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Books for Safari: background reading

The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals - Jonathan Kingdon publ Academic Press
Beautifully detailed. Only problem with this book is that it is quite big, since it includes mammals from the whole continent. However, none of the smaller/popular books are fully comprehensive, no matter what their cover hype says. In fact, some of them must fall foul of the Trades Descriptions Act!
For even more detail, The Behaviour Guide to African Mammals - Estes/Otte publ University of California Press. Not a field guide, but very informative.
The Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania - Zimmerman/Turner/Pearson/Willis/Pratt
Absolutely essential if you're interested in birds. Now available in paperback.
On Safari in East Africa - a background guide - Ernest Neal Harper Collins
A super little book helping you to 'look' more effectively and to understand and interpret what you're seeing. Worth going out of your way to get this one.
The Insight Guide to East African Wildlife: Safari Special APA publications
The Spectrum Guide to Kenya publ Camerapix Publicatons
The Insight Guide to Kenya - APA Publications
The Bradt Buide to Tanzania - Philip Briggs
The Bradt Guide to Zanzibar - David Else
The Rough Guide to Kenya, especially if you're going it alone, on a budget. Also useful for cultural, historical and political background.
For more historical background, Jomo Kenyatta's Facing Mount Kenya - an anthropological/ethnographic study of the Kikuyu people.

In the lodges and camp shops, you will find small booklets about the reserves - most reserves have their own booklet: in Kenya they are produced by the Friends of Conservation. These are packed full of information about the habitats, vegetation, animals and birds you will find in each reserve. When you see one, buy it - don't wait until you get to that reserve - the shop there might not have it!

If you would like to try your hand at learning some Swahili:
The Lonely Planet Phrase book is the most useful I've seen, and has lots of cultural notes as well as linguistic ones.
Teach Yourself Swahili has a optional cassette tape, which is recommended. It's fast-paced though, and the pressure of trying to fit so much into a reasonably sized book means there isn't much consolidation. Still, it's the best I've seen so far.
I wish the BBC would bring out a multimedia series, but that's an extremely long shot. . .

For evocative background reading:
Out of Africa and Shadows in the Grass - Karen Blixen/Isak Dinensen
Out of Africa is Karen Blixen's book about her experiences in Africa. It was written quite some time after her return to Denmark, and she glosses over quite a lot of her own personal difficulties, but it is a lovely book - part biography, part 'pastorale', all a love story between herself and Kenya. Just sublime!
What do you mean, you haven't seen the film? See it. Now. (The DVD version includes a very interesting commentary by the director, Sidney Pollack) Then read Isak Dinensen - the Life of a Storyteller, which fills out more of the details of Karen's life, and Silence Shall Speak, which is the biography of Denys Finch Hatton, Karen's lover. Another book worth seeking out is Karen's Letters from Africa, credited to Isak Dinensen and translated into English by Anne Born. These books were used in the making of the film, and explain a lot which is implicit, but undeveloped in the movie.
Also in this 'group' is Beryl Markham's West with the Night. (The character 'Felicity' in the film 'Out of Africa' is Beryl Markham. The chapter about the horse race is fantastic! Then read Errol Trzebinski's "The Lives of Beryl Markham" for a fascinating re-evaluation.

The Flame Trees of Thika and The Mottled Lizard - Elspeth Huxley
Elspeth writes 'faction' about her experiences of being brought up as a 'settler' child in Kenya at the beginning of the 20th century.
Incredibly. although these books were written so long ago, I was reading The Mottled Lizard on our first safari, and it was incredible how often things would happen or we'd see things which related directly to something I'd just read, and I would say, "I was just reading last night . . ." It became a standing joke.
Also Elspeth's Nellie: Letters from Africa, her mother's biography (her mother was Nellie, not Tilly as in the first two books, and her father Josceline, 'Jos', not Robin) and her letters.

More recently written, I Dreamed of Africa, African Nights and Night of the Lion - Kuki Gallman publ. Penguin

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