Do you ever wish you were born in a different era? How about reliving the roaring 20s and the rocking 60s? Or taking to the seas with brute Scandinavian Vikings; wandering through lush gardens with impressionist painters like Monet or Renoir; clashing swords with Medieval knights; indulging in the sheer opulence of Cleopatra’s rule; or citing poems with Shakespeare himself?
If you ask &Beyond Private Guide, Daryl Dell, he’ll tell you, without hesitation, the 18th century. A bygone era when adventurous explorers set sail to uncover new continents, making mind-blowing discoveries along the way, meeting curious creatures and witnessing never-before-seen landscapes. Imagine what ancient explorers thought the first time they glimpsed an elephant or a giraffe?!
I’ll get back to Daryl and his lifelong passion for exploration and discovery in just a moment. First, a quick history of &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve is needed.
&Beyond was actually launched 25 years ago with the creation of &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve. Back then, our business model was questioned (and at times ridiculed); however, it is now widely regarded as one of the most ambitious and successful blueprints for international ecotourism.
Did you know that &Beyond Phinda used to be overgrazed farmland that was completely devoid of the Big Five and other large mammals? It’s true. This, now world-famous, key conservation area was once degraded by cattle, pineapple and sisal farmers. With a vision to restore the area to its original and natural state, &Beyond purchased the land and rehabilitated it in order to enable the reintroduction of all the large mammals that originally inhabited it.
Aptly named, Phinda actually means ‘the return’ and this moniker has turned out to be more prophetic than once expected. Not only was the wildlife returned to the land, but a significant portion of the land has since been returned to its ancestral owners in a groundbreaking partnership between &Beyond and the neighbouring Makhasa and Mnqobokazi communities.
&Beyond Phinda has grown from 13 000 hectares to more than 28 000 hectares of pristine, protected wilderness. Set within easy reach of the Indian Ocean coastline, &Beyond Phinda’s coastal rainfall pattern produces a lush, green environment that contains seven distinct ecosystems. Often referred to “Seven Worlds of Wonder”, this reinvigorated and restored land shelters a rich abundance of wildlife; and we’re not just talking about the Big Five, it is also one of the best places in South Africa to view cheetah and black rhino.
So that’s the ongoing success story of &Beyond Phinda. Now back to Daryl. Private Guide, professional photographer and long-time &Beyonder, Daryl has been fascinated and captivated by wildlife his entire life and has had the enviable opportunity to live and work on &Beyond Phinda for 15 years. Not only that, but he has also had the pleasure of raising his family of – as of just last week -five in this veritable wildlife wonderland.
As we celebrate spring in the southern hemisphere, we are also celebrating the discovery of a brand new species and it’s all thanks to Daryl and his insatiable quest for knowledge and love of all creatures, great and small.
From tracking gorillas in the misty mountains of Rwanda and photographing iguanas in the Galápagos Islands, to notching endangered rhinos in South Africa and ticking off some ‘lifers’ on his impressive bird list in the Amazon, Daryl has seen and done it all. Also a self-confessed frog enthusiast, Daryl has hosted many frogging safaris for his guests, so it comes as no surprise that when he heard an abnormal frog call, he knew he was onto something.
Daryl had seen and heard this mystery frog for a number of years and had just assumed it was a common frog with a slight variation in call and markings. With time, he realised this frog was special and in early 2016 he submitted official photographs, location, habitat information and call recordings for species clarification.
When Professors Les Minter and Louis Du Preez eventually confirmed that Daryl had in fact discovered a new species, he was over the moon. And even more so when he learned that the frog was to be named in honour of Daryl and the beloved Seven Worlds of Wonder that he calls home.
South Africa’s newest frog species, Breviceps carruthersi (the scientific name) has been aptly given the common name of Phinda Rain Frog. We are truly honoured and so is Daryl, who says, “This is definitely the highlight of my career. How many people get to discover a new frog in this day and age, and in a country that has been so well studied and researched? I thought most vertebrates had already been discovered and always thought I was born in the wrong era and should have lived among the great explorers, travelling with the likes of William John Burchell and François Levaillant.”
On a side note, it is also interesting to add that this isn’t our first namesake! Did you know that there is a pint-sized Namibian gecko, also discovered by an &Beyonder and named after &Beyond? Read all about it here (see #3).
Congratulations Daryl on your momentous discovery and no doubt the high point in your remarkable career with &Beyond. We are so proud of what you have achieved and we admire your curiosity, passion, perseverance and work ethic. It’s not every day someone discovers a new species.
If there’s a lesson to be learned here, it’s to get out and explore the unknown; expect the unexpected, and always take the scenic route in life. You never know what you’ll discover!
All images © Daryl Dell.