I have always been fascinated with African wildlife and also African life, and enjoy reading about the places I have visited and would like to visit.
Here are some books I have enjoyed.
Alexander McCall Smith
The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series captures life in Botswana. The characters have won the hearts of readers around the globe. Written as a long love-letter to a country and culture which he admires, I'm pleased that the author has no plans to bring this series to an end anytime soon.
‘What is so fantastic about this material and why I was always so drawn to the books is that they are a celebration of what we might learn from Africa… The West is a mess; we are a neurotic society, self-absorbed, solipsistic, and greedy. We compete too much with each other and have no community. Look at Botswana and its dignity, friendliness and big-heartedness; the core of this itself is the reliance on community, debate and discussion’ – Anthony Minghella
Daphne Sheldrick - 'An African Love story, love, life and elephants'
I have seen the work that the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust does in Kenya, and thoroughly recommend a visit to the elephant orphanage in Nairobi and this book.
'Daphne Sheldrick's best-selling love story of romance, life and elephants, An African Love Story: Love, Life and Elephants is an incredible story from Africa's greatest living conservationist. Daphne Sheldrick has spent her entire life in Kenya. For over 25 years, she and her husband, David, the famous founder of the the giant Tsavo National Park, raised and rehabilitated back into the wild orphans of misfortune from many different wild species. These included elephants, rhinos, buffaloes, zebra, eland, kudu, impala, warthogs and many other smaller animals.A typical day for Daphne involves rescuing baby elephants from poachers; finding homes for orphan elephants, all the while campaigning the ever-present threat of poaching for the ivory trade. An African Love Story is the incredible memoir of her life. It tells two stories - one is the extraordinary love story which blossomed when Daphne fell head over heels with Tsavo Game Park and its famous warden, David Sheldrick. The second is the love story of how Daphne and David, who devoted their lives to saving elephant orphans, at first losing every infant under the age of two until Daphne at last managed to devise the first-ever milk formula which would keep them alive. '
Cynthia Moss - 'Elephant Memories'
Elephants hold a particular fascination for me, seeing them in the wild is a fantastic experience, and I'm always keen to learn more about them. Cynthia Moss has studied the elephants in Kenya's Amboseli National Park for over twenty-seven years. Her long-term research has revealed much of what we now know about these complex and intelligent animals. In this book she chronicles the lives of the members of specific families. It's detailed and quite scientific, but well-written and touching.
Cynthia also made the award-winning documentary 'Echo of the Elephants'.
Lawrence Anthony - 'The Elephant Whisperer, Learning About Life, Loyalty and Freedom From a Remarkable Herd of Elephants' and 'The last Rhinos'
A fascinating insight into the amazing world of the elephant and animal communications and relationships.
The Elephant Whisperer - 'When South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony was asked to accept a herd of ‘rogue’ elephants on his Thula Thula game reserve in Zululand, his common sense told him to refuse. But he was the herd’s last chance of survival – dangerous and unpredictable, they would be killed if Anthony wouldn’t take them in. As Anthony risked his life to create a bond with the troubled elephants and persuade them to stay on his reserve, he came to realize what a special family they were, from the wise matriarch Nana, who guided the herd, to her warrior sister Frankie, always ready to see off any threat, and their children who fought so hard to survive.'
The Last Rhinos - 'Lawrence Anthony's South African game reserve is home to many animals he has saved, from a remarkable herd of elephants to a badly behaved bushbaby called George. Described as 'the Indiana Jones of conservation', when one of his rhinos was brutally slaughtered for her horn, he didn't hesitate to lead an armed response against the poachers. Then he learned that there were only a handful of northern white rhinos left in the wild, living in an area of the Congo controlled by the infamous Lord's Resistance Army and soon to be hunted into extinction. Lawrence knew he had to take action. What followed was an extraordinary adventure, as he headed into the jungle to negotiate with the rebels, while battling to save his own animals from terrible drought and to save the eyesight of his beloved elephant matriarch Nana. The Last Rhinos is peopled with unforgettable characters, both human and animal, and is a sometimes funny, sometimes moving, always exciting read.'
