A tailor-made photographic safari in a place so rich and diverse in wildlife is an incredible experience for anybody interested in wildlife photography. The sheer volume of species we see and photograph every day always takes the uninitiated by surprise and how close we can get to them, well… that still blows my mind everytime!

When you are making travel plans or other preparations, it is interesting to get an idea of what you will actually see. Species identification is useful of course but photographically, it is useful to understand some of the fieldcraft we may use when working in their habitat.

I am an avid ‘bibliophile’, I collect a wide range of wildlife field guides and I’m always dipping in and out of them. I pick most of them up at airports when I’m waiting to catch a flight so I thought I’d put together a selection of ‘recommended reading’ if you are doing the same…..

Books African Photography Safaris - Alan Hewitt Photography

Game Ranger in Your Backpack by Megan Emmett and Sean Pattrick (Briza Publications) is not a conventional identification field guide. As the title suggests, it is designed to provide practical information on habitat, behaviour and evolutionary traits on the species you are most likely to encounter in the Lowveld of South Africa. Most of it is absolutely relevant to other wildlife hotspots of Africa too. I picked up my copy at O.R Tambo airport in Johannesburg.

The Wildlife of Southern Africa edited by Vincent Carruthers (Struik Nature) is more of a conventional field guide covering over 2,000 species of flora and fauna. Each species is illustrated and includes a size guide and geographical range. I picked up my copy at O.R Tambo airport in Johannesburg.

Birds of East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi) by Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe (Helm Field Guides) is a comprehensive field guide exclusively for birds. Over 1300 species are illustrated and the accompanying text describes the identification, conservation status, range, habitats and calls. Illustrations include male / female and juvenile differences. It’s a fantastic book and a must on the list for any bird enthusiast travelling in East Africa. I picked my copy up at Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi.

The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals by Jonathan Kingdon (Princeton) is another essential field guide covering identification features, geography, habitat and behaviours. Over 1,100 species are covered, most with coloured illustrations. It’s a great pairing with Stevenson and Fanshawe’s Birds of East Africa book (above). I picked my copy up at Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi.

Beat About The Bush by Trevor Carnaby (Jacana Media) is probably the most fascinating wildlife book I have read! Seperate versions exist for mammals and birds but this is the comprehensive version covering both. It’s not an identification field guide, instead it answers so many questions and covers a wide range of topics on habitats, feeding, reproduction, habits, camouflage and so much more. It is an amazing book written for anybody with an interest in African wildlife. If I could only recommend one title, this would be it. I picked up my copy at O.R Tambo airport in Johannesburg.

All of these books are also available via Amazon in the UK.

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