From Journalism to African and Aviation Adventures: A Writer's Journey

From Journalism to African and Aviation Adventures: A Writer's Journey

By Beverley Eikli (writing as B. G. Nettelton)


For years, I've been encouraged to write my memoirs, but I've always found my creative outlet in historical fiction and romance. It's easy to overlook the excitement of your own life when you're busy crafting stories for others.

However, things are changing. After publishing 35 titles under various pen names and becoming more aware of my own mortality, I'm taking steps to document my life's adventures.

While I'm not quite ready for a straightforward memoir, my new Africa-set series blends fact and fiction. These books, filled with romance, adventure, mystery, and murder - all featuring a handsome bush pilot - draw heavily from my own experiences. In many ways, they're becoming the closest thing to a memoir I've written yet.

My Memoirs Infuse My Fiction

In August, 2024, Whispers in the Kalahari: Secrets, Survival, and Self-discovery in 1980s Africa, will be released under my new pen name (and maiden name) – B. G. Nettelton.

Jedibe Lodge, the water lodge owned by Okavango Wilderness Safaris where I worked in 1992


It’s the closest work to date that comes close to documenting my life, growing up in Africa and working around the world in the aviation industry.

While the book isn’t strictly autobiographical, there are many themes and events in the book that shaped my life and which is coloured by my perspective:

  • The divisive 1989 Australian Pilot’s Dispute
  • Managing a safari lodge in Botswana’s beautiful Okavango Delta
  • Working as a journalist in Australia in the 1980s
  • Hunting in Botswana

Family Roots in the Kalahari: Inspirations from Childhood

Growing up in South Australia, I was always drawn to the countries I left as a child, where my forebears lived: Botswana and Lesotho.

My father was born and brought up in Botswana and I’d grown up with his stories of an unfettered childhood in the remote desert region near Serowe where the family was stationed for a number of years.

He was given his first shotgun when he was nine and allowed to roam the Kalahari with his brother, Gerald, two years older. The family regularly went out bush camping together during the weekends, the boys shooting for the pot, in between boarding school in Cape Town and my grandfather’s duties in the British Colonial Administration.

Grandpa had spent much of his childhood mixing with the local Batswana children so was fluent in Setswana. This understanding of the people, through their language, added an extra element of interest to the photos and captions of the diary he kept during his years—travelling mostly alone on a donkey-- mapping the tsetse fly between 1916 and 1922. As tsetse fly causes sleeping sickness in many animals, including cattle and horses, he travelled thousands of kilometres during treks of up to five months, on a donkey that was immune to sleeping sickness, or in a Scotch Cart.

The Diary that Changed Everything: Discovering Botswana

It was the discovery of this diary when I was 27, which led me to take leave from my job as a journalist on a South Australian metropolitan newspaper—first to go on holiday, and then to work at several safari lodges operated by then Okavango Wilderness Safaris.

Until my arrival in Botswana’s dusty frontier town of Maun, gateway to the beautiful Okavango Delta and a major setting in Whispers in the Kalahari, I’d never met a pilot.

But the handsome bush pilot I met the day before I was due to fly home to marry my stockbroker boyfriend of seven years, fated me to spend the rest of my life amongst planes—and gorgeous men.

Love and Aviation: How a Bush Pilot Altered My Path

Yes, I married Eivind, remained with him in Botswana working in the safari industry for some time, and then began a five-year stint as an airborne geophysical survey operator in the back of low flying aircraft on three-month contracts in Namibia, French Guiana, Greenland, Sweden and other countries.

Me and Ron outside our cottage in Maun, 1993


Often the only woman on crew, and not always working on location with my husband, I turned to writing romance as a diversion, though my fellow crew were a wonderful bunch and many of the friendships I forged during that time that have lasted decades.

Balancing Acts: Juggling Family, Flying, and Writing

While my journalism career took a backseat to my husband's through international moves, child-rearing, and the ups and downs of general aviation - including the folding or voluntary administration of operators like Ozjet, Virgin's international fleet, Bonza, and Vanuatu Airlines - these experiences fueled my budding writing career.

"Whispers in the Kalahari": Fiction Meets Reality

Whispers in the Kalahari  (which is the new title for my work-in-progress Shadows over the Delta, as shown here) is seen largely from the perspective of my protagonist, Verity. Married to James, a pilot whose career has seen them relocate from multiple Outback Australian towns, both James and Verity are about to realise their individual ambitions when James gets a job on a Boeing 737 for Ansett and Verity becomes editor of a glossy magazine.

A mockup of the new cover and title. I had to change both because the story became centred around Deception Pan in the Kalahari and featured a lion rather than a giraffe.



However, here is the cover as it is now.

The 1989 Australian Pilots' Dispute: A Turning Point

And then the 1989 Australian Pilot’s Dispute ruins everything.

With the mass resignation of 1600 pilots, cancellation of their award and de-recognition of their union, there is no flying job for James in Australia.

And so, he takes the only job offer he can get: flying Cessna 206s in the safari industry in the Okavango Delta, taking with him his devastated wife and their rebellious fifteen-year-old, Saskia.

My book delves into the divided loyalties of pilots – colleagues and families – during that divisive time, before situating the action in Botswana, a landscape I came to love…though it’s a long time before Verity comes to love it. And that’s only after she’s embroiled in a fifteen-year-old hunting death which gains momentum, and danger, after she takes a job as hostess on an overland safari for charismatic hunter, Starky Willis.

A man some claim is the real killer of James cousin, Mike, fifteen years before.

Beyond the Page: Real Experiences in African Landscapes

So, this book, fiction though it is, touches of many aspects of my life, and brings to life some of the wonderful experiences I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy, first hand.

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