The Best Wildlife Books to Read in Lockdown
At the moment all we can do is dream. With travel restrictions across the globe, getting to our favourite wildlife destination spots is near impossible. Exploring new areas, staying at camps for the first time or revisiting our most beloved places is something that will never be taken for granted again. Yet there are a couple of ways in which we can be transported to the continent of dreams. The first is by film/television, the second is social media and other mediums of communication, but the last, and arguably the most rewarding, is through reading. Whether it is a glossy hardback full of outstanding pictures or a scruffy paperback that was hidden at the back of the bookshelf, each page will guarantee to catapult you to Africa. So sit back, relax and take a look at some of our favourite wildlife books.
Painted Wolves: A wild dog’s life by Nicholas Dyer and Peter Blinston
Compiled over six years of observation in Mana Pools, Zimbabwe, this extraordinary book would sit proudly on anybody’s coffee table. With exceptional photographs that beautifully illustrate the descriptions given about wild dog life, Painted Wolves is a must for anyone who is intrigued by these charismatic canids. Whilst these dogs featured in BBC’s Dynasties, the book delves into their lives more explicitly and examines the life cycle from denning and breeding to territorial disputes and the apparent dangers of a wild dog’s life. The book is rounded off with a brilliant insight into the conservation techniques helping to try and restore the depleting wild dog population, showing that there is hope for these enigmatic creatures.
If you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of these beautiful animals, then Mana Pools is one of the best places to do this. Vundu Camp is in the perfect location and is where Sir David Attenborough stayed when he was filming for the BBC. Africa Odyssey’s own David also visited Vundu and he wasn’t let down!
Don’t Run Whatever you do by Peter Allison
Possibly one of the first wildlife books I picked up and still to this day, I love – maybe a reason why I became a safari guide? Centred around safari guide Peter Allison’s adventures at Mombo Camp, Botswana, this book is full of thrills, spills and near misses. Accompanied by grumpy guests and extraordinary wildlife, it is apparent that a safari guide’s life is a non-stop adventure.
The Okavango Delta, where Mombo Camp is located, is one of the best wildlife viewing destinations in the world. With the seasonal flooding changing the landscape, knowing when to go is crucial for what you want from your wildlife viewing experience. From elephants to red lechwe, to lions and angry buffalos, the Delta has it all and if you want an uplifting, hilarious and entertaining book then Allison’s adventures should be first on your list!
101 Kruger Tales by Jeff Gordon
The Kruger National Park is one of the most renowned wildlife parks in Africa. For South Africans it is a haven which is home to a vast array of flora and fauna. Whilst we would always suggest going on safari by staying at a lodge in a private concession in the National Park, like Lion Sands’ Tinga or heading to reserves in the Greater Kruger like the Sabi Sands that boarder it, there are many who opt to self-drive around Kruger. Whilst there are some big differences between the private reserves and the national park, with over a million people visiting Kruger per year, there are certainly some stories to tell.
Comprised of first-hand stories by those who have self-driven, the book explains some of the most extraordinary sightings and occurrences that have happened over the years. From impalas jumping into the open windows of cars whilst chased by cheetahs, to one couple discovering a Mozambique spitting cobra in the foot-well of their Toyota Hilux on their trip home, you can be sure that each tale of the one hundred and one told, will be either amusing, eye-opening or almost unbelievable.
The Big Cat Man by Jonathon Scott
BBC presenter and exceptional artist and photographer, Jonathon Scott takes you through his life in an eye-opening and humble recollection of his most beloved experiences. With the majority of Scott’s African wildlife experience coming in Kenya’s Masai Mara, this is where most of the book is set. Flitting between camps like Kichwa Tembo and Governors Camp, Scott takes us on a journey through the Mara. From selling his art-work to fund his first Land Rover, to presenting in front of the camera that will be aired to millions of viewers, this book shows that not everything is as it seems. With underlying mental health issues, Scott’s exploration into the natural world and his own is a truthful and humble retelling of a naturalist who breathes, eats and sleeps Africa is one to be remembered.
