A dozen countries, several dozen game reserves, and hundreds of luxury lodges.
You could spend an entire lifetime exploring, and indeed many have, and still not see all the wonders of the African continent. We have vast and unimaginable riches hiding behind trees, lying the in shade of giant dunes, swimming lazily in leviathan rivers, and prowling the savannah. There are few places in the world as wild as this.
A mongoose freaking out. These little creatures are well-known for their feisty natures. They are very territorial which often leads to confrontations between different bands of mongooses. They are carnivores and are known to hunt and eat creepy-crawly things likes snakes, rodents, lizards, spiders and scorpions, and they are also occasionally quite cheeky towards animals that are much bigger and scarier than they are, such as lion cubs.
A Spur-winged goose grazes in a field of spring flowers. Sometimes it is difficult to understand why, in the course of human history, some geese and ducks have been domesticated and others haven’t. However, with regards to the Spur-winged goose, this may be easier to guess. Some of these geese eat toxic bugs known as blister beetles. The toxin doesn't affect the geese but is stored in their tissues and can be poisonous to people that eat them.
A lion rests sedately in the shade. The honey-coloured eyes of a lion are breathtaking to behold at close range, especially when you are the object of this level stare. The short length and tawny colouring of this lion's mane indicate that it is probably a young male; however, this is not always the case. The male lions of Tsavo in Kenya are maneless, while in northern Botswana it is not uncommon to find maned lionesses. Studies suggest that the growth of a mane is related to a lion's testosterone levels, since castrated lions do not really develop manes.
The amber eyes of this cheetah stare piercingly back at the photographer. This cat looks quite fierce but, in general, cheetahs do not show much hostility towards humans who have, in turn, celebrated their elegance, speed and beauty. There are images of 'domesticated' cheetah that appear throughout human history, most notably in Egyptian hieroglyphs. In the 1920s Josephine Baker, the famous French dancer and actress, had a pet cheetah named Chiquita which intensified the public's impressions of her exotic persona.
This is the typical pose of the grey foam-nest tree frog. These southern African frogs are pretty adaptable and are named for their frenzied breeding activities. When a female frog lays eggs on a branch, male frogs cluster around her and start whipping their sperm into a foam nest. The eggs are fertilised by all the males at the same time and therefore have a greater chance of survival.
A trunkshake is the elephant version of a handshake or hug. Sensitive and flexible, an elephant's trunk is used to gather food and water and administer dust and mud baths, as well as for communication and caresses. For example, when a female elephant gives birth, the herd will acknowledge it by touching her with their trunks. This photograph also shows a healthy pair of tusks. These are actually enlarged incisors and they grow quite fast - about 15cm a year - but are worn down by use. Elephants predominantly use them for digging, tearing trees and branches and fighting.
A Hamerkop trains a gentle gaze on the photographer. Hamerkop means 'hammerhead' in Afrikaans and here one can clearly see the hammer-shaped beak and crest for which this bird is named. It also has a well-known Nguni name, 'uThekwane'. According to Credo Mutwa, the well-known Zulu traditional healer, uThekwane is associated in Zulu culture with ill omens, vanity and futility. Hamerkops are found throughout southern Africa, mainly near fresh water.
A young spotted hyena contemplates its next move. These hyenas are also known as laughing hyenas because of their giggling cries. They are ancient creatures and have a long history with humanity - images of spotted hyenas appear in both the Lascaux and Chauvet caves, which date back to between seventeen and thirty thousand years ago. They seem to be universally disliked by humans, but they are quite fascinating and unusual creatures. For example, spotted hyena clans are matriarchal: the females have 'pseudo-penises'; they are larger than male clan members and are the dominant sex.
A small island in the Okavango Delta basks in the morning sunlight. The termite pinnacle to the right of the image looks uncannily like a rhino horn. These large termite mounds are ubiquitous features of the Delta, where they are particularly large and protuberant because of the high water table. The termites' creation of these mounds plays an important role in the topography of this area, as they help to create earthy islands where trees can take root.
The Ground Woodpecker is easily distinguished from other southern African woodpeckers because of its more muted colours and the absence of a distinctive red or black cap. In fact, because of its tendency to forage on the ground, it could initially be mistaken for a thrush. However, it shares with its woodpecker cousins a screaming call and a tendency to use its beak to probe for food and nesting space. Its chosen habitat is mountains, rocky hillsides or dongas, and it primarily eats ants, ant larvae and eggs.
There seems to be a tutorial going on here, or maybe it's just a cuddle. This little elephant must eventually learn to gather and eat 225 kilograms of vegetation every day, and its trunk is one of the primary tools it will use to do this. An elephant's vegetarian diet plays an important role in its ecosystem, because their food is never entirely digested. Elephant dung therefore disperses and germinates a large number of plant seeds throughout their huge territories, so this little one will eventually be responsible for the growth of lots of new plants and trees.
Cattle egrets and rhinos are often seen together. The Egrets gather around rhinos, elephant, buffalo, cattle, horses and other grazers in order to feed on the grass insects that the grazers disturb. They also pluck ticks and parasites from the larger animals' flesh. The gorgeous flush of yellow, orange, pink and purple on this Egret's beak indicates that it is in breeding season.
A black-backed jackal gets ready to catch a flying snack. These jackals have very varied diets, depending on what prey is common in their habitats. A single jackal is capable of bringing down an adult impala, but their diet may also include smaller antelope, rodents, livestock, insects, birds, hares, carrion, seals (in marine areas) and occasionally fruits and berries. They are known to store their food for later consumption.
A Grey Crowned Crane stalks through a grassy field with its two adorable chicks in tow. These chicks fledge in about four months from their birth date and will remain with their parents for a further six months after that. The colloquial name for these birds is the Mahem because of their characteristic trumpeting call. When breeding they also give deep booming calls and perform very eccentric dancing displays in which they leap around in circles, flapping their wings and bobbing their heads.
Elephant gestation periods are the longest of any mammal - 22 months - and baby elephants form very close bonds with their mothers. Female elephants may even stay with their mothers throughout their lives until the mother dies. When a baby elephant is born it weighs more than 100kg. Within a few days of birth, the calf is able to keep up with the herd which is immensely protective of their young. Adult elephants have no predators but calves are vulnerable to lions and crocodiles.
The repetitive, almost mechanical-sounding trill of the Crested Barbet may be heard in a wide range of sub-Saharan habitats. This barbet's Latin name, Trachyphonus vaillantii, refers to its distinctive call, as trachyphonus means 'rough sound'. With colouring as raucous as its voice, the Crested Barbet looks a little bit like the punk of the African bush, and it has an attitude to match - often behaving aggressively towards birds that encroach on its territory.