"Africa" visits Cape region's marigolds, sharks, penguins and turtles

Oscar winner Forest Whitaker returned last night to host "Africa"and the production team's visit to the Cape.

Camera crews visited both the East and Western Cape, as well as the dense, moist forest of Mozambique where Google Earth picked up an undiscovered region of the forest in 2005. The Cape episode focuses on whales and penguins, animals who thrive in cold temps in the Atlantic and other vegetation and animals that need the Indian Ocean's warmer temps.

Considering the past three episodes of "Africa" the Cape episode is relatively calm. The series begins with hatching green turtles that are four inches long and on their own at birth. They race through sand dunes and head toward the Indian Ocean and that trek alone is life threatening. Sand crabs, birds and other predators are waiting and watching for food and the green turtles' best hope for safety is the ocean. If the newborn survives, and only one in 1,000 green turtles do make it into adulthood, the turtle's life expectancy is 80 years.

War has kept the Mozambique region isolated, but in 2005, Google Earth found an unexplored stretch of rainforest that houses colorful butterflies. Whitaker calls the event "Butterfly Heaven" and after the rains, the butterflies emerge in huge numbers. When their wings dry, they take to the air and find a mate. They don’t really have too much room in the dense jungle and fly upstream as a result. Cameras follow and the flying insects emerge into the open space at a treeless mountain peak where they mate.

Back in the swamp region, animals converge to fish. Pelican and catfish are fishing in groups and one pelican bites off more than it can chew. The animal chokes and is nabbed by a crocodile. The rest of the pelicans move closer together and farther away from the reptile.

Life isn't bad for the animals who benefit from the Cape's warmer waters and cloudy, condensed, warm skies. But on the other side, cold loving animals like penguins are racing against time to beat the heat and survive.

It's surprising to find penguins in Africa, but African penguins have been there millions of years. Their livelihood depends on the cool Atlantic Ocean where nutrients and good food are readily available for good hunters. Penguins, male and female, share nesting duties. For ten days, the mother stays with the eggs while the father goes off into the water to escape hundred degree temps on the ground and to fish. When the male penguin returns, the mother penguin is relieved from duty. Off she goes to fish and swim, but most of all to get relief from the African sun. Not every penguin egg hatches because often the parents can't deal with the heat and have to leave the eggs. The penguins job is to shade the eggs from the scorching sun and in doing so, penguins risk their lives.

Inside of the cool Atlantic are big fish. By chance, cameras sight a whale carcass. The feast invites 30 sharks and there is a pecking order before dinner begins. The sharks measure themselves against each other. The largest shark eats first, regardless of sex. The female shark, the biggest of the bunch, begins to devour the whale.

Later, a 50 foot whale emerges and it's hungry. There are a billion sardines swimming and they will swim until the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean collide. Once the sardines hit the Indian Ocean's warmth, the fish are trapped. The whale is in perfect position to devour the fish one gulp at a time.

There's a beautiful desert that turns into a colorful flowerbed in the Cape also. Marigolds, red, gold, white and daisies all grow and compete for pollinators. Cameras wait out the greenery's growing season. It is one of the natural wonders on the Cape.

"Africa" returns next Tuesday night from another African region. Some of the most memorable images in the "Africa" series occur with the help of time lapse video. In order to catch what viewers watch in about 45 minutes, camera crews set up camp often for as long as three weeks in row. This allows viewers to see growing marigolds in a sandy, rocky desert region, as well as vegetation growing in the thick forest. The time lapse also allows cameras to follow animals through their mating rituals and the battles the animals (be it beetles or elephants) undergo before the mating ritual.

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