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What to Read and Watch Before Your Safari

Safari Books and Movies

What to read and watch for inspiration before safari

From our biologist founder to our staff passionate about travel and conservation to our guides in the field, our team has compiled a comprehensive list of favorite books, movies and documentaries for inspiration as you are planning a trip, or to satisfy that safari anticipation while you await your first (or next!) safari.  

Suggested Reading List

Some of the books below are informative field guides and reference books to learn more about the species you might see on safari, and several come in pocket size or digital e-book formats that you could even take on safari with you. Others delve into animal behavior, cover the broad history of the African continent, share tales of adventure, or recount the fascinating cultures of the people of Africa, to name a few. 

  • A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson
  • A Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
  • A Primate’s Memoir by Robert Sapolsky
  • Africa by Richard Dowden
  • Animals of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area by Adam Scott Kennedy
  • Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal
  • Birds of East Africa by Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe
  • Cathedral of the Wild by Boyd Varty
  • Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens
  • Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa by Chris Stuart
  • Globejotting: How to Write Extraordinary Travel Journals by Dave Fox
  • Honey, Honey, LION!  by Jan Brett (a children’s book with beautiful illustrations)
  • Newman’s Birds of Southern Africa by Kenneth Newman
  • Pocket Guide to African Mammals by Jonathan Kingdon
  • The Ape and the Sushi Master by Frans de Waal
  • The Covenant by James Michener
  • The Healing Land – The Bushmen and the Kalahari Desert by Rupert Isaacson
  • The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals by Jonathan Kingdon
  • The Lion Children by Angus, Maisie and Travers McNiece (for families)
  • The Old Way – A Story of the First People by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas (Bill’s favorite for learning about the Bushmen culture)
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Safari Companion Guide: A Guide to Watching African Mammals by Richard D. Estes
  • The Serengeti Lion by George Schaller
  • The Tree Where Man Was Born by Peter Matthiesen
  • West With the Night by Beryl Merkham
  • Whatever You Do, Don’t Run – True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide by Peter Allison (a humorous look behind the scenes of safari)

Suggested Watching List

(photo: Nat Geo)
  • Into the Okavango – Nat Geo documentary about a group of biologists who set out to canoe 1,500 miles from the Delta’s source waters in Angola all the way to Botswana – Disney+
  • Planet Earth – the original epic that took nature films to the next level
  • Seven Worlds, One Planet – BBC’s 2019 documentary on the wildlife and wilderness of our seven unique continents – Amazon Prime 
  • Okavango: River of Dreams – PBS or Amazon Prime 
  • Big Cat Tales – Hulu or Amazon Prime
  • African Cats – Disney+, Hulu or Amazon Prime
  • Animals are Beautiful People – a childhood classic we love 
  • Eye of the Pangolin – Available to stream on YouTube
  • Monkey Kingdom – filmed in Sri Lanka – Disney+ or Amazon Prime
  • Dynasties – BBC – follow the stories of five celebrated and endangered species – Amazon Prime
  • Long Way Down – not a wildlife focus but a motorcycle journey all the way down the continent of Africa – Amazon Prime
  • Night on Earth – new camera technology yields never-before-seen incredible footage of nocturnal wildlife – Netflix
  • Jane – a documentary with lost footage from Jane Goodall’s first few years in Gombe – Disney+
  • Tales by Light – Nat Geo docuseries about filmmakers and photographers. The series is not specific to Africa or wildlife, but all of the episodes are compelling and several follow wildlife photographers.
  • Life at the Waterhole – PBS series capturing the drama at (and importance of) the watering hole.


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