MUST HAVE GUIDE TO AFRICA’S GAME PARKS
IMAGES: Stuart’s Field Guide to NATIONAL PARKS & GAME RESERVES
When Stuart’s Field Guide to NATIONAL PARKS & GAME RESERVES landed on my desk, I was ready to dart to the cupboard, pull out a suitcase, shoulder my camera bag and head off. A trip to the Kgalagadi last year has given me an appetite to explore the many parks in neighbouring countries and this extremely user friendly book is likely to become a valued companion during my quest.
Surprisingly enough, this is the first guide ever to document and explore the diverse parks and reserves of Africa’s ‘middle belt’. It covers Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi – in short, 50 parks in five countries.
Sadly, for all the right reasons, Angola and Mozambique remain on the side-lines and, like the authors, I look forward to better conservation practices that will open the doors to explorers and tourists alike in the not too distant future.
As the introduction states and the rest of the book bears out, this is a region of contrasts, containing what is plausibly the world’s oldest desert, a vast semi-desert, mountain ranges, coastlines, one of the mightiest rivers on the continent, savannah grasslands and woodlands and the world’s largest inland river delta.
In effect, this is the best way to dip into some of Africa’s best conservation areas and spots such as the world-famous landscapes of the Namib and Kalahari deserts, the Okavango Delta, Victoria Falls
and Lake Malawi as well as Etosha, Chobe, Mana Pools, Hwange, Kafue and Nyika and more.
From page one, this guide has been written with the reader in mind with meaningful background to conservation in Africa and those ultra-handy tips that every traveller needs in Africa – everything from specific game viewing guidelines to navigating, driving in mud and water, driving in sand and making sure that you have all those emergency provisions on board – from extra spare wheels to tow ropes, back up batteries and a good medical kit.
Take it from me, you’ll never know just how important it is to be well prepared until you find yourself up to your axle in sand or with a flat battery, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere.
The background to each country is specific, detailed and well-written with maps and attention to a variety of different elements, including geology and the landscape, climate, vegetation and wildlife (mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles).
Each of the reserves gets the same treatment with useful side bars outlining highlights, facilities and activities as well as those all-important health issues such as malaria.
Having visited the Etosha National Park, it is evident that this guide is written by someone who has “been there”. It is, indeed a fine sit-and-wait water hole park (couldn’t have put it better myself) and certainly easily accessible with good roads and great photography opportunities.
I imagine that one of the things that I will find most useful when I slip this invaluable book into my vehicle before setting off will be the annotated park maps which indicate places of interest and best sites to view key species.
It is also refreshing to see that as much attention has been given to the smaller animals – those charming little critters that so many visitors miss due to ignorance rather than lack of interest. The same goes for the vegetation as many regions in Africa have such
distinctive and unique plants and trees that this is a whole world in itself.
Of course, this book is as good as it is because it has been written by two prominent conservationists who don’t beat around the bush when it comes to providing sound, practical information underpinned by a huge respect for the diverse wilderness areas that they visit and research so avidly.
In fact, Chris and Mathilde Stuart are the highly regarded authors of a range of books, field guides and mobile applications on African mammals, wildlife and conservation. Much of their time is spent travelling the world in search of wild mammals and promoting conservation through the written word. Mathilde holds a doctorate in medicine from the University of Innsbruck and Chris an MSc from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
I’m going to be bold enough to say that this is probably one of their best and will be a wonderful investment in a future of exploring Southern Africa at just R350.00.
A PS for those who believe that having all information available on smartphone is sufficient: In parks such as these, signals are hard to come by and your beloved phone usually ends up in the cubby. There’s nothing more useful than a book filled with common sense and plenty of useful information. We have a small library of must have books that go everywhere with us. This will be added, of course.)
Stuart’s Field Guide to NATIONAL PARKS & GAME RESERVES closes with a visual identification guide which can come in handy but can never replace a more detailed bird book and some good research prior to departure.
The photographs are beautiful, but their size doesn’t do them justice. However, the book needs to be small enough to pack in vehicles that quickly become cluttered on trips. We can only hope that a coffee table book of these beautiful pictures may follow someday.
Visit www.stuartonnature.com for further information.
ISBN: 9781775847205 | RRP: R350.00