Everyone has a different reason for traveling. For some it is the excitement of getting away from their day to day lives, for others, it is having the chance to learn more about unique cultures and taking in the new scenery. But, if there is one thing that most of us have in common, it is the love of trying new food.
Thanks to globalization, most of the world has become used to a more “westernised” diet, and Africa is no exception to this. Here you will find all the good (and the bad) kind of meals that we have all come to know and love, from big fast food chains to haute European cuisine. But, if you’re after a more authentic safari experience then there is nothing better than sampling a region’s local food.
For some people, this can be daunting as Africa is home to some of the most peculiar delicacies in the world. So, if you want to know what you can expect to munch down on in Africa’s top three safari destinations, then keep reading!
Beef Ugali with spinach and carrot
Tanzania is a truly paradisiacal region! There aren’t many places on earth where you can go from viewing the big five in their natural habitat to lazing on pristine beaches while sipping on cocktails served in freshly picked coconuts.
Not only is it home to famous safari hotspots such as the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater, but you will also find an array of delicious delicacies that will give you a taste of the regions culture and history.
The food here is both unique and extremely varied as the region is home to around 120 ethnic groups, as well as people from European and Asian descents, which have all influenced the country’s cuisine. Think coffee plantations from Germany, tea plantations from Britain (obviously), spices from Muslim descent, and starches brought in from the days of the Portuguese rule.
It might seem like a strange combination, but it all blends into mouthwatering delicacies that are full in flavor and tradition. While sitting around the dinner table, it can be easy to just dig into sumptuous dishes by the likes of ugali, coconut bean soup, and Ndizi Kaanga, but it is important to remember table manners; especially if you ’re on a cultural safari or eating in a local’s home.
Traditionally speaking, Tanzanians eat their meals sitting on a floor mat or a low table and usually begin with a ceremonial hand washing, using a large bowl of water and a towel. While eating, it is a sign of respect to use your right hand (even if you’re left-handed) as the right hand is perceived as ‘the pure hand’ whereas the left hand is considered to be unclean.
Personal recommendation: If you’re in the mood for a sweet treat then definitely try out a Mandazi together with Tanzanian Chai tea
Kenya is regarded as one of the world’s original safari destinations and with good reason. The country is home to iconic landscapes that are filled with over 25,000 different animal species, which make it ideal for first-time safari explorers and expert nature enthusiasts.
The months of June and September are very popular for safaris as it is prime time to watch the annual great migration, in which millions of wildebeest stampede from Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in search of fresh food and water. But, it’s not just the migrating animals that have great food to look forward to when traveling to Kenya.
The cuisine here is as diverse as the 42 tribes that inhabit the region. While many countries boast a national dish, Kenya is one of the few that doesn’t have a singular representative meal. Instead, each tribe has their own native dishes. The Masaai are the most well known in the region and have remained one of the most culturally authentic tribes of Kenya. Traditionally, their diet consisted of raw meat, raw milk, and raw blood from cattle, but due to a decline in livestock, these are becoming less common.
Nowadays, their main source of nutrition is maize meal, rice, potatoes, and cabbage, which are often boiled into various soups and stews such as maharagwe (a bean dish prepared with onions, tomatoes, and spices) and skuma wiki (which literally translated means ‘stretch the week’).
Similar to Tanzania, there are a few customs that should be adhered to when eating at a local’s home, such as taking off your shoes when entering and making sure your toes and feet are not pointing toward the food or other diners. At the end of the meal, don’t feel shy to give a hearty burp as this is a sign of satisfaction and gives compliments to the cook.
Personal recommendation: For a vegetarian option, try out the Githeri and definitely do not leave without tasting Kenyan coffee.
Braai meat and a potjie
South Africa is perhaps one of the most iconic safari destinations in the world. There are few regions that are packed with the variety that this country has to offer, from five-star luxury safaris geared toward honeymooners to family-friendly lodges, and quick getaways for budget-conscious explorers. South Africa has it all, and the diversity doesn’t end with the safaris.
The country’s food scene is a melting pot of world-famous influences. Here you can go from having American breakfast to British high tea, French cuisine at lunchtime and traditional Malay food at dinner, which makes it a very exciting place for foodie fanatics.
It was the need for food that brought on the colonialization of South Africa when the Dutch East India Company needed to replenish their supplies for ships traveling from Europe to the East. During this time period, they established farms to provide fresh vegetables and meat for the ships rounding the Cape.
Over time, and with the arrival of Cape Malay slaves, the French Hugenought, the British and Indian settlers, the cuisine became an eclectic blend of Eastern and Western style and flavor. To add to the diversity of South African cuisine, there are also 12 major tribes that each brings in their own unique dishes.
The Zulu tribe is by far one of the most famous tribes in the Southern Hemisphere and their cuisine forms an integral part of the country’s cuisine. The tribe mostly relied on the land for sustenance and so their diet consisted of plenty of grain and vegetables that they farmed themselves and the meat that their own cattle provided. Today, many of their dishes by the likes of pap and Amazi are still extremely popular in the country.
Personal recommendation: If you truly want to eat like a local here, then best prepare your stomach for a feast. A braai is a staple South African tradition and you can expect an overabundance of meats by the likes of boerewors and steaks, salads, mielies, and of course, braaibroodjies.
We’ve listed Africa ’s most popular safari destinations and their cuisine here, but if you want to get off the beaten path then head on a gorilla trekking safari in Uganda’s untouched wilderness!