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SOUTH AFRICA - THROUGH A PHOTOGRAPHER'S EYES
Randa Bishop

Whether it's scenery or cities, wildlife or flowers, or a cornicopia of ethnic groups, South Africa has the diversity and climate to satisfy any photographer's preference.

The RAS is well known internationally among telephoto specialists for its wild game, especially the "big five," found in the various national parks and game reserves. A lion's ears flicker against mopane leaves, as the animal takes respite from the hot sun. A hippo disappears beneath still waters before surfacing again for a big yawn. A giraffe stretches its neck above the trees. These are just three of 137 mammal species found in Kruger Park alone. One reserve, the Willem Pretorius in northern Orange Free State, boasts 900 species of birds.

But the RAS has much more to offer than its wildlife. Landscape photographer's travelling through the country will feel they have just awoken from a beautiful dream. From mountains to the coast, or plateaus to the plains, a blaze of color will fill any type of lens. The so-called South African "Alps", the Drakensburg Mountain Range in Natal has summits which soar 10,000 feet into the air, to name a few, Cathedral Peak, Champagne Castle and Giant's Castle.

The Garden Route of Cape Province parallels a coastline of sweeping beaches, windswept cliffs, and rich green forests, a favorite route for spring adventurers. Another springtime glory is Namaqualand's festival of flowers which bloom from horizon to horizon over vast expanses of semi-desert in northwestern Cape Province. Neighboring Namaqualand is the great Kalahari Desert where undulating sand dunes stretch further than any wide angle lens.

Each of South Africa's four provinces has unique scenery, from the giant dolerite pillars of Great Karoo's Valley of Desolation, to the vineyards of Stellenbosch. Most known and travelled are the 15 mile long gorge at Blyde River Canyon with its towering buttresses and cliffs shaded in yellow and red hues, and of course, Table Mountain which sits as the centerpiece of the country's most beautiful city, Capetown.

Portrait artists can take their pick among the multitude of ethnic groups found in South Africa. Since Jan van Riebeeck's time - settlers have arrived from all corners of the globe, bringing with them an unparalleled cultural diversity. Most of the European countries are represented with familiies of Dutch French, German and British decent. Cape Malays, Indians and the people of Pakistan settled long ago in South Africa. But most colorful and spectacular is the culture of South Africa's black indigenous inhabitants. The blanketed zulus, or the multi-beaded costumes of Ndebele women.

Each ethnic group is paired with an individual style of architecture. Traditional beehive huts of the Zulus dot the rolling hills of Natal Province. Ndebele women paint their homes in brilliantly colored geometric patterns. The Europeans have left behind buildings varying in style from Cape Dutch to Victorian, Georgian, and Edwardian.

Travel agents should consider an appeal to this particular segment of travelers living in their community. Emphasis can be put on the diversity of the country, as well as the attractiveness of its climate, and the fact that during the dead of our winter, the RAS is in the full swing of summer. South African Airways provides a direct link from the United States, making travel arrangements easier than ever before, and tour operators have packages and modules to suit most every traveler's needs.

Click, click, click - one can hear the sound of Africa in its images, the crackle of a campfire, the haunting cry of an owl, and all the colors of the spectrum.

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