'Imagination will take you everywhere'
A wide panning shot fades up depicting the vast African savannah; the sun beats down on the golden wasteland, all is quiet, except for a comforting and familiar male voice. The voice echoes around millions of homes; it is one of the most well recognised in the world. He is narrating the lyrics to Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World while a montage of shots display some of Africa’s most spectacular wildlife. This voice, of course, belongs to David Attenborough, the greatest populariser of natural history who has graced our screens for nearly sixty years, bringing the exotic realms of the natural world into our very own living rooms. Now he is back in the continent which originally made his name with a six-part series on Africa for the BBC which premiered last night (2nd January 2012).
I’m sure many people will be thinking; not another nature series about Africa. But this new series is not like the other ones, it is unique in the fact that the producers and camera crew have deliberately tried to capture footage of African animals behaving in a way that the public have never seen before. In particular during last night’s episode (set in the Kalahari desert) there was a dramatic and ferocious fight between – not a pair of lions, rhino, or buffalo – but giraffes. Animals which are normally considered as being the most gentle and placid creatures of the African plains. It was incredible to watch the two dominant males sizing one another up and then launching their (usually slow) bodies at each other. They used their long necks as a weapon to knock the opposition with a considerable amount of force. The slow motion shots reveal the harsh impact on their bodies with ripples surging through their flesh. After the concluding blow the loser toppled to the ground (quite a fall considering their height): out cold for 3 minutes, while the winner sauntered off to claim the prize of the female. It’s action like this that makes the viewer gasp with surprise and gain undisputed respect for these creatures.
In another memorable scene from last night’s episode a gaggle of tiny new-born Ostrich chicks follow their parents across miles and miles of desert in search of precious but rare water. They grow weak and the viewer has virtually given up on them surviving until miraculously they discover a water hole surrounded by every other animal on the continent. There are lions and elephants drinking side by side with antelope and hippos. It’s a beautiful scene which reminds you that despite the hierarchy and predator vs prey instinct, the universal struggle for water resonates with all species which live on the dry and scorched land that is Africa.
It is these spell-binding narratives combined with breath-taking vistas of the rugged African landscape interjected with shots of the amber sun setting over the savannah, which makes this a nature series not to be missed.
Africa continues on BBC1 on Wednesdays at 9pm.