Sally Henderson's first book Silent Footsteps was a bestseller in Australia and her second book Ivory Moon has just been released. Subtitled Getting lost and found among the desert elephants of Namibia, it tells the wonderful story of a Queenslander's journey of discovery in Namibia.
Together with her husband Jer, Sally volunteers to run a wilderness camp in a remote part of Namibia near the Skeleton Coast. She had traveled extensively throughout the continent and in 1990 she joined an elephant research project in Zimbabwe (this was the focus of her first book). Sally describes at the beginning of Ivory Moon that she had “a single-minded need to simply ‘be' in an African wilderness that remains pristine because it is inhospitable to humans, to hear the silence and gain the assurance that there are places in the natural world that still hold the power to repel the incursions of our kind”. Her descriptions and stories from the African wilderness are heart-warming to read, perhaps even more so as an African living far from Africa.
Sally and Jer volunteer to manage the camp so that they can stay for three months in the area. She tells a wonderful and sometimes emotional story of the challenges that she faces, being so far away from everything, managing staff members who are mostly African men and just experiencing the Namibian desert. There are tales of sand storms, accommodating guests when the camp is overbooked, taking over the role of chef when there are guests, of a safari guide with an elephant phobia and Sally and Jer's extremely close encounter with a leopard.
Also evident in the book is Sally's own spiritual journey, and her desire to share her experiences of Africa with others. For those of us from Africa, it is wonderful to read about our beautiful continent through the eyes of an Australian. Perhaps also knowing what we know about Africa helps us to recognise Sally's courage in venturing into the desert. In the introductory chapter of Ivory Moon, Sally shares with the reader, “I have lived a life some may see as crazy. But it's mine and it's been fun to believe anything is possible and to make my dreams come true. Whenever the circumstances have arisen to shrug off restriction and grasp freedom, I've taken the lure and run with them. This time they brought me to a place that dared humans to enter at their peril. Few outsiders have the privilege of living in the ancient desert that God forgot, or of sleeping beside an elephant with jug ears and a springbok name Sam. I want to share that privilege.”