TV Series | Africa | Contents page
The world's greatest wilderness.
The only place on Earth to see the full majesty of nature.
There's so much more here than we ever imagined.
where the equator cuts right across the middle of the continent.
To the north of me, there's an immense desert,
the size of the United States of America.
To the west, a vast rainforest the size of India.
And behind me, for thousands of miles,
the most fertile savannahs in the world.
From the roof of Africa
to the deepest jungle.
Rarely seen places, and untold stories.
There's nowhere in the world
where wildlife puts on a greater show.
This is the last place on Earth
where you can come eye to eye
with the greatest animals that walk our planet.
This is Africa.
Our journey starts in the far south west,
in the oldest and strangest corner of the continent.
Here, the thirsty land is covered
with thousands upon thousands of circles.
We still don't know their origins.
Poisonous plants, foraging insects
and even magnetism have all been suggested,
but each ruled out.
The circles don't move, and their shape never varies.
They're unchanging, much like this part of Africa itself.
Ancient and arid, it almost never rains on this land,
yet there is water here, hidden away.
To survive here, life must use every trick in the book.
Dawn temperatures can fall well below freezing.
And that's a problem for this drongo.
It's too cold for his normal prey, flying insects.
But he has a plan.
The drongo is the Kalahari's greatest trickster.
And these are his victims.
A family of meerkats, desert specialists.
After warming up in the morning sun,
the meerkats begin their search for breakfast.
The drongo can now begin his tricks.
But he must first win the confidence of his victims.
He spots an eagle on the hunt, and sounds a warning,
one that sends the meerkats gratefully scurrying to safety.
And now, he has their trust.
He sounds another warning.
But this time, it's a false alarm.
Thank you very much!
The meerkats fell for it.
This all seems too easy. He tries the same trick again.
But the meerkats aren't stupid,
they'll only fall for it once.
The juicy scorpion won't be for him.
Then, suddenly, the sound of a sentry's warning.
No meerkat can ignore that.
Sentries never lie.
But the sentry sees no danger.
Of course, it's the drongo.
He's learnt to mimic the meerkats' own warning call.
And now, he can enjoy his prize.
A gang of meerkats, outsmarted by a bird.
The drongo is only deceitful in the hardest winter months.
For the rest of the year, he provides honest protection.
So, in the long run,
the meerkat family profit as well as the drongo.
It's a much harder life,
if you haven't yet learned the tricks of your trade.
This young leopard is just a year old,
and at a critical point in his life.
His mother has battled to raise her two cubs,
but finding enough food for them is now beyond her.
From today, he'll have to fend for himself.
Kalahari means "Land of great thirst".
Prey is scarce.
Of all the leopards in Africa,
these have to be the most resourceful.
A big warthog.
but armed and dangerous.
His mother tried to tackle one, but it nearly killed her.
He spots something more promising.
A steenbok, that's more like it.
He won't strike unless he can get to within just four metres,
and without making the slightest sound.
A jackal barks an alarm.
But the steenbok still has no idea it's being stalked.
The nearer he gets, the quieter he must be.
He's blown it.
A good opportunity like that won't come around very often.
Hungry and thirsty, he heads back home,
and spots a kill stashed in a tree,
almost certainly by his own mother.
And, like any teenager,
he thinks nothing of raiding her larder.
It's not really his day, is it?
Some young leopards grow up to be brilliant opportunists.
But even they find life hard here in the Kalahari.
These bizarre little birds are baby ostriches.
They're just a few days old.
In time, they'll become superb desert survivors.
But in the Kalahari, these early days are perilous.
Like leopards and meerkats,
can extract all the moisture they require from their food.
The chicks, however,
won't survive much more than another day without water.
But there's none in sight.
How can their parents conjure up water out here?
The youngsters follow their parents,
as they head out onto a featureless wasteland.
It seems like a suicidal journey.
The Etosha salt pan.
Here, water is more often a mirage than reality.
It's now well over 40 degrees centigrade.
Their father shades his chicks from the midday sun.
No. The ostrich family is not alone out here.
Surrounded by miles of sun-baked mud,
sweet, fresh water wells up from deep below ground...
like a miracle.
Although the ostrich parents have guided their chicks to water,
there's still a problem -
TV Series | Africa | Contents page