Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Sossusvlei, Namibia

Courtesy of ER Bauer/Flickr

African Natural Wonder: Sossusvlei, Namibia

With its iconic red sand dunes, that are constantly moulded into different shapes and patterns by the wind, Sossuvlei is one of the most photogenic wonders of Africa. The sand dunes are in fact some of the largest in the world, and the salt and clay pan at the end of the Tsauchab River is where Soussusvlei gets its name from: In Nama and Afrikaans it means “dead-end” and “marsh”. The iconic red dunes of Soussusvlei are formed through a geological process that has been taking place for millions of years. The red sand goes down the Orange River and flows into the Atlantic ocean. However, such is the power of the waves and tides of the Atlantic, the red sand is carried north and eventually ends up being deposited back onto land. From there, the west winds carries the red sand back inland, and this is what forms the dunes of Soussusvlei over time. Namibia has a very dry climate, and thus the Tsauchab rarely flows as far as the salt and clay pan. However, if the wet season is particularly rainy, it can occasionally reach the pan and creates a spectacular salt pan lake. When this occurs, it understandably attracts visitors from all over the world to witness this marvel.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, The Great Migration, Tanzania

African Natural Wonder: The Great Migration, Tanzania

The chances are that you may have heard of the great migration, as it has been featured on numerous wild life documentaries such as the BBC’s Africa series. But to see this with your own eye’s is something very special. 1.5 million wildebeest and 200,000 zebras go on a 2000 kilometre journey through the hills, woodlands and vast plains of the Serengeti and Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya. Life for them runs in cycles of mass migrations every year, as they follow the rains and thus the water that gives them vital sustenance to survive. In May the rains end in the Serengeti, and the migration begins to the Masai Mara where water is still plentiful. Then the migration returns north to the Serengeti in late October when the rains begin to subside in the Masai Mara. So when’s the best of year to see this spectacle? July to October is by far the best time to watch it in Kenya, however in recent years unusual dry conditions in the Serengeti have forced the migration to travel north much earlier than usual. However, around 500,000 wildebeest and zebra will arrive in the central areas of the Serengeti by March most years. So this is the best time to catch the migration in Tanzania. The wet season is from October to May, with its peak in April: April is the worst time to go, as the plains are flooded and most of the camps close due to being waterlogged.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Underwater Waterfall, Mauritius

African Natural Wonder: Underwater Waterfall, Mauritius

So this is not a real underwater waterfall, but it is nonetheless an amazing optical illusion that gives the impression that there is one. But the geological forces at work here are quite easily explained: Basically, Mauritius sits on an Ocean Shelf that never goes any deeper than 150 metres below sea level, but is the largest in the world. The drop-off from the shelf’s edge lies just off the Mauritius coastline, and plunges almost vertically down 4000 metres into the depths of the ocean. So what you are seeing here is not really the water falling, but the sand being pulled off the beaches of Mauritius and the Ocean Shelf by oceanic currents. This phenomenal optical illusion can only be seen by hiring a sea-plane or helicopter and viewing it from above. So unless you have the money to hire one or the other, you will not be able to see it. Still, if you are on a honeymoon and feel like splurging, this is what you should really be treating yourself too!

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Imlil Valley

African Natural Wonder: Imlil Valley

The town of Imlil is one of those trekking and hiking hubs that you find almost anywhere in the world, where people rest for a couple of days when relaxing after a trek into the mountains, or where people plan there treks. Think of Pokhara in Nepal, or Sapa in Vietnam and you will have an idea about what the vibe is like in Imlil town. But once you head out into Imlil valley, the floor of the valley carries meltwater down to the Marrakech Plains via the Asif N’au Mizane river. In spring it’s a powerful river, but in Autumn it becomes a gentle stream that winds its way through walnut groves and lush green grass. The trek through the Imlil Valley has a number of guesthouses and kasbahs to stay in. The Kasbah du Toubkal is considered one of the best due to its dramatic rooftop views of the valley below. Shortly after this, the trekking trail heads into the mountains properly, where you come across traditional Berber villages with their mud walled red houses. At the end of the valley is where arguably the biggest reward lies: Mount Toubkal, the second highest mountain in Africa at 4,167 metres, dwarfed only by Mount Kilimanjaro.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Spitzkoppe, Namibia

