The Kalahari: Survival in a Thirstland Wilderness – Knight, Dennis, Joyce
**Coffeetable sized book**
The wider Kalahari is a vast region of sandy, porous soils that extends across much of south-central Africa. Only in its southern parts, though, does it come close to the popular perceptions of a desert: here, there are great, rolling red dunes, dusty plains, ancient river-beds that seldom flow with water, and a sparse plant life which, for most of the year, lies withered beneath the scorching sun.
Nevertheless, this harsh land, its scant grasses and hardy thorn-trees support a surprising number and variety of life forms — animals, birds, reptiles and insects that manage to cling to survival because they have adapted superbly (and often ingeniously) to the pitiless rigours of the desert environment. Herds of gemsbok and graceful springbok, wildebeest and hartebeest roam the great sunlit spaces, their movements across the hot, dry plains determined by the rare rains and the gift of short-lived pasture they bestow. In turn, the antelope provide food for the large carnivores of the desert — cheetahs, lions, leopards and hyaenas.
Below these on the size scale are other animals, less visually striking perhaps but just as fascinating in their struggle for life, and in their drive for species immortality. It is this scene — the implacable desert, its resilient residents and their battle against huge odds — that Nigel Dennis has captured on film. Few photographers can know the Kalahari as intimately as he does, fewer still have the skill, and the flair, to portray the living desert in such memorable fashion as he has done.
The narrative text, by Michael Knight and Peter Joyce, is an ideal companion to this out-standing visual essay. Written in eminently readable style, it provides sharp insights into the nature of this strange, always hostile but often beguiling region, explaining many of its mysteries, revealing the secrets that enable the wildlife to meet its formidable challenges.