You will have guessed by now that we don’t have televisions at Londolozi. It’s a mixed blessing I suppose, because while I’d love to follow the USPGA tour shot by shot, I’m not altogether keen on following that crazy race for the White House.

That means that your time spent between wildlife game drives can sensibly be used sleeping, eating or reading – co-incidentally my favourite activities. Too many people, I fear, come to Londolozi forgetting that’s it’s a holiday for indulging your senses, resting your mind and re-booting your body. I urge you to bring an appetite and a couple of great books. Sink in to a recliner on your deck overlooking the Sand River, sip on a gin and tonic and try and spot an elephant, and lose yourself to a wonderful book for a few hours.

That having being said, I think it makes sense to part with the crime novel and try something different. Something stirring, something African. Try one of these three books to compliment your immersion in the South African wilderness.

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Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens

This is a brilliant autobiographical account of a young American couple who arrived in Southern African on the day I was born in 1974. They lived and worked in one of the most remote areas you could possibly find: Deception Valley in the Central Kalahari Game reserve. 8 hours away from the nearest living soul, they put their zoological training to studying the areas carnivores and myriad other wildlife.

From their Foundation page:

Their life in the Kalahari was rewarding but dangerous. In the end, it was their dedication and love of the place and its wildlife that dictated that they must leave. The Kalahari was hit hard by the African drought of the late 70s and early 80s and dried into miles of dusty badlands. While flying aerial reconnaissance during this period, Mark spotted one of the largest wildebeest migrations ever recorded. The wildebeest were pushing north toward natural water sources that had been available for thousands of years during extreme drought. However, this time, their way was blocked by long veterinary cordon fences erected by the government to separate wild ungulates from domestic stock. Officials believed erroneously that the wild animals would infect cattle with ‘hoof-and-mouth disease’. It is now known that the wildlife of the Kalahari had never been infected with the disease, but a quarter of a million wildebeest died along these ill conceived fences. When Mark and Delia could not convince Botswana officials to remove the fences, they exposed this environmental disaster through publications in international journals. In the end, the Botswana government accepted most of the recommendations that Mark and Delia made to conserve the Kalahari, and resolved to maintain the Central Kalahari as a wildlife protectorate. In 1986, before beginning their new research and conservation project in the North Luangwa National Park of Zambia (See North Luangwa Conservation Project), Mark and Delia returned to the Central Kalahari of Botswana and found the lions and brown hyenas that they had studied for many years.

This book has made me re-visit it many times. Immensely powerful – it will draw you into African Wildlife and in-spite of already being 32 years old, is still very relevant. I just wish I could remember who I lent my copy to!

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The Covenant by James A. Mitchener

If you haven’t read a James A. Mitchener before then this is an amazing place to start. It’s hard to believe that the history of South Africa could be so thrillingly welded together into an absolute page turner.

This is taken from the inside flap:

Adventurers, scoundrels and missionaries. The best and worst of two continents carve an empire out of the vast wilderness that is to become South Africa. For hundreds of years, their rivalries and passions spill across the land. From the first Afrikaners to the powerful Zulu nation, and the missionaries who lived with both–all of them will influence and take part in the wars and politics that will change a nation forever.

This should leave you with an excellent understanding of the blood, sweat, toil and tears that have gone into crafting South Africa and the best part is that it was published in 1987 as the Apartheid machine was unravelling – you know what happened next: The Rainbow Nation was born!

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The Soul of the White Ant by Eugene Marais

This sounds like a sort of quasi-political book but it’s actually one of the most deeply interesting and beautiful glimpses into the world of termites. Published almost 80 years ago, Marais’s studies on termites in the South African bush left me totally spellbound and sent me on my own personal journey into the world of insects.

Take a peek:

THAT which is known as the psyche or soul is something far beyond the reach of our senses. No one has ever seen or smelt, or heard or tasted or felt the psyche, or even a piece of it. There are two ways in which we can come on the track of the psyche. In my own innermost self I become aware of something which is not a tangible part of my physical body. This awareness of course is limited to a part of my own psyche. That of my brother is just as far beyond my direct reach as the psyche of the termite. I must accept the existence of other psyches because I am told of them. Introspection is thus one method by which I am able to affirm the existence of the psyche. But this is a separate branch of knowledge which at the moment does not concern us. Now we come to a question which will prove more interesting to us in regard to our observation of the termite. I will try again to be as little scientific and technical as possible. But I must enlarge on it and you must be patient and try to read it and understand it if you wish to grasp all the wonders of a termite nest, which will be revealed to you later on.

It’s relevance to us at Londolozi is that the entire ecosystem here is underpinned by these tireless creatures, and their machinations make Londolozi’s abundance possible. I’m pretty sure that for anyone remotely interested in nature, Marais’s work will profoundly move you and leave you speculating on the wonder that is you and the natural world.

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Filed under Life

About the Author

Tom Imrie

Field Guide

Tom is the voice of wisdom, reason and logic on the Londolozi Ranging Team, as well as all the other facets that go hand-in-hand with being an intellectual far beyond the realm of most mere mortals. There are very few subjects under the ...

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2 Comments

on Rollicking Reads for a Trip to the Bush

Marinda Drake
Guest

Lovely selection Tom. I have read Cry of the Kalahari many years ago. Loved it. Also read The eye of the Elephant by the same authors. Both brilliant reads.

Lesley and Howard
Guest

hi Tom. Howard and I have ordered both books you recommended on our wonderful enlightening trip just a couple of weeks ago and we are re living your stories your gentle manner and your inspiration and love for the game reserve . With all the knowledge you shared with us , we feel we would get so much more from The Covenant and Cry of the Kalahari and can’t wait to return to what we know is our favourite destinatiOn
Send us an email and keep us posted.

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