Best books to inspire African travel

May 9th 2019  |   Travel, Shop, Miscellaneous  |  by   Richard Smith
best african books
Relaxing with a book at Planet Baobab, Botswana

Africa as a continent has always captured the imagination. We asked a selecion of camp owners, guides and marketeers for their favourite books on Africa.

Aardvark Safaris will be at the Hay Festival, the world famous book festival at Hay-On-The-Wye.

Join us for the Aardvark Safaris’ sponsored event – ‘Our Planet’, a talk given by the directors of the landmark Netflix series.

Herefordshire, 23 May – 2 June. Writers, comedians and musicians gather to entertain audiences in the staggering beauty of the Brecon Beacons. The shopping area offers a wide range of products and you’ll find the Aardvark Safaris at Stand 31, along the exhibitor row that leads to the Food Hall.


The Lost World of the Kalahari – Laurens van der Post

recommended by Kirstine Vercoe, African Bush Camps 

Laurens van der Post was fascinated and appalled at the fate of this remarkable people – the Kalahari bushmen. Ostracised by the changing face of African cultural life they retreated deep into the Kalahari desert. His fascinating attempt to capture their way of life and the secrets of their ancient heritage provide captivating reading and a unique insight into a forgotten way of life.

Sundowners in the Okavango Delta, Botswana at Linyanti Bush Camp

Sundowners in the Okavango Delta, Botswana at Linyanti Bush Camp


Congo Tales – Stefanie Plattner 

recommended by Paul Telfler, Congo Conservation Company

The Congo Basin in Central Africa harbours approximately one quarter of the world’s rainforest. In the heart of this forest is Odzala-Kokoua National Park, an ecological wonderland that is home to untold numbers of rare gorillas, forest elephants, and birds. It is also home to people who have lives vastly different from much of the rest of the world. In this stunning photographic series, Pieter Henket presents images of the children of Odzala-Kokoua telling the oral history of the Congo in an enchanting and creative way.

Western lowland gorilla trekking at Lango Camp

Western lowland gorilla trekking at Ngaga Camp


Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese 

recommended by Anita Powell, Small World Marketing

An unforgettable journey into one man’s remarkable life, and an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others set in 1960s and 1970s Ethiopia and 1980s America.


An African Love Story: Love, Life and Elephants – Daphne Sheldrick  

recommended by Elizabeth Bean Crookston, Bush and Beyond 

Daphne Sheldrick’s best-selling love story of romance, life and elephants, An African Love Story: Love, Life and Elephants is an incredible tale from Africa’s greatest conservationists. A typical day for Daphne involved rescuing baby elephants from poachers, finding homes for orphan elephants; all the while campaigning against the ever-present threat of poaching for the ivory trade.

Viewing elephants at Ol Malo, Kenya

Viewing elephants at Ol Malo, Kenya


Islands in a Forgotten Sea – T.V. Bulpin 

recommended by Thierry Dalais, Time + Tide Africa  

In this beautifully illustrated volume, T. V. Bulpin tells the romantic and Arabian-nights-like story of that portion of the Indian Ocean which meets the shores of Southern Africa. Tom Bulpin summed up his love for travel thus: “The reason is easy to explain. The very essence of travel is excitement, the intellectual, personal and physical experience of venturing over the hills and far away, of seeing for yourself new places, meeting new people, making new friends, eating new foods, the fragrance of new flowers and plants, new sounds and melodies and the discovery for yourself of the natural and unnatural wonders of this wonderful planet Earth.”

Chameleon hunting at Time+Tide Miavana, Madagascar

Chameleon hunting at Time + Tide Miavana, Madagascar


The Life and African explorations of Dr David Livingstone – Christopher Hibbert

recomended by Honour Shram de Jong, Honourway

During his travels as a missionary, David Livingstone beheld many previously unknown wonders of the African interior. He put Victoria Falls and Lake Ngami on the map, and was the first white man to cross the African continent. Diaries, reports and letters are combined to create a wonderful narration of Livingstone’s travels in a widely unknown continent. Included in this harrowing tale is Livingstone’s narrow escape from a lion’s wrath, his negotiations with an African chief, and his account of the Portuguese slave traders brutally punishing slaves after their attempt to escape.

