Reviewers’ Corner

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Here are a couple of the latest travel-book reviews written by an ITN reader.

“Fodor’s African Safari” (2004, Fodor’s LLC, Fodor’s Travel Publications. ISBN 1400012341 — 190 pp., $9.95 paper).

This guidebook’s focus is how to choose big-game adventures in East or Southern Africa. However, its maps, organization, paucity of wildlife information and multiple checklists distract from the objective and even prove misleading.

The book’s only two maps show Eastern and Southern African countries but fail to illustrate all national parks and game reserves, offering only directional arrows for southern Tanzania’s destinations (Ruaha, Selous) and completely ignoring Zambia’s Luangwa Valley. Unless consulting a separate map, this is confusing when reading later descriptions of the very parks for which you have no graphic reference.

Sections entitled “Getting Started” and “Your Safari Style” are separated by a chapter on “When and Where to Go,” with no clear relationship established among them. One’s budget relates directly to choice of safari, but there is no direct discussion between costs and fly-in, mobile or walking options.

I have found that preferences in the animals and behaviors I intend to view determine my choice of country and park. Safari activities are often specific to locale, access and time of day. A decision to see rhino effectively eliminates most Southern African countries and all but South Africa’s largest parks. However, charts listing animals by area appear in the final third of the guide, after other basics affecting safari plans have already been outlined.

Wildlife is glossed over in other ways. Unlike in competing books (Lonely Planet, Rough Guides), there is no comprehensive overview of what is observed on safari, let alone classifications and photos. No significant text is devoted to birds or reptiles.

Many checklists and charts are offered, ranging from rudimentary advice (take pets to kennel; how to pack) to specific (game-watching etiquette, outfitter resources). More practical are discussions on safari clothing and camera selections. In fact, this guidebook’s best, most useful advice is contained within these sections.

As a veteran of nine safaris, I did not find “Fodor’s African Safari” worthwhile and do not recommend it for first-timers. Wildlife adventures involve tradeoffs between cost and destination as well as comfort and adventure level. This guide does not address choices, or what is seen where, well enough to offer travelers the comprehensive data needed to make informed safari plans.

— DIANE POWELL FERGUSON, Scottsdale, AZ

“The Rough Guide to Tanzania” (2003, Rough Guides Ltd./Penguin Putnam. ISBN 1858287839 — 784 pp., $22.95 paper).

This first edition for Tanzania offers extremely comprehensive information from multiple perspectives: cultural, historical and practical. It alternately addresses art, cuisine, language and music with accommodations, sights, wildlife and transport.

Organization makes it very easy to use. Detailed introductory remarks set the tone: “Where and When to Go,” with bold text for principal sights and activities, followed by “23 Things Not to Miss.”

A wildlife field guide appears at the outset. Covering both East and Southern Africa, it enables safari-goers to make informed decisions about what is to be seen by area.

“Basics” encompass everything from air, communications, costs and lodging to rough road travel and choosing safaris. “Trouble” includes tips to avoid bribes and muggings.

The core 11 chapters cover geographic areas, offering initial “Highlights,” then often daunting detail and excellent maps. Multiple city and town plans are labeled clearly with principal attractions, hotels and restaurants. National park graphics show access, headquarters and natural features.

Another handy series feature — there are listings for in-country travel agents and outfitters.

Language pronunciation pointers and sample phrases conclude the array of resources.

The book describes hotels and restaurants without mincing words. I reviewed those with which I was familiar. Accurate opinions predominated, whether reviewing northern Tanzania’s Lobo Wildlife Lodge’s “awesome views” but “sloppy” service, the lack of nets at Tarangire Safari Lodge or one of Arusha’s best Italian eateries, Mezza Luna (“expensive but generally excellent”).

Rough Guides typically document transport data superbly; this is no exception. “Travel Details” list access points and methods by area, with bus, ferry and train logistics plus estimated journey times.

Boxed text supplements the understanding of Tanzanian culture and tribal history with diverse snippets on baobab trees, chimpanzees, rock art and witchcraft.

For a thorough, well-researched source loaded with information, there are few equals. “The Rough Guide to Tanzania” offers something for everyone and would greatly enhance a traveler’s trip planning and understanding of Tanzania.

