African game meats

Eating My Way Through Africa’s Game

Meat. Man’s real best friend. Something I’ve likely eaten way too much of after moving to South Africa. I’ve counted and in the last 15 months living in SA, I’ve eaten at least 60 chickens JUST at Nandos. Throw in my bi-weekly visit to steakhouses where I chow through half kilo steaks, and I’ve done some serious work here. South Africa is the place for meat lovers that want delicious meat at cheap prices (~15$ for a 400g steak). But there’s so much more than just chicken, pork, and beef in this part of the world.

Game meats. All those different animals I’ve seen from a safari vehicle can be consumed too, and I’ve done just that, consuming my through as much of Africa’s game as possible.

I’m of the “I’ll try anything once” approach to food. If I don’t like it, I won’t eat it again but how will I ever know without at least giving it a chance? That’s preciously the attitude to have in South Africa as a diet of beef, chicken, and pork, can quickly be supplemented by ostrich, kudu, and springbok! Hell, if someone put a medium rare lion steak in front of me, I wouldn’t think twice about all the times I watched The Lion King as a kid and would chow down immediately.

Most of the game I’ve eaten is not only delicious but incredibly leaner and healthier than beef. Yes, at times it has been strange going on a safari in Namibia or the Serengeti, and eating what I saw immediately after. Nevertheless, anyone traveling through South Africa (click here for my perfect travel itinerary for South Africa) should sample some of the local fare.

Where to eat game meat?


Overall, after traveling to many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, I would say that South Africa and Namibia are the best places to find and eat game meats. I ate plenty of game meats on my travels through South Africa.

The locals love their game meat so game meat is easily found at restaurants all around South Africa and in grocery stores. That’s not to say South Africans are out spear hunting their food, game is not eaten every day as people here stick to the usual beef, chicken, pork, lamb. For the more adventurous, there are numerous places in South Africa where one can hunt for game (for a fee), and naturally eat them afterwards.

The Bushman's sosatie consisting of Zebra, Oryx, Kudu, and Ostrich at Joe's Bierhouse in Windhoek, Namibia.
The Bushman’s sosatie consisting of Zebra, Oryx, Kudu, and Ostrich at Joe’s Bierhouse in Windhoek, Namibia.

The Carnivore restaurant in Johannesburg and Nairobi is the best spot to sample as much game as possible. With a Brazilian churrascarria style buffet, one can eat as many Pumbaas as they can handle. I’ve been here three times now and I’ve chowed on Impala, Kudu, Crocodile, Giraffe, Zebra, springbok, and many more. For the more adventurous types, there are many private game reserves where hunting is allowed (and naturally, eating them afterwards).

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carnivore menu johannesburg restaurant
The menu at Carnivore in Joburg (game meats subject to change every day)

So without further ado, I present to you all the types of game meats that I’ve tried eating. Don’t worry, there are no endangered animals on this list so no rhinos or anything like that. This will really test my repertoire of synonyms for describing food. For the most part, all wild game meats are lean (much leaner than beef) and while they do have their unique tastes, a lot of it depends on how good the cook is preparing the meat.

The grill at the Carnivore cooking up all sorts of game meats.
The grill at the Carnivore cooking up all sorts of game meats.

For all the vegetarians reading this, you’ve already ready this far so clearly you’re interested in what these meats are all about!

The Game Meats Contenders


There’s a lot of different game meats available in Africa. I sampled most that I could but by no means is this list the full menu!

Ostrich

Starting with something simple, Ostrich is readily available in Africa, as well as back home in the US. It’s also the leanest alternative to Beef and tastes amazing (with minimal gaminess). I’ve had this meat countless times in SA. It also costs nothing more than a beef steak but you know you’re eating a much healthier meal.

Ostrich is readily available at the restaurants in South Africa but Oudtshoorn is likely where all Ostrich connoisseurs should go as this town has the largest ostrich farms in the world which of course means delicious ostrich steaks all day.

