I was born near a great river, into the strong arms of a Balanta woman. The Gods of that river were always near me. They were to be seen in the mysterious sinking crocodiles, the strange blowing manatees at dusk and the wonderful array of birds, not least among them the largest heron in the world, aptly named “goliath”, and the chestnut and white fish eagles with their loud ringing cries.
In twenty-five years of living and travelling in West Africa I have had many opportunities to discuss these bizarre and dangerous creatures with the people who know them best, the old hunters, medicine men and herbalists of the continent. It is from them that I have pieced together a picture that emerges to form an often terrifying world. It is a world where sounds and smells have meaning and where a mere sight of some of the creatures can produce a terrible death.