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Top 5 Must-read Africa Travel and Adventure books

16 July 2012

Top 5 Must-read Africa Travel and Adventure books



The 100th issue of Leisure Wheels, which goes on sale this week, features an Adventure Guide in association with Yokohama. It is packed with articles regarding adventure activities such as rock climbing, trail running, mountain biking, canoeing, gorilla tracking, enduro biking and, of course, off-road driving.

Hopefully you’ll have as much fun reading it as we had compiling it. We’re also hoping that it will whet your appetite for excitement and encourage you to go in search of adventure. After all, what is the use of owning a hardcore 4×4 if you don’t use it to have fun?
That said, however, we don’t all have the time and money necessary to dedicate ourselves exclusively to adventure activities. Sure, some people have the luxury of being able to spend a year unicycling through Africa or crossing the Pacific Ocean on a raft made of Coke bottles, but most of us have to work.

So if you’re desperate for an adrenaline fix, why not indulge in a bit of vicarious adventuring? Below are some of my favourite travel and adventure books about Africa. I’ll also be posting my favourite books about other adventure activities such as mountain biking, hiking, trail running and mountaineering as the week goes on. Who knows? They might inspire you to pursue your own crazy adventure dream!

Note: Not all of these books are widely available in South Africa. However, most can be ordered on, and all the titles can be downloaded on Also, you do not need to own a Kindle to read Amazon’s e-books. You can read them on your computer or tablet (there is a Kindle app available for Apple and Android tablets).



1. Dark Star Safari – Paul Theroux

Paul Theroux knows Africa well. Forty years ago, he worked as a teacher in Malawi. In 2003 he decided to return to Africa in order to discover how the continent had changed. He traveled overland from Cairo to Cape Town making use only of public transport. Theroux has a unique style that can become a bit grating, but the book is nevertheless very insightful. Definitely one of the best travel books available on Africa.

Click here to buy online



2. Swahili for the broken-hearted – Peter Moore

Reading Dark Star Safari can sometimes be a bit of a slog. Not only is it a rather heavy tome, but it can also be dull and preachy at times. So if you’re in the mood for something a bit more light-hearted and fun, this book by Peter Moore is the answer. Don’t let its title fool you – it is a very funny book. When it comes to writing funny travel prose, Moore is right up there with Bill Bryson.

Click here to buy online




3. African Diary – Bill Bryson

Speaking of Bill Bryson – here is a short but entertaining book on Africa by him. It is a small little book – only 66 pages – but it is very amusing and insightful. Bill Bryson goes to Kenya at the invitation of CARE International, the charity dedicated to working with local communities to eradicate poverty around the world. Bryson’s reticence regarding travel in a region where there are countless viruses, insects, reptiles and toothy mammals that want to destroy him is very funny.

Click here to buy online




4. Kissing Kilimanjaro – Daniel Dorr

Eager to impress a girl by showing that he is the macho, outdoorsy type, Daniel Dorr decides to travel to Africa and Climb the continent’s highest mountain. Things do not go well. Dorr’s experiences in Africa and on Kili are entertaining and inspirational. If you’ve always wanted to climb Kilimanjaro, this book will motivate you to finally get it done!

Click here to buy online



5. Around Africa on my bicycle – Riaan Manser

Of course this book was going to be on the list. What South Africa’s Riaan Manser accomplished is nothing short of incredible. Not only did he travel 36 500km through Africa, but he did it all under his own power. An unbelievable tale of will and determination.

Click here to buy online




Tomorrow: My 5 favourite general travel and adventure books.