"O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us To see oursels as others see us!"
Robbie Burn's verse came to mind as I browsed a just-published South African travel guide by a former German photojournalist. Having written on or two books on South Africa, he now lives here.
His "eco-guide" presents a wonderfully fresh look at South Africa's attractions.
I mention the book - South African Destinations - because it is the most exciting travel guide I have come across. It is written and exquisitely illustrated by August Sycholt. Nicely times, too - just before the tsunami of soccer fans hits us. They'll all be asking: "What should we see while in South Africa?"
It's a challenging question. Where are our top 10 must-see "eco-spots"?
I browsed Sycholt's book for the answer and chose:
1 Kruger National Park
2 The Drakensber
3 The Cape Peninsula (Table Mountain and Cape Point)
4 iSimangaliso (the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park). This includes the marine reserve right up to Mozambique and the chain of game reserves.
5 The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
6 Namaqualand, but only in early spring
7 Tsitsikamma National Park (forest and marine reserve)
8 The Wilderness/Sedgefield area with its forests and vleis.
9 Walker Bay, where, he says, half the world's 70 species of whales visit.
And number 10? Wild Coast perhaps? Mapungubwe? Baviaanskloof? Langebaan?
Sycholt mentions many esoteric places. Who's heard of the Gustav Klingbeil Nature Reserve? It is on the slopes of Mt Anderson in Mpumalanga where a schoolboy discovered seven ancient terracotta sculptures and some interesting ruins.
The book has a extensive "Ecoadvisor" with contact details for anything from hiking to mountain biking, motoring, museums, palaentological sites and so on.
Destinations is a handy referece book not just for tourists. It includes two userful maps, one showing the biomes (natural forests, fynbos, savannah, and so on) and the other parks and reserves.
There's also a brave attempt at an ecochronicle beginning 100 000 years ago. Pity he didn't go back 3 million years to the time of the apeman.