(Issue 70, Spring 2015) Books that have caught our eye this season:
5 Inspirational African Books
Patrick Brakspear of Brisbane-based African Encounter, shares his favourite pioneer stories. Each of the people featured is a legendary figure in wildlife conservation circles. These are the stories of their early years – long out of print but not forgotten.
1 My Serengeti Years, by Myles Turner (Elm Tree Books, 1987)
An insight to the early years of the Serengeti National Park, where Myles Turner was warden for nearly two decades, steering one of the world’s great wildlife sanctuaries through its difficult formative years. It tells of his untiring efforts in the face of unprecedented poaching and political intrigue, alongside his dealings with researchers, rangers and colleagues alike – a life of adventure and sacrifice.
2 Among the Elephants, by Iain & Oria Douglas-Hamilton (Collins & Harvill Press, 1975)
Iain Douglas Hamilton, now considered one of the world’s leading authorities on the African elephant, was a young researcher in 1965 when he was offered the opportunity to study an elephant problem in Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania. He was provided with nothing more than an old Land Rover and a prefabricated hut in which to live, and was required to finance the research himself. This book tells the tale of the next five years of his life: “a story of scientific discovery, of courage and adventure, of perseverance, and perhaps above all of joie de vivre”.
3 Wankie, by Ted Davison (Books of Africa, 1967)
Wankie National Park in Zimbabwe (now known as Hwange) was proclaimed in 1928 and Ted Davison was its first warden. He was just 22, single – and allocated a budget of £500 to cover all the expenses of running a game reserve. He started with no staff, no vehicle, no maps, and virtually no roads or infrastructure, and was to serve as warden for 34 years. A story of courage, persistence and determination, of the hardship and joy of conservation, and of a young man starting out on his life’s work.
4 The Tsavo Story, Daphne Sheldrick (Collins & Harvill Press, 1973)
This is the story of Tsavo National Park in Kenya and one its early wardens, David Sheldrick, told by his wife Daphne, who needs no introduction. It tells of the park’s turbulent history, its difficult early struggles with poachers and with drought, and of the many elephants that live within its borders. It is about dedication, patience, courage… and hope.
5 In the Shadow of Man, by Jane van Lawick-Goodall (Collins 1971)
This was Jane Goodall’s first publication on chimpanzees and covers her early years at Gombe Stream in Tanzania. She describes the journey to establish, and then foster, the close relationship that would allow her to better understand her subjects. It catalogues her early efforts, failures and successes, and outlines her observations of family life, social hierarchies, loyalties and conflicts, and the many facets of the lives of the forest-dwelling chimpanzees.
Wildlife Photography in Botswana: A Practical Guide , by James Gifford and Steven Stockhall
Following the interest shown in our cover story last issue, we thought we’d draw your attention to this neat little book that every visitor to Botswana should take. The guide leads you through the various regions, offering practical travel advice as well as technical tips and suggestions on the best places to snap the country’s amazing wildlife. Its handy size makes it really easy to throw in your hand luggage.
Walking the Nile, by Levison Wood
Whether or not you watched the Channel 4 documentary charting the author’s record-making walk along the length of the world’s longest river, or read our interview in Travel Africa issue 65 (Winter 2014), you’ll be enthralled by Lev Wood’s remarkable expedition through some of Africa’s least travelled and most dangerous areas.
Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia: A Guide to the Remote Churches of an Ancient Land, by Maria Jose Friedlander and Bob Friedlander (I B Taurus)
At first glance, 300 pages suggest a rather academic tome, even for those who have fallen under the spell of Ethiopia’s remarkable rock-hewn churches. Yet delve within its covers and you find yourself drawn ever more deeply in. The authors’ direct, personal style brings to life the tales depicted on every wall in every building. Diagrams and photographs ensure you don’t miss a thing. Too heavy to throw in your rucksack, but a remarkable work of scholarship and love.
I would like to suggest two books that I enjoyed immensely:
The Wilderness Family, by Kobie Kruger – A young family’s life in a remote part of the Kruger National Park. If this doesn’t make you want to visit the Kruger, nothing will.
The Elephant Whisperer, by Lawrence Anthony – The wonderful story of one man’s struggle to settle a herd of traumatised elephants that had been condemned to destruction.
Recommended by Robert Jones, Netherlands
If you’d like to propose a favourite book about Africa, share it with fellow readers: email@example.com