This is easily one of the most inspirational books I have ever come across; it perfectly encompasses my passions for travel, animals and reading as it follows Mark and Delia Owens (the authors) on their seven year journey into the Kalahari Desert. They left everything behind and sold all they had ever owned before turning up in Eastern Africa with one change of clothes each and $6000! Extraordinarily brave behaviour, and that was just the beginning. Their passion for learning more about animals lead them to spend as long as they could living isolated in the bush, tracking and studying the behaviour of lions and hyenas – very little was known about the latter before their astounding research. They would go for months without seeing another soul, enduring the scorching heat and violent thunder storms of the rainy season whilst living off minimal food. As if this wasn’t enough, they were constantly strapped for money and applying for research grants to see them through the next year or two, which fortunately they nearly always managed to get at the last moment!
The animal encounters reported in this book are like nothing I’ve ever heard of before; the Kalahari animals had mostly never seen humans before them and therefore didn’t associate them as a threat, more of a peculiar source of interest. Their curiosity allowed the Owens to have some remarkably close encounters and observe them without disturbing their natural way of life. They got to know each animal’s personality, often leading to true connections being formed with the incredible experiences they had, and the descriptions of the magnificent sights they came across left me in awe. Their findings were similarly fascinating as they uncovered whole characteristics and behaviours no one else had ever observed, making their experiences even more exciting as they educated the world.
The book made me laugh out loud at some of the hilarious anecdotes, and often brought tears to my eyes; in sadness when anything happened to the animals (their favourite lion was accidentally shot by a friend of theirs in a hunting party), and in anger, at the horrific treatment of the animals and their habitat by farmers and poachers. The Owens describe how a fence, hundreds of miles long, was constructed across the path of the wildebeest migration, stopping them get to the watering hole. Tens of thousands of wildebeest died of dehydration, being injured by the fence or being killed by the farmers’ dogs that were set on them daily as they tried to reach the water. This and similar stories open up a world of environmental issues worse than can have ever been imagined of man’s impact on the animal kingdom. A must-read for everyone as a main goal of the book is to raise awareness of how amazing these animals truly are, and how close we are to losing them.