Reviews of travel guides are not usual in Bull. ABC, but this new guide to Ethiopia from a very small independent specialist publisher is worth reviewing. Ethiopia is already well covered by travel guides from the major publishers of such guides including Bradt, Lonely Planet and Rough Guides. My own favourite, the Bradt guide, is currently in its seventh edition.
So it takes a brave author and publisher to enter such a competitive field, and this guide will inevitably invite comparison with the mainstream titles. I took this new book with me to Ethiopia on a recent visit, and I was suitably impressed. The guide is comprehensive, well researched, easy to navigate, and is crammed with colour photographs. Indeed, this last point alone sets it apart from the others. The competitors all have colour photographs in sections. Trevor Jenner’s guide has them fully integrated throughout, and lots of them. It is perhaps fair to say that there are fewer words in Jenner’s guide, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. I found most of what I wanted to know and more in the new book. Perhaps one area that is a bit lacking is hotel and restaurant recommendations. The Bradt guide, for example, gives full listings of both, with useful comments and price ranges. In Jenner’s guide, there is a listing of hotels at the end, but only very basic assessments, and no list of restaurants. If you are an independent traveller, the detail to be found in the Bradt and Lonely Planet guides on hotels and restaurants is probably very useful, but for those on a guided tour it is usually irrelevant.
Readers of Bull. ABC are of course interested in wildlife, and I am pleased to report that this new guide is strong on this subject. To be fair, so are the others, especially the Bradt guide. Like the latter, Jenner’s book has a chapter devoted to ‘Fauna’, sections throughout covering national parks, and box features devoted to particular natural history subjects. All of these are illustrated with a wealth of excellent colour photos, although some are reproduced too small. Not surprisingly, I looked closely at the information about birds and generally I found this to be accurate and up to date.
So, if you are a birder and going to Ethiopia and you want to take a travel guide with you, which guidebook do I recommend? Jenner’s book is undoubtedly the most attractive. But the Bradt guide is still very good, even if it has fewer photographs, and it’s updated every 2–3 years. For me, it would be a choice between these two, but a hard one. If you don’t have a current guide, you could do a lot worse than buy Jenner’s new book. It’s one of the most attractive travel guides I have seen in a long while.