Bringing Africa to the World, and the World to Africa Photo by © Ingrid Vekemans


The Mkapa Awards Judging is complete for the exhibition and more images will be selected for the publication by January. All entrants will be emailed with results. Category Winners will be honored in October at an awards ceremony being planned in Nairobi, Kenya.

To celebrate African Wildlife Foundation’s 60-year anniversary, AWF and NBP are working in collaboration to launch a new photo competition intended to engage global audiences in documenting and conserving wildlife and wild lands in modern Africa through the art of photography and video.

A primary goal of the competition is to attract, inspire, and involve photographers from Africa and around the world at all levels of camera experience so that we may share stories and encourage new advocates for conservation change.

This photography awards program is named to honor one of Africa's most beloved leaders, H.E. Benjamin Mkapa (1938-2020).

H.E. Benjamin Mkapa © REUTERS | Alamy Stock Photo

His Excellency Benjamin Mkapa served as President of Tanzania from 1995 to 2005. Mkapa began his career as a journalist, understanding the importance of communicating with the public to better inform, educate, and open dialog on important topics. Today, Mkapa’s name remains widely respected for his legacy of principled leadership and protecting Africa’s wild heritage.

Via powerful imagery and categories that focus not only on wildlife and wild lands but also critical conservation issues in a modern Africa, AWF is proud to honor an iconic African leader and our longest-serving trustee, Benjamin Mkapa. — Craig Sholley, Senior Vice President, AWF

Awards Categories & Prizes

All nature photographers at Pro, Amateur, and Youth (age 18 and under) levels of expertise from around the globe are invited to enter photos and videos made on the continent of Africa, including Madagascar, and offshore island groups. Cash and prizes totaling $30,000 will be awarded.

One overall GRAND PRIZE will be selected from entries in all categories listed below. The winner will receive the Mkapa Award Shona Elephant Sculpture, large-sized • $5,000 USD Cash Prize • Invitation to attend a planned Awards Event in Nairobi (travel and accommodation stipend included) • Publication in Special Edition of Nature's Best Photography magazine • Inclusion in digital presentations, online galleries, events, and global exhibitions • Interview and Portfolio feature in NBP magazine.

CATEGORY WINNERS will receive $1,000 USD Cash Prize • Shona Elephant Sculpture award, medium-sized • Publication in Special Edition of NBP magazine • Inclusion in digital presentations, online galleries, events, and global exhibitions.

There will be two YOUTH WINNERS: One from Africa, and one from outside Africa. Each will win a Shona Elephant Sculpture award, smaller-sized • Photo or Outdoor Equipment Package • Publication in Special Edition of NBP magazine • Inclusion in digital presentations, online galleries, events, and global exhibitions. (Youth age 18 and under as of June 30, 2021 may enter for FREE and may submit photos and videos in any of the categories.)

HIGHLY HONORED images will be selected in all categories and will receive Personalized Highly Honored Award Certificates • Publication in Special Edition of NBP magazine • Possible selection for online presentations, events, and global exhibitions.

Finalists will be selected in the following categories:


Images of animals listed as Threatened, Endangered, or Critically Endangered Species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). When entering this category, add the link from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (iucnredlist.org) to your entry form notes.


Images of dramatic landscapes and awe-inspiring perspectives of Africa’s diverse habitats portraying expansive views of wilderness, as well as close-up images of plant life such as flowers, trees, and other botanical subjects. Includes scenes of savannas, forests, deserts, mountains, fresh water, rivers, lakes, wetlands, tide pools, coastal areas, and seascapes. You may include panoramic scenes of wildlife in large landscape compositions.


Images that portray the importance and impact of protected area authorities, conservation organizations, community groups, and individual caretakers of wildlife who are working in the field. Can focus on specific conservation projects documenting a conservation story or current environmental issues, such as pollution, climate change, or habitat loss, or individuals (rangers, researchers, conservation professionals, community activists) who are devoting their lives to protecting wildlife in Africa.


Images that depict how Africa’s wildlife can coexist and benefit local communities (through ecotourism, employment, development linked to wildlife economies); and conversely how issues like poaching, the bushmeat trade, wildlife trafficking, unplanned development, extraction, and human/wildlife conflict threaten not only the future of wildlife and perhaps the continent’s most unique economic asset.


Behavior of all forms of wildlife found within Africa’s diverse ecosystems. Examples include but are not limited to interactions between individuals of same species and intra-actions between multiple species, courtship, territorial battles, nesting, predation, and parental care.


