BBC Earth

Filming facts

Africa - Filming Facts

Africa was one of the most ambitious series to film, presenting numerous technical hurdles for the team to overcome. Taking four years in production, 1,598 days on location and over 2,000 hours of raw camera footage, the result is nothing short of spectacular. So how exactly did the film crew do it?

Episode 1 – Kalahari

Combat is usually avoided by giraffes but, just occasionally, when the stakes are high enough, males will violently swing their heads to deliver 'sledgehammer' blows. The team followed one male giraffe for one month to capture just one minute of this never-seen-before behaviour.

Episode 2 – Savannah

A team of scientists spent three weeks looking for the shoebill nest. Two crew members had to wade through the Bangweulu swamp, Zambia, dragging canoes full of equipment for two days to get to the location. They then spent a month camping on a semi-submerged ants' nest before coming home with the footage they needed!

The legendary Mountains of the Moon tower over 5,000 metres into the African sky, making it the highest mountain range on the continent and home to the largest glacier in Africa. To reach the summit, the team of 75 film crew, helpers and guides had to trek for more than two weeks on foot, carrying nearly a tonne of equipment as they combated rain, snow, storm clouds and even the odd earthquake.

Episode 3 – Congo

In order to get night shots of forest elephants, one crew member had to spend the night alone on a treetop platform – the B'aka guides refused to spend the night with him as it was too dangerous. They didn't lie. In the middle of the night, one elephant was so agitated by the camera's presence, he tried for four hours to shake the crew member from the tree! Despite the bumpy start, they soon got used to each other and the crew were able to capture the nightlife of elephants like never before.

Another crew member lost nearly two stone in weight after trekking through hot and humid forest for three weeks to find a teenage chimp with a sweet tooth. But it was all worth it in the end!

Episode 4 – Cape

Crew members can literally risk life and limb for a shot. A cameraman sat on a dead whale for a day as 30 great white sharks fed on the animal's carcass.

Episode 5 – Sahara

The shifting desert dune-scapes were filmed using time-lapse photography over a period of 20 months. That's one photo a day and 365 photos a year, which when run at normal speed, is just over 14 seconds of film.