The Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals – Review
The Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals; Including Hoofed Mammals, Carnivores, and Primates – Revised & Enhanced (purple cover) by Richard D. Estes supersedes the earlier 1993 edition (orange cover) as the foremost field guide to African mammals in East Africa and Southern Africa. It includes a number of updates to species names and taxonomy classifications and three chapters on making the most of a safari. This makes the Safari Companion an idea guide for novice- and intermediate-level naturalists, photo- and hunting-safari tourists, and photographers in general.
Special emphasis is given to understanding the social grouping and behavior of mammalian species so that observers can make informed decisions when looking for a particular gender of the species during specific seasons (such as a kudu male with his females during mating season) and specific behaviors (such as lions on the hunt). The Safari Companion has at least one black-and-white illustration for each animal and then small graphics depicting notable postures or behavioral stances key to reading the body-language of the animal in the field. Another important feature is the social/territorial/mating organizational system which is depicted for each animal by easily understandable symbols. This detailed guide to behavior is truly unparalleled.
While the paperback version of Safari Companion is comparatively large for a proper “field guide” — measuring 9x6x1 inches — it’s much more robust and detailed than smaller “pocket guides” that might be viewed as alternatives. But it does come in a digital format for Kindle readers. Ultimately it may be necessary for naturalists and field observers to bring two or three guides with them to cover the best range of wildlife species while also providing key details for each. Smaller safari guides such as The Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals, Wildlife of East Africa (Princeton Pocket Guides), as well as Wildlife of Southern Africa (Princeton Pocket Guides) that provide color images and in a smaller format are highly recommended. The National Audubon Society Field Guide to African Wildlife‘s size runs somewhere in the middle of the Princeton Pocket Guides and the Safari Companion, but is a worthy supplement for species identification even though it lacks much information on behavior and descriptions.
Overall the depth of knowledge and useful tips on finding, observing, and photographing wildlife gained from the revised editions (1999 & ) of The Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching African Mammals is a critical field resource for all types of individuals intent on getting the most out of their safari experiences. Buying a used copy is highly recommended, however the Kindle version provides an easy-to-use and much more portable format for travel. There is also a more in-depth resource on African mammal behavior by the same author appropriately titled The Behavior Guide to African Mammals, which is oriented towards students and veteran wildlife watchers with an interest in wildlife behavior.