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BBC Africa: Making an epic series
Series producer James Honeyborne introduces the stunning new BBC series, Africa.
Six months into the research for the BBC’s latest blue-chip wildlife TV series, we thought we knew Africa. A year later, we realised how wrong we’d been – the deeper we dug, the more astounding the stories became.
It dawned on us that here was a real opportunity to film new places, new species and new behaviour. But, as we were soon to discover, novelty comes at a price: if it was easy to film something, people would have done it before.
We wanted to strike a balance between showing the iconic, ‘must-see’ fauna that everyone expects, and surprising viewers with less familiar, quirky species and spectacles.
We needed to film startling new sides to well-known characters, such as chatty black rhinos socialising after dark in the Kalahari, the curious relationship between lions and agama lizards, rival male giraffes locked in a bloody battle, and an elephant baby boom in Amboseli National Park, where 175 calves were born in just eight months.
Our cast of weird and exotic creatures included armoured crickets, monkey beetles, Sahara frogs, shoebill storks – which we tracked down in the virtually impenetrable Bengweulu Swamp – and the pugnacious, leaf-folding frogs of Sierra Leone’s rainforest.
We were delighted to get to know these characters a little better – and hope you will be, too.
Along the way, we had a few close shaves: one cameraman was stuck in a tree for hours while an elephant tried to shake him out of it; another sat on a dead whale while it was being torn apart by 30 great white sharks; one of our boats sank in Ethiopia; a helicopter made an emergency landing in Gabon.
Our ambition was to celebrate parts of the continent that viewers might not have heard of before, and spirits were never higher than when we sent a team somewhere that no film-maker had ever been, such as the world’s largest underground lake in Namibia, or Mozambique’s rainforest-clad Mount Mabu.
The Africa team ended this epic series realising that there’s so much more to the continent than we ever imagined.
Return to the BBC Africa home page.