The things we fall in love with… click the images to explore further
Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Lion vs elephant. Desert vs water. These are two significant battles played out in what is one of southern Africa’s greatest protected areas. Spread across 14,651 square kilometres of Kalahari sand, savannah and thickly wooded bushland, Zimbabwe’s largest national park is home to more mammal species (108 at last count) than any other park in the world. At the eastern end of a migratory route linked to Botswana’s Chobe National Park, the park also receives tens of thousands of elephants during the dry season. As the desert heat wins its war with natural water levels, herds of all varieties congregate around the long-established artificial pans. The wildlife viewing at these times can be astounding. Although 19 species of large herbivore are present here, including Africa’s ‘big five’ antelope (eland, roan, sable, greater kudu and gemsbok), the sheer number of elephants make them the most abundant of these in the area. And this has made them a target for the park’s prides of lions. The big cats have adapted to the situation and acquired the skills to take down not just newborns but also males up to the age of thirteen. Incredibly, elephants make up a significant proportion of their diet, even more so in particularly dry years.
High society “There lives a society far away that we came to know. It imposes fewer inhibitions on its citizens than perhaps any other. There are very few cultural constraints on the appearance and behaviour of its members. The meagre rules of conduct that do exist are implicit and well understood…” Photographers Anup Shah and Fiona Rogers spent much of the last decade following the chimpanzees of Tanzania’s Gombe National Park, a group made famous by studies over the last 50 years by anthropologist Louis Leakey and primatologist Dr Jane Goodall. The big male, Faustino, aged 22, is very tolerant of the youngsters and sometimes plays with them. When in a benevolent mood he even shares his fruit. Four-year-old Siri noticed that Faustino had plucked a bunch of tasty looking mshaishai. Correctly reading Faustino’s mood, he cautiously edged nearer to him and managed to reap the rewards. Taken, with permission, from TAles from Gombe by Anup Shah and Fiona Rogers (www.shahrogersphotography.com).
Expedition in the marsh In this striking photograph by Gian Luigi Fornari Lanzetti, a lioness is a mere pinprick on a sea of green in the Ndutu area of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. “After a while, the solitary lioness appeared… walking through the long, green grass that covered the swamp,” Lanzetti said. “Her fur was shining visibly against the contrasting green of the field below, while her curved tail added a unique quality to the shot. Later on we understood the reason she had gone to that swampy area — to breastfeed her two 20-day-old cubs that she had hidden in there.” This image was the Second Runner Up in the ‘Wildlife as Art’ category of the 2016 Nature’s Best Photography Africa competition, with which we are very proud to be associated. To view the full collection of winning entries, visit travelafricamag.com or download our free special issue on the Travel Africa app. naturesbestphotographyafrica.com Gian Luigi Fornari Lanzetti / Nature’s Best Photography Africa
Indian Ocean, Mozambique. Delicate crests of white sand reach up to the water’s surface, leaving their mark on Mozambique’s coastal scene like a giant fingerprint. Although stunning, the channels they create can make navigation in a traditional dhow a tricky business. Thankfully for you, though, seasoned local sailors ensure that all you have to deal with is absorbing the inspirational environment. Day trips on these ancient sailing craft are available up and down the coast, while multi-day dhow safaris now take place in the stunning Quirimbas Archipelago off Mozambique’s northern shores. Although the tides and currents ensure that the sands beneath the turquoise waters are always shifting, there is no doubt that a trip here leaves a lasting impression. © JAY ROODE / SKYHAWK PHOTOGRAPHY
Mount Stanley, Uganda. Clad in glaciers and frosted in snowfall, Mount Stanley is an African aberration. And with its 5109m summit typically shrouded in fog and its lower slopes pelted with regular rainfall, few visitors brave it. Those who do, mind you, always return with a story to tell. The first to reach its highest peak was Prince Luigi Amedeo of Savoy, Duke of Abruzzi, in 1906. Said to be inspired by the mountain’s ‘discoverer’ – Henry Morton Stanley – he climbed its six principle peaks, naming the highest after his country’s former Queen, Margherita. The fourth-highest peak still bears his name. Unlike the isolated volcanic peaks of Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro, which rise alone out of the African savannah, Stanley sits within an expansive range known as the Rwenzori Mountains. This means that rewarding multi-day treks are possible, even if you aren’t interested in dealing with the hostile conditions seen above 4000m. © JANUSZ GNIADEK / ALAMY
Lake Natron, Tanzania. From ground level the sheer scale of Africa is often overwhelming. This can be true whether its vast horizons are dotted with life and landscapes, or completely devoid of either and endless. Although inconceivable when your feet are firmly on African soil, it is possible to magnify the sense of wonder… To do so you must take to the African skies. From there, the continent below is always an intoxicating expanse – its scale is grander, its landscapes are more impressive and its life takes on the form of colourful artwork on an epic canvas, such as this award-winning image of flamingoes flying over Lake Natron. Like the photographer, you too can take to the East African skies and fly low over some of the region’s greatest landscapes and wildlife havens as part of the unique airborne itineraries that are now offered by Scenic Air Safaris (www.senicairsafaris.com).
