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The judges had a tough time this year choosing our wildlife category winner in the Photographer of the Year competition as there were so many amazing finalists.

It got to a point where they had whittled it down to five wildlife photographs. However, it was clear that all five were perfect contenders for first place! A tough decision had to be made…

In the end there could be only one wildlife winner – who went on to become the overall Photographer of the Year winner – and the judges felt that the remaining four photographs should be given a special commendable mention.

♦ Johan Mocke – “He who adapts best, wins!” (Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa/Botswana)

This photo had us jumping out of our seats from the moment we first saw it. At first glance, this is opportunistic photography at its finest. Anyone who’s spent just one day out in the bush with a camera will know what we’re talking about. But, if you’ve been lucky enough, as we have, to sit staring at this photo (sometimes thirty minutes on its own) debating and deliberating, you’ll know that this photograph is something more – it’s the symbol of a pure passion and dedication to wildlife photography.

It takes a passionate interest in this jackal’s behaviour for the photographer to know how to capture this exact moment. In a world of instantaneous and forgotten moments, the ability to vividly capture a moment like this is special. We greatly appreciate that, and as far as forgotten moments are concerned, well, the jackal would go on to hunt many more sandgrouse – but likely never be so perfectly captured in action again. Thus, this photograph was a strong contender for the winner’s prize.

♦ George Turner – A magical shower (Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania)

This photo clearly spells one thing for us: magic. There is magic in the way the photographer has captured the mixture of ethereal lighting and the soft and tranquil rain, and in the photographer’s words, “the effect of creating hope”. That alone makes this a stunning photograph.

The fact that there’s a perfectly captured subject of Africa’s most graceful and elegant cat adds to the magic. This is a Narnia-esque photo where the cheetah seems to be inviting you into his world. This stunningly captured evocative story that perfectly illustrates the graceful side of these magic cats made it a strong contender for the winner.

♦ Panos Laskarakis – “Thirsty look” (Serengeti National Park, Tanzania)

This photograph speaks to us deeply of raw, wild Africa. This is not Africa imagined or created – this is real Africa. If there was one standout photograph that could be used to portray a sense of untamed wilderness, it would be this ‘chocolate lion’.

The focused look in the lion’s eyes and the mud on its fur, tells the story of an entirely wild creature living an entirely wild existence. The fact that this magnificent creature was captured in one of the wildest places on Earth, the Serengeti, is fitting. We strive to celebrate real, wild Africa and the success of this photograph in that regard made it a very strong contender for the winner.

♦ Ernest Porter – A rock monitor hides in a tree (Ndumo Game Reserve, South Africa)

Never have we so kindly received such an open invitation into the world of reptiles than the story captured in this photograph. Who does that piercing stare belong to? How long has it been staring at us for? Are we intruding on it its territory? It seems likely that it’ll slink off in the blink of an eye – will we ever see it again?

The multiple stories in a single moment so perfectly captured in this photograph made it a strong contender for the overall winner.

Photographer of the Year 2021
Team Africa Geographic

We're the Africa Geographic editorial team – a diverse set of writers, editors, designers and social media natives, all united by our passion for this addictive continent.