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Better your birds, learn how to track and more. Pack these brilliant guide books on your next trip to the bush.


For nature lovers

The Story of Life & the Environment: An African Perspective


Recommended by Dalfrenzo Laing, head guide at De Hoop Collection and FGASA (Field Guides Association of Southern Africa) Level 3 Marine guide.

Dalfrenzo obtained his professional guiding qualification with the help of this book. It’s for anyone who enjoys the intrigue of the story of life and the environment. Well written, very informative and illustrated, it’s an easy read that gets you hooked in no time. The book is thoroughly entertaining and takes you into the depths of nature, covering the three major ecosystems: fresh water, the ocean and land. It’s suitable for the average reader as well as professionals in the field.


Know your birds

Roberts Birds of Southern Africa


Recommended by Mike Sutherland, a private photographic and safari guide with seven years’ experience.

Mike has used this hardcover book for many years and knows it well. The layout and style make it easy to follow and the illustrations are some of the most detailed and best around. The latest edition, the seventh, has seasonal, age and sexual differences depicted in the artwork, which is helpful for identifying tricky birds. It goes a little beyond being an average identification guide because it also gives important in-depth info on migration patterns, breeding and nesting behaviour. It’s a firm favourite for Mike on any trip.


Easier to carry in a backpack

Roberts Bird Guide


Most twitchers know the hardcover Roberts Bird Guide as a hefty volume (sometimes too heavy to travel with), but the new release of the second edition in paperback by Hugh Chittenden, Greg Davies and Ingrid Weiersbye is a far cheaper and lighter travel companion that still includes great artwork, maps and photographs, which are incredibly helpful in aiding bird identification. Moreover, with species that are notoriously difficult to identify – for example, the small dull warblers – a full page with line drawings shows distinctive wing features to help out. An essential for any budding birdwatcher out there, and soon to be available for the first time in Afrikaans.


For Lowveld travel

Game Ranger in Your Backpack: All-in-one interpretative guide to the Lowveld


Recommended by Chanyn-Lee and Conrad Zeelie, field guides at Sabi Sabi’s Earth Lodge and former trainers at Africa Nature Training.

The Zeelies reckon this is an indispensable book for those who regularly visit the Kruger and Lowveld region. This comprehensive guide features a little bit of everything – from birds, insects, reptiles and common trees with unusual, interesting facts to good, clear photographs for easy identification of them. It’s essentially the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa syllabus all rolled up into one accessible book that kids and adults will equally enjoy.


Learn how to track

Tracker Manual


Recommended by Melanie van Zyl, our senior photojournalist, bush-lover and FGASA Level 1 Nature guide. 

Compiled by real trackers working across South Africa – from the Karoo National Park to Londolozi Game Reserve. This photographic and illustrated guide is clear and easy to understand with plenty of great tracking tips. Use it to identify the signs – dung, scrapes, trails and tracks – of animals, birds, insects, reptiles and even find the cleverly camouflaged trapdoors of spiders built into the sand.

Each creature has a detailed page or two with plenty of detail about the signs it leaves behind and the instructive introduction chapter will help to rehash any of the knowledge learnt on the course. I wouldn’t go into the bush without it. As a plus, all proceeds from the book go to the Tracker Academy. This NGO sponsors and trains up 16 students a year to go out and work in the field.


Everything you need to know about ellies

Understanding Elephants


Recommended by Melanie van Zyl, our senior photojournalist, bush-lover and FGASA Level 1 Nature guide.  

This book is thin enough to pack for any bush adventure, and has detailed information from the trees and shrubs elephants prefer (figs and false thorns) to how to identify the ages and sex of herd members through trunk width and the hollow behind their eyes. There are also guidelines for safe viewing and info on how to recognise behaviour and threat displays that may lead to a charge. It’s an easy read with plenty of photographs.

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