Blesbok

I had not a clue what this animal was but when I went to a Hazel’s restaurant near the Addo Elephant Park that specialized in game meats, and this was a special for the night. It’s a pretty commonly known animal to the South Africans but I had never heard of it before. I had to search for it on Google Images and after seeing the photos and with my waiter’s recommendations, I agreed to try it.

Wildebeest

After watching the migration in Kenya,it’s clear there there are absolutely no shortages of these animals so eat away I will. The meat is tender and extremely flavorful. It has that faint gamey taste to it, just enough to let me know it was there but not enough to put me off. Prepared right, Wildebeest reminds me of Kudu a bit and it’s no wonder the lions’ favorite time of year is August/September when these guys are in full migration mode with hundreds of thousands of them migrating from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara.

Kudu


Readily available at most restaurants, this is one of the most popular game meats in the country. This is one of my favorites as it is amazingly tender, juicy, and just the right amount of gameyness. Good biltong can be made out of this meat as well.

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Giraffe

Giraffe meat is not commonly found as it is a bit controversial. I wasn’t a huge fan of the meat as it reminded me more of horse meat. It was chewy, and tough but it packed a unique flavor to it. It is more tender than zebra and if I had to pick between the two, it would be giraffe. It was more of a novelty item, check it off the list type of thing and that is exactly what I did.

Crocodile

The “tastes like chicken” saying legitimately applies to crocodile. Croc is a white meat and somewhere in between chicken and pork. There’s not much flavor in croc meat but it goes damn good with peri sauce (what doesn’t?). Also this meat must be eaten fresh otherwise it dries up quickly and loses all its texture and taste. Probably why I’ve never seen any crocodile biltong.

Impala

Another antelope that is incredibly tender and juicy. They have it frequently at the Carnivore. I found impala to be more tough than the similar springbok however. Like most of the game meats I’ve had, medium rare is the way to go.

Springbok

Springbok is the national animal of South Africa, and the mascot for all the national sports teams. It is also an incredibly decadent. It’s easily found throughout the country at restaurants and restaurants. It tastes somewhere between veal and beef but like all the other game meats, is a much leaner alternative to beef.

Oryx/Gemsbok

Oryx, also known as Gemsbok in South Africa is commonly found roaming the dunes and plains of Namibia. On my trip to Namibia, I ate this meat numerous times and it’s one of my favorites. The meat tastes quite similar to beef but obviously leaner and just as juicy and succulent. It has less of a “wild” test to it than say kudu. The best place to eat this I found was in Namibia, where Oryx are more commonly found.

Warthog

I’m a big fan of anything pork and warthog is like the tastier cousin of pork. The meat is tender and juicy like pork but leaner and with a side of beef kick if that makes any sense. Warthog ribs are to die and they pack more flavor than their docile cousins. Lot of restaurants will list warthog as “pumbaa” which makes you think twice about eating it but hell, they could name it rack of human and I’d still chow it. The best restaurant to eat this is Boma in Victoria Falls, ZImbabwe.

Zebra

Not a big fan of this one. Zebras are horses and taste like horses; the meat is extremely red, tough, gamey, and chewy making this my least favorite. Nevertheless, it is still cool to say I’ve eaten one of these black/white striped creatures.

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Cape Buffalo

Weighing up to 2000 pounds, this is likely the only one of the big 5 that can be eaten easily. Lions and Leopards are predators so those are a bit too exotic for most. Rhinos are extremely endangered. Elephants are abundant and a bull elephant could probably feed an entire village for a year so I’m not sure why elephant isn’t consumed more. Nevertheless, cape buffalo meat is not easily found but it tastes nearly identical to North American bison meat.

Guinea Fowl

Perhaps not the most exotic of game meats, Guinea fowl are flightless birds that you’ll find all over South Africa just roaming the streets on a regular basis. I always wondered if people just hunted them off the streets or farmed them but there are MANY of them to go around. Regardless, you can find their meats in the grocery stores and commonly at restaurants. It is a white meat similar to chicken but has a gamey taste to it like pheasant. Overall, I find the taste to be quite delicious and from a health perspective, it has 50% less fat than chicken (which is already quite lean).

