Back to nature … between the covers

Oceans. Birds. Snakes. Hikes. Game drives. We’re getting outdoors and back to nature this Summer, and have the guides to keep us on the right path.

This new, fully revised, fifth edition of Two Oceans – A Guide to the Marine Life of Southern Africa is a celebration of the extraordinary diversity of life that inhabits the sea and surrounding coastline, reaffirming this book’s reputation as the region’s pre-eminent guide for scientists, students, divers and beachcombers. Including more than 2200 species found in and around our oceans, there’s info on an additional 125 species, 190 new photographs, revised and up-to-date distribution maps, and 260 updated species names to reflect the new taxonomy. The perfect guide by George and Margo Branch, Charles Griffiths and Lynnath Beckley, is concise, with easy-to-use species descriptions and spectacular full-colour photographs. Struik Nature, R500.

Featuring more than 500 trials, including 60 new ones, this fully revised and updated fifth edition of Hiking Trails of South Africa by Willie Olivier is an essential resource for every hiker. It’s an extensive guide which describes a variety of trail across magnificent landscapes, from the iconic daisy fields of the Namaqualand and fynbos-clad coastal plains  of the Western Cape to the high peaks of the Drakensberg and the escarpment beyond. There is a trail for everyone – from hour-long walks close to civilization to overnight hikes of several days, and everything in-between. The inspiring guide – for novice to expert hikers – has trails to suit every level of fitness and ability, includes distance and average hiking time, facilities, accommodation and activities available, points of interest and notes on flora and fauna as well as expert advice on hiking equipment, staying safe on the trail and dealing with emergencies. Struik Nature, R320

The mountains and forests in and around Cape Town are a hiker’s paradise, offering an array of excursions to suit both new converts and seasoned mountain climbers. Hiking Cape Town by Evelyn John Holtzhausen covers 35 exciting hikes on the Cape Peninsula and further afield, ranging from easy to moderate, with several more demanding trails for those who want to up their game. From classic hikes up the front face of Table Mountain and half-day hikes in the remote Cape Point, to gentle rambles along the coast and walks in mountains and nature reserves a short drive from the city, this book encompasses the area’s must-do routes. Each description specifies the approximate walking time, distance, difficulty rating and terrain. More challenging extensions to some of the routes are provided for a more strenuous workout. Full-colour maps and photographs illustrate the routes, and information boxes offer insights into interesting aspects of the specific trails. Struik Travel and Heritage, R260

New maps. New photographs. Updated text. If you’re planning a trip to Kruger, you’ ll really want to get hold of the second edition of Van den Berg’s Kruger Self-Drive – Routes, Roads and Ratings. This hard cover book is not only the first comprehensive guide to all roads in Kruger National Park, but also suggests routes to drive from every camp. It rates every single road in Kruger according to the probability of predator and antelope sightings, scenic beauty and birding opportunities, while the road descriptions feature a write-up of the vegetation, game viewing opportunities and history where applicable, as well as images taken on that specific road. The final section features the most common mammals, reptiles, birds and trees found in the Park. HPH Publishing, R750

Brilliant little add ons if you’re heading to Kruger.
Kruger Sightings Stickers
is just brilliant. A fold-out with images of animals and birds you may see on your game drives, along with 90 stickers, so they can keep track of their sightings. R120. And Kruger Self-Drive Fold-Out Map – a handy, stylish fold-out complete map of the Kruger National Park, including distances between camps and gates.  R95. Both from

Like most other businesses around the world, the safari industry in Africa was brutally reined in by the effects of Covid-19. After many years of delivering privately guided adventure travel across Africa and beyond for delighted clients from all over the world, RAE Safaris was also abruptly forced to postpone two years of planned excursions, take a breather and hope to survive the pandemic. Bored out of their minds during lockdown, guides Andrew Rae and Peter Neville wrote for two UK-based magazines on the major animals often encountered on Sub-Saharan African Safaris. The articles are based on their anecdotal observations and conservation projects in the field accompanied by detailed descriptions of the biology and behaviour of each species in turn. The animal’s featured include everything from African Wild Dog to the Golden Wolf,  the Bat-Eared Fox to the Black-Backed Jackal, the Cape Fox to African Civet, the Caraca to the Cheetah, The authors managed to persuade some of their well known, highly talented and also then self-isolating wildlife photographer colleagues to busy themselves therapeutically and look through their collections for some great photos to help embellish the articles. The result … African Predators, a  really informative book for all those that love the African bush and its animals. Rae Safaris, R285

The national parks and reserves of East Africa are widely known for their rich and abundant wildlife. Geological Highlights of East Africa’s National Parks by Roger Scoon (a Senior Researcher at Rhodes University, author, leader of field trips for international conferences to the Bushveld Complex and northern Tanzania and a Fellow of the Geological Society of South Africa, the Society of Economic Geologists, and the Geological Society of London) shows us a new and exciting angle – the geological highlights of the region’s intriguing landscape. East Africa’s cataclysmic volcanic legacy, caused by rifting of the landmass, has resulted in a rich source of geological wonders. These range from the seemingly endless plains of the Serengeti to the skyscraper walls of extinct calderas and the belching vents of the Nyiragongo Volcano.  This handy guide escorts users around all the major – and some minor – parks of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, and the Virunga Mountains along the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The book discusses the geological origins, influences and current conditions of each park.  Key geosites and how to access them, are indicated, and maps, satellite images and diagrams, along with vivid photography, help explain the dramatic landforms, and adds a new dimension to an East African safari. Penguin Random House, R350 

Here’s an essential companion for birders, whether you’re out in the field or on the couch at home, VELD Birds of Southern Africa: The complete photographic guide incorporates the latest photographs of, and research and atlas information on, all species of birds recorded in southern Africa to date. It’s a comprehensive field guide which contains almost 2 000 beautiful colour photographs, as well as all the latest info on all 991 bird species in southern Africa, concise entries focusing on identification, behaviour, possible confusion and habitat, along with differences in sex, age, colour morphs and subspecies, at-a-glance info on each species’ size, food, status and sociality, brand-new, colour-coded distribution maps reflecting each bird’s status and abundance, both full-length and quick indexes, and an app providing bird calls and additional photographs of plumage variations.  The guide was compiled by prize-winning wildlife photographer Burger Cillié, Niel Cillié – a widely published wildlife and bird photographer, experienced birder and bird photographer Phil Penlington, Trevor Hardaker – one of SA’s most experienced birders and avid birder and bird photographer Karin Wiesler. Game Parks Publishing, R695. 

Snake lovers will be happy to know the long-awaited third edition of A Complete Guide to the Snakes of Southern Africa has been updated, revised and expanded. Information on behaviour, identification, reproduction and snake venoms has been updated based on the most recent scientific research. Features in the book include all essential aspects of snake biology and behaviour covered, full-colour photographs and distribution maps accompany the species descriptions, simple icons which make essential information available at a glance,  a ‘key features’ box that assists in quick identification in the field and chapters on classification and identification, keeping snakes, and the treatment of snakebite. This comprehensive guide by leading reptile expert Johan Marais (who advises hospitals and clinics throughout Africa on snakes and snakebite and provides a variety of snake awareness and handling courses) will prove invaluable to herpetologists, snake collectors, hikers, gardeners and reptile enthusiasts. Penguin Random House, R450

Related Articles

Back to top button