Fez, Morocco. The colourful dyeing pits of the Chouwara Tannery will confront you long before you actually set eyes on them. Their smell seeps through the narrow warren-like alleys of the city’s ancient medina and greets you like a slap in the face. This is because the tannery, which dates back to the 11th century, continues to use traditional methods – all hides are soaked in acidic pigeon excrement for softening purposes. The city, Morocco’s second largest, was founded in 793 AD. It has a storied past, being both a key trading centre for the camel caravan routes to the south and east and a holy centre of Islamic learning. Visiting today allows you get a strong taste of this history, though some of your senses will be happier than others (a handful of mint leaves will help lessen the aromatic assault). © RECHITAN SORIN
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Elephants are noted for their memory, but a recent study of the unfenced Serengeti ecosystem suggests they also have an eye on the future. The report, published in the African Journal of Ecology, found that the vast majority of elephants (and all adult males encountered) chose to reside within the national park instead of the less-protected areas within the adjacent Grumeti Game Reserve and the Ikoma Open Area. By measuring faecal glucocorticoid metabolites the scientists also discovered that those animals outside the national park – perhaps tempted by rich feeding grounds – were significantly more stressed than those within it. One of authors, Dr Roskaft of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, stated: “I think elephants know where they are safe or not.” Travel to Tanzania’s most famous park to get a look at some of its many elephants (3580 at last count) – just don’t get this close!
Ilha de Moçambique, Mozambique. Arabia, India and Europe collide with Africa on the petite Ilha de Moçambique. The first outsiders here were Arabs, who utilised it as a port and boat-building centre in the 15th century. It wasn’t long afterwards that the Portuguese, led by Vasco da Gama, arrived. Within a few decades the port was fortified, a church was built and Muslims were driven off the island. Soon Ilha de Moçambique was the port of call in the region for ships bound for India. The island’s success trading gold, slaves and spices led to clashes with the rival Dutch who sought to control its shores. However, Portugal’s grip on the island wasn’t broken and it remained the capital of Portuguese East Africa until 1898. After the decision was made to move the capital from Ilha de Moçambique to the mainland, the island was virtually ignored and left to decay. Although sad on the face of it, the fact that 20th-century development left the island untouched is perhaps its greatest attraction. This was recognised by UNESCO in 1990 when it designated Ilha de Moçambique as a World Heritage Site. Fort São Sebastião, early Portuguese houses and the Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Baluarte (dated 1522) still stand, and the latter is considered to be the oldest extant European building in the southern hemisphere. Other historical buildings dot the island and make magnificent backdrops for the rich Mozambican cultures that now thrive here. © JOHN WARBURTON-LEE PHOTOGRAPHY / ALAMY
Essaouira, Morocco. Essaouira’s Atlantic anchorages have been prized since Roman times, but it wasn’t until the early 16th century that the port was first fortified. The ramparts of Castelo Real de Mogador, however, didn’t prove much resistance to the local forces, who pushed out the Portuguese less than a decade after they had arrived. Although France made an unsuccessful attempt to take the city in 1629, the city has a very French look today. Much of this is owed to Théodore Cornu, a 19th-century French engineer who was hired to build the modern city by Sultan Sidi Mohammed ben Abdallah. Cornu mimicked his designs used on the walls of Saint-Malo, Brittany. Although the wind, screaming seagulls and fishing boats add to this northerly connection, the minute you step into the medina’s narrow alleys, infused with the spicy aromas of Morocco and graced with swaying palms and veiled women, you’ll know you are in North Africa. The best time to visit Essaouira is during winter – the beach seekers will be gone and you’ll have time to indulge in the culture of what is a very Moroccan city at heart.
