Totting up all the trips he has made over 40 years for publications including The Sunday Times and The Daily Telegraph, Brian Jackman reckons he has spent more than three years of his life on safari. Few Britons know the African bush and its inhabitants as he does, and fewer still can match his ability to conjure them on the page.
In an introduction to a new collection of his pieces, Savannah Diaries, he asks, “How do you begin to describe [Africa’s] magic to someone who has never been? How can you explain the fascination of a land whose oldest roads are elephant paths?” Time after time, everywhere from the Maasai Mara to the Kalahari, he proves himself more than equal to that challenge. I’ve chosen an excerpt in which he reports from one of the driest places on earth, the Namibian desert – after getting soaked to the skin on arrival.
(The man who was Jackman’s guide on his trip to Namibia, Louw Schoeman, has died, but his sons are still introducing visitors to the wonders of the country on flying safaris. One of them, Henk, flew Richard Grant, who reported for the Telegraph Magazine in February.)