Sunset on Lake Malawi, Kaya Mawa

Sunset on Lake Malawi, Kaya Mawa


Can You Smell The Rain? – John Hewett

recommended by Olivia Colville, Azura Retreats 

This memoir of an African-raised farmer and businessman, tracing a career and life centred on Mozambique, represents a specially informative and readable chronicle of the past 30 or more years in the country’s history. At the same time it is an unapologetic autobiography of the author and his family’s lives across Africa, but anchored by a chain of experiences beginning in 1984 with his posting to the fledgling Marxist Mozambican state.


The Sheltering Desert – Henno Martin 

recommended by Birgit Bekker, Ultimate Safaris 

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 civilisation.

Sossusvlei and Namib Rand views at Sossusvlei Under Canvas

Sossusvlei and Namib Rand views at Sossusvlei Under Canvas


Echoes Of Eden: A Collection of Historical Essays on The Seychelles – Bill McAteer

recommended by Nicole Saint Ange – Masons Travel

In “Echoes of Eden” Seychelles historian William McAteer takes his readers on a journey into the past. But it’s a journey with a difference, for this is history at its most varied, consisting of 50 or so separate articles and some 180 illustrations, mostly in colour. Many of the articles first appeared in Air Seychelles’ in-flight magazine, Silhouette. In addition a number of guest writers have contributed articles that were previously published elsewhere. Several Seychelles personalities, who were interviewed by the author, provided insights into their own past, together with their perceptions and concerns for the future.

Anse Lazio beach on Praslin, Seychelles

Anse Lazio beach on Praslin, Seychelles. Stay at Le Duc de Praslin nearby

South Africa

The Elephant Whisperer – Lawrence Anthony

recommended by Lisa Carey, PR and Communications Manager – Singita 

Singita’s 100 year purpose is to protect large areas of Africa for future generations, so they chose a book on conservation. Lawrence Anthony devoted his life to animal conservation, protecting the world’s endangered species. Then he was asked to accept a herd of “rogue” wild 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: they would be killed if he wouldn’t take them. In order to save their lives, Anthony took them in. In the years that followed he became a part of their family, and as he battled to create a bond with the elephants, he came to realise that they had a great deal to teach him about life, loyalty, and freedom.

Relaxing around the pool at Singita Castleton, South Africa

Relaxing around the pool at Singita Castleton, South Africa


Mimi and Toutou Go Forth – Giles Foden

recommended by Tara Walraven – Nomad Tanzania 

Giles Foden has made his name as a novelist of Africa both during and after the Empire, but with his new book he has chosen non-fiction, and a little-known expedition of the First World War: the laborious transportation to Lake Tanganyika and deployment against superior German forces of two little (though powerful and well-armed) motor launches, the Mimi and Toutou of the title.

Dhow cruising at Greystoke Mahale on Lake Tanganika, Tanzania

Dhow cruising at Greystoke Mahale on Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania


There’s Peace in Baobabwe – Chatty

recommended by Alex Walters, Great Plains Conservation

Chatty details the baobab’s place in geological time and the four stages of development from seedlings to maturation, flowering and pollination, fruiting and seed distribution. He explains how these trees become naturally hollowed out.  They have been made to serve as a bus shelter, church meeting place, mosque, swallow nesting site, prison, blacksmith’s forge, and flush toilet.

Baobabs at sunset at Mpala Jena, Zimbabwe © Lucinda Rome

Baobabs at sunset at Mpala Jena, Zimbabwe © Lucinda Rome

Any questions?

If you’ve got this far and not found an answer to a question you have that we should have included, please ask in the comments section below, or pop us an email. We’ll be sure to reply and may amend the article to include our answer.

What next?

We would be delighted to help you plan a holiday, or answer any questions if you’re at an earlier stage. Our team of experts have travelled widely throughout Africa. They can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris.  If you would like to talk to someone who has been there and done it, please just send us an email or give us a call.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.