Lekhubu Island in Botswana’s Makgadikgadi region is a small granite outcrop surrounded by salt pans that extend to the horizon. Despite there being very little soil, hundreds of baobabs grow here. Somehow they have forced their roots down between the rocks to draw up enough nourishment to survive. This scene is repeated across the continent, in varied habitats, where this iconic tree imposes itself on its surroundings, as timeless a part of the African landscape as the cry of a fish eagle across the water. The baobab’s extraordinary size and bizarre appearance can’t help but make an impression. The most magnificent specimens, with a diameter of between eight and twenty metres, may be as many as 3000 years old. The Bushmen believed that the baobab had offended God and, in revenge, he planted the tree upside down. Another myth says that when the earth was made the Great Spirit gave the baobab to the hyena, who threw it away, disappointed at its dull appearance. It landed upside down with roots protruding. Photograph by Ralph Stutchbury, from his book Baobab.
Today’s Marrakech is a thriving and trendy destination, with tourists looking for an exotic getaway. Artisans, handcrafters, architects and designers, concentrating on preserving the city’s heritage, are contributing to a cultural renaissance that is reinventing the city. The riads (traditional guesthouses) of the Medina epitomise this new creativity and have become as much of an attraction as the souks themselves. They showcase what visitors find inspiring about Marrakech: an oasis of tranquility with refreshing dipping pools and luxury hammams, excellent kitchens serving gourmet couscous and tagines, courtyards of fountains and chirping birds, rooftop terraces offering private sunbathing with panoramic views of the city, and the snowy peaks of the Atlas mountains beyond. Photo of La Sultana, from The Riads of Marrakech, by Elan Fleisher, used with permission.
The last great picture The five females of the Vumbi pride – a ‘formidable and spectacularly cooperative team’ – lie at rest with their cubs on a rocky outcrop in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. Shortly before the shot was taken they had attacked and driven off one of the two pride males. Now they were lying close together, calmly sleeping. This image by American Michael ‘Nick’ Nichols beat more than 42,000 entries from 96 countries to win the prestigious 2014 Wildlife Photographer of the Year overall award. Nichols had followed the pride for nearly six months, so they were used to his presence. He photographed them in infra-red, ‘seeking to create an archetypal image that would express both the essence of lions and how we visualise them, a picture of a time past, before lions were under such threat.’
Fresh connection Stretching for 200km along the Lesotho border, the jagged peaks of South Africa’s uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park form one of the continent’s last true wilderness areas, a vast Afromontane moorland that attracts regular snowfalls in the southern winter and is breached by one solitary road, the legendary Sani Pass. The foothills of this extensive range form superb rambling country. Evocatively named pinnacles such as Giant’s Castle and Cathedral Peak tower high above a temperate landscape of curvaceous green hills interspersed with montane streams and valleys lined with salmon-hued proteas and fiery aloes. Hundreds of caves and overhangs form one of the world’s richest alfresco art galleries, adorned as they are with a total of around 40-50,000 individual images painted by prehistoric hunter-gatherers. And while the so-called Big Five are absent, walkers will encounter plenty of wildlife, ranging from the stately eland and charismatic rock hyrax to the soaring jackal buzzard and lammergeyer. The majesty of uKhahlamba-Drakensberg is encapsulated by the Amphitheatre, a kilometre-high wall of burnished sandstone whose base can easily be reached along a flattish day trail that follows the sparkling Thukela River towards its source. Here, as elsewhere in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg, one can escape the hubbub of modern city life, or the rawness of a safari experience, to reinvigorate body and soul with fresh crisp mountain air and some the most beautiful montane vistas Africa has to offer. Words: Philip Briggs Picture: Ariadne van Zandbergen
A break in the storm “One day, I was passing the fishing village of Terekeka [in South Sudan], which lies on the west bank of the Nile as it begins to widen and become the Sudd. I’d been looking for a place to sleep, when one of the soldiers suggested we take a [rowing] boat across to one of the islands and camp among the Mundari herdsmen… Twenty minutes later, having navigated the floating islands of matted rushes, we spotted what we were looking for. “In the distance, ten men, utterly naked except for loose pieces of cotton covering only their bare essentials, stood guard to a corral in which several hundred head of long-horned cattle lowed. Smoke poured out of campfires where dung was burnt as a way of protection against mosquitoes, both for the cows and the people. “As I jumped off the boat, an enormous hand appeared out of the crowd to help me up… Seven feet tall, in his spare hand he carried a spear that seemed like a toothpick compared to his massive muscular frame… ‘Welcome!’ he said with an honest smile… It was a moment of beautiful serenity, an island of peace in a land ravaged by war.” Levison Wood walked the length of the Nile in 2014. This extract is taken, with permission, from his book Walking the Nile. The image will be displayed at his photography exhibition on 6-12 December, in London, in aid of conservation charity Tusk.
