Jambo Kenya! Some of the most commonly used phrases and words whilst on Safari

Kenya (officially known as the Republic of Kenya), is a country in Africa lying on the equator with the Indian Ocean to its south-east. It is bordered by Somalia to the north-east, Ethiopia to the north, South Sudan to the north-west, Uganda to the west and Tanzania to the south.

A large proportion of Kenya’s tourism centres around safaris and tours of its great National Parks and Game Reserves. While most tourists do visit for safari there is also great cultural aspects of the country to explore in cities like Mombasa and Lamu on the coast. Wherever you travel in Kenya, you will find that English and Swahili are the most widely spoken and official languages. However, when you’re in the Masai Mara, your guide will more than likely speak Maa, the official language of the Masai tribe.

The Maa languages are a group of closely related Eastern Nilotic languages spoken in parts of Kenya and Tanzania by more than a million speakers altogether. They are subdivided into North and South Maa and are related to the Lotuko languages spoken in South Sudan. To make your life easier, here are some key Swahili  and Maa phrases you might want to have handy on your travels in the region:

Southern Maa

  • Thank you – ashi
  • Pleasure or Welcome – Karibu
  • Stop – dashu
  • Go – maape
  • Cheetah – olowaru keri
  • Leopard – Okenyala sho
  • Wildebeest – ongatta
  • Zebra – olotiko
  • Lion – olngatuny
  • Sopa – how are you
  • Beautiful – sedai
  • Ostrich – osedai
  • Try – tonyua
  • Come – ou


  • Thank you –  Asante
  • Pleasure or Welcome – Karibu
  • Stop – simama
  • Go –  twende
  • Leopard –  chuwe
  • Wildebeest –  ngati
  • Zebra –  punda mulia
  • Lion –  simba
  • Sopa –  habari
  • Beautiful –  maridade
  • Ostrich – osedai
  • Try –  jaribu
  • Come – kuja
  • Kekerok – dark trees


Most importantly, after taking in your first sighting of wildebeest crossing the Mara river, sit back and request an ice cold Kanyan Beer:

NiNa taka Tusker beridi Sanaa…

Can I have a cold Tusker please…

Thanks to Dixon and Francis for providing all the information for this post. You guys are legends in your own right!


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