Wildness and wilderness

2008-08-20 00:00

AS a young game ranger working in the Kruger National Park, Christiaan Bakkes achieved a degree of local notoriety when he lost an arm to a crocodile as a result of a foolish dare. While this encounter may have taught him the value of caution (but not enough to prevent him from later throwing himself in front of a charging rhino to protect his clients) it did nothing to dampen his passion for the great outdoors and despite his physical handicap he has managed to be one of those fortunate people whose childhood delights have turned out to become his professional concerns.

Having, literally, escaped from the jaws of death — but losing his job — Bakkes decided to journey through Africa before relocating to Namibia where he has lived for the past decade, working first for the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) in the Kaokoveld and then as a safari operator conducting ecotours along the Skeleton Coast and in Damaraland.

Living in one of Africa’s last true wilderness areas — where threatened species like the black rhino are still able to roam freely outside the protective confines of game parks and private sanctuaries — Bakkes writes about his experiences in this harsh environment in a stripped-down, economical prose style that manages to capture the desolation and magic of the landscape.

His writing is evocative and informative and he has produced a highly readable, honest and humorous account of a life spent beyond the fringes of civilisation.

Anthony Stidolph

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