Timeless terrain It’s May in Zambia. The rains are over, the bush is green, the temperature is mild and the spectacular landscapes are clear of dust. The river recedes quickly at this time, and the elephants traverse it with greater frequency now, as they journey further afield following time-worn paths. This game-rich area, known as the Luangwa Wafwa, contains one of the most popular crossing points. We watch in silence as the matriarch leads her family along those invisible trails, under a vast, cobalt sky speckled with puffs of wispy cloud. It’s hard to imagine now that the local population was virtually wiped out in the 1970s, when poachers slaughtered the most magnificent individuals. As a result, many today have small tusks or none at all. But they are not yet out of the woods. Poaching is an ongoing threat, and as the number of villages grows along the park’s fringes, they come into increasing contact — and potential conflict — with people. PHOTOGRAPH AND WORDS BY DAVID ROGERS
Daily catch The largest artisanal fishing village on the Gambian coast, Tanji abuts a wide sandy beach that explodes into life upon the arrival of the daily catch. Dozens of brightly painted wooden pirogues set anchor in the shallow waves and start unloading the freshly netted fish into plastic buckets that are carried to shore on the heads of local tradeswomen. Many of the fish are taken to the beachside market and sold on to local families or to traders from nearby coastal communities. Others are sundried, or find their way to the smoking huts that line the beach, or are stored in a recently constructed ice plant. It’s all rather chaotic, and the beach quickly becomes strewn with discarded marine life, such as small fish, crabs and severed heads of hammerhead sharks, whose pungent smell attracts a flurry of whirling, scavenging gulls. PHOTOGRAPH BY Ariadne van Zandbergen WORDS BY Philip Briggs
Deserted This is a fascinating and remote landscape in north-west Namibia, where the desert elephant roam. Here you’ll find dunes of golden sand that the wind has carried from the sea and laid on the slopes. There are vast areas of scree and gullies formed by gushing streams that swell in the rainy season and are forever changing their course. The main rivers are nearly always dry, filled with sediment that ranges from grey to brown. Iron deposits in the rocky banks have turned them rust-coloured and shadows emphasise the cracks and crevices. The sparse vegetation is mostly found along the riverbeds, where it has more chance of surviving the long periods without rain. The desert elephant has adapted to its environment. Compared to others, it has longer legs and wider feet suited to its sandy surroundings, and it can go without water for several days. WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPH FROM THE BOOK TERRA D’AFRICA BY VALENTINO MORGANTE AND JACQUELINE DE MONTE
Song and dance In this picture, the beautiful Turkana are gathered at Kenya’s Marsabit-Lake Turkana Cultural Festival. The event was started as a way to unite people throughout the region and promote peace between them. Once a year, as many as 14 tribes and ethnic groups assemble along the lakeshores in a kaleidoscope of colour, dressed in their most elaborate clothing, beading, head ornaments and paint made from red ochre. Everyone comes together to play traditional instruments, sing and dance for hours at a time. It is a magical experience. WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPH BY PIPER MACKAY Piper Mackay organises tours and workshops in various African destinations, including Lake Turkana. For further information, visit pipermackayphotography.com/programs.
Rose-tinted Lake Retba (or Lac Rose), situated in Senegal’s Cap Vert peninsula and just 20km from Dakar, is a natural wonder. It is named for its extraordinary waters, which are a vivid shade of orange-pink. The colour is the work of microalgae called Dunaliella salina. They survive here due to the lake’s vast salt content, which is so high that you can recreate the floating trick made famous by the Dead Sea. Lying between white sand dunes and under bright-blue West African skies, it is truly spectacular. PAUL SELIGMAN