African Natural Wonder: Spitzkoppe, Namibia

Meaning “pointed dome” in German, and often referred to as the Matterhorn of Namibia, Spitzkoppe is located between Usakos and Swakopmund in the Namib desert. If you look at photos of Spitzkoppe, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were looking at the infamous red stones of Arizona. And indeed, the granite and inselbergs peaks look almost identical, except that the highest peak in Spitzkoppe rises to 1,784 metres, and attracts rock climbers from all around the world. The peaks however are only suitable for the most advanced rock climbers, if only for its isolation, total lack of water and the sheer heat of the desert. These mountains were also used for the introductory scene in the film 2001: Space Odyssey, and ancient Bushmen paintings can be seen on rocks all over the Spitzkoppe. You can visit here on a day trip from Swakopmund, or better still you can camp overnight and take longer to explore the boulder rocks with a guide, and enjoy a spectacular sunset where these pink stones are lit up in a fiery orange and purple haze as the sun slips quietly under the horizon. Sunrises can be equally as spectacular, and having a guide to drive around to easier to climb smooth boulders and stones while explaining the geology and history of the area is well worth the time and money. This is certainly a wonder of Africa that will enchant both adults and children alike.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Courtesy of Sakke Wiik/Flickr

African Natural Wonder: Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

A 600 metre deep, 300 sq km volcanic crater, the largest flooded crater in the world at 20kms across, it’s easy to see why this is becoming more and more popular every year with safari-goers. But stunning panoramas aside, it’s one of the best places to see the ‘big 5’ in Africa: Elephants, lions, leopards, hyenas, as well as wildebeest, buffalo, zebra, cheetahs, jackals and bat-eared foxes, as well as over 400 different species of bird. In addition to the wildlife, walking, trekking and mountain bike riding are all available in the wider Conservation Area. Also, day trips can be arranged to visit Maasai and other tribes. The options for accommodation come down to two choices: You can stay at a hotel on the crater rim for spectacular panoramic views, but naturally this comes with a rather large price tag, or alternatively you can stay at nearby Karatu. Karatu is better value for money, with smaller more intimate lodging and offers those additional activities explained above, such as trekking, hiking and mountain biking. But it lacks the views. So, when is the best time to go? Well, there is wildlife in the crater year-round, so there is no bad or good time to go. That said, if you want to avoid the crowds, head to Tanzania in its low/rainy season, and you’ll be able to enjoy the crater with less crowds and often cheaper prices. And as a bonus, the lake in the middle of the crater will be at its largest, which attracts more animals and wildlife than at other times of the year.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Kalahari Desert, South Africa

Courtesy of Martin HeiganFlickr

African Natural Wonder: Kalahari Desert, South Africa

The Kalahari desert stretches across most of Botswana and Namibia, but some of it is located in northern parts of South Africa too. The total area stretches around 900,000km2. However, technically speaking, it is not a desert as it receives 5 to 10 inches of rainfall annually, but the sandy soil absorbed and filters the rain water quickly, so that it merely appears as a desert. But really it is a semi-arid savannah, with acacia trees and bus scrub dotting the landscape. And indeed, there are some parts of the desert where small lakes form, which attracts elephants and flamingos. But despite it being so arid, the desert offers numerous species endemic to the area, such as the Kalahari Lion, the South African Cheetah and the African Leopard.  The people that live here are special too: Known as the Sans people, they have been living in this semi-arid desert for an estimated 20,000 years, They have learned how to survive in this harsh landscape by picking various berries and fruits, and get their water from the roots of trees. They still live as hunter-gatherers today, and will hunt game with poisoned arrow heads. Be warned that in winter temperatures can drop to -15c at night time! But you will be rewarded with fewer crowds and lower prices for excursions into the desert. Also be warned however that in mid-summer, temperatures can hit 45c. So the optimal time to go are the cusp seasons in between, especially if you want to arrange tours from Upington in South Africa that involve 100-300km treks through the desert.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Namib Desert, Namibia

