A little back story here: When I was in primary school, Standard 4, or thereabouts, I won a book prize for my academic activities and my class teacher gave me the Robert's Bird Guide for the southern African region. Little did that teacher know that they would be sparking a life-long interest in our avian friends (not that I needed much nudging, since I had grown up on a steady diet of nature documentaries and was still hell bent on going into nature conservation*).
Anyhow, here's the low-down for those who don't know about Steyn. Though he started out as a teacher, his all-consuming passion for the study and photography of birds led him to eventually go full time with his interest, and this man has written piles of books. Piles. And his photos are just bloody marvellous. His patience for sitting in a hide to snap that one perfect shot makes me realise exactly how much work goes into those wonderful bird books I took for granted when I was younger (yes, I own a hardcover, first edition of The Complete Book of South African Birds that my parents couldn't really afford to buy for me at the time but did anyway.)
Kingdom of Daylight is, in a nutshell, Steyn's summary of his adventures throughout his life, from his boyhood in Cape Town, to the years he spent in Zimbabwe before moving back to Cape Town. Each chapter deals with a location or a specific trip, and discusses not only the many birds he saw there, but also offers glimpses into the lives of the people who're movers and shakers in ornithological circles, as well as some background in his experiences while travelling. And this man has travelled...
There are times when I wish there'd been more space for more photos, because really, the many smaller images in the side panels are a little on the tiny side, so the layout really doesn't do them justice – even though they do give a better idea of the overall scope of Steyn's experiences. At times I did feel that the writing was a wee smidge on the dry side, but overall I realise that he has so much information that he needs to impart in only so much space.
Also, I'm really inspired now myself to sort out my stuff so that I can travel to some of the destinations Steyn has – especially locations like Madagascar and other parts of the African continent. He most certainly has lived a remarkable life. If anything, Steyn reminds me to slow down and really appreciate my own environment because it's not just those exotic birds on any birdwatcher's life list, but most certainly also in the joy of observing the birds I see in my garden every day. Five bats out of Auntie's hat for Peter Steyn.
* Fortunately I did something sensible, and studied graphic design, because in hindsight, as much as I love nature, I don't fancy being chased by elephants or acting as a glorified nanny for foreign tourists at some larny private game reserve.