Review: Myrna Robins
Stuarts’ Field Guide to National Parks and Game Reserves, by Chris and Mathilde Stuart (Struik Nature)
It’s safari season and adventurous travellers can, for the first time, pack a single guide that offers a wealth of information for exploring the diverse parks and reserves of Africa’s ‘middle belt’ – Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi.
While this vast region is home to well-known destinations like the Victoria Falls and Okavango Delta, and includes many famous conservation areas like Etosha, Chobe, Mana Pools, Hwange and Kafue, there are vast stretches of lesser-known territories for which this guide is not just handy, but pretty essential.
After a large regional map and an introductory overview of the current conservation status of the region, we find country-by-country information on the natural history that covers landscapes, geology, vegetation, climate and animals that survive and thrive.
Namibia is up first, the only country in the world that has set its entire coastline aside for conservation. The extraordinary dune formations are also famous, as are some unique plants, like the Welwitschia, with its lifespan stretching from 400 to 1 500 years.
Pages of information on all species of wildlife are accompanied by small photographs on every page. Certain nature reserves have been selected for inclusion, based on their facilities and scenery, such as NamibRand, the first International Dark Sky Reserve in Africa with clear night skies that draw many visitors.
But well-known destinations like Etosha are also covered in some detail. Some 90 pages are devoted to Namibia, each packed with a wealth of detailed information, advice, highlights, cautionary messages, and more.
Botswana follows, and here the national parks and reserves are mostly fairly wellknown to SA travellers: Chobe, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Central Kalahari, Moremi and the Delta and Northern Tuli are described.
Landlocked Zimbabwe with its wide range of habitats and magnificent wildlife has long attracted both local and international visitors. The authors focus on Matusadona, Gonarezhou, Hwange, Mana Pools, Matoba, Victoria Falls and Zambezi national parks as well as the Chimanimani conservation area and Chizarira and Savé Valley Conservancy in the east.
Zambia offers plenty of scope for the more adventurous visitor, as descriptions of many of their parks and reserves are accompanied by warnings on malaria, bilharzia, unfenced camps, tracks that become mud-locked in the wet season, and Nile crocodiles lurking at the edges of rivers and lakes.
The authors provide information on a dozen national parks and conservation areas, from the comparatively little-known to the Zambesi park with its attraction of the Victoria Falls.
Malawi is a small country but the most densely populated. Along with its Great Lake the country boasts five national parks, four wildlife reserves and a transfrontier conservation area. Liwonde and Nyika are the most popular with visitors, the former for wildlife, the latter for scenic beauty.
The guide closes with an illustrated identification guide of mammals, birds, reptiles and trees covering more than 40 pages.
Chris and Mathilde Stuart are the authors of a range of books on African mammals, wildlife and conservation, and this is a magnificent contribution to their ouvre.