Brought this book home from a thrift store just last week, and instead of it sitting for years on my shelf like so many others, I started thumbing through it. Read it in between chapters of two other books, the last stretch in a long afternoon outside by the garden, when for once it was cool enough and breezy so the mosquitoes weren’t bad. Hearing birds and watching them bustle about while reading about wildlife and the change of seasons in a very different, also very hot, part of the world- was nice.
African Odyssey is a book of photographs, taken each one day of the year and presented in sequence as a photography team followed the great migration around the Serengeti plains and the Maasai Mara. They go from the rainy season into dry weather and back into rain. They follow the animals as the herds in turn follow the grass- traversing different types of terrain and river obstacles. Each photograph has a bit of text on a facing page- sometimes a description of the animal depicted, or of the weather they experienced that day, or of an interaction they observed between some species. So there are little stories and glimpses into the lives of the animals, which I liked. Reminded me somewhat of The Long African Day. Most of the photos are of familiar, iconic animals- lions and zebra, wildebeest and vultures, hippos, hyenas, giraffe and leopards. There’s also pictures of many birds I’m not familiar with, and one each of a striped hyena and an aardwolf, rarely seen. I learned a few facts I didn’t know before- such as, that giraffes often suffer heavily from parasites, and many of them die from it. But a lot of the info tidbits were repeated- I didn’t need to read twice that wildebeest are so physically efficient it takes them the same energy output to run as to walk. And while I appreciate that the photos didn’t avoid showing the unpleasant or brutal side of nature- prey animals being killed, predators feeding, young abandoned by their mothers or lost, etc- phrases like sudden death is no stranger on the plains felt a bit overused after a while.
My only other quibble is that the book itself is difficult to hold- it’s very thick and heavy, but has such a short spine, my hands got tired unless I propped it up on something and I didn’t want to torque the binding too much. Visually, the photographs are rich and lively, and I feel like I got a broad picture of what life is like for animals in that area of the world, how their struggles for survival depend on each other and intersect, with a nice amount of detail on individual incidents.