Learn Important Swahili phrases to use when climbing Kilimanjaro
Learn Swahili for Kilimanjaro

Swahili is widely spoken on the mountain as most porters hardly speak a word of English when they are communicating among themselves. The guides also issue instructions to the mountain crew in Swahili. So there is a higher chance of you catching a word or two during your moment on the mountain, along the routes, and in the camps. On Mount Kilimanjaro, climbers learn a lot, including the characteristics of an alpine desert, how much plantain porridge is too much, and whether they are more prone to laugh or cry at high altitudes. But before heading up the mountain, many people are unaware that the tour also ensures an education in Swahili, the native tongue. On the mountain, it’s impossible to resist the following Swahili words, which not only provide climbers with tips and encouragement throughout their ascents but also a unique sort of keepsake to carry back with their completion certificates.

Pole pole
Translation: “Slowly, slowly,”

On Mount Kilimanjaro, these are perhaps the phrases that are used the most.

Friendly reminders to take it easy are a typical welcome from passing guides and porters, and the phrase quickly becomes ingrained in your memory. Be prepared to continue repeating it even while working at your desk weeks after you’ve gone home.

Twende sasa Hivi
Translation: “Let’s leave immediately.”

Normal people can rally a group by just yelling “twende,” but climbers may always use a little more inspiration. When sasa hivi is added, a simple, “Let’s go” becomes a brisk, “Let’s start moving!” Additionally, saying the sentence out loud is far more entertaining.

3. Poa kichizi kama ndizi (ndani ya friji)
“Crazy cold like a banana” (in the fridge) is the literal translation.

You can respond poa, which means “cool,” when someone asks you how you’re doing in Swahili. You may respond more enthusiastically when someone asks how you’re doing on Kili by drawing comparisons between yourself and a banana. Additionally, you may use the whole simile to describe how much you like living in the mountains, saying that you are “crazy chill like a banana in the refrigerator.”

4. Maji

Means “Water”

Maji, when said aloud, is “water.” The phrase “I’m dying of thirst” or “I need a breather and now that I think about it, it’s definitely time for more water,” is used a lot of times when hiking.

5. Hongera

Means “Congratulations”

This term will be taught to you on summit day when you reach Uhuru Peak, but it’s likely that you won’t get the opportunity to use it until you’re halfway down the mountain, when the oxygen levels are once again acceptable for speaking and breathing.

6. Jambo bwana! Gani habari? Mzuri Sana! Wageni, mwakaribishwa! Kilimanjaro, Hakuna Matata!
In other words: “Hello! Welcome, gentleman! What’s up? Excellent! / Welcome, guests! / Kilimanjaro? No issues!”

This rendition of the tune known as “The Jambo Song” throughout East Africa is more of a song than a phrase. You will probably know the song’s lyrics before you understand what they mean because it is sung at least twice a day on Kili, once before your daily hike and once you arrive at each new camp. Naturally, later verses advise listeners to take it easy, hydrate well, and, of course, enjoy the climb.

Learn the words on the Jambo, Hakuna Matata Song!

Helpful Words for Your Kilimanjaro Climb in Swahili

In addition to these words, you may also want to learn some basic phrases that can be helpful during your climb. Here are some examples:

1. Nataka maji – I want water

2. Ninahisi baridi – I feel cold

3. Naweza pumzika? – Can I rest?

4. Pole, sijisikii vizuri – Sorry, I am not feeling well

5. Nitafika lini? – When will I arrive?

By learning some basic Swahili words and phrases, you can make your climb up Kilimanjaro not only a physical journey but also a cultural and linguistic one. This can enrich your overall experience and help you connect with the locals and your guides on a deeper level.

So, before you embark on your Kilimanjaro climb, take some time to learn these basic Swahili words and phrases. Not only will it be helpful during your climb, but it will also be a fun and enriching experience!

Swahili Greetings

Swahili is a language spoken in East Africa, with more than 100 million speakers. If you’re interested in learning Swahili, one of the first things you’ll want to learn is how to greet people. Here are some common Swahili greetings:

1. Jambo

“Jambo” is probably the most well-known Swahili greeting. It means “hello” and is used in both formal and informal settings.

2. Habari

Another common Swahili greeting is “habari,” which means “What’s up” or “How are you.” You can respond with “nzuri” to say “I’m fine.”

3. Karibu

“Karibu” means “welcome” in Swahili. It’s often used to greet guests or visitors to a home or business.

4. Shikamoo

“Shikamoo” is a traditional Swahili greeting used to show respect to elders. It’s often accompanied by a bow or nod of the head.

5. Marahaba

“Marahaba” is a Swahili greeting used to show gratitude or appreciation. It’s often used to thank someone for a gift or favor.

