Whether in encounters with the Himbas or the Bushmen, whose cultural traditions still survive, or with the Karretjes, nomads of the great Karoo Plain, or the Afrikaners of the interior, spiritual heirs to the first white colonists; whether it’s a tale of sharks or elephants, all the adventures of the Cousteau team in South Africa share the vibrant colour and the heady perfume of the region.
If the name Cousteau is always associated with water, the eight-month expedition to South Africa in 1995 was one of the exceptions that prove the rule. More than half the sub-continent receives less than 500 millimeters of rain per year: this is “desert.” Some of the untouched regions are diamond areas, to which access is strictly forbidden. The Cousteau team filmed ghost towns that used to be the most modern in South Africa, where, a century ago, diamond fever carried off the men who were would do anything to possess these gems created by the high pressure in Earth’s entrails. But the true wealth of South Africa lies in its unique animal life, which Alcyone’s crew observed and studied closely. The mammals have adapted to the lack of water: carnivores drink the blood of their prey while herbivores graze at dawn when the plants are damp with dew. From these arid adventures, Cousteau produced two films (South Africa: Diamonds of the Desert, South Africa: Sanctuaries for Life) and numerous articles.