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Magnificent Africa    by Tom Schandy order for
Magnificent Africa
by Tom Schandy
Order:  USA  Can
Duncan Baird, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Tom Schandy brings the 'immensely diverse wildlife and magnificent landscapes' of Africa into our homes with this glorious coffee table book. His introduction mentions a trip to Gambia that 'hooked' him on the continent and its diversity. He offers us a glowing 'tribute to the wild, untouched Africa', separated into sections on 'Savanna', 'Mountains and forests', 'Rivers and lakes', and 'Desert'.

We learn that almost a third of the continent is savanna, while looking at gorgeous scenes including an acacia sunrise, migrating wildebeest and zebras, a feasting lion, vultures, the multi-purpose baobab 'monkey-bread' tree, the 'giraffe-necked antelope', unusual birds like the 'oxpecker', and views of Masai culture. The text gives a fascinating context to the photos, such as the fact that elephants have become 'Africa's whale', or the brevity of lions' mating. Having been up Kilimanjaro, I was especially intrigued by the mountain and forest pictures, recalling strange Alpine flora like 'lobelia'. Schandy's images of these regions showcase the wise eyes of chimps and mountain gorillas, and the leopard's elegance. Madagascar's limestone formations and lemur are featured, along with the Malagasy rainforest and its chameleons.

Next, we head to Africa's watery regions, with a magical rainbow across Victoria Falls, the 'Garden of Eden' of Botswana's Okavango inland delta, exotic birds at Lake Naivasha in Kenya, an attacking hippo, crocs posing as logs, the 'dance of the flamingos', and the dramatic 'African fish-eagle' called 'the voice of Africa'. Moving from one extreme to the other, the book concludes with desert regions - 'sand and stones, drought and wind'. There's the Sahara, the world's largest desert, as well as the Kalahari, Namib and Karoo. Schandy shows us sand dunes like mountains, trees with 'personality' such as the 'Moringa' whose branches look like roots, the lovely 'gemsbok', and the surprising 'fur seals' of Namibia.

Magnificent Africa is an informative coffee table book, brimming with superb photos of animals and scenery - it's something that anyone who has been to Africa (if only in their armchair) would love to own.

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