Books for Nature Lovers
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Review By: 15 February 2010 - James Clarke - The Star / Diversions

"O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us 
To see oursels as others see us!"

This Robbie Burns' verse came to mind as I browsed a just-published travel guide to South Africa - one written by a former German photo-journalist who, having written one or two books on South Africa has made his base in Johannesburg. 
It presents a fresh look at South Africa.
It's an "eco-guide" and so includes almost nothing about cities but it does note Johannesburg's recent nickname: "Jozi". I have often wondered if any reader knows who first used that name. I mention the book - "South African Destinations" (published in Pretoria by Briza) - because it is unquestionably the best South African travel guide I have come across.
It is written and exquisitely illustrated by August Sycholt and it is nicely timed too - just before the tsunami of soccer fans hits us. They'll all be asking: "What should we see while in South Africa?" A challenging question. Where are the top 10 must see "eco spots"? I browsed Sycholt's book for the answer and chose:

  • Kruger Park
  • The Drakensberg
  • The Cape Peninsula (Table Mountain and Cape Point)
  • The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
  • iSimangaliso (the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park. This includes the marine reserve right up to Mozambique and the chain of game reserves.
  • Namaquanland but only in early Spring.
  • Tsitsikamma National Park (forest and marine reserve)
  • The Wilderness/Sedgefield area with its vleis.
  • Walker Bay (when half the world's 70 species of whales move in) And number 10? Wild Coast perhaps? Mapungubwe? Baviaanskloof? Langebaan?

Sycholt mentions many esoteric places. Who's heard of the Gustav Klingbiel Nature Reserve? It is on the slopes of Mount Anderson in Mpumalanga and is, apparently, where a schoolboy discovered seven ancient terracotta sculptures and some interesting ruins. The book has an extensive "Ecoadvisor" with contact details for anything from hiking organisations to mountain biking, motoring, museums, palaeontological sites etc..
Destinations is a useful reference book not just for tourists but for South Africans for it includes two fine maps - one shows the bioimes (natural forests, fynbos, savannah, etc) and the other the parks and reserves. There's also a brave attempt at a South African eco-related chronicle from 100 000 BC. A pity he didn't go 3-million years back to the time of the apeman and the first humans. .
American-born James Munro refers to a recent column in which I mentioned how the English language is being corrupted - even in Britain. "My high school English master, a Mr Sutton-Pryce, was somewhat fanatical about English and I think feared that South Africa was on a similar road to the Americans when it came to defiling the language. "If he's still around I can tell him that we are rank amateurs. "A day hardly passes here when I am not amazed at how my fellow Americans contort words and phrases.".
James says an appraiser on "The Antiques Roadshow" describing fine embroidery as "fine stitchery". And he's heard and seen in print - "Who would have thunk it?" He adds, "I was distressed to find 'thunk' can be used as past tense for think." My Oxford and Collins dictionaries disagree - probably violently...
"African Americans insist on 'aksing' you a question - instead of asking. ( 'I done aksed him for my ring back.')" A newsreader said "The tree was exspecially big this year" Crime suspects often have to appear for a "dangerousness" hearing. 

121 Soutpansberg Road
South Africa