The Kalahari State of Flow
The Kalahari is in a constant state of flow. Like a great lung it inhales and exhales, in time with dawn and dusk, summer and winter. It is now summer in the desert and the plains are awash with colour and life. The great lung is at the zenith of its inhale. Life seems to be vibrating on a high frequency as every being in this otherwise harsh land aims to make the most of the seasonal rains. There are many young among the animals, spindly legs carry doe-eyed impala lambs through the thick undergrowth. They jump, flush and bound in play, testing and strengthening their limbs for they know that there are few easier meals in the bush than a young impala. At the very bottom of the food-chain they need to be aware of danger from every direction.
Africa's largest eagle, the Marshall Eagle is known to snatch young antelope from their mothers. There is plenty else on offer now for the aerial predators, from far and wide they flock to the bountiful grasslands of the Kalahari. Arriving from Europe and Asia to breed and escape the hard northern winters; kites, harriers, goshawks and eagles drift in on the thermals, eyes on the sand below. Snakes, now thoroughly thawed out after a winter of near hibernation, move out into the grasses where they become another target for the raptors.
Through the dense foliage in early dawn, a large kudu bull steps silently into the open. His spiral horns remain proud and steady as his eyes and ears scan the bush. The faint white lines down his flanks help to blend his outline with the terminalia and acacia shrubs he is moving through. His movements are slow and fluid and he has a unique gait that places his back feet exactly into the track left by his front feet, ensuring that he makes as little noise as possible as he walks. With a long, rough tongue that can deal with the spiky exterior of most desert plants, and a varied diet, he really is a masterpiece of evolution. Perhaps the only nonsensical part of his attire are his horns, they obviously provide no assistance to camouflage and they are a heavy burden requiring massive neck muscles to lift. One has to remember that evolution uses natural selection as its primary tool, the passing on of perfect genes is the survival mechanism of an entire species. With this in mind, it becomes clear that the best possible kudu genes are held by that bull that not only survives in this predator ridden land, but is able to do so while carrying a large, unwieldy weight on his head. Of course he also uses his horns to suppress any challenge to his genes and further cement his chances of passing them on.
As the sun gains height and throws back the shadows, the light catches on shiny drops of dew clinging to drooping grass heads. Through the glistening carpet, various forms of fungi are entering their short stage of fruiting. They send their energy up and out of the ground to form beautiful shapes and colours, mushrooms! Amongst these are perfect little dung round caps, the medicinally prized reishi mushrooms and the charismatic shaggy ink-caps. Each of them with a sole purpose; shoot from the ground as fast as possible, develop a fleshy cap that protects millions of spores until the time is right, and finally when the time is right – release the spores into the wind that they may find new homes. This huge bounty of fungi only becomes apparent when they fruit and send mushrooms up for us to see, but their mycelium networks are always alive under almost every square inch of earth. One is reminded of how integral this species is with the earth. Fungai connects things, it allows plants to communicate with each other and share nutrients. It decomposes, and regenerates our soils while providing food for so many keystone species. Some have argued that the eating of fungi is what first allowed homo sapiens to find that next level of cognitive ability, thereafter developing complex speech and social structures. Perhaps the Kalahari is not a great lung after all, but rather a great mushroom.
Daniel Crous has been lucky enough to call Botswana home for his entire life. His folks ran safari camps in the 80's and his early childhood was spent in the heart of the Okavango Delta. Life outdoors has always been his calling, safaris in Botswana are one of the purest forms of such a life. His Dad handed him his old film camera when he was about 12, documenting the wilderness around him has grown from passion to profession. He is equally passionate about the conservation of the land we live in and all of its creatures, including its people. He now takes extreme pleasure in leading others to some of the incredible experiences available here.