Martyn Murray - 'The Storm Leopard'
'The Storm Leopard is an blend of travel and nature writing that explores the primary dilemma of the 21st century - the conflict of modern lifestyles with the natural environment. The book is filled with insights of African elephants and antelope, and with portraits of a natural world inhabited by Bushmen, game wardens and scientists. Running through it is an outspoken and highly ethical regard for humankind's relationship with nature. From his first contact with Bushman rock art in the Western Cape, the author is drawn into a spiritual journey as he grapples with the quandary of balancing our lifestyles with protecting the environment. The Storm Leopard is a unique book that emanates from the author's passionate affair with nature and many years of experience in the field as an ecologist and consultant in conservation - nothing deals with today's environmental issues in the same way.'
Laurens Van Der Post - 'The lost World of the Kalahari'
I read this book many years ago (it was published in 1958) and it fascinated me long before I thought I would ever make it to Africa, and specifically to the Tsodilo Hills to see the rock art of the Bushmen for myself. We camped beneath the ancient rocks, no-one else around for miles, and I have to say it was a spooky experience; one moment it was deathly quiet and still and in another a howling wind nearly blew the tent away. The wind dropped as suddenly as it started and only the cough of a leopard nearby broke the silence ... . Quite unnerving!
In 'The Lost World of the Kalahari', you can read Laurens van der Post's story of his first visit to the hills. Of how his party had ignored the advice of their guide, and thus disturbed the spirits of the hills, by hunting warthog and steenbok on their way. Once at the hills, his companion's camera magazines inexplicably kept jamming, his tape recorders stopped working, and bees repeatedly attacked his group – and the problems only ceased when they made a written apology to the spirits. So perhaps the spirits here are one more reason why you ought to treat the Tsodilo Hills with the very greatest of respect when you visit them.
His book has been discredited since his death, as being "inaccurate, embellished, exaggerated, distorted or invented," but there remains an adventurer's tale about a place where inexplicable things happen.
Sandy Gall - 'The Bushmen of Southern Africa - slaughter of the innocent'
More recently, this book tells a sorry tale about the bushmen, or 'San' people of Botswana, but we were privileged to meet a delightful group of San people in Botswana who seemed to be balancing their old ways with the new, for how long is not clear. (see wild diary)
'Bushmen were hunting and gathering, painting and mining copper, thousands of years ago. They were the first people of Africa. Deadly shots with their bows and arrows, they were, in their heyday, Lords of the Desert. They fought extremely bravely for their land, and lost. Today, they have been reduced to an underclass - dispossessed, despised and degraded. Just in time - one is tempted to say, miraculously - the Mandela government saved them from extermination in South Africa. Now, in Botswana's Central Kalahari Game Reserve, set aside specially for them by the British in 1961, they are making their last stand, refusing to be evicted in order to benefit mining and tourism. Sandy Gall, who is best known for his reporting of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, has taken up the cause of the Bushmen. His interest in their plight dates back to the 1950s and 1960s when he was working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters; in 1999 he visited the Central Kalahari with his daughter Michaela. His book celebrates the culture of these unique people, many of whom have an almost mystical bond with animals. He has portrayed many fascinating individuals who have been involved, for good or ill, in their tragic history and their present predicament. Here, for the first time, is the full story of the slaughter of an innocent people. The Bushmen of Southern Africa speaks not only for the Bushmen but for the native indigenous people of the world. It faces up to a shameful and bloodstained past and looks at burning current issues such as human rights and the ownership and exploitation of land.'
Henno Martin - 'The Sheltering Desert'
The Namib desert is wild and inhospitable, and to see for myself where this story unfolded made it even more fascinating.
'Threatened with Internment for the duration of World War II, two young German geologists, Henno Martin and Hermann Korn, sought refuge in the Namib Desert and lived a Robinson Crusoe existence for two and a half years. How they mastered their situation, what they did, thought and observed are the subject of The Sheltering Desert. In it lies the vastness of the landscape, the clear skies, nature's silence in the joy or suffering of her creatures, and the stillness in which the reader, too, may take refuge from the wrongs of civilization.'