Courtesy of Watana/Flickr

African Natural Wonder: Namib Desert, Namibia

Covering most of Namibia, and flowing into the Atlantic Ocean – known as the “Skeleton Coast” for its shipwrecks there – the Namib Desert is thought to be the oldest desert in the world, with estimates putting the age of the desert at over 80 million years old! Despite this being an arid desert with much of it being vast towering sand dunes, there is a surprising amount of flora and fauna here. The sea mists that occur around 180 days of the year play a large part of the hundreds of shipwrecks that dot the coast, as ships became disorientated and ended up running aground. However, these same mists have given life to what otherwise would be a barren and empty desert landscape. The mists blow inland throughout the year, and the vegetation has evolved to collect the mist with tiny hairs on its leaves or on cacti. They gather up enough of the moisture from the mist to not only survive, but to flourish in many places. The amount of endemic fauna found in the Namib is also surprising, with antelopes, ostriches, black-backed jackals and even desert elephants. They have all adapted to survive in this landscape. The aforementioned Sossusvlei is located here in the Namib, with its red sand dunes, and is a favourite attraction with tourists. This is often combined with the Skeleton Coast. The options for getting around are by hiking, driving or flying in a hot-air balloon (which is well worth the money). And for accommodation, the area 160 km east of Windhoek has campsites, but if you prefer to stay in a lodge, you can head for the Gamsberg Pass in the mountains between Windhoek and the Namib National Park itself. The best time to visit is generally June to September, which is winter in the southern hemisphere, where temperatures are comfortable for hiking even on the sand dunes.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Table Mountain National Park, South Africa

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African Natural Wonder: Table Mountain National Park, South Africa

Table Mountain National Park is an ever-expanding area that incorporates the iconic Table Mountain that towers behind Cape Town, or the way down to Cape Point. The park is actually in patches across the cape peninsula; it is not a continuous area, but the ongoing expansion of the park will eventually that will link all these patches of the park up together. It’s also worth noting that it also covers a number of Marine protected areas. Table Mountain itself is very popular throughout the year, with cable cars shuttling people to and from the top. Last year it had attracted 22 million visitors. The views commanded from the top are indeed spectacular, and it comes as no surprise that many couples propose here! It is a very romantic spot, especially towards sunset.  However, the rest of the park is a little quieter, with the Cape Peninsula having fynbos vegetation, with fauna including ostriches, antelope and mischievous baboons. Caution must be exercised with the baboons as they are used to humans and therefore will easily steal your possessions, particularly any food. Hiking is by far the most popular activity, though scuba diving in one of the marine reserves can also be arranged to see seals and penguins. The hike from Cape Point to Cape of Good Hope is popular and only takes around an hour. Jotted around the Cape are shipwrecks, some dating back decades. Overall, this is an iconic landmark that is easily accessed from Cape Town, with good hiking trails that are suitable for adults and older children.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, River Fish Canyon, Namibia

African Natural Wonder: River Fish Canyon, Namibia

The largest canyon in Africa, and the second largest in the world, this is simply a must-see attraction in Namibia. At 550 metres deep, 27 kilometres wide and 160 kilometres long, the best way to experience it is undoubtedly by hiking through it. Luckily, there is a trail that takes you through 85km of it. Be warned, however, this is a tough hike, and it’s only realistic to complete this adventure between May and September, when it is at its coolest temperatures. Outside of these months it is searing hot. It’s possible to do this hike on your own with friends or family, or you can arrange a guide that can tell you about the 1.6 billion years of geological forces that formed this wonder. But whether you take a guide or not, be aware that the 85 km trail takes 5 days to complete, and you will require tents and camping equipment, plus renting a satellite phone might be a good idea, because once you start the hike, there is virtually no where to get out of the canyon if something goes wrong. Ai Ais National Park is located in the southern part of the canyon, and fauna includes Klipspringers, Kudu, Mountain Zebra and Baboons, whilst birds include the Black Eagle, Rock Kestrel and Rock Pigeon. Kingfishers are found in the Canyon itself fishing in the river. The flora is quite sparse, but near the canyon base’s sulphur springs there are palm and ebony trees, as well as wild Tamarisk and Camelthorn.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Blyde River Canyon, South Africa

African Natural Wonder: Blyde River Canyon, South Africa

Coming in as second largest Canyon in Africa – just behind River Fish Canyon in Namibia –  Blyde River Canyon may be a little smaller than its rival to the north, but what it lacks in scale it makes up for in its beauty and easy accessibility. This is one of South Africa’s must-see geological gems, with the reserve area around the Canyon spanning a total area of 29,000 hectares while the canyon itself is 2.5km of red sandstone. It has some absolutely phenomenal panoramic views, such as the infamous “God’s Window”, where you can see – on a clear day – as far as Kruger Park and even Mozambique. But the other attractions here have a link to South Africa’s 19th century ‘gold rush’, which are called Bourke’s Luck Potholes, named after Tom Bourke, a prospector, who made a fortune here by striking gold in the potholes. The potholes were formed over thousands of years by water erosion, which has carved out these cylinder-shaped sculptures, as well rock polls dotted along the canyon’s red and yellow base. Other sublime views are to the east, where you can awe at the Three Rondavels, which are three towering spirals made out of dolomite which tower over the far wall of the canyon. And then there is the Pinnacle, which rises over the wooded area of the canyon, and is made from quartzite. The wider reserve area has an impressive 1000 species of flora and fauna, including the critically endangered Cycads, wild flowers (in Spring only), Spot Verreaux’s eagle, Bald Ibis, Samango monkeys and bush babies and baboons, to name just a few! Other activities include aside from enjoying its spectacular views and hiking is swimming and abseiling. Any time of the year is good to visit, but for abseiling it’ best in winter, from June to September. You can get around by hiring a car or by organising a tour that will take you to all of the major panoramic viewpoints, as well as the hiking trail in the Canyon.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Namaqualand, Namibia

