When it comes to enigmatic wildlife and breathtaking landscapes, Africa has no rivals. The varied and unique fauna and flora of the continent have lured safari-goers to these lands for centuries, are continuing to do so and will forever have that effect.
It will take a lifetime and then some to visit and marvel at the myriad of wild and wonderful attractions. The highlights are too numerous to mention, while different sights and sounds will undoubtedly attract a diversity of travellers.
Perhaps then the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa is a good vantage point from where to get an overall and well-balanced view of what Mother Nature has to offer visitors. Even though some may call it subjective to even attempt to compile such a list, one has to start somewhere.
In 2013, several influential conservationists and conservation bodies chose seven of the most bio-diverse ecosystems on the continent, based on nominations from avid nature dwellers. These seven sites criss-cross the borders of no less than 20 of the 54 African countries and encompass vast stretches of sand, huge bodies of water, towering mountains, and unique wildlife phenomena.
And here they are, the 7 Natural Wonders of Africa:
The Red Sea Reef
Around 1,200 fish species, of which 10% don’t exist anywhere else in the world, have made their home among the more than 300 species of coral on the Red Sea Reef. Whether in the safety of a glass-bottom boat or discovering the magical underwater world by snorkelling, visitors will encounter sharks, dugongs, mantas, turtles, and pods of 500 spinner dolphins.
The Nile River
When taking the slow lane on the 6,650 kilometres of the mighty Nile River, travellers will be able to take in the rich culture of ancient Egyptian civilisation. The longest river in the world starts at two points, with the White Nile flowing from the Great Lakes in East Africa and the Blue Nile from Lake Tana in Ethiopia before they join forces just outside Khartoum in Sudan. This impressive body of water then snakes through 11 African countries before it flows into the Mediterranean Sea.
The Sahara Desert
Visitors to the Sahara Desert will cast their eyes over the largest hot desert in the world and the third-largest on the entire globe, after the ice fields of the Arctic and Antarctica. For more than nine million square kilometres, the Sahara touches the Red Sea in the east, the Atlantic Ocean in the west, and the Mediterranean Sea in the north. Various species are managing to carve out an existence in this arid landscape, including dromedary camels, dama gazelle, and the Saharan cheetah.
For the more adventurous traveller, reaching the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro is a feat to be proud of. At 19,341 feet it is the highest point in Africa and also the highest volcano outside of South America. The cones of Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira prominently feature when gazing up at Kilimanjaro. There are various official trekking routes on the mountain with the most panoramic attributed to Machame.
As the largest untouched caldera in the world, the Ngorongoro Crater was created nearly three million years ago when an eruption led to the collapse of the mouth of the volcano. Its depth of around 600 metres has created a wildlife wonderland with close to 25,000 animals as permanent residents. Visitors will be able to spot all members of the Big 5—the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo—as well as more than 500 species of birds.
The Great Migration
This yearly circle of life and death is at the top of the list of many safari-goers to Africa. Starting in the Ngorongoro area in the south of the Serengeti in Tanzania, the Great Migration loops clockwise towards and through the Maasai Mara in Kenya before twisting and turning back to where it all started. This natural phenomenon is regarded as the biggest overland event of its kind anywhere in the world with 1,300,000 wildebeest, 200,000 zebra, and 500,000 Thomson’s gazelle tempting fate in search of greener pastures.
The Okavango Delta
Each year more than ten cubic kilometres of water spread out over almost 15,000 square kilometres of the Okavango Delta. Between June and August, it fills the canals and river beds, waterholes, and lagoons to the brim and is a rich source of nourishment for the natural inhabitants of the area. Wildlife sightings abound with travellers encountering species like buffalo, lion, elephant, wild dog, and a variety of antelope such as the lechwe with a population estimated at 88,000 individual animals.
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