— DIANE POWELL FERGUSON, Scottsdale, AZ

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

Here are a couple of the latest travel-book reviews written by an ITN reader.

“Fodor’s African Safari” (2004, Fodor’s LLC, Fodor’s Travel Publications. ISBN 1400012341 — 190 pp., $9.95 paper).

This guidebook’s focus is how to choose big-game adventures in East or Southern Africa. However, its maps, organization, paucity of wildlife information and multiple checklists distract from the objective and even prove misleading.

The book’s only two maps show Eastern and Southern African countries but fail to illustrate all national parks and game reserves, offering only directional arrows for southern Tanzania’s destinations (Ruaha, Selous) and completely ignoring Zambia’s Luangwa Valley. Unless consulting a separate map, this is confusing when reading later descriptions of the very parks for which you have no graphic reference.

Sections entitled “Getting Started” and “Your Safari Style” are separated by a chapter on “When and Where to Go,” with no clear relationship established among them. One’s budget relates directly to choice of safari, but there is no direct discussion between costs and fly-in, mobile or walking options.

I have found that preferences in the animals and behaviors I intend to view determine my choice of country and park. Safari activities are often specific to locale, access and time of day. A decision to see rhino effectively eliminates most Southern African countries and all but South Africa’s largest parks. However, charts listing animals by area appear in the final third of the guide, after other basics affecting safari plans have already been outlined.

Wildlife is glossed over in other ways. Unlike in competing books (Lonely Planet, Rough Guides), there is no comprehensive overview of what is observed on safari, let alone classifications and photos. No significant text is devoted to birds or reptiles.

Many checklists and charts are offered, ranging from rudimentary advice (take pets to kennel; how to pack) to specific (game-watching etiquette, outfitter resources). More practical are discussions on safari clothing and camera selections. In fact, this guidebook’s best, most useful advice is contained within these sections.

As a veteran of nine safaris, I did not find “Fodor’s African Safari” worthwhile and do not recommend it for first-timers. Wildlife adventures involve tradeoffs between cost and destination as well as comfort and adventure level. This guide does not address choices, or what is seen where, well enough to offer travelers the comprehensive data needed to make informed safari plans.

— DIANE POWELL FERGUSON, Scottsdale, AZ

“The Rough Guide to Tanzania” (2003, Rough Guides Ltd./Penguin Putnam. ISBN 1858287839 — 784 pp., $22.95 paper).

This first edition for Tanzania offers extremely comprehensive information from multiple perspectives: cultural, historical and practical. It alternately addresses art, cuisine, language and music with accommodations, sights, wildlife and transport.

Organization makes it very easy to use. Detailed introductory remarks set the tone: “Where and When to Go,” with bold text for principal sights and activities, followed by “23 Things Not to Miss.”

A wildlife field guide appears at the outset. Covering both East and Southern Africa, it enables safari-goers to make informed decisions about what is to be seen by area.

“Basics” encompass everything from air, communications, costs and lodging to rough road travel and choosing safaris. “Trouble” includes tips to avoid bribes and muggings.

The core 11 chapters cover geographic areas, offering initial “Highlights,” then often daunting detail and excellent maps. Multiple city and town plans are labeled clearly with principal attractions, hotels and restaurants. National park graphics show access, headquarters and natural features.

Another handy series feature — there are listings for in-country travel agents and outfitters.

Language pronunciation pointers and sample phrases conclude the array of resources.

The book describes hotels and restaurants without mincing words. I reviewed those with which I was familiar. Accurate opinions predominated, whether reviewing northern Tanzania’s Lobo Wildlife Lodge’s “awesome views” but “sloppy” service, the lack of nets at Tarangire Safari Lodge or one of Arusha’s best Italian eateries, Mezza Luna (“expensive but generally excellent”).

Rough Guides typically document transport data superbly; this is no exception. “Travel Details” list access points and methods by area, with bus, ferry and train logistics plus estimated journey times.

Boxed text supplements the understanding of Tanzanian culture and tribal history with diverse snippets on baobab trees, chimpanzees, rock art and witchcraft.

For a thorough, well-researched source loaded with information, there are few equals. “The Rough Guide to Tanzania” offers something for everyone and would greatly enhance a traveler’s trip planning and understanding of Tanzania.

— DIANE POWELL FERGUSON, Scottsdale, AZ