I know I have copied the exact title of Peter Allison’s book. But since this post is about his book only, I couldn’t find a better and more apt title than what I have already used. It is not every day you come across a good book written on wildlife safaris but when you do, your desire to wander across the jungles gets higher with every chapter. “Whatever you do, just don’t run” is one such book. Allison has poured his decade long experience of operating wildlife tours in this humorously written memoir.
Every guide has thousand stories to tell about jungles, animals, expeditions, superstitions, dreams and nightmares. The job might seem repetitive but the beauty lies in the stochastic nature of work. A guide might be trailing the same path every day, chasing the animals in the same zone or exploring the same jungle, but his day is always different than the previous one. This book tells how amusing that experience can be on one hand while being emotionally drenched on the other but one thing you will definitely notice about the writer, he is in love with animals and nature. This love gets reflected throughout the book in sentences such as,
“Like every other guide or wildlife lover who is eventually eaten or trampled, I felt I had a bond with this herd that would make me safe with them”.
Allison talks about the attachment guides have with animals and how even the wildest species become predictable to them. He writes about emotions guides feel when some animal, which they fondly named, gets killed.
“Salvador’s daughter turned her head slightly and looked at me, her eye expressing wisdom I have found in few humans. Then she withdrew her head, the branch fell back, and I heard Salvador say, “Let’s go.”
Allison has been organizing and leading tours for more than 13 years now and his knowledge gets reflected in his writing. Such as the following statement, this can only be written by the person who has observed giraffes for years.
“I explained to the group that giraffes are at their most vulnerable to lions when they lean down to drink, so they do everything they can to conserve water — including a biological process that leaves their piss thick and honey like”.
Albeit this book is more of a collection of stories rather than an organized memoir still this is by far the most entertaining travelogue of recent times. At times Allison’s style might seem to be influenced from Gerald Durrell (who wrote ‘A zoo in my luggage’). The backdrop of this book is Botswana, Africa where Allison has spent his entire career as a safari guide but most of the instances, facts and stories hold true for Indian context as well. A guide who has been organizing Indian wildlife tours or jungle safari in India would have written similar stories or pointed out similar instances.
In a nut shell, this is a good book for you, irrespective of whether you are a wildlife enthusiast, an armchair traveler or a regular guy looking to know about safaris and wildlife.