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Author: David Rogers
Southern Africa is a region of spectacular landscapes – from the rolling dunes of Namibia, endless vistas of Botswana and majestic power of Victoria Falls to the towering mountains of KwaZulu-Natal, the rich tapestry of the Cape’s fynbos and the expansive Karoo with its characteristic flat-topped mountains.
These landscapes in turn provide habitats for a wealth of life, endowing the region with a wide diversity of flora and fauna, in many instances unique.
Southern Africa – Living Landscapes celebrates that diversity in a carefully chosen selection of iconic images and informative text.
A general introduction and map of the region sets the scene and is followed by 10 chapters, six of which cover South Africa and with a chapter each devoted to Namibia, Botswana, the Zambezi Valley and Mozambique.
All of these places are special in their own right, presenting an interesting blend of land, mountains, water and sky and their attendant animal and plant life.
Accompanying the splendid photography are facts that will fascinate and inform – touching on the region’s rich geology and natural history as well as its diverse wildlife, great and small.
Southern Africa – Living Landscapes takes a fresh look at a selection of memorable landscapes and their features, offering locals, visitors and armchair travellers an overview of a region that is worth celebrating and remembering.
David Rogers is an award-winning freelance photographer and writer who has travelled for many years, photographing and writing about southern Africa’s landscapes, plants, animals and people.
As assistant editor of Getaway magazine he produced more than 100 features, and he has also written and photographed several books, including Zambia Landscapes, Etosha National Park, Sea Kayaking in South Africa, Safari in Style and Living Landscapes – Southern Africa.
Living Landscapes - Southern Africa includes some of my favourite images, taken during my two decades of working as a photojournalist. Looking at them, I am reminded of the many experiences that accompanied their creation on hikes, trails and thousands of kilometres of overland expeditions.
I am reminded too, of the many scientists, naturalists, conservationists, landowners, guides, editors, friends and family who have enriched my understanding of the environment and helped shape the message I wish to convey. Photographs can be 'ambassadors' for the environment, fostering a spirit of connection with the wilderness even if people do not have a chance to visit it as often as they would like.
This is important, because our wilderness must be protected. It is where we came from as a species and where we will ultimately find healing for our minds and souls. We are in danger of losing vast areas and resources as populations expand.
As ecologist Aldo Leopold says ‘We end, I think, at what might be the paradox of the 20th century: our tools are better than we are... They suffice to crack the atom, to command the tides. But they do not suffice for the oldest task in human history: to live on a piece of land without spoiling it.'
Southern Africa has a variety of landscapes, ranging from rugged coasts to arid deserts, open plains to high mountains. Into each of these is interwoven unique elements of terrain, geology, climate, birds, plants and animals that give each its particular characteristics.
If we have an understanding of these landscapes, our travel experiences can be so much richer. Looking back, I am amazed at how often, when I visited places, my experience was clouded by a lack of knowledge.
For example, many times, I've returned from Namaqualand satisfied with the sight of endless fields of colour, thinking I had seen the wild flowers. It took a while before I realised that these colourful carpets were only part of the story and that, to appreciate the diversity of the flowers, it is sometimes necessary to get down on hands and knees on the gravel plains, or explore rocky boulder-strewn landscapes to find them.
Every time I visit a part of South Africa at a different time of year, my appreciation for the country's complex environment grows. I am drawn by the timeless trees of the bushveld, the exquisite emptiness of desert landscapes, the sheer bliss of drifting over coral reefs, and the sight of big game on the savanna. I am fascinated by plants, which are, for me, the foundation of so much life. If we can keep intact our forests, fynbos and grasslands, then the survival of many other species will be assured.
In South Africa, biodiversity begins on our doorsteps. Whether we are watching a family of birds in the garden, walking along a beach, or hiking in the mountains, we should seek time to embrace the natural world around us. I hope that by paging through this book, or by stepping into an unspoiled expanse of southern Africa's living landscape, you will find a way to relax and replenish your soul.
I would like to thank my extended family for supporting me during my travels, which were often lengthy. Most of all, thanks go to my wise and wonderful wife, Jenni Saunders, who is my sternest critic, but also my guiding light of wisdom, and to my two boys, Liam and Dane, the next generation, for whom we must protect our living landscapes.
My mother and stepfather, Liz and Derrick Mills, who gave me my first camera, have always been a great support. I'd also like to pay personal tribute to my widely-loved grandfather, Eric Rosenthal, who wrote more than 80 books, and whom I wish I had known for longer.