When I was a teenager, I spent summers reading the National Geographics stored in my grandmother’s attic. I disappeared from those dull, never-ending days into a world full of gorillas and man-eating lions, of exotic peoples dressed only in feathers, of crocodiles and snakes and fish that could eat me. From old black-and-white photographs I conjured a fantastical place that mixed the jungles and deserts and continents of the world and labeled it Africa!
In 1996, fresh off a 747, I smelled the air of southern Africa for the first time: soft and warm as clean sheets drying in the sun, mixed with a whiff of smoke and sweet mulch, the mineral scent of sand, hot fur and the dry and dusty trees. I was absolutely convinced I had breathed this scent before, as if my body remembered Africa as the birthplace of my species.
This is the first photo I took of wildlife in Africa: a bushbuck in the small park that surrounds Victoria Falls, on the Zimbabwe side. And in the five trips I’ve taken since then, I’ve never seen another bushbuck. That’s Africa: never the same day twice.