Striking portraits of wildlife made within Africa’s native environments. Includes mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates.


Wild animals living within or alongside urban environments, in or near African villages and cities, in backyards, gardens, and local parks.


Artistic compositions (colors, forms, textures, patterns, etc.) found in Africa’s natural world. Includes black and white compositions and macrophotography.


Video is an important tool for recording and sharing nature. Videographers and filmmakers are encouraged to submit footage of natural wildlife behavior and outdoor experiences in Africa, in any of the categories listed above. Tell us your story, share favorite moments from the field, or tell stories about conservation efforts. Finished productions should generally be between 2 and 15 minutes. You will need a jpeg of a still image to enter and represent your film. Upload submissions through YouTube, Vimeo, or other viewing platforms and provide us with the link (and password, if necessary). Productions that include music must have written permission or rights for distribution online and exhibition display.


Photos and videos of any of the above subjects may be taken and edited on any mobile phone or tablet including iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets, Windows phones, and the iPod touch.


There will be two YOUTH WINNERS: One from Africa, and one from outside Africa. Youth enter for FREE and may submit photos and videos in any of the above categories. On the entry form, you will be asked to give us your birthdate. You must be between age 18 and under as of June 30, 2021 to qualify for free entry.

Awards Judging Panel

The Mkapa Awards Judging Panel will review all entries and will select finalists based on overall appeal, originality, conformity to rules, technical quality, and artistic merit. The distinguished panel represents a deep understanding of natural history and progressive conservation strategies, photographic expertise, and technical evaluation skills, all with a shared passion for Africa's wildlife and people, and with the highest ethics in their respective fields. The judges include accomplished wildlife photographers, leading conservation professionals, highly regarded safari guides, and youth conservation activists.

Craig Sholley, Senior Vice President, AWF, Washington, D.C., USA. Contest Co-founder, Photographer, AWF Safari Leader.

Craig's experiences with wildlife and conservation began in 1973 as a Peace Corps volunteer in Zaire. As an L.S.B. Leakey grant researcher in the late 1970s, he studied mountain gorillas with Dian Fossey and, in 1987, became director of Rwanda's Mountain Gorilla Project, of which African Wildlife Foundation was a sponsor. Craig has acted as Scientific Advisor for the award-winning IMAX film, "Mountain Gorilla," and with National Geographic, he surveyed the conservation status of mountain gorillas in the aftermath of Rwanda's civil war. Craig’s direct involvement with AWF began as a Senior Associate and member of AWF’s Board of Trustees, and now serves as Senior Vice President.

Steve Freligh, President, Nature's Best Photography Fund, McLean, Virginia, USA. Contest Co-founder, Photographer, Editor, Publisher.

Steve has spent his career connecting people with nature through visually-directed and conservation motivated multimedia programs. As a biologist, his past work included wildlife research and photo documentation in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Steve spent 15 years directing photo and editorial projects with the National Wildlife Federation, along with other visually driven publishing projects with the African Wildlife Foundation, Smithsonian Channel, Discovery Channel, National Geographic Society, MSNBC, Panasonic Lumix, Epson, Nikon, Sony, and many more. A centerpiece of Freligh’s work has been his development of Nature's Best Photography magazine along with a 20-year alliance with the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC and other global venues that included large-format print exhibitions, multi-media awards presentations and international gala events.

Through my years as an outdoor enthusiast, photographer, and publisher of photographic works, I have personally witnessed the positive impact of combining the creative and documentary talents of professional, amateur, and youth photographers alike. Their memories are our new discoveries and their images are the window to the wild that allows our imagination to soar and be inspired to conserve our natural world.” — Steve Freligh, NBP

Federico Veronesi of Nairobi, Kenya. Fine Art Photographer, Safari Guide, and former NBP Grand Prize and African Wildlife Category Winner.

Federico is a wildlife photographer born in Italy. Fascinated by African wildlife since early childhood, he moved to Kenya in 2002 to follow his dream of living among them. He spends his time traveling the majestic wilderness of the East African savannah, following wildlife day after day to photograph as their stories unfold. Contributing to the conservation of African wildlife through his imagery is his priority.

Nature's Best Awards African Wildlife Highly Honored | African Lions by © Federico Veronesi
Wildlife photography is a wonderful way to express emotions felt when I am in the wilderness surrounded by wild animals in their environment, and to make them eternal for everyone to feel. — Federico Veronesi

Melissa Groo of Ithaca, New York, USA. Wildlife and Conservation Photographer and Writer, former African Elephants Researcher.

An award-winning wildlife photographer and writer, Melissa is an Associate Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, wildlife columnist for Outdoor Photographer magazine, and Contributing Editor for Audubon magazine. She is widely recognized for her expert guidance in ethical practices for nature photographers in the field.

Melissa Groo on Safari in Tanzania by © Sybil Wentzell
“My time living in the rainforest of Central Africa, and roaming the plains of East Africa have instilled in me a deep reverence and passion for both the wildlife and the people of this incredible continent.” — Melissa Groo

Ona Basiname of Maun, Botswana. Professional Tour Guide, and Wildlife Photographer.

Basiname has lived with wildlife virtually all his life and has become one of the most respected guides on the continent, working for Wilderness Safaris since 2010. His passion, enthusiasm, and professionalism have endeared him to guests and colleagues alike. A keen writer, photographer, and aspiring wildlife photojournalist, his images and articles have regularly appeared in numerous travel magazines.

Leopard Silhouette, Okavango Delta, Botswana by © Ona Basiname

Elizabeth Wathuti of Nairobi, Kenya. Environment and Climate Activist.

Elizabeth, the founder of the Green Generation Initiative, is currently the Head of Campaigns and Daima Coalition for green spaces protection, and Coordinator at Wangari Maathai Foundation. She also serves as a member of: the Counties Advisory Committee at the Upper Tana Nairobi Water Fund Trustees, the Greenbelt Movement, the Elephant Neighbors Centre, and the International Reserva: The Youth Land Trust.

David Rosenzweig of Mineola, New York, USA. Photographer, Conservationist, and former NBP Youth Photographer of the Year.

David's focus on wildlife and conservation photography in sub-Saharan Africa led him to work with rhino and big cat organizations to protect some of Africa's most endangered species. Deeply interested in raising the African narrative to the global stage, he works for the international non-profit program, SEED (Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies), that seeks to end the cycle of global poverty by supporting entrepreneurs on the African continent.

2016 NBP Awards Youth Photographer of the Year | Leopardess and Cub by © David Rosenzweig
The ability to share a compelling story within a single frame is the reason I so deeply love nature photography. As nature photographers, we are the ones who are empowered with the ability to give a voice to animals. And in doing so, we can share their stories with those who may never have the opportunity to see them firsthand. — David Rosenzweig
Top: Craig Sholley, Steve Freligh; 2nd Row: Federico Veronesi; 3rd Row: Ona Basiname, Melissa Groo; 4th Row: Elizabeth Wathuti, David Rosenzweig.


About Nature’s Best Photography: Where People Bring Nature into Focus

Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, NBP was founded to inspire, educate, and motivate a better understanding, appreciation, and conservation of the natural world through the art of photography, storytelling, and personal wellness initiatives. This dynamic public engagement platform has produced high quality award-winning publications, large-format fine art print exhibitions, multimedia and televised presentations, and prestigious museum programs and events hosted around the globe.

About African Wildlife Foundation:

AWF is the primary advocate for the protection of wildlife and wild lands as an essential part of a modern and prosperous Africa. Founded in 1961 to focus on Africa’s conservation needs, AWF articulates a uniquely African vision, bridge science and public policy, and demonstrate the benefits of conservation to ensure the survival of the continent’s wildlife and wild lands.

NBP and AWF Media Contacts

Copyrights to the photographs from the Nature's Best Awards are owned by the photographers. Publication is prohibited without special permission from Nature’s Best Photography and with accompanying proper credits to the photographers and/or watermarks.

To include images in media coverage, email Deborah Freligh, NBP, McLean, Virginia, USA or call +1 (703) 307-7010

For inquiries about interviews with representatives of AWF regarding the Mkapa Photo Awards or any of the Awards judges, email Patrick MitchellAWF, Washington, D.C., USA or call +1(202) 991-7508 or email Wambui Odhiambo, AWF, Nairobi, Kenya or call +254 701864021

For inquiries about exhibitions and/or events, sponsorships, partnerships, and corporate or individual support, email Steve Freligh, President, NBP, McLean, Virginia, USA or call +1 (703) 307-7010

Top: Nature's Best Awards African Wildlife Winner by © Ingrid Vekemans, Belgium
Created By
Nature's Best®