These are excerpts from Mat’s book THIS is Africa, available now on Click here to order yours today!

THIS is Africa’s Introduction

“…“You follow your heart, Mat.” Barry says with his thick Afrikaans accent, pointing at my chest. At 6’3 and 250 pounds, Barry towers over me. He looks like a man who could tackle the wilds of Africa, and so he does. Barry is a safari guide.  Who knew there was such a thing.

We stand in a bar on the banks of the Chobe Rive, Botswana. I am 19 days into my overlanding trip from Capetown, South Africa to Livingstone, Zambia. I am already in love with Africa. I am trying to figure out how I can return to Africa for good after my vacation is over…

…For two hours I have been excitedly asking Barry questions about his life in the wilds of Africa. “Have you seen one of these? Have you ever run into one of those? Have you ever had an encounter with this creature? Have you ever had to do something when you came across that creature?” Barry answers every one of my questions with the same enthusiasm that I ask them. And he has stories. Lots of stories…

“I can see you’re interest in this, Mat. From what I can tell, this job would be perfect for you. You would be perfect for this job. Let me tell you a story that happened to me and my clients not too long ago…”

“I was asleep in the Okavango Delta. We had set up our four tents forming a square in the middle of the campsite. Sometime around midnight, I wake up to this terrible roaring and chattering, right in the campsite. It is terrifying. I jump up to pull on my pants. Something unbelievably powerful bowls me over, knocking the breath out of me. I hear my people screaming mixed in with the roars and the desperate chatters. As soon as I catch my breath, I yell “Stay in your f–king tents!”

“I hear a ferocious digging and scraping along with my clients’ screaming from the tent directly outside my door. I unzip it and peer out to see what the hell is going on. Sure enough, a huge male lion is attacking a honey badger who is trying to bury himself backwards under that tent. You know how ferocious badgers are, right? Well, every time the lion moves in for the kill, the badger gets him with a claw or bite and the lion is going crazy. When the frontal attack doesn’t work, the lion tries to get it from above and ends up on the tent and my people.”

“So I’m screaming, they’re screaming, the honey badger is screaming, the lion is roaring. It is total chaos! Then, just as quickly as they appear, the honey badger makes a break for it into the darkness with the lion in pursuit. Gone as quickly as they came. Heh, heh! It was wonderful…!” He lets that sink in. You could be experiencing that every day of your life. That’s when he points at my chest. You follow your heart, Mat.

So I did and am. In 2006, at 35, I quit my job as a Director of a Tennis Club. I sold my condo and my car. I gave all my furniture and paraphernalia to charity. I found a safari-guiding school, Ulovane, outside of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. I filled a backpack with my last remaining personal items and moved to Africa…

Peanuts for Elephants?

“..Norman stops at twelve feet and looks at me with his long-lashed left eye. He drops his trunk to the ground, and turns his head slightly to listen. “Just here having some snacks, my man...” I babble. The two tips of his trunk begin exploring the ground next to the truck. I can’t help but think, “Sorry, Homeslice, no peanuts for you.” but continue babbling with “On your way to visit the family herd? I’m sure they’ll be happy to see you. We’re always happy to see you…” Norman continues to listen and search. I don’t want him any closer.

Towering next to the vehicle, Norman is enormous. Twelve feet at the shoulder and somewhere just above seven tons, Norman at 35 years is bigger than most elephants at 50 or 60 years. (Elephants tend to grow their whole lives). Even kneeling in the driver’s seat, his eye is well above my head.

We hang here like this for ten seconds, the tip of his trunk searching, searching, searching. It is a seeming eternity. He turns his massive head towards us. He takes a tentative step. The tips of his tusks are six feet from my face. He begins to slowly lift his trunk…”

Scrabble This

“…I see it first. All it requires is for me is a shift of my eyes from the letters in my hand to the ground. It’s sleek, grey head stops a foot beneath my hands, right between my feet. It’s black, forked tongue flicks in and out of its mouth twice before I can identify the species. Mfezi. My blood turns to ice. Samia, with her snake-eye view, is not five feet from the snake, a Mozambique Spitting Cobra.

I shoot my eyes to her face as she sucks in her breath. The others look at her and her face frozen with terror. I watch their eyes shift from her face to the cobra beneath me. I know what’s coming even before they do it. “Don’t move!” I hiss through clenched teeth, as loud as I can without moving any part of my body. They freeze instantly.

The cobra shoots its three-inch head up to the height of my knee and spreads its hood….”


“…I race back to the cab and lay the sleeping bag on the ground fifteen feet from its opening.  I move to Mya standing with her arms spread to hold people at bay. One hand still holds the First Aid bag. I take gloves from the bag and grit my teeth. The prospect of the woman coming out of the truck looking like all the gruesome photos I had seen during my First Aid course but had never seen in real life makes me even queasier. I’m not going to be a great help if I throw up all over the patient.  I pull the gloves on and steel myself for the woman’s removal from the truck’s mangled depths.

I have to push several ogglers out of the way to get back to my position behind Nick and two other men yanking bits and pieces from around the woman.  She is crying and whimpering but miraculously alive. Behind us, the husband is being held back by several other men.

The anticipation is also unbearable. What her body is going to look like is something I have to keep from my mind. We must deal with what may come. With my knife in hand, the man next to Nick saws ferociously at the crumpled dash board that pins the woman’s legs.

After hacking for long, anguished moments, he yanks out a huge section of the dash with a harsh cracking sound. The woman grunts with the pain. Amazingly, it is what is mostly holding her. Nick speaks softly to her, trying to reassure her. The only way to remove her is by lifting the monstrous weight of the cab off of the material trapping her and pulling her out simultaneously. If Max was right, we will succeed. If not…