African Natural Wonder: Namaqualand, Namibia

Namaqualand actually spans both South Africa and Namibia, with a total area of 44,000 square kilometres.  However, the southern part of Namaqualand is known as “Little Namaqualand” located in South Africa, while on Namibia’s side it is known as Great Namaqualand in the north. They are divided by the Orange River – which also marks the border between the two countries. Namaqualand is famous with both domestic and international tourists alike, and it really is down to one reason: In early spring time, for a fleeting period, the normally arid landscape turns into meadows full of a dazzling array of colourful wild flowers, with over 100 different species. The park also has the highest concentration of succulent plants in the world, and being a designated biodiversity spot has meant that protection of the flowers is guaranteed. The options for staying in Namaqualand are limited to a few chalets, but the quality is very good and they provide panoramic views of the area. Most people drive themselves around Namaqualand, but drivers can be hired from both Springbok in South Africa or from the Namibian capital of Windhoek, where options also exist to take in the Kalahari desert and Fish River Canyon en route.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Kruger National Park, South Africa

African Natural Wonder: Kruger National Park, South Africa

Kruger National Park is located on the border regions with Mozambique and Zimbabwe, the covering a total area of 20,000 square kilometres and is divided into 14 different ecozones, each with a unique flavour, supporting different wildlife from each other. It is no doubt one of the most popular attractions in South Africa, and is probably the most well managed and protected National Parks in all of Africa. The government remains very committed to countering poaching activities, and this is why police will check and search cars leaving the park, on the look out for ivory. This is one place where you can see the ‘big 5’ : Lions, Elephants, Leopards, Rhinos and Buffaloes. But in addition there are numerous others, and in the south at Crocodile River you can see not only crocodiles but the occasional hippo. Numerous tours can be arranged throughout South Africa to Kruger Park, but it’s absolutely viable to rent a car and drive yourself. You will still see elephants and buffaloes, as well as antelope and Impalas, because they are so abundant. It’s this kind of accessibility – combined with its excellent management – that sets Kruger apart from other parks in Africa. There is even a Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport that has flights from Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Livingstone and Vilanculos. But even by car it is only a 400km drive from Johannesburg to most of the gates. Pretty much anytime of the year is good for wildlife, but May to August (winter) temperatures range from 8-22c, while in summer you can expect 18c-30c and a few thunderstorms.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Courtesy of janter2 / Flickr

African Natural Wonder: Atlas Mountains, Morocco

The Atlas mountains in Morocco have so much to offer: Mountain hiking, trekking, Berber culture and even Skiing…Yes, this is one of a handful places where you can go skiing in Africa! Berbers have inhabited the Atlas mountains for 5,000 years, and if you want to see their authentic culture and how they live, numerous tour operators are on offer to help you arrange trips to stay with them. Ait-Benhaddou is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a traditional mud brick city that is quite spectacular. Indeed, it has featured in numerous films, such as Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and Kingdom of Heaven, as well as the classic Lawrence of Arabia. Between January and February is the perfect time to go skiing in Oukaimeden. At 3000 metres it has one of the highest chair lifts in the world. The icing on the cake is that it is only 72km south of Marrakesh, and a one-day pass is only around 10 Euros! Other sites are the Todra George, which is surrounded by green, lush beautiful Oasis. A day hike in the gorge itself takes a few hours to complete, and on the way back you can explore the Todra Oasis which is regarded as one of the most beautiful in North Africa. Walking around enjoy the shade provided by palm trees and then crossing the river to explore abandoned Berber villages is also the perfect way to spend the day, or to unwind after you complete the hike through the gorge.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Serengeti, Tanzania

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African Natural Wonder: Serengeti, Tanzania

