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 lion's eyes reflect the golden savannah and blue skies of his home. This lion's various conquests, squabbles and hard-won meals are mapped out in the scars on his muzzle. The defence of territory and mating privileges exacts a heavy toll on wild male lions: they fight so much with other males that they succumb to injuries quite young. While it is not uncommon to find fourteen-year-old lionesses in the wild, lions will rarely reach this age.
The hair and spines of hairy caterpillars have been developed as a defence mechanism. These fine bristles may lodge in the skin or mucous membranes of predators and cause irritation. There are a few birds that will swallow a hairy caterpillar whole (for example, some cuckoos will do so), but many birds tend to beat hairy caterpillars against branches to clean off the spines before gulping them down.
A zebra grazing in long grass takes a break to peer curiously at the photographer. When one has been travelling in African national parks for many years, it is easy to become accustomed to the striking looks of the zebra. Occasionally though, it occurs even to the most avid bushwhackers that these animals are right out of the psychedelic 1960s. Of course, the zebra's stripes are a vital survival tactic and play an important role in 'psyching out' predators, who seemingly cannot easily discern one zebra from another when they herd together.
The famous 'quiver trees' of Namibia's Quiver Tree Forest are so-named because the 'Bushmen' or 'San' people hollowed out the branches of these aloes to make their quivers (arrow-holders). These quiver trees grow near Nieuwoudtville in South Africa's Northern Cape - an arid area with less than 200 mm of winter rainfall and even less in summer. According to biodiversity researchers the range of these hardy aloes is shifting south to escape rising temperature in these hot regions of South Africa and Namibia.
A herd of lechwe surge through the waters of the Okavango Delta. These antelope have special adaptions that make watery habitats easier for them to negotiate - providing some protection from predators. Firstly, their legs are covered with a substance that repels water, and secondly, their especially long hindlegs help them to dash quickly through swampy areas. They are grazers and feed on aquatic grasses.
Wolwedans comprises a number of sustainable camps situated in the private NamibRand Nature Reserve just south of Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert. This Reserve is the result of concerted efforts to rehabilitate former livestock farms. Although these mountains and sandy plains may look like an alien planet, this area supports a variety of grazing herds of antelope and thus a number of predators, including aardwolf (Afrikaans for earthwolf), leopard, spotted and brown hyena, black-backed jackal, bat-eared and Cape fox, African wildcat, caracal and genet.
The afternoon sun glows gently on a white rhino. These rhinos are herbivores and spend at least half their day grazing grass. They like to drink water twice a day, although this is not a necessity. White rhinos play an important role in savannah ecosystems where they maintain a strong presence ñ in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Kenya. They are quite sociable and may stay in groups of up to 14 animals.
This vividly-coloured dung beetle was photographed near Garies in Namaqualand. Beetles like this with one horn are sometimes colloquially called 'rhinoceros' beetles. In truth there are many different kinds of beetles with horns, although horns are more commonly on male beetles because they use them to fight. Dung beetles come in many different shapes, sizes and colours and play an important role in their ecosystems. They are also one of the few creatures known to use the Milky Way to orientate themselves.
A nyala doe stands quietly in the undergrowth. The lovely rich rust-coloured coat of this female is clearly visible here, as are her lovely long lashes and the three distinct white spots on her jaw. Each doe's spots are different, especially those on their flanks. They tend to look a bit like accidental drops of white paint. Female nyala look very different to nyala bulls which have much shaggier dark brown coats and tall, curving horns. This doe looks like she needs a visit from a hungry Oxpecker to help her get rid of some parasites.
This lovely little parrot stays close to savannah and miombo woodland areas and likes baobabs. It therefore has a range that extends from the far north of South Africa into Zimbabwe and Botswana. It occurs in particularly high numbers in the Okavango Delta where its favoured diet of nuts, fruit kernels, seeds and berries is plentiful. While this parrot is named after an eighteenth-century German naturalist, Dr Bernhard Meyer, these parrots are known by locals as Hwenga (in chiShona) or Hokwe (in Setswana).
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.