A bushwacker’s best

South African nature lovers of all ages should be delighted to learn that Jacana’s popular Beat About the Bush series of behavioural guides has been revised and a new comprehensive guide has now also been added. The titles that have been updated and revised, complete with newly designed covers are Beat about the Bush: Mammals, (first published in 2005); Beat about the Bush: Birds (first published in 2006); and Beat about the Bush: Mammals & Birds (a combined edition first published in 2013). Tying it all together is a brand new title, Beat about the Bush: Exploring the Wild – The Comprehensive Guide. The latter is an impressive tome designed to answer just about every question that is likely to occur to you when it comes to mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. In addition, there are sections on plants, field signs and clues such as tracks, dung and nests, and, finally, a general chapter on the environment covering climate, geology, astronomy, animal diseases and management practices.

There are countless fascinating facts to be gleaned and you may well be tempted to read out aloud (as I was) some of these entertaining snippets to anyone accompanying you on an outing to the bush! The Q & A format works really well and you’ll find answers to questions such as “how far can hippos walk from water” (up to a 15km round-trip) or “how many termites or ants can an aardvark eat” (they have been recorded to eat 40 000 to 50 000 in a single night!) The book reminded me just how lucky we South Africans are to have such incredible natural resources right on our doorstep. So, if you’re planning to visit one of the Eastern Cape’s many beautiful national parks or private game reserves in the near future, then absolutely do consider picking up a copy of Carnaby’s Comprehensive Guide as your go-to manual. It’s an accessible, entertaining and very wellresearched book that you’ll find yourself returning to again and again. In addition, it will most likely be a very useful learning tool for youngsters with an interest in the natural sciences or anyone considering a career as a professional field guide in Southern Africa – which is how Carnaby himself started out. He has been in the industry for more than two decades, and his vast knowledge and experience of the bush has been distilled into the 620 pages of this wonderfully informative guide that also boasts hundreds of full-colour photographs. Beat About the Bush Exploring The Wild – The Comprehensive Guide by Trevor Carnaby, published by Jacana. Recommended price R450.