It’s dry but you’ll want to visit it

By Vivien Horler Time of article published Jun 17, 2011

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The Arid Parks – Captured Experiences

Compiled by Steve Newbould & Henriette Engelbrecht

SANParks/ Tourism Blueprint

It’s easy to love the lushness of the Natal Midlands or the grandeur of Mpumalanga and the Western Cape – it takes a more discerning eye to see beauty in the great golden emptiness of the Kgalagadi transfrontier park, the flat grey-green expanses of the Karoo, or Vaal Namaqualand out of flower season.

As for the Richtersveld – I’ve been there just once and was horrified by the barren moonscapes that unfolded before us. I guess I’m a Garden Route girl at heart.

And yet, thankfully, there are plenty of discerning eyes about, as is made clear by the magnificent photographs called The Arid Parks – Captured Experiences. One of the interesting things about the book is that it is not the work of a single, brilliant photographer; it was compiled from thousands of photographs taken in the parks by ordinary visitors.

SANParks is responsible for six arid national parks: the Kgalagadi and /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld transfrontier parks, and Augrabies Falls, Namaqua, Tankwa Karoo and Mokala, near Kimberley.

The original idea for the book came from Henriette Engelbrecht, marketing manager of the arid parks, and she linked up with Steve Newbould, creative director of Tourism Blueprint, a small Cape Town-based publishing company that does a lot of work for SANParks.

They set up a photographic competition with a number of categories which eventually attracted 10 000 entries.

“We needed the different categories to avoid having pictures of lion after lion, and to give as broad a vision of the parks as possible,” said Newbould.

The categories include landscapes, sequences, plant life and people in the park as well as the more obvious categories of animals, birds and reptiles.

With 10 000 pictures to choose from, it seems Newbould and Engelbrecht couldn’t go wrong.

“It was so difficult to choose the 400 pictures that finally went into the book,” said Engelbrecht.

The book is divided into six sections, one for each park. Each opens with a brief introduction to the park, and then it is straight into the pictures.

Newbould, who was born in the UK, says: “When I first went to the Northern Cape I just thought, why would anyone want to come here? But the more you look, the more you see.

“You can drive by and see nothing, but if you get out of your car and look, look at tiny succulent plants, plants struggling to grow out of a crack in the rock, you see stuff that is amazingly different.

“The Richtersveld has all these soaring bare mountains that show off their strata – I’ve been there at least 20 times and will keep going back. It’s a very different world – and now one of my favourite places.”

Another person with a discerning eye.

l The Arid Parks is R280 from - Sunday Argus

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