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Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Review: Cry of the Kalahari

Title: Cry of the Kalahari

Author: Mark and Delia Owens

Publisher: 12th October 2021 by Hachette Australia

Pages: 434 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: non fiction, animals, adventure, culture Africa

My Rating: 5 crowns


The incredible memoir by international bestselling author of ‘Where The Crawdad's Sing’, Delia Owens and her partner Mark Owens', charting their time researching wildlife in the Kalahari Desert. Reissued and in full colour, for the first time since its original publication.

Carrying little more than a change of clothes and a pair of binoculars, two young Americans, Mark and Delia Owens, caught a plane to Africa, bought a thirdhand Land Rover, and drove deep into the Kalahari Desert. There they lived for seven years, in an unexplored area with no roads, no people, and no source of water for thousands of square miles. In this vast wilderness the Owenses began their zoology research, working along animals that had never before been exposed to humans.

An international bestseller on original release, Cry of the Kalahari is the story of the Owenses's life with lions, brown hyenas, jackals, giraffes, and the many other creatures they came to know. It is also a gripping account of how they survived the dangers of living in one of the last and largest pristine areas on Earth.

My Thoughts

‘The sky deepened. I lay back in the straw-colored grass, and pressing my fingers into the rough surface of the riverbed, as I had so many times before, I wondered how long the Kalahari would belong to the wild.’

Having lived and worked in Africa, I am always eager to read stories from that conflicted continent. ‘Cry of the Kalahari’, originally published in 1984, is being reissued with full colour photos for the first time and I highly recommend it. It was a wake up call almost forty years ago and, sadly, would appear to remain seemingly relevant today. 

Mark and Delia Owens devoted much of their life to conservation. This book details their first seven years of studying the Botswana wildlife, particularly lions and brown hyenas. Here you will read about what would have been the adventure of a lifetime, especially given the situation in the early 80s, namely the lack of communication. The hardships they endured on a daily basis seem so unreal but this is very much a factual account. To balance it out however, they bring such joy to what they did and through the sharing of their immersive lifestyle of living  in such remoteness, we can learn and feel so much. 

‘We had to remind ourselves that they were wild lions. What we felt at such times could not be expressed with any one of the usual emotional terms. It was an amalgam, really, of several emotions: excitement, gratitude, warmth, companionship.’

It would be remiss of me not to draw attention to the proverbial elephant in this review - Delia Owens of Where The Crawdads Sing fame. Having read that novel, having read this current book and having been inspired to read more about the work of Delia and Mark Owens, I have to admit to being intrigued by the seeming correlations of Delia’s experiences adapted to her fictional sensation of Where The Crawdads Sing. Fascinating to consider. 

This is truly an inspiring read of a young couple dedicating seven years of their life to studying the wildlife of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana. Tenacious, brave and seemingly fearless, they pushed on through many hardships in an effort to understand and preserve a very special part of our world. A must read for anyone interested in wildlife and conservation.

‘It’s difficult to describe the excitement and joy we felt. We had found our Eden. Yet we were very anxious not to disturb the intricate patterns of life that were going on around us. Here was a place where creatures did not know of man’s crimes against nature. Perhaps, if we were sensitive enough to the freedom of these animals, we could slip unnoticed into this ancient river valley and carefully study its treasures without damaging it. We were determined to protect one of the last untouched corners of earth from ourselves.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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