We are often asked what is safe to eat when on safari in Africa. There are great things to eat and there are also some not so tasty dishes as well.
Not Recommended to Eat
Here are my top three worst dishes that I have eaten. In third place was a goats head, which I ate in Eswatini, in second place a fruit bat from Vanuatu and in first place was a mopane worm in Zimbabwe. The worst thing about eating this particular mopane worm was that they had been boiled. As it was too large for me to swallow whole I bit into it thinking I could bite it in half, swallow the bit in my mouth and then quickly add the other half. This did not happen. I did not bite all the way through which resulted in blood vessel and innards, like spaghetti, hanging down my chin. It was pretty revolting. However mopane worms are OK when fried in garlic, they are a good snack with a gin and tonic.
The Variety of Food to Eat in Africa
The great thing about Africa is that there are so many things on the menu. It caters for vegetarians, carnivores (that’s me), people who eat inordinate amounts of fruit, healthy diets and also those with food allergies.
I often speak to guests who are concerned about what they’re going to eat, they suspect that it might consist of the dreaded mopane worm. Not so. In fact this is so far from the truth that it makes me laugh. I love going out to Africa, and this is partly because I know I’m going to eat really healthily and eat tasty food. Most of the food has not been injected, sprayed, mass fertilised, forced ripened, over refrigerated, mass produced, conformed to a certain shape and then transported halfway across the world.
The food is fresh from the ground or off the hoof. Marvellous.
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
A typical breakfast would consist of fruit salad, yoghurt, freshly baked bread and more often than not accompanied with the option of a fully cooked breakfast. And the cooked breakfasts are divine – fresh eggs, sausage or boervors (packed with nothing but meat and none of the other nasty stuff), bacon and more often than not accompanied with a tomato that does not have a perfect circumference, but tastes divine. (I am beginning to salivate as I write this.)
Lunches are often on the move, a picnic spread on the bonnet of your safari vehicle consisting of salads, fresh meats, cold chicken, cheese and bread. It could be washed down with a cool refreshing beer and end with fruit consisting of pawpaw, pineapple, bananas or apples. This may also be accompanied by the less healthy options of crisps or peanuts and a chocolate bar.
The dinners in Africa are something to marvel at, sometimes half the animals you have seen on safari are on the menu!
Impala is a delicious meat, quite solid with very little fat and tastes like venison. This is the same for kudu, nyala and any of the other antelope – each one has its own distinctive taste. Warthog is also a wonderful meat to eat, again very low in fat and exceptionally tasty, particularly when cooked over an open fire. I would also suggest trying crocodile tail, it tastes between chicken and fish, the more solid of fish, and yet very delicate in taste and texture. Ostrich is also delicious, it is often served as carpaccio and that comes highly recommended. Then there are the more standard meats that we are accustomed to such as beef (the steaks are to die for in Africa), chicken and also pork.
If you’re vegetarian, then you are also in for a treat. Butternut is used a lot out in Africa, and roasted butternut with feta cheese is absolutely delicious. There are also a host of squashes, of various shapes and sizes and forms, quite a few that have not reached the UK shops, so try them all out, it is certainly worth it.
And then the tomatoes taste completely different (well, they taste of tomato), the avocados are the size of small rugby balls, the oranges are exceptionally juicy and the pineapples were cut from the field that you passed 20 min earlier.
The list of vegetables and fruits available on holiday is practically never-ending; sweet potatoes, squash, cucumber, peppers, spinach, salad onions, normal onions, all sorts of herbs, lychees, apricots, oranges, grapefruit, star fruit, pomegranates, carrots, courgettes, aubergine… the list just goes on. And these are all incorporated into delicious dishes.
In fact, your whole system has a complete overhaul. Although you don’t realise it, you are having a free detox!
My advice would be to try everything that you want to try, be adventurous, eat something a little bit different. You never know, you might actually like it.
Mopane worms are, of course, optional.