If Marlin Perkins had traveled through Botswana’s wild kingdoms, he would have surely found no more exotic fauna than Beverly and Dereck Joubert. The acclaimed South African husband-and-wife documentary filmmakers, who for the past 13 years have roughed it in Zibadianja—hours away from the nearest village—may have learned to blend in among the lords of the jungle, but as the only humans for miles, they make a case study in how to make au naturel oh-so-lovely. Veld-swept, sun-bronzed, clad in T-shirts, they are too busy looking through the cameras to be checking out mirrors. Besides, says Dereck, “the existence out there is pure living, and it cleanses us.”
In terms of real cleansing, the Jouberts relish showering when at their main camp—”for the psychological benefit,” says Dereck—by way of a drum of water propped high in a capasa tree. They eat a mostly vegetarian diet, swear by the digestive wonders of ginger tea and are undoubtedly the only people anywhere to use a sink they made out of a giraffe pelvis. Not ones for lying about, when not shooting, the Jouberts edit their film in their tents and read scientific journals. Although predators leave them alone, they have been attacked by insects: Dereck has had malaria, and Beverly has been plagued by parasites.
A petite, golden-haired business school graduate. Beverly, 37, met Dereck, 38, a geologist, during high school in their native Johannesburg. Their fascination with things wild began when they studied at Botswana’s Chobre Lion Research Institute. To make their films—1990’s Emmy-winning National Geographic special, Eternal Enemies: Lions and Hyenas, and this year’s Reflections on Elephants (both to be re-aired on PBS this summer)—they follow the animals night and day until the beasts grow entirely unaware of the beauties in their midst. “Their films are important, popular and artistic all at once.” says National Geographic Society VP of television Tim Kelly.
Currently the Jouberts are working on their next documentary: big game poaching in Africa. When they do return to civilization, which is twice a year, Beverly has a “lovely hot bath,” and Dereck admits to “ugly days” when surrounded by well-groomed city slickers. They truly only “blossom,” says Beverly, alone together in the bush, which might explain her ultimate beauty strategy: “Find happiness.” And heed the call of the wild.