Writer David Bristow and photographers Roger and Pat de la Harpe have travelled the length of Africa to compile their latest book, African Icons, which documents 21 of the continent’s most iconic sights. Their idea was for each copy to be a work of art, from the photography and writing to the handcrafted leather binding. Another principal purpose was to protect these amazing places by inspiring people to travel there: by going, you will help to conserve them and ensure that they are still there for your children’s children to see. Here we showcase nine of the most striking photographs from their journey.
During the annual crossing of the Mara River, wildebeest and zebras converge on the riverbanks in their tens of thousands. They approach the river, turn back once, and then again, and then again. Not only are they indecisive about whether or not to traverse the water at all but also where they should make their attempt. But cross they must. Pushed from behind by an animal tide, they eventually plunge into the water. At this point they brave not only the possibility of being swept away and drowned by the current but also being eaten by some of the huge crocodiles that have been waiting for months in anticipation of this windfall.
Spanning Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, the Congo Basin is second only in size to the Amazon Basin. The western lowland gorillas who reside there are arboreal by day, feasting on fruit, which makes up about eighty per cent of their diet. But at night they make communal nests on the ground among the near-impenetrable, bamboo-like
marantaceae plants. It goes without saying that without the expertise of B’aka or Pygmy guides to navigate those dense forest trails, it would be impossible to find them.
The word ‘jungle’ was coined to describe such places.
High Atlas mountains,
Berber villages, with their terraced fields, orchards, mosques and hammams, have occupied the verdant valleys of the High Atlas
Mountains for millennia. The summit ridges reach more than 4000m above sea level and are snow-covered in winter but
scorching in summer. The whole range consists of several chains of peaks that stretch across Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. But the highest
are in the Moroccan section, where the folded mountains form a shattered barrier to the most formidable hinterland on Earth, the Sahara Desert.
Leopards, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana These sly creatures are seldom encountered very far from large trees. They’re extremely independent, with adults usually meeting only to mate, a violently acrobatic event to behold. Leopards are essentially creatures of the shadows and the night. They use stealth to hunt rather than speed or brute power, but a large specimen can haul a carcass much heavier than itself high into the branches of a tree to protect it from other predators. This furious male is fiercely defending his prize warthog in Mashatu Game Reserve.
Okavango Delta, Botswana
The best way to experience the Okavango Delta is on horseback. Safari vehicles are intrusive and noisy and puff out fumes, hardly an ideal way to embrace nature or encourage the wildlife to stay to entertain you on your arrival. Walking here can be extremely rewarding, especially for birders, but the watery environment is limiting and is fraught with danger. In addition, on foot you can cover only a limited distance and cannot easily locate game as it is dispersed widely across the huge landscape. And then there is horseback: wild animals seem to accept rider and steed as one creature, and the effect is magical.
Bushmen of the Kalahari, Botswana
These people are nomadic. They follow the rains and the wild herds, building flimsy shelters along the way. Their skill as hunters and gatherers determines whether they survive or not. Techniques are passed down through the generations. Every night they light a fire. Sometimes a trance dance is called and they contact the spirit world for some healing or divining purpose.
Bale Highlands, Ethiopia
The upper reaches of the mysterious and remote Bale Mountain National Park are almost always shrouded in mist. No trees grow on the Sanetti Plateau, an Afro-Alpine world at around 4000 metres high, where giant groundsels are the only plants of any stature. It is home to the critically endangered Ethiopian (or Simien) wolf, whose nearest living relatives are the grey wolf and coyote of North America. Its physiology has adapted to its high-altitude habitat and almost exclusively rodent diet. Small mammals are a frequent prey of raptors. In the photograph above, a lanner falcon feeds on a Blick’s grass rat.
Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa
The prevailing wind in the summer in Cape Town is southeasterly, which condenses around the flat mountain top to form the so-called ‘tablecloth’, a magnificent sight to behold.
Elephants, Amboseli National Park, Kenya
Every morning vast herds of elephant leave the forest cover at Amboseli and descend onto the swamps to find juicy plants and nourishing grasses to feed on in the shadow of Kilimanjaro. Baboons accompany them, providing comic relief.