Wildlife of Southern Africa , by Martin Withers and David Hosking, is new (August 2011) and good. If you are planning a trip to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana or anywhere nearby, or if you live there and like to go to the bush sometimes, consider it.
This is a pocket guide, it is small, has good photographs, is inexpensive, and accurate.
In my opinion, if you are travelling around Africa looking at wildlife, you will need a set of more specialized guides (which I’ve discussed at length elsewhere on this blog, see below), but this is a good extra to carry along or to have handy, depending on circumstances. This book covers mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, and amphibians. It covers whales and antelope and predators, butterflies, beetles, snakes and frogs. The selection of species is such that if you are looking around in the bush from Zimbabwe and Zambia south to the Cape, you’ll be reasonably likely to find what you are looking for much of the time. The total number of species covered is over 400.
If I was running tours in Southern Africa (and I’ve done that so I know of what I speak to some extent) I’d have a few of these books handy to distribute among the tourists for reference. If I was travelling around I’d have one of these in the glove compartment for handy reference. I also keep a small set (or two or three) of not-so-great binoculars handy as well for the same reason; You can’t have one of everything for everyone on the trip, or keep all the good books and optics in the vehicle all the time. But you can have a small set of binocs under the seat and this book in the map pocket.
This book also has a very good section in the beginning on planning your outings and on photography.
For other information on your field guide choices for your nest Safari to Africa, have a look at these posts:
- Bird and Mammal Field Guides for Africa
- A Field Guide to ALL of the Carnivores! (Almost)
- I haven’t reviewed this one yet but I like it: Birds of Southern Africa by Sinclair, Hockey et al