(South)East of Eden
Drama in the delta, Botswana, October 2018
Africa's Garden of Eden lies in northern Botswana, where the Okavango River meets the dry Kalahari basin and forms an inland delta. The river is the life source, and every year, the rains cause a phenomenal transformation - 11 cubic kilometers (that is 11 billion liters) of water spilling forth, snaking through tributaries to the south and to the east, transforming dry, parched land into lush greenery. Then it dries up once more and Eden recedes back from whence it came. This is repeated refrain against which a timeless drama is played out by an incredibly diverse cast of fantastic beasts.
"There's far too much to take in here More to find than can ever be found But the sun rolling high Through the sapphire sky Keeps great and small on the endless round" - The Circle of Life
This phenomena is primarily made possible by three keystone species: The elephant, the hippo, and...the termite. Together, they are the ecosystem engineers, terraforming vast swathes of wilderness to create a spectacular environment in which they, and droves of others can thrive.Theirs is story of the delicate balance and intricate inter-connectivity of life on earth.
The elephant: the most expected role - nature's bulldozers. The great herds of these giants sweep through the bush, tearing down acacia trees for love of their soft bark. They ensure the plains are flat and desolate.
The hippo: their effect goes largely unseen, as they work in the dark. Hippos leave their watering holes in the cool of night and cover significant ground grazing on land before retreating back to the water. Their repetitive pattern of movement leaves behind hippo highways in the dirt - rounded trenches leading to the water. Crucially, these eventually become streams and tributaries through which the lifeblood of the delta will flow.
The termite: who would've thought? Their work is in plain sight, yet often overlooked. Termites construct their impressive mounds with great dedication and industry, never pausing to rest. These mounds serve as marvelous perches - cheetahs love to use them as a lookout over the flat plains. And so do many others, including birds and monkeys who leave behind tree seeds in their droppings when they leave the mounds.
These seeds germinate, take root, and grow. And in time, they form islands. And when the rains come, sediment accumulates along these islands and they grow. And more animals use them as the plains flood. And they grow some more. And eventually you realize that the passable terrain during the wet months probably started out as termite mounds.
With water flowing around it following hippo trails. In flat, flooded plains cleared by elephants.
The stage is set. Now enter the cast. Enter regal lions, and darting cheetah, and slinking leopards. Enter packs of wild dogs and lonely jackals and whooping hyenas. Enter herds of antelope of all kinds - impala and lechwe and kudu and roans and bucks. Enter grunting warthogs and gloomy buffalo and cheeky baboons. Enter ancient crocodiles and deadly snakes. Enter iridescent rollers and zipping bee-eaters. Enter shrieking eagles and circling vulture.
And let them play out their timeless classic under the scorching African sun, while the engineers continue to work on the land which draws the greatest concentration of wildlife on the continent.
Alan Watts said, "try a little solitude off somewhere, and let it begin to tell you how everything is interdependent. Everything in the world, every event, is like a dewdrop on a multidimensional spider's web, and every dewdrop contains the reflection of all the other dewdrops"
Over the course of 10 days camping in the delta, we encountered some incredible characters - The Pride of the Marsh, The Little Prince, Alpha, The Heir Apparent. And moments of high drama. They are featured in the collection: East of Eden. All releases are now available for print.