What Cuisine Can I Expect on Safari? From Traditional African Food to Fine Dining

Baines Dining & Cuisine Sundowners River Sunset Botswana

What Cuisine Can I Expect on Safari? From Traditional African Food to Fine Dining and World-Class Wine

A luxury African safari is a symphony for all the senses. Beyond the unforgettable sights and sounds of the untouched wilderness, you will experience a mosaic of flavors and farm-to-table foods that tell the story of the continent’s rich heritage and cultural diversity.

The food we eat is so much more than simple sustenance. Instead, time spent around the dining table or picnicking in the bush is an opportunity to lean into connection, community and identity with those around you. Below, we explore the types of traditional African food one can taste on safari in addition to incredible fine dining experiences, unique ingredients, exceptional wines, organic foraging and more.

The Essence of Traditional African Cuisine

Every country in the world has a distinct food culture and naturally, African nations are no different, with each dining experience a vibrant expression of history, heritage, tradition and taste. Depending on where you dine, whether it’s a buzzy restaurant in Cape Town, a fine dining destination nestled in the Winelands or a secluded tented camp in the bush, the culinary journey is entirely different, with ingredients, cooking methods and spices influenced by centuries of indigenous culture, human migration and historical trade routes.

Regardless of where your travels take you, a few things about traditional African cuisine: Firstly food is of exceptional global standards and any dietary need can be accommodated. Many of the staple foods are made with indigenous ingredients and grown on small local farms with no preservatives or additives. Food is healthy, fresh and unadulterated in contrast to many Western diets which can be heavily reliant on fast food and processed ingredients.

Spices are a major feature in most African cuisines. Expect peppers that ignite your taste buds, complex curry powders and seasoned salts in many popular dishes across Africa, from bobotie and Cape Malay curries to Kenyan pilau and more.

Ingredients aside, mealtimes on safari are always a celebratory event. Eating together is a significant moment of pause and reset that brings families and friends together to share stories and exciting wildlife sightings from the day around the table.

Segera riverside picnic long table Kenya AR

Traditional African Foods

Thriving biodiversity and a culture of farming across much of Africa lends to a vast array of produce. However staple foods center on grains, tubers and vegetables, millet, cassava and plantains combined with meat and fish when available alongside flavorful spices form the foundation of so many exceptional meals. Slow-cooked or grilled meats are often enjoyed alongside the myriad rice dishes popular across the continent.  
 
Of course, traditional African foods vary immensely by region. The dishes you’ll eat in South Africa, for instance, differ from the countries of East Africa. Cape Town in South Africa was a hub of the historic spice trade, so spices are abundantly used across the many ethnic cuisines. In fact, one of the dishes of South Africa is bobotie, a warming, hearty meal of minced meat simmered with spices like curry powder, herbs and dried fruit, then topped with a mixture of egg and milk and baked until just set. 
 
The typical East African cuisine found throughout Kenya and Tanzania is predominantly made up of starches like maize, rice and beans. For celebratory occasions or slow-cooked stews and curries, mutton and goat are generally the preferred meats. Although you’ll find a wide variety of global cuisines in East and Southern Africa’s cities, it’s not uncommon to see these staple ingredients in the more traditional restaurants or bush boma nights you’ll enjoy on safari. 

Wine Culture in Africa

Wine culture is deeply embedded in South Africa and you’ll find superb bottles in restaurants and top-tier lodges throughout East and Southern Africa. Pre-dinner cocktails - affectionately referred to as sundowners - are a staple on safari though non-alcoholic beverages and cocktails, soft drinks, tea and excellent, locally-grown coffee are always available.

A quick forty-minute drive from Cape Town, the Cape Winelands produce some of the best wine in the world. This extraordinarily beautiful area is home to vineyards, tasting rooms, stunning sanctuaries and historic farms. These locations, from Franschhoek to Stellenbosch are filled with spectacular restaurants and more casual spots giving guests ample opportunities to sample local wines with the fresh bounty and culinary classics the Winelands are celebrated for.

