A Guide to the Birds of East Africa
Nicholas Drayson, 2007, Footprint, hardback, 202 pages, £12.99
Stop. It’s not what you are thinking. This is a charming piece of fiction that follows the “reserved and honourable” Mr Malik (and his carefully sculpted comb-over) as he tries to out-duel Harry Kahn.
The Prize? The chance to ask Rose Mbikwa, the leader of the Tuesday morning bird walk of the East African Ornithological Society, to the annual Hunt Ball. The contest that will determine the winner? The spotting of birds – more specifically, who can spot the most of them in a week. With boats, planes and guides aiding his efforts, taking him to the best birdwatching venues in Kenya, Harry soon builds a big lead. Not to be outdone, Mr Malik uses some rather unorthodox methods and finds himself in some adventuresome situations of his own. Drayson’s simple narrative style is reminiscent of Alexander McCall Smith, author of the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency. A perfect book for a relaxing weekend or holiday.
On Safari in Africa: 101 things to know when you go
Patrick Brakspear, 2008, Passion For Africa, soft cover, 256 pages, £19.95
Rather than tackling the likes of Lonely Planet and Rough Guides by helping readers with the questions of ‘where to stay’ and ‘where to go’, this novel guide aims to enrich your time on safari. Author Patrick Brakspear, who owned and operated a safari business in Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe until 2004, starts the book with some background on Africa, and provides a checklist of what you need to do before you leave home. He then takes you through what to expect on safari, including demystifying safari jargon; teaches you the nuances of learning to observe and question all that you see and hear; explains the habitats and animals you will encounter, their behaviour and physiology; provides you with a wealth of interesting facts about the wildlife; and introduces you to many other aspects of an African safari including birding, trees, insects and wildflowers and the night sky. A reference section contains greetings and useful phrases in a variety of African languages, photographic tips, animal checklists, spoor charts and country maps and finishes with a comprehensive glossary of safari terms and definitions. The illustrations by William Sykes are an added bonus to this great safari companion. The title is available from the publisher’s website: www.passionforafrica.com.au.
A Year of Festivals
James Bainbridge and Andrew Baina, 2008, Lonely Planet, soft cover, 224 pages, £16.99
With the mantra ‘festivals are a gift’, this new Lonely Planet title hopes to provide the ultimate travellers’ calendar to the best cultural presents the world has to offer. Laden with vibrant images and rich text, it clearly hits the mark. Organised into weeks and months, it should provide you with plenty of planning material for your upcoming holidays. Each festival is also, uniquely, ranked by the level of participation tourists are allowed. While there are plenty of African choices to choose from, ranging from Benin’s Voodoo Festival to Zanzibar’s Mwaka Kogwa, there are heaps of enthralling options on five other continents. We couldn’t agree more with a quote from the book’s introduction: “Festivals are a living, dancing museum of cultures and traditions in an increasingly globalised world. There is no better place for travellers to understand a country than an event where it proudly celebrates its individuality.” Enjoy.