6. Kwaheri

“Kwaheri” means “goodbye” in Swahili. It’s a common farewell greeting used in both formal and informal settings.

Learning Swahili greetings is a great way to start learning the language and connect with people from East Africa. Try using these greetings in your conversations and practice them regularly to improve your fluency.

7. Hakuna Matata

“Hakuna matata” is a phrase that has become famous thanks to The Lion King. It means “no worries” and is often used as a way of saying “everything is okay.”

Useful Swahili Phrases

If you are planning to climb Kilimanjaro, it may be helpful to learn some basic Swahili words and phrases to help you communicate with your guides and other locals you may encounter. Here are some important Swahili words for Kilimanjaro:

1. Habari – Hello or how are you?

2. Asante – Thank you

3. Karibu – Welcome

4. Safari – Journey or travel

5. Pole pole – Slowly, slowly

6. Jambo – Hello or hi

7. Mzungu – A term used for a white person or foreigner

8. Simba – Lion

9. Kifaru – Rhino

10. Tembo – Elephant

Learning these basic Swahili words can not only help you communicate better with the locals but also show them that you have taken the time and effort to learn their language and culture.

How to Learn and Speak Fluent Swahili

Swahili is a language spoken widely in East Africa, with more than 100 million speakers. If you’re interested in learning Swahili, there are several ways you can go about it.

1. Enroll in a course

Taking a course in Swahili is a great way to learn the language systematically. You can enroll in a local community college or university that offers Swahili courses or look for online courses. Many online courses offer flexible schedules and self-paced learning, making it easier to fit them into your busy life.

2. Use Swahili language learning apps

There are several language learning apps available that can help you learn Swahili. Some popular apps include Duolingo, Babbel, and Rosetta Stone. These apps provide a fun and interactive way to learn the language, with features like games, quizzes, and voice recognition software.

Learning a new language can be a fun and rewarding experience, and there are many Swahili language learning apps available that can help you on your journey. Here are some of the best Swahili language learning apps to check out:

1. Duolingo

Duolingo is a popular language learning app that offers Swahili as one of its many language options. The app uses a variety of methods to teach the language, including vocabulary drills, listening exercises, and interactive quizzes.

2. Rosetta Stone

Rosetta Stone is a language learning app that offers Swahili as one of its many language options. The app is designed to teach the language through immersion, with lessons that focus on conversational skills, grammar, and vocabulary.

3. Babbel

Babbel is a language learning app that offers Swahili as one of its many language options. The app focuses on conversational skills, with lessons that cover topics like greetings, numbers, and travel.

4. Mondly

Mondly is a language learning app that offers Swahili as one of its many language options. The app uses a variety of teaching methods, including speech recognition technology, to help learners improve their speaking and listening skills.

5. Memrise

Memrise is a language learning app that offers Swahili as one of its many language options. The app uses a variety of teaching methods, including spaced repetition, to help learners memorize new vocabulary and grammar rules.

By using one of these Swahili language learning apps, you can start your journey towards learning this beautiful and important language. Whether you’re planning a trip to East Africa or simply want to expand your cultural horizons, learning Swahili can be a fun and rewarding experience.

3. Find a language exchange partner

You can also try finding a language exchange partner who speaks Swahili. This can be done online or in-person. With a language exchange partner, you can practice speaking Swahili and get feedback on your pronunciation and grammar.

4. Watch Swahili movies and TV shows

Watching Swahili movies and TV shows is another great way to learn the language. It can help you pick up new vocabulary, phrases, and expressions. You can also try listening to Swahili music and podcasts to help you get accustomed to the language.

5. Practice, practice, practice

Finally, the key to learning any language is practice. Make an effort to practice speaking Swahili every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Try to incorporate the language into your daily life, such as ordering food in Swahili or practicing basic greetings with people you meet.

Learning Swahili can be a rewarding and enriching experience. With the right approach and consistent effort, you can become proficient in the language and connect with people from different cultures.

Here are some useful phrases:

English Swahili
Hello Jambo
How are you? Habari?
Fine Mzuri Sana
What’s your name? Jina lako ni nani?
My name is… Jina langu ni…
Goodbye Kwaheri
Please Tafadhali
Thank you Asante sana
Yes Ndio
No Hapana
Excuse me or sorry Samahani
Come Njoo
No thanks La, asante
Where is toilet? Choo kiko wapi?
How much? How many? Ngapi?
How much is it? Shilingi Ngapi?
Wait Ngojea
Slow down (caution) Pole pole
May I take your picture? Nikupige picha?
I understand Naelewa
I don’t understand Sielewi
Do you speak English? Unasema Kiingereza?
Elephant Tembo
Cheetah Duma
Lion Simba
Giraffe Twiga
Hippo Kiboko
Hartebeest Kongoni
Snake Nyoka


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