy in the coast and other parts of Kenya. Mamba village in Mombasa is known to serve some of the best crocodile meat in case you find yourself in the coastal city of Kenya and would like to try mamba meat.
Punda milia (pronounced poon-duh meal-ear) is Swahili for Zebra. In Swahili, punda means donkey. This is therefore to show that there is a correlation between a donkey and a zebra.
If you ever take a safari to Kenya or Tanzania you will see lots of zebras roaming freely. If you pass through the Nakuru Nairobi highway you will see them feeding on the grass by the roadside.
Other animals whose Swahili names you will need to know and surprise your tour guide are, duma which means cheetah, kiboko (hippopotamus), nyoka (snake), tai (vulture), swara (antelope), tumbili (monkey), nyani (baboon), chui (leopard), and mwewe (eagle). These are not all the wild animals but they are the ones that you will likely encounter easily while on a safari.