An African Safari is an adventure of a lifetime, something that will leave a lasting imprint on your memory for years to come. It’s full of big moments and big game. However your time in the bush is subtly speckled with little things, the things that put the ‘ah’ in Safari. These seemingly trivial things, like the fluffy white bathrobe, the warm face towel after a long game drive, or the perfectly mixed cocktail all add immense value to your overall experience.
One of these little things which seem to go unnoticed and undervalued is the many quiet, reflective moments and the much needed down time the bush offers you to rejuvenate and get in touch with yourself and your surroundings. This time is as much as a gift as seeing a sleeping lion or a herd of wildebeest; it’s a significant part of what makes a safari so magical. These moments are enhanced, with just a ‘little’ effort to add more value and appreciation to your experience, with something as simple as a good book or a great playlist, all which help encapsulate the real tranquillity of the wild. To ensure that all things both big and small come together glitch free and with ease, we have put together a list from travel experts around the world on their favourite book and song that have added that extra little bit of love on their last Safari adventure. So when you are planning your next African safari, you can add your own little ‘ah’ moments to your journey.
Here is the ultimate list of music and must-read books curated by travellers, tour operators and safari experts from around the world. These little things will embed themselves in your journey adding insight, value and all the necessary feels. Let the experts guide you and let us know what put the ‘ah’ in your safari adventure.
Paul Johnson, A Luxury Travel Blog, England
“For reading on safari, I’d recommend ‘Born Free’ – it’s a real story and, despite being first published over 50 years ago, still a great read for anyone with a love of wildlife. Music-wise, what could be better than The Lion King’s ‘The Circle of Life’”
Damon M Banks, Award Winning Freelance Travel Writer, Washington D.C
“I will keep it simple. For a safari, I always go back to listening to the “Out of Africa” soundtrack – the book and soundtrack are great to have along to fill those peaceful evenings of a safari. “
Sean and Sabine, The Travelling Chilli, Cape Town
“When going on an African safari, I would recommend taking any book from Tony Park. He is an Australian author but, all of his books are set in Africa, and while on safari you will come across many places he has written about. His stories will take you from the Skeleton Coast in Namibia, Kruger National Park in South Africa, Masai Mara in Kenya to the white beaches of Zanzibar and all written with beautiful details. If I have to choose one of the many books he has written it will be “The Hunter”. This book takes me back to the Kruger National Park, Zimbabwe and the Victoria Falls which are some of my favourite places where I have travelled while on safari in Africa.
“My all time favourite song to listen to when on a safari in Africa is ‘Hotel California’ from The Eagles. This song brings back great memories from my travels through Africa. This song, in particular, is great to listen to when driving on the beautiful desert roads of Namibia when the sun is slowly going down behind the far horizon. Another great song is an all time classic ‘Africa’ from Toto. The lyrics of the song describes what one feels when on a safari in Africa. An unforgettable experience which will want to make everyone come back to Africa for more.”
Dave and Debs, The Planet D, Toronto
“Here’s a travel book many people wouldn’t think of, but we loved it.
“Neil Peart’s Masked Rider – Neil Peart is one of the greatest drummers of all time. He’s been on every list as the best in the business and is a part of the mega rock band, Rush. But did you know Neil Peart is also an avid cyclist? He rode his bicycle through West Africa and this an excellent account of his experience.
“Travel Song: Toto’s Africa. I’ve loved this song since it came out in the 80’s and once I started travelling I loved it more because I actually understood the lyrics! That song came out when I was ten years old, but I loved it then. But I never knew what the Serengeti was, and Kilimanjaro was a mystical place I had only heard about from my mom. Once I travelled, I could relate to the dogs howling in the night and the rains of Africa. Toto’s Africa makes me dream of going back.”
Craig Glatthaar, Wilderness Safari, Cape Town
“For me, my must have read on safari for leisure is: “Whatever You Do, Don’t Run – True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide” by Peter Allison. It’s a wonderfully written original account of a great guides misadventures in the wilds of Botswana.
“For an insider’s understanding of animals in Africa, you can’t go wrong with “Beat About the Bush by Trevor Carnaby”. This book is a wonderful field guide (often used as the material for guide training programs) that makes the rather complex academic study of mammals and birds something easy for the layman to understand.
“My favourite song while on safari would have to be Johnny Clegg’s – “Spirit of the Great Heart”. It’s difficult to describe what is fantastic about Africa and invariably these efforts resort to clichés about blue skies, open plains and bushveld. This song captures the spirit and greatness of this amazing continent and the joy of being in nature.”
Sara Essop, Safari Addict, Johannesburg
“I don’t usually listen to music while on safari because I prefer listening to the sounds and sometimes the silence, of the bush, but if I had to choose a song to listen to, I would go with Shakira’s Waka Waka (This Time For Africa). The energy and rhythm of the song make me feel alive and happy to be in Africa and especially the African bush.
