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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

14 September 2010

Otter book club

Written by Maureen

Baedeker’s South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland
We are not very impressed with this guidebook. It focuses on a few well-known tourist destinations and is not really geared for independent travellers, especially those like us who enjoy exploring beyond the Top 20 sights. The book lists places alphabetically, rather than by area, which is just daft! If you’re visiting Tsitsikamma you won’t find it under “T”, you have to guess that it’ll be under “G” for Garden Route. We were also hampered by the lack of context maps – it only has them for the biggest cities. A larger selection of accommodation and eating establishments would also be useful. My advice is get a different guidebook.

Roberts Bird Guide
Hugh Chittenden
An excellent and comprehensive guide to the birds of Southern Africa with detailed description of each species, its habitat, call, etc. Good quality colour illustration. Although we are not keen birders, we were able to identify most of the birds we saw using this book. Sometimes, though, you can’t even see the birds – see video below.

The Pocket Photoguide to Mammals of Southern Africa
Burger Cillie
A field guide to the mammals of Southern Africa. It is not a comprehensive guide (contains an entry on the Cape clawless otter, but not the Spotted-necked otter), and some of the info is out of date. But the book is compact and easy to carry around. Useful for identifying antelopes, but only covers larger mammals so don’t expect to nail your mouse species.

After Mandela: The Battle for the Soul of South Africa
Alec Russell
I wanted a book to give me some background on modern South Africa, and how the country had adjusted to the changes since the end of apartheid. This book examines the the challenges faced by the ANC since the start of majority rule, and critiques the the party’s performance. Written by a political journalist, this is an intelligent book which highlights the fact that the problems faced by South Africa is not black and white (pardon me), but is far more complex than that. It touches on controversial issues such as land reform, AIDS and Zimbabwe. Worth a read.

The Double Comfort Safari Club
Alexander MacCall Smith
The latest instalment of the No1 Ladies Detective Agency series, of which I am a fan. Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi visits the Okavango delta on a business trip. Thoughtful, gentle humour disguises some astute observations. Good stuff.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Run
Peter Allison
Stories by a former safari guide in Botswana. Having visited Botswana on a safari several years ago, I was interested in how it all works. It’s basically a book of anecdotes, quite funny and very much light reading. I was also hoping to pick up some tips on how to spot animals, but there weren’t really any.

The Man-Eaters of Tsavo and Other East African Adventures
J H Patterson
Written over 100 years ago by an engineer who came to East Africa to work on the construction of a railway line. This book was made into a fairly good holywood film called the Ghosts of Darkness, several years ago, which was the reason I picked it up. The account of the man-eating lions were truly gruesome in places and the book does provide some interesting perspective on the challenges of building a railway track in darkest, untamed Africa. Unfortunately, 2/3 of it is basically an ego trip by the author as he recounts his hunting trips and the trophies he collected.

Finally, here’s the short video I promised. It was taken back at Storms River Mouth, as we walked the short Lourie trail which winds its way through one of the last indigenous forests in South Africa. As usual, best with sound turned on.

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3 Responses to “Otter book club”

  1. Dan says:

    What strange creature was that we were watching…sounded like a bird, but looked kind of ape like??

  2. Jane says:

    love! love this whole blog! book reviews… whistling at birds… whee!

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