The World According to Sir Christopher Ondaatje

Writer, explorer, philanthropist and leopard obsessive Sir Christopher Ondaatje on his world of travel

3 mins

Mountain/desert/jungle/ocean which are you?


First travel experience?

Ocean voyage: Ceylon to UK. April 1947.

Favourite journey?

Journey to the source of the Nile 1996.

Top five places worldwide?

Yala National Park, Sri Lanka; Serengeti National Park; Chester/ Nova Scotia; Londolozi Game Reserve/ South Africa; Charleston/ South Carolina.

Special place to stay?

Gritti Palace, Venice.

Three items you always pack?

Mosquito repellant...

Passport stamp you're proudest of?

Cozumel Island, Mexico (I stamped my own passport as there was no one there).

Passport stamp most like to have?

St.Petersburg, Russia.

Guilty travel pleasure?

Bacon and eggs, and burned toast.

Window or aisle?


Who is your ideal travelling companion?

My wife... if she'll come.

Best meal on the road? Worst?

Lampries - a special occasion dish in Sri Lanka served in banana leaves.

Bad Oyster.

Most surprising place? Most disappointing?

Ayers Rock, Australia.


Where do you NOT want to go?

South Arizona border.

Who/what inspired you to travel? Any travel heroes?

Restlessness, and a hunger to write.

Person: Sir Richard Burton.

What do you listen to on the road? Any song take you back to a particular time or place?

Song: As Time Goes By... Dooley Wilson, 1942, from Casablanca

What do you read ?

Travel biographies. Paul Theroux.

Is there a person you met while travelling who reaffirmed your faith in humanity? Anyone who made you lose it?

Faith in humanity: Osama Barack Obama.

Lose faith in humanity: Osama Bin Laden.

What is your worst habit as a traveller?

Not bathing enough. No water. Sometimes impossible.

Snowbound in a tent in Antarctica, how would you entertain your companions?

Keep warm. Tell stories.

When and where in your travels have you been happiest?

The Serengeti, Tanzania.

What smell most says 'travel' to you?

The smell of approaching rain, Africa.

Given a choice, which era would you travel in?

In the 1920's... Before the Great Depression.

If you could combine three cities to make your perfect metropolis, what would they be?

London, New York, Quebec.

DSC South Asian Literature FestivalSir Christopher Ondaatje will be in conversation with Romesh Gunesekera at the DSC South Asian Literature Festival on 21st October at 6.30pm at The British Library. His new autobiographical collection, The Last Colonial, is available in hardback from Thames and Hudson.


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