“As far as books go, my number one choice would be 101 Kruger Tales, a compilation of exhilarating real-life safari accounts of sightings, and encounters that took place in the world-renowned Kruger National Park. Reading these short, easy to read tales reminds me how wonderfully unpredictable the bush is. It gives me serious bush cravings when I’m not in the bush and enhances my experiences when I am there.”
Cory Lee, Curb Free With Cory Lee, USA
“When I went on safari in South Africa, I listened to “Circle of Life” from The Lion King. I know it’s very cliche, but as a 90s kid that grew up watching The Lion King, it was surreal to be on safari while listening to that song.
“A book that I’d recommend reading, especially if you’re going to South Africa, is “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah. It’s one of my favourite books ever and is about Trevor’s experience growing up in South Africa. It’s funny, sad, and gave me a new perspective on the people of South Africa. “
Megan Peta, Boring Cape Town Chick, Cape Town
“My favourite safari song is PHFat – Animals. When I went snowboarding in Northern Scotland, I realised how monotonous the UK radio was. While I love pop music, I missed the South African flair. So I quickly downloaded some of my favourite tunes, including PHFat Animals. Whenever I go on safari, I make a playlist with all animal names like The Beatles, The Turtles, The Monkeys or songs like PHFat’s Animals, because, “we love animals”!
“My favourite book to take along is something with short stories. Whether it’s Fairlady magazine or Reader’s Digest collection, Roald Dahl’s ‘Going Solo’, I like being able to stop and start without being too interrupted. Short stories allow you to read a full story and not have to worry about losing track of where you are; makes holiday reading much easier.”
Dawn Jorgensen, The Incidental Tourist, Cape Town
“Safaris are all about engaging the senses as we absorb the beauty of nature and all that time in the bush offers. Searching for the game, listening out for the call of the fish eagle and breathing in the dizzy smells of Africa as your 4×4 vehicle takes to the open road in search of elephants and lion.
“To further enhance my safari experience, depending on where they are, I’m in the habit of reading a book that is related to the area that I am visiting. Gorillas in the Mist before my Gorilla Trekking in Uganda, Out of Africa when in Kenya, and the Elephant Whisper in KwaZulu Natal, as they offer even more understanding of the area that I’m lucky enough to be visiting. As for music, Toto’s Africa always evokes raw pride and emotion.”
Jerome Shaw, Travel Boldly, Colorado
“Graham Greene’s “Journey Without Maps” would be an excellent book companion on my safari. As would Joy Adamson’s book “Born Free”.
“The theme music to “Out of Africa” by John Barry is almost mandatory for any trip to Africa. Another obvious choice is “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by Tokens. It is better known as “Wimoweh”. A bit more obscure is “The Click Song” or Qongqothwane performed here by Miriam Makeba.”
Carrie Hampton, Safari Tart, Cape Town
“Africa House – by Christina Lamb. Fascinating true story of how an English Gentleman built a huge mansion and a whole village with school in the middle of Zambia in the 1920’s. I have visited and was astounded by this Tuscan-style estate with formal rose gardens by a lake infested with crocodiles. It has the finest natural hot springs as well.
“The Seed Thief by Jacqui L’Ange – a novel by a South African journalist; a story crossing continents from Cape Town to Brazil of rare seeds that could cure cancer.
“Road Tripping South Africa by Map Studio – with a chapter by me called ‘Ultimate Safari’: starting in KZN, travelling through Swaziland and onto Kruger having safari experiences all along the route.”
- Out of Africa theme song – John Barry (I love that movie!)
- Scatterlings of Africa – Johnny Clegg
- Pata Pata – Miriam Makeba
- Jabulani – PJ Powers
- Knocking on Heaven’s Door – Bob Dylan
- Ride like the Wind – Christopher Cross (this just makes me feel free)
- I Wanna be like You – Jungle Book (especially good for watching baboons)
- Morning Has Broken – Cat Stevens
Tami and Anton, TAZZDiscovers, Cape Town
“After our 11-week road trip around South Africa, we have found a way to create the perfect playlist for your soundtrack to a family adventure. Travelling with kids can make you feel like you are losing your mind so, finding audiobooks and CDs takes a lot of thought and planning. Since we were short on space and relatively old fashioned when it came to the CD vs. MP3 set up, we grabbed an 80 sleeve CD file and filled it with everything we could think of. Half our selection never saw the light of day, but others became favourites very quickly.
“Books: The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, The Lion King, The Chronicles of Narnia, Peter Pan and other Disney favourites.
“CDs: Mango Groove, Johnny Clegg, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Pentatonix, The Cats Musical soundtrack, Pitch Perfect soundtrack mixed in with sing along radio hits to keep everyone’s spirits ups.
“Your selection will depend on the stage of your life, and you need to take the time to find what works for you.”
There are so many options so many beautiful variations, for your ‘ah’ moments the possibilities are endless. Pick what’s going to best suit the stage of your life, the space that you’re in and how you best wish to encapsulate and translate all that you’re feeling and experiencing. There is no right or wrong. Those little ‘ah’ moments are yours for the making. Let us know how you decided to fashioned yours.