Welgevonden: A Wilderness Reborn

2012-06-18 15:58
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Photos: Welgevonden

Win a copy of this book detailing the world's oldest mountain ranges: Welgevonden - An African Wilderness Reborn.

Photographer Ian Finlay's decade long passion with one of the world's oldest mountain ranges Welgevonden has culminated into a collectable book - An African Wilderness Reborn. (To stand a chance of winning one of two copies enter our competition below)

Welgevonden – An African Wilderness Reborn was launched this year in February.  This glossy, collectable book is a culmination of photographer, Ian Finlay’s decade long passion for Welgevonden Game Reserve.  Aside from documenting the rich variety of wildlife which flourishes within the reserve, the book also tells the story of the remarkable regeneration of Welgevonden and its transformation from agricultural land to a world class conservation destination.

The vast Waterberg Mountain Range has long been a fabled wilderness area in South Africa.  At 1 800-million years of age, this mountain range is one of the oldest on earth, being much older than the other well known ranges such as the 50-million year old Himalaya Mountains, the Andes Mountains and the North American Rocky Mountains. Remote and serene, the Waterberg stretches as a series of seemingly impenetrable barriers over the horizon when approaching it from the south.  One of the last places in South Africa to be settled, due to its rugged terrain and impenetrable landscape, it was the original home of the San, now long gone, but who have left behind evidence of their passing through their beautiful rock art depictions in sandstone shelters.

With the advent of the arrival of the Europeans in the 1800’s it was not long before all the major species of herbivores were to disappear in this region of great wildlife biodiversity.  Elephant, buffalo, giraffe, rhino, hippo, lion and the great herds of wildebeest all fell to the gun.  Livestock and crop farming became the principal activity.

Blue cranes on the southern grasslands

In the 1980’s, Pienkes Du Plessis owned a farm in the Waterberg, which he called Welgevonden, meaning ‘well found’ or ‘well discovered’.  He also had a vision - he dreamt of an area of the Waterberg being rehabilitated back to its original state, with its wildlife returned – An African wilderness reborn.  He undertook to increase the area of Welgevonden by acquiring land from surrounding landowners.  He then removed traces of human activity from the landscape and began reintroducing the animals that had been lost.  Pienke’s vision would never had been realised if it had not been for Rand Merchant Bank, who in 1993, bravely decided to provide the resources required to complete the project.

Today, some 37 500 hectares are within Welgevonden’s protection.  As Pienke’s envisioned, animals that had been lost have now been returned to their natural habitat.  Elephants were reintroduced, as part of the first project in South Africa to translocate entire breeding herds.  White rhinos were brought back, together with many other species.  Alien plants and trees were identified and removed.  And in 1998, for the first time in almost a century, the most elemental sound of the bush was heard again in the Waterberg, when five lions were released in Welgevonden.  Welgevonden had become the first reserve in the Waterberg to be home to the big five.

Welgevonden Impalas

Ian Finlay has been photographing wildlife since his boyhood in Ireland.  After travelling and photographing extensively in southern Africa, he first visited Welgevonden in 1997.  Its distinctive beauty inspired him to create a book.  He says:

‘I first saw Welgevonden one morning in early 1977. I had recently driven from Northern Kenya to the Cape of Good Hope, and had experienced many great wildlife reserves of east and southern Africa along the way. But in Welgevonden I discovered a natural world unlike any I had seen before – a landscape of extraordinary variety and beauty, of rugged escarpments, of secluded wooded valleys and clear streams, of summer waterfalls cascading down red stone gorges, of rolling grassland plains, of limitless views over folds of receding hills … I remember that morning seeing a group of white rhinos. Among them was a young one, inquisitive and playful, to watch these great and ancient animals grazing quietly and safely in the Welgevonden landscape was somehow to sense the future of conservation in South Africa. I decided that day that Welgevonden was a place in Africa to be. This book is the result’

As well as his work with wildlife, Ian Finlay’s photography has included a book on Dublin and award winning album covers for the band U2. He has also exhibited at the Photographer’s Gallery in London.

The book is available at retailers throughout South Africa at a suggested retail price of R350.00. To win a copy email your answer to the following question to info@gotravel24.com.  Competition closes 30 June 2012and winners will be notified the first week in July 2012.

Name the author and photographer of the book, Welgevonden - An African Wilderness Reborn?

Read more on:    travel south africa

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