Get lost in Africa’s vast landscapes and extraordinary breadth of wildlife courtesy of these incredible photographs.
They’re all winners and finalists in the latest edition of the Benjamin Mkapa African Wildlife Photography Awards, a photography contest that sets out to promote vital conservation efforts in the continent. It’s named after the late African leader Benjamin Mkapa, marking his ‘dedication to conservation education throughout Africa’.
The awards are run jointly by the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), an organisation that ‘works to ensure wildlife and their habitats thrive in modern Africa’, and the non-profit organisation Nature’s Best Photography ‘whose mission is to celebrate the beauty and diversity of nature through the art of photography and film’.
Selected from 9,500 photographs from 57 countries worldwide – including entrants from 16 African countries – the overall winner is a transfixing portrait of a silverback mountain gorilla in Rwanda by photographer Michelle Kranz.
Other shots to impress the judges include a powerful picture of a pair of lionesses fighting over a warthog kill, an image of a tremendous lightning storm over a Kenyan savanna and a poignant picture of a newborn chimpanzee being cared for in a Sierra Leone sanctuary.
Below is a selection of the astonishing photographs that are honoured in the awards. Scroll down to the very bottom to see the picture that reigns supreme overall…
This amazing picture shows four sub-adult African lions in Kenya’s Nairobi National Park, near downtown Nairobi. Highly honoured in the ‘Coexistence and Conflict’ category, the image is the work of photographer Lucas Marang’a. He says: ‘Capturing wild cats with the cityscape background depicts the delicate balance between conserving our wild spaces and urbanisation and development’
This beautiful shot shows a family of Ethiopian wolves – an endangered species – in the Bale Mountains National Park in Ethiopia. It was captured by Robin Biswas, who says that he was ‘lucky’ to capture the tender interaction between the mother wolf and her pups. The picture is highly honoured in the ‘African Wildlife At Risk’ category
This picture of a pair of giraffes, captured during a storm in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, is a marvel. Photographer Maya Maymoni says: ‘Capturing a lightning storm in the open savanna is completely unique… there were dramatic clouds, twinkling stars and incredible lightning strikes as this pair of giraffes steadily moved along.’ Maymoni adds that the scene reminds her of Noak’s Ark ‘with the giraffe pair calmly looking towards the future’. Impressing the judges, the shot is highly honoured in the ‘Art in Nature’ category
LEFT: This striking picture of an orphaned wild caracal ‘quenching his thirst’ in South Africa’s Zimanga Private Game Reserve takes the top prize in the ‘Mobile’ category – photographer Jon Warburton snared it on an iPhone 12. RIGHT: An indri, the largest of the lemur family, gazes directly at the camera in this mesmerising shot by photographer Sergey Savvi. It was taken in a nature reserve in eastern Madagascar and is highly honoured in the ‘Wildlife Portraits’ category
This terrific picture shows an African leopardess and her two adult sons sitting on a tree in Kenya’s Nairobi National Park. Photographer Rihaz Sidi describes the scene as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime sighting’. The image is highly honoured in the ‘African Wildlife Behaviour’ category
Amazingly, this picture of a rainbow over Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe was captured on an iPad. Photographer Saeid Zokaei Arani, who was behind the lens, describes witnessing it as a ‘surreal’ experience. The shot is highly honoured in the ‘Mobile’ category
Highly honoured in the ‘Conservation Heroes’ category, this picture shows two young sedated male African lions being moved from Tswalu Reserve to the Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa by plane. Photographer Marcus Westberg explains: ‘As natural habitats become increasingly fragmented, causing wildlife populations to become isolated from each other, individual animals may need to be translocated between protected areas to ensure healthy gene pools’
This jaw-dropping picture, highly honoured in the ‘Fragile Wilderness’ category, shows a Ruppell’s vulture gliding past Jinbar Waterfall in Ethiopia. Photographer Marco Gaiotti notes that the bird was likely hunting for carcasses as it flew
A large white rhinoceros is seen cooling off in a mudbath in South Africa’s Madikwe Game Reserve in this striking picture by photographer Darren Donovan, which is highly honoured in the ‘African Wildlife Behaviour’ category
Kenyan photographer Yasuyoshi Chiba captured this striking picture of a local farmer walking through a swarm of desert locusts in Meru County, Kenya. Chiba notes that the insects were swarming because pesticides had been sprayed in the area. The picture is highly honoured in the ‘Coexistence and Conflict’ category
Photographer Tomasz Szpila snared this heartwarming picture of a newborn baby eastern gorilla in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The eastern gorilla is a critically endangered species and the picture is highly honoured in the ‘African Wildlife At Risk’ category
This incredible picture shows ‘a pangolin – a species on the edge of extinction – curled up to protect itself from the claws of a lion’. It was captured by photographer Lance van de Vyver in South Africa’s Tswalu Kalahari game reserve and is highly honoured in the ‘African Wildlife Behaviour’ category