The Mara is highly recognised as a photographer’s dream. With endless grassy plains and an abundance of big cats, it is no wonder that so many people flock here. Accessible from Nairobi for day visitors also means the Mara is often very busy, which is a shame because the wildlife is spectacular. That said, across the border in the Serengeti of Tanzania, the wildlife is still as dramatic, but there are less visitors. Scott also spent time there and recalls on some of his favourite memories whilst visiting the herds of wildebeest all year round in this enchanting autobiography.
The Black Rhinos of Namibia by Rick Bass
For anyone who has been lucky enough to see a wild black rhino will understand the privilege of witnessing such a historic beast. With an unpredictable temperament, this creature is very different to its wide lipped cousin, the white rhino. Black rhinos number at only around five thousand in total, and with exponential poaching, they are on the brink of extinction. Bass goes into the harsh and desolate landscape of the Namib desert in search of this prehistoric tank. For the sake of conservation, but to also find out more about these desert adapted creatures that live a life of solitude. He ponders how humankind has successfully brought back the rhino from the brink of extinction, to almost annihilate the species again, it makes for an insightful and intriguing read.
Whilst black rhinos remain one of the most critically endangered animals in the world and one that safari goers are always hopeful to encounter, travelling to Namibia certainly isn’t for its abundance of wildlife, but the fauna you do come across will leave you spell-bound. Whether it’s the majestic desert elephants or the elusive brown hyena, desert life isn’t for the feint hearted. At Desert Rhino Camp in Namibia (which is partnered with Save the Rhino Trust), you can go in search for the desert adapted black rhino either by foot or by vehicle, and also help contribute to saving a magnificent species.
The Sacred Combe by Simon Barnes
How do you manage to find your piece of paradise away from Africa? A question that any lover of safari will tell you is almost impossible to do, yet Barnes explores this question beautifully. Deep in the South Luangwa in Zambia, Barnes found a serenity and a peacefulness that is unimaginable in everyday life. From the gigantic elephants consuming fruits outside his room to the dappled leopards flitting in and out of the shadows, the South Luangwa is a place unknown to most. With exceptional game viewing, the lack of visitors here really pays dividends in finding inner peace.
One of our favourite camps in the South Luangwa is Nsefu Camp by Robin Pope Safaris. Small, intimate and located on the banks of the Luangwa River, there is no better place to find inner peace and sanctuary. Comprised of stories from the Luangwa and from the marsh by his home in Norfolk, The Sacred Combe explores a search for paradise nearer to home and trying to come to terms that although nothing quite compares to Africa, you may be able to find a sacred paradise closer than you think.
Vanishing Kings, Lions of the Namib Desert by Philip Stander
Lions are exceptional creatures. From America, through Europe, Asia and down to the Southern most reaches of Africa, the lion was one of the most adaptable creatures in the world and their prehistoric range proves this. Yet with over fifty percent of their former range gone, the African lion (and even more so, the Asiatic lion) are under more pressure than most people realise. Vanishing Kings explores a small pocket of lions that call the Skeleton Coast of Namibia their home. Through lifelong dedication, Dr Stander presents a beautiful tale full of hope and heartbreak. With acute scientific data to demonstrate the plight of these lions, the book comprises of beautiful photographs to accompany in-the-field notes which outline the rise and fall, from cubs to kings, of some of Africa’s finest and hardiest lions.
Nicknamed the ‘phantoms of the coast’, the desert lions that inhabit this area are certainly not a guarantee when visiting the area, but the fauna and surrounding scenery here is breath taking. On the coast you can marvel at the huge seal colony that is preyed upon by brown hyenas and jackals, with a backdrop of ship wrecks, whilst inland and amongst the never-ending sand dunes, game such as gemsbok, giraffes and desert elephants roam freely. Access to this inhospitable landscape is by light aircraft meaning that a three-night stay would be recommended to make the most of everything that is on offer, and Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp is the camp to stay at!
I realise this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to wildlife books, and there are so many more to be discovered, yet I hope that during this time when travel isn’t possible, you will be inspired and transported to the continent of dreams from the comfort of your home.