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Into Africa

Expanding on his successful exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History seen by more than 3 million people, Frans Lanting’s "Into Africa" showcases the wonders of Africa’s wild landscapes and inhabitants

In his foreword to Frans Lanting’s Into Africa, available from publisher Earth Aware Editions, Wade Davis quotes former National Geographic Director of Photography Thomas Kennedy: “As a chronicler of natural history today, Frans Lanting is a singular, extraordinary talent. He has the mind of a scientist, the heart of a hunter, and the eyes of a poet.”

Few photographers enjoy a career as celebrated as Lanting’s, and Outdoor Photographer has been fortunate to regularly present his work through the years in his recurring column “World View” and in feature articles like this, in which we present a selection of images and excerpts as a preview of his forthcoming monograph.

“This book,” describes Lanting in its introduction, “is a mosaic of images and experiences that range from intimate moments with individual animals to insights about precious places—and commentary about the challenges in ensuring that there is a future for both. Africa is changing fast, but it still retains a glorious primordial abundance of wildlife that is unmatched anywhere else in the world. I hope my stories will find their way into the hearts and minds of people who may be inspired to play a role in making sure that Africa’s natural heritage remains a global treasure for generations to come.”

–Wes Pitts

• • •

Into Africa: The Gift Of Water

“Great rivers that start as tentative trickles in the highlands of Angola and Zambia nurture fertile floodplains and lush wetlands downstream in the dry interior of southern Africa. They provide precious fresh water for multitudes of wild animals and many millions of people in an otherwise arid part of the continent.”

Into Africa: hippos in river

Hippo River, Zambia, 2004. The floodplains of the Luangwa River sustain the largest concentration of hippos in Africa. During the dry season thousands crowd into the few pools deep enough for them to stay submerged and keep cool. We pitched our camp above one of the biggest hippo pools and were serenaded all night by their rhythmic grunts and squeals.

Into Africa: impalas in Botswana

Impalas, Botswana, 1989. A herd of female impalas are vulnerable as they bend down to drink; their perked ears show they are ready to bolt.

Into Africa: The Infinite Tapestry

“Africa’s long history as a hothouse of primate evolution continues to this day. The chimpanzees of Fongoli, in southern Senegal, live in a savanna woodland landscape similar to the habitat where early humans evolved. I went there to document a group of chimps who had been observed making spears to hunt bush babies—an innovation not seen anywhere else. The more we study apes, the more we learn how much their behavior varies from place to place, and a deeper appreciation of ape culture has gained acceptance.”

Into Africa: chimpanzee in Senegal

Chimpanzee, Senegal, 2007. When you work with wild chimps, you can’t hide your intentions. It’s best to be patient and polite. When you’re following them on foot in the forest, you’re on their home turf. Only after we had spent several weeks tracking one group of chimps in southern Senegal did we experience the beginnings of acceptance. In this portrait of a young male you can feel his scrutiny.

Into Africa: Gondwana’s Ark

“The fabled island of Madagascar once lay at the center of Gondwana, the prehistoric supercontinent that included what are now Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica and India. When Gondwana began to break apart one hundred sixty million years ago, Madagascar drifted away from Africa into the Indian Ocean. The island became an ark of plants and animals from the age of dinosaurs that survive nowhere else. They were later joined by rafts of newcomers who floated across from Africa. Among those new arrivals were lemurs, early primates who spread through the island. They diversified over time to include tiny mouse lemurs smaller than a human hand as well as giants the size of gorillas.”

Into Africa: ring-tailed lemur in Madagascar

Ring-tailed Lemur with Young, Madagascar, 1986. Lemurs are descendants of primitive primates who once ranged across Africa, Europe and North America. Today they occur only in Madagascar, where more than a hundred species have been recognized. Roaming with troops of ring-tailed lemurs, I became engrossed in their daily lives, and watched this baby learn to see the world through its mother’s eyes.

Into Africa: baobabs in Madagascar

Baobabs, Madagascar, 1985. A grove of baobabs, leafless in winter, reveal the distinctive rootlike branches that earned them the nickname “the upside-down tree.” Baobabs are often associated with Africa, yet the entire continent has only one species, while Madagascar harbors six.

Into Africa: Sands Of Time

“Vast sandscapes fill the interior plateau of southern Africa. Along the southwest coast of the continent, the sands amass as the enormous dune fields of the Namib Desert. Just to the east lies the Kalahari, a basin of ancient sands stretching more than a thousand miles from South Africa across most of Botswana and north into Angola—the largest continuous expanse of sand in the world.”

Into Africa: giraffes in Namibia

Giraffes, Namibia, 2009. A family of giraffes strides through golden grass in Namib-Naukluft National Park. These iconic African animals were absent from nearby NamibRand Nature Reserve, but in an effort to rehabilitate the ecosystem, they were reintroduced. Giraffes already adapted to desert conditions were released in the reserve and are now thriving.

Into Africa: Primeval Plains

“For many people, their first visit to Africa’s plains elicits a deep emotional response. They feel a visceral connection to our collective past and to the glory of life that still exists here. No wonder these grasslands have become prime destinations for international tourism. My hope is that for developing African nations, they can be a valuable part of their future as well.”

Into Africa: cheetah in Kenya

Cheetah with Cubs, Kenya, 2011. Studies have shown that a small number of cheetah females are so good at raising cubs that we can call them “supermoms.” Here one remarkable supermom scans for prey with four of her six cubs—all of which survived to independence.

Excerpted with permission from Into Africa by Frans Lanting (Earth Aware Editions, 2017, available at bookstores everywhere). An exclusive Collector’s Edition of Into Africa will also be available directly from the Lanting Studio. For more details, contact [email protected].

Frans Lanting has been hailed as one of the great nature photographers of our time. For more than two decades he has documented wildlife and our relationship with nature in environments from the Amazon to Antarctica. He portrays wild creatures as ambassadors for the preservation of complete ecosystems, and his many publications have increased worldwide awareness of endangered ecological treasures in the far corners of the Earth.