Our expert guides also have access to insider-only wineries and sommelier-led tastings you won’t experience anywhere else. Having developed a familiarity and taste for South Africa’s finest wines before departing for the bush, it’s a real treat to return to your luxury lodge after a day on safari to enjoy delicious South African cuisine artfully paired with local wine you’ve tasted at the source.

Fine Dining Restaurants on Safari

Trying local favorites and the foods traditional to your safari destination, whether you’re in Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa or the far-flung Seychelles is an ideal way to connect with local culture and history. New fine dining restaurants continue to open to global acclaim, with many located in South Africa. World-class chefs are opening spectacular restaurants where diners can enjoy unusual, elevated menus inspired by the prized, African-grown bounty the continent is so fortunate to have. 
 
Tswalu in the Kalahari is a wilderness haven home to Klein JAN, an innovative fine dining restaurant run by Michelin-star chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen. Working with Tswalu’s executive chef, Marnus Scholly, Jan spent two years researching the flavors, foods and culture of the Northern Cape and the menu is an inspiring tribute to the area, showcasing the diversity of ingredients native to the Kalahari while highlighting their cultural value.  
 
Klein JAN is an incredible, immersive experience that moves guests through a series of locations before settling into a gorgeous, contemporary dining room overlooking Tswalu’s uniquely wild and beautiful desert landscape. 

Chef Liam Tomlin, originally from Sydney, has called South Africa home for just over 20 years. He is renowned for consulting on various top-tier projects within the hospitality industry and his fine-dining, globally-influenced tapas are an ode to the different flavors of Africa.

Chef Peter Tempelhoff is yet another South African chef who has put the country on the culinary map. Tempelhoff’s new urban restaurant FYN, he says, is for people who don’t have a lot of time but want to try myriad flavors. The restaurant offers a completely different kind of fine dining experience, leaning into South African-Japanese fusion dishes packed with flavor, but the experience is one without the typical length of a tasting menu.

Of course, we would be remiss to end this list without mentioning the culinary ventures of chef Luke Dale Roberts. . . Dale Roberts is well-known for his many creative endeavors across South Africa including The Pot Luck Club and The Test Kitchen Fledgelings in Cape Town and Johannesburg’s The Shortmarket Club which all won Eat Out stars in 2022. We were thrilled to see SALON, an evolution of Dale Roberts’s world-renowned Test Kitchen open in Spring 2023 in Cape Town’s Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock. A dining experience at one – or more – of these incredible restaurants is a must on a visit to South Africa.
 
It’s a pleasure to see the fine dining scene in so many African cities, from Nairobi and Lusaka to Cape Town expand and grow as new chefs open diverse restaurants that hone the flavors, skills and culinary techniques so unique to our glorious continent. 

Enhancing Your Culinary Safari Experience

On a luxury African safari, how and where you dine is up to you, guided by insider advice from our experts. Whether you are craving a hearty plate of comfort food after a long day in the bush, a lighter meal before an early start, a romantic five-star supper beneath the stars or want to taste traditional African flavors prepared as the locals do, the ROAR AFRICA team will craft your dining experience to your desires. This also includes accommodating dietary requirements, from gluten-free to kosher and everything in between throughout your safari.

Restaurants and lodge suppers in the bush aside, there are also ample opportunities to enhance your culinary safari experience in a more hands-on way. Cooking classes in home kitchens or alongside the superb chefs you’ll find in lodges and properties deep in the wilderness are the perfect way to take a taste of Africa home with you.

Many of the lodges we partner with love to take guests foraging in the wild or in the organic vegetable gardens that adjoin the property to help harvest the dinner to come while learning more about African agriculture. Similarly, properties like Segera in Kenya or Babylonstoren in the Cape Winelands often host sommelier-led tastings in their personal cellars, pizza-making evenings or baking with children should you be craving a taste of home while on your travels.

The sky is the limit when it comes to food, new flavors and fine wines in Africa…we cannot wait to share these experiences with you.

Food is an integral part of the foundation of any trip, including a luxury African safari, no matter which destination you choose to experience with us. Explore our luxury African destinations and experiences at ROAR AFRICA.

Subscribe to receive the latest updates

Newsletter