Make sure to also try game meat biltong in South Africa

Along with the traditional biltong made from beef, make sure to also try game biltong. Biltong is one of my favorite things to eat in South Africa and it’s beloved by the country’s citizens. Biltong is just dried meat. It’s not unlike beef jerky but it is a million times tastier so never tell a South Africa you’re eating jerky.

Beef is my favorite meat to use with biltong because of the fat which gives it the iconic flavor. However, you can find game biltong because you you can essentially dry any meat. The most common game biltong I’ve had in South Africa is kudu and springbok. I’m not as big of a fan of game biltong as I am of beef biltong but make sure to try it to make your own judgement!

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Johnny
Johnny

I'm a dual Canadian-American from NYC that moved to South Africa for work and ended up traveling all through the continent. I'm currently living the expat life in Frankfurt, Germany and traveling the world as much as I can. I'm a bit obsessed with scuba diving, churning credit cards so I never pay to fly, and eating the most questionable of foods in the most peculiar of places. My bucket list is the world, and some day I might make it there.

26 Comments

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  1. I really appreciate your research. I made my article for my culinary arts program so easy to put together. Thank you.

  2. im in love with this blog. Thanks Johnny for describing it so well. literally waiting to try them all in my next visit to Africa.

  3. Hi Johnny….great blog, really enjoyable and as a foreigner you’ve eaten some African wild game that I haven’t and I’m South African. 🙂

    Very glad to see you didn’t shrink away from the wild meat and declare all of it repulsive as our little vegan friends would have you believe.

    Only gripe (and it’s a teeny one) Our elephants are described as “vulnerable” on the endangered list with all the poaching going on to supply the Easterners with ivory…..we’re the last country in the world that has elephants that aren’t in complete danger of extinction so we’d like to keep it that way. 🙂

    Thanks again for an honest and very entertaining blog on the wild meats available in our country…loved it!!

  4. I’m against people who kill and eat crocodiles because I love reptiles more than any other animal. Hell, crocs are my favorite animals that aren’t extinct. Therefore, I’d like to see them make meals out of their killers.

  5. Sorry for the typos! I think my phone is getting LAZY!! You can probably figure out what I meant…..,again, take it easy!! PS: HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

    StevieRae
    Portland, Oregon

  6. I appreciate your ‘research’ and the sharing of your results! I found this sight after a bleeding ❤️ was sayino that Giraffe was NOT for ‘human consumption’ (*what, is it DOG FOOD?*That is what the pkg of most edible stuff for canines states!) sooo, I went looking for reasons why? I have found NO corroborating info, thus far, BUT now I have something new to check back on-YO and your travels! Take it easy out there, be safe and thanks for sharing!!

  7. This is a great looking blog so far. I just stumbled across this post and really appreciate this portion on game meats because I also like non-traditional foods, especially leaner meats. I’ve been eyeing a motorcycle trip through Africa and this has really got me excited! Good stuff, man.

    • Thanks Drew! You have to try the meats because why the hell not right? And awesome idea about the motorcycle. I met two Aussi guys when I was traveling through Botswana that were doing a whole Joburg to the UK mega roadtrip. They even flew their bikes in from Australia and ended up traveling for a half year and 30000 km or something crazy like that. Let me knwo if you end up going!

    • White Rhinos aren’t endangered. They are at near threatened, which is below least concern(capebuffalo). As for elephant, you typically have to hunt it, and the permits are expensive.

    • I just wanted to say sorry for the typos-I think my my phone is getting LAZY! I’m sure y’all can figure it out!
      **HAPPY NEW YEAR** (EVERYONE!!)

      StevieRae

  8. This post and many other on your blog are very interesting.
    I’m planning on visiting South Africa and can’t wait to try some of these foods! I will definitely look out for some of these meats when I’m there!