This serene picture of a common tern soaring over crashing waves was captured on Noordhoek beach in Cape Town, South Africa. It’s the work of 18-year-old photographer Ruben Jenkins-Bate and is highly honoured in the ‘Youth in Africa’ category
A whale shark is seen in the waters of Kenya’s Lamu archipelago in this picture, which is a still from a film by Jahawi and Elke Bertolli. It’s highly honoured in the ‘African wildlife in Motion’ category
This brilliant picture – highly honoured in the ‘Wildlife Portraits’ category – shows African lions perched on a rock in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. Photographer Kaido Haagen explains: ‘This portrait shows a typical pride with females caring for the young, while somewhere off in the distance, the males are sleeping’
Young British photographer Joshua Goldstein, who is just 14 years of age, captured this striking shot of an African leopard climbing down an albizia tree at sunset in Kenya’s Olare Motorogi Conservancy. It’s highly honoured in the Youth International category
This shot by U.S photographer Peter Mangolds – highly honoured in the ‘Conservation Heroes’ category – shows a man in a wheelchair in Tanzania’s Kijereshi Game Reserve. Sharing the story behind the shot, Mangolds explains that the non-governmental organisation ‘Peace for Conservation’ has ‘an initiative to bring people with disabilities into national parks and game reserves to see the wildlife’
Describing this powerful shot, photographer Alankar Chandra says: ‘On an evening safari in the Maasai Mara National Reserve [in Kenya], we came across this pair of female lions fighting over a small warthog kill. As they engaged in a tug of war, there was a dramatic show of brute strength between them. Finally, the prey collapsed into two, and the lionesses each came away with one piece.’ The image is highly honoured in the ‘African Wildlife Behaviour’ category
In this dynamic image, two male southern masked weaver birds ‘in full breeding plumage’ can be seen in a ‘midair battle’ on Geluksdal Farm in the north of South Africa. Photographer Michiel Duvenhage says that the fight was over almost as quickly as it began. The image is highly honoured in the ‘African Wildlife Behaviour’ category
Highly honoured in the ‘African Wildlife At Risk’ category, this transfixing picture shows a black-and-white ruffed lemur – a critically endangered species – in Madagascar’s Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. It’s the work of photographer Xin Zhong
A family of cheetahs is beautifully captured in this picture by photographer Laura Dyer, which was taken in Kenya’s Maasai Mara Nature Reserve. The cheetahs are perched on a massive termite mound so they have a good vantage point over the area, the photographer reveals. The image is highly honoured in the ‘Wildlife Portraits’ category
This brilliant picture of a young elephant bathing in Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park was taken by Texan photographer Andrew Liu. ‘The young one was trying her best to stay afloat among a sea of adults,’ he recalls. The shot is highly honoured in the ‘Wildlife Portraits’ category
This poignant picture shows a ‘tireless’ staff member at Sierra Leone’s Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary delivering a meal to a tiny female chimpanzee. Photographer Renato Granieri explains: ‘The infant was three days old when her mother passed away from natural causes. Immediately, the little one needed 24-hour care.’ The shot is highly honoured in the ‘Conservation Heroes’ category
This vibrant picture, captured by Renato Granieri, shows four African savanna elephants walking in the late afternoon in Namibia’s Damaraland region. It’s highly honoured in the contest’s ‘Fragile Wilderness’ category
This atmospheric picture – highly honoured in the ‘Art in Nature’ category – shows several oryx walking along the sand dunes of Namibia’s Namib-Naukluft National Park. U.S photographer Craig A Elson, who secured the shot, describes the scene as ‘spine-tingling’
Recounting the story behind this curious close-up of an elephant with a water lily in its trunk, photographer Carol Grenier says: ‘This elephant was ripping bunches of lilies out of the water and flinging them back and forth, perhaps to clean off mud before it was eaten.’ Catching the attention of the judges, the image – taken in Botswana’s Chobe National Park – is highly honoured in the ‘African Wildlife Behaviour’ category
South Africa’s Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve is captured during the ‘blue hour’ before dawn in this otherworldly shot. Highly honoured in the ‘Fragile Wilderness’, it was taken by British photographer Charlie Lynam
British photographer Will Burrard-Lucas took this captivating picture of a western lowland gorilla, a critically endangered species, in its ‘natural forest habitat’ in the Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The image is highly honoured in the ‘African Wildlife At Risk’ category
American photographer Vicki Jauron snared this wonderful picture of a trio of zebras – their stripes reflected in the water – taking a drink from a stream in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park. It’s highly honoured in the ‘Art in Nature’ category
Behold the picture that takes the overall prize. Captured by photographer Michelle Kranz, it shows a silverback mountain gorilla ‘relaxing’ in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. The photographer describes the silverback’s gaze as ‘striking’ and ‘mesmerising’