INTERVIEW: Dereck and Beverly Joubert on Wildlife Conservation

Wildlife Filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert inside their production 4x4 vehicle near an adult elephant.

Dereck and Beverly Joubert

on Wildlife Conservation in Botswana


We want to be Dereck and Beverly Joubert when we grow up. Living and working side by side, these award-winning filmmakers, National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence and wildlife conservationists have been filming, researching and exploring Africa for over 30 years now.


Together the Jouberts have made 25 films for National Geographic, published 11 books and half a dozen scientific papers, and written many articles for the magazine. Their films have received international recognition, including 7 Emmy Awards, a Peabody and a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Japan Wildlife Film Festival. They were also awarded a World Ecology Award alongside Prince Charles and Richard Leakey, and inducted into the American Academy of Achievement in 2009.


Nature: Soul of the Elephant filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert

Photo by Val Joubert/©Wildlife Films


But what we admire most about the Jouberts is their passion and dedication to their mission to conserve Africa’s key wildlife species. Through their company, Great Plains Conservation, they continue to meld conservation and sustainable ecotourism by purchasing vital tracts of land (many of which were formerly used for hunting) to be protected and preserved for the benefit of local wildlife and the surrounding communities. Today that land totals about 1.8 million acres in Africa.


Having worked with the Jouberts to raise money for their Rhinos Without Borders project earlier this year, we were delighted to speak with them about their new film for Nature, “Soul of the Elephant.” The documentary, which finds the couple paddling from one end of a river to the other in Botswana’s  Selinda Reserve (home to over 7,000 elephants), airs Wednesday, October 14 at 8PM on PBS.

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Avenue of the Giants: Scenic Drive Through California’s Redwood Trees

Avenue of the Giants California Redwood Trees Scenic Drive Looking Up

Avenue of the Giants, looking up through California’s Redwood Trees

Avenue of the Giants

Scenic Drive Through California’s Redwood Trees


No physical border indicated that we were there– that we were finally in the presence of giants. But, as we drove into the misty shadows of Humboldt Redwoods State Park, we knew.


A foreboding shadow was cast over the car, and I had to crane my neck to get a decent view. The sun was being blocked out on all sides by trees as tall as skyscrapers, and we were traversing the road which cut straight through the park. We had entered a completely different world. We were driving along the Avenue of the Giants, in the shadows of the tallest trees on earth.


The most outstanding display of giant trees you’ll find in northern California’s redwood belt, the Avenue of the Giants is a world-famous scenic drive. This 31-mile portion of old Highway 101 runs parallel to Freeway 101, boasting around 51,000 acres of Redwood groves. It’s a natural phenomenon as awe-inspiring as the Avenue of the Baobabs in Madagascar, and just as unique to this corner of the world.


Visitors from all across the globe are drawn here to witness these ancient forests, which stand at mesmerizing heights. And it was easy to see why: Beams of faint sunlight attempt to force their way through the canopy of towering trees, but what light does sneak in is faint, creating a mystical atmosphere that lends a fairy tale quality to these magical woods.

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GO GREEN TIP #112: 10 Simple Wildlife Photography Tips

Wildlife Photography Tips


10 Simple Wildlife Photography Tips


I didn’t start out as a wildlife photographer (or maybe I did, depending on your definition of “wildlife”).


My first professional photography job, way back in 1996, was shooting rock bands in concert for Rolling Stone. I had bought my first “real” camera less than a year earlier. When they called me out of the blue– a fluke, because I was the only photographer in Atlanta shooting the first show of Sonic Youth’s post-Lollapalooza tour– I thought it was a joke. But I shot, reviewed and interviewed dozens of artists for them over the next two years, ultimately helping to launch my career as a full-time freelancer.


In retrospect, rock stars and wild animals had more similarities than I initially thought. Both are unpredictable, existing in wildly varying light conditions. With rock concerts, you have less than 10 minutes to get the photos you need; with animals, you often have less than 10 seconds before the action is over. Both require a mixture of patience, focus, an ability to anticipate action and react quickly.


By the turn of the century I’d taken major press trips to Costa Rica and Denali National Park and had a life-changing experience in South Africa, beginning my gradual transition from pop culture critic to ecotourism-focused travel writer. I took a few photography courses and began honing my skills as a nature photographer. But the best practice I got came from actually working in the field.


What follows are 10 of the most useful Wildlife Photography Tips we’ve picked up over the years, including examples of how they can help you improve your own wildlife photos.

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TANZANIA: Exploring Magical Tarangire National Park

Tarangire National Park Entrance. Tanzania

Exploring Tanzania’s Magical

Tarangire National Park


In Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park, it’s the Monkeys you have to watch out for.


Sure, there’s a poisonous green Boomslang perfectly poised to strike in a tree by the restroom. There are massive piles of dung strewn about, suggesting that Elephants could stroll through at any minute. And the golden grass that surrounds the picnic area is tall enough that a hungry Lioness could jump out while you’re taking pictures of the colorful Splendid Starlings flitting in and out of thorn-laden Acacia trees.


Boomslang Snake in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania

The Highly Venomous Boomslang, Which Lays Its Eggs in Hollow Trees


But the monkeys? They’re pure trouble waiting to happen. This point is illustrated less than 15 minutes into our arrival at Tarangire, as travelers tuck into their lunch boxes while our respective guides register with the National Park staff.


The German couple at the next table is distracted by an adorable family of Banded Mongooses searching for insects in the underbrush across the road: She’s taking pictures while he watches. He moves less than 3 feet from their table, turning his back for a mere moment.


Tarangire National Park Vervet Monkey

Banana Thief, Caught in the Act


It’s enough time for an opportunistic Vervet Monkey to streak like a blaze, leap atop their table, grab the tantalizing banana left sitting unattended and make his way to the other side of the picnic area before the hapless tourist even realizes what’s happened.


He gorges himself hungrily on his pilfered prize, posing proudly in a nearby tree, his brilliant blue genitalia on full display. To the victor go the spoils…

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21 Reasons Traveling to Guatemala is Addictive


Lake Atitlan, Guatemala by chensiyuan via CC

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala by chensiyuan via CC

21 Reasons Traveling to Guatemala is Addictive


Guatemala, unlike any other place I’ve been, seems to hypnotize the travelers who brave its borders. Despite being flagged as a risky location by various embassies worldwide, this country welcomes more than 1.3 million international visitors per year. Amazingly, many of them wind up deciding to stay.


Some of us simply loiter, taking advantage of cheap housing, cost of living and Spanish classes. Some of us pick up work-trade agreements at hostels in paradisiacal locations, unwilling to leave when there is such an easy way to stay. There are also an unheard-of bevy of volunteering opportunities and causes to which we devote ourselves.


I’m currently on my fourth long-term stint in Guatemala, but this time I’ve come with an eye on buying property. After spending three of the last five years here, I’ve simply accepted the place as my home base– an odd but arguably understandable choice of safe haven. The truth just can’t be denied: Traveling to Guatemala is totally addictive. Here’s why it keeps me coming back for more…

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