Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bushveld - Africa, Part III

The image I had of wild Africa was wholly informed by nature shows. These programs seem to focus exclusively on Africa's three major biomes: the savanna, the deserts, and the rainforests. So I was surprised by the scenery when I entered the Venetia-Limpopo Nature Reserve in South Africa. What was this rocky, dusty, broken place, filled with forlorn shrubbery and punctuated by huge, writhing trees?

The bushveld is unique to a relatively small area in southern Africa. At first glance, scanning the horizon from a hill, it looks barren, harsh, and devoid of life. But nothing could be further from the truth. With anything more than a cursory observation, the signs of life immediately become inescapable: animal tracks and animal droppings line every path in all directions. Insects, birds, reptiles, ungulates, pacyderms, and carnivores strive and flourish in every corner.

Throughout my years I've hiked in many different areas around North America and I have never seen so much evidence of animal life as I did in my eleven day visit to the South African bushveld. It was astonishing and fascinating. I asked myself many, many times, "how does this landscape support life in such diversity and quantity?"

The bushveld is truly impressive. This environment renewed my awe for the majesty and subtlety of nature.