African Travel & Wildlife Books

Safari Wildlife BookWildlife Books: What to take with on a Safari Holiday

Even after years of working in the bush, experienced safari guides (field guides) will often take books out with them and this is why even if you have been on safari many times and know your African wildlife, I would suggest taking some wildlife books with you.

What books that you take will depend on what you already know, your interests what you want to know. There is no point in having a guide to the behaviour of African mammals if this is your first visit to Africa and may struggle with antelope identification let alone their behaviour and what it means!

Your safari guide will point out what what you are looking at and be able to answer any questions that you may have, but even so I feel that having it in front of you in writing always helps it to sink in. You can then also look back in the evening as to what exactly you spotted that day and it also helps with naming your photos when you get back home!

In a nutshell, safari and African wildlife books will make your holiday much more interesting and rewarding. And so for this article I will take a look at what books you should take on safari holiday, based on your experience and interests:

First Time Safari, New to African Wildlife:

African Wildlife BooksOk, so this is your first time on safari and in the bush in Africa. Pretty much everything you see and hear will be for the first time, that not only includes the animals, but the birds, trees, flowers, grasses and even the tracks (spoor) made by the animals. It can and probably will seem a little overwhelming at first and that is why, unless you are an expert in a certain field, I would probably opt for a good all-round identification book that will really help you place a name and image to what you are looking at:

You know at least a little about African Wildlife:

African Mammals BooksIf you know a little more and possibly have been in the bush many times, there is always more to learn and you will find that the more you learn the more interesting everything becomes. Even if you are a wildlife expert, the learning will never stop. What books to get will depend on your level of knowledge and your interests, so I have broken the best ones into categories below:

  • African Mammals Books
    Great books on African Mammals, perfect if you are looking for more than just an identification guide.

  • African Bird Books
    I have used many of the best known Southern African bird books, any of the ones below are the ones I highly recommend:

    Beat About The Bush
    The excellent series from Trevor Carnaby that sit in between identification and academic texts, by answering the general everyday questions that safari guides (field guides) often get asked out in the bush.

General Wildlife Book Tips:

Area Specific
It is important if you can, find books that are as specific to the area of Africa that you are traveling to. So for example if your safari holiday is in Kenya, the Mammals of Kenya and Tanzania or even the Mammals of East Africa will be much better then African Mammals. This is probably even more important for bird books.

Bird Pictures in Bird Books
Most of the best birding books tends to have illustrations of the birds rather than photos. This may seem strange, but the illustrations can accentuate the small differences in similar species that a poor quality photo of birds that you often find in birding books that contain photos rather than illustrations.

Where to Buy African Wildlife and Safari Books
I have found that Amazon to be the best place to get most books, unfortunately they do not always stock all the African wildlife books. Other alternatives include buying them in the country when you arrive, this helps with having to carry them on the outward flight and you often see good wildlife books for sale in the Airports, they can however be a little pricey. Another alternative is many of the upper market lodges have a small shop that will sell relevant books, but again these will be much more expensive than buying them on-line from Amazon and you can’t count on your lodge having a shop (unless you ask). A good place to look for cheaper versions of books is on ebay, I have found books that people obviously used on safari and now no longer need (how can that be!), just try and make sure that they are not too out of date.

So in summary I would first try Amazon or other on-line book shops first before you travel, then the Airports or towns that you may visit before going on safari and only as a last resort, buy from the lodge itself.

Country and Area Specific Books (Travel Books)

Apart from the bush and its wildlife, I feel that it is really important to get a feel for a country and its people. You will, even if you stay at your lodge be meeting the people from that country who work at the lodge and so wouldn’t it be nice to know a little more about them and their customs. Another bonus is that may of these books will contain a section on the most common species of wildlife you may encounter on your trip. I would stress though that these should not be your only wildlife book as this section really covers more than the very common species and usually on takes up a few pages of the book.

Safari Book Reviews

Below are links to the latest books that I have fully reviewed: