Safari guide Mark C. Ross' plans to chronicle his African adventures predated the life-changing events of March 1, 1999, in the dense forest of the Congo. But when the turmoil of war-torn Rwanda spilled over the border into Uganda where several groups of tourists gathered to catch a glimpse of the endangered mountain gorilla, the seasoned guide's love affair with Africa turned horrific. A band of young Rwandan rebels forced Ross, several of his own clients, and dozens of other tourists on a march through the Impenetrable Forest to the Rwandan border at machine-gunpoint. By the end of the day, two of Ross' clients and six other tourists would be dead at the hands of the machete-wielding rebels, and Ross and the other survivors forever psychologically and emotionally scarred.
As much an homage to the terrible beauty of a continent as it is memoir, Dangerous Beauty's lush descriptions of wild Africa and the author's passion for it are necessarily framed by that day of human cruelty and suffering. Ross is, not surprisingly, far more understanding of the necessary killing and dying that must occur in the animal world for the circle of life to spin than he is of the apparently senseless deaths of innocent men and women caught up in a political struggle not their own. His accounts of acts of predation by lions, leopards and cheetahs, of incredible mass migrations of wildebeest and zebras, of elephant charges and nonchalant big cats reveal Ross' unkillable awe toward the animals that he has made his life's business to watch and understand.
Ross grew up in Illinois, but his fascination with Africa started early on. Fueled by the writings of Laurens van der Post and by the caught-on-camera adventures of Jim Fowler on Wild Kingdom, Ross eventually went to college for wildlife biology and stepped foot on the continent of his dreams for the first time while still a student finishing his major. He's lived in Kenya since graduating from college, making his living leading tourists on upscale photographic wildlife safaris for many of those years. Readers of the fascinating, impassioned Dangerous Beauty will find it nearly impossible to not be swept up in almost magical tales of the primal land that Ross loves so well.