Possibly one of the most famous natural wonders in Africa, the Serengeti embodies what many people imagine Africa to look like; Seemingly endless grassland plains, Savanna, forest and woodlands, spanning an area of 14,750 square kilometres. The Serengeti has been featured in numerous wildlife documentaries, including the groundbreaking BBC’s show,  “Africa”. Here you can be almost guaranteed to see the “Big 5” Masai Lions, African Leopard, Tanzanian Cheetahs, African Bush Elephants, African Buffalo, Serengeti Wildebeest and the rarer Eastern black Rhinoceros are all on offer here. Nile crocodiles and Hippos can be found in abundance in the Savannah “Western Corridor” region, as well as Patas Monkeys in the forests that sweep to the river banks. The Serengeti Plains are miles and miles of lush grassy plains located in the deep south of the park, and are where the wildebeest come from December to May to graze before heading off in the ‘Great Migration’. Other animals here include zebra, gazelle, impala and buffalo. Pythons are also abundant on the ‘Kopjes’, which are granite formations that are very common in the park, and they make excellent view points to spot the rarer mammals. Flamingos can also be found in the small lakes here. The Northern Serengeti is generally the best place to view Elephants and Giraffes. Though human habitation is strictly forbidden in the park, there are a number of lodges and campsites to stay in. Getting here is easy too, as a number of airlines fly to the Seronera Airstrip in the park from domestic locations such as Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar, meaning you can spend a week on the beautiful beaches of Zanzibar before heading directly to your safari, or vice-versa. Late June to September is generally the best time to go as it is dry season, and this is when the great wildebeest migration takes place.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Okavango Delta, Botswana

African Natural Wonder: Okavango Delta, Botswana

The Okavango is a extremely large inland delta formed by the Okavango River colliding with a tectonic trough in the centre point of the Kalahari. Unlike Deltas that flow out to sea, being inland the water here evaporates, all 11 cubic kilometres of it, over an 6000-15,000km square area. The rest flows into Lake Ngami on the eastern side of the Delta. In 2014 the Delta became an official UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s one of the biggest deltas in Africa. What makes this place so special is the fact that it has incredible endemic biodiversity, since its position near the equator has meant that it has escaped mass extinctions caused by the last few ice ages. Indeed, there are more different species of trees here than all of Western Europe combined! Again, here you have every chance of seeing the “big 5”, as the delta is home to a breathtaking number of animals: The African Elephant, Buffalo, Hippo, Wildebeest, Lion, White Rhinos, Cheetahs, Crocodiles, Black Rhinos, Impalas, Zebra, Baboons and monkeys are just a few of these! So what is the best to see all this? Well, you have so many options available. The more affordable options are by boat, and staying at one of the lodges. While those with more cash to splurge can hire a airplane, which is an absolutely breathtaking way to view the delta. Other options include seeing the delta by horse back, or by simply booking an all-inclusive safari in Moremi Game Reserve. The best time to visit the Delta is either from May to September where temperatures are moderate as it’s the dry season. Or if we want to see it flooded then June to October is the time to go, just before summer begins in the southern hemisphere, making it unbearably hot and humid.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Maasai Mara, Kenya

African Natural Wonder: Maasai Mara, Kenya

The Maasai Mara National Reserve is a game reserve that borders Tanzania and its Serengeti National Park, which is essentially a continuation of The Mara. The Maasai Mara gets its name from the Maasai people, who inhabit this area as well as parts of neighbouring Tanzania. “Mara” means ‘spotted’, which is apt for the landscape, where trees, scrub, savannah and white puffy clouds spot the game reserve. It’s internationally famous and has been featured in numerous documentaries, mainly because it has a huge population of Masai Lions, African Leopards and Tanzanian Cheetahs. You can also see the infamous “Great Migration” every year from July October, when the wildebeest, zebra and gazelle head south to the Serengeti looking for greener pastures. One great thing about Mara is that rangers patrol the reserve constantly, and poaching is almost unheard of, which is sadly not the case in some other parks and reserves. This has led to the reserve having such a wonderful diversity of animal life, overshadowing in many ways the neighbouring Serengeti. Here you have an excellent chance of seeing the “Big 5”. The icing on the cake is that the reserve is easily accessible by plane from Nairobi or even Mombasa by air, meaning you can combine a safari with a beach holiday. But the budget conscious can hire a guide and driver, which is cheaper. July to October is the best time to go, because outside of these months the wet season makes many parts of the Mara inaccessible.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Great Rift Valley, Kenya

Courtesy of Peter Dowley/Flickr

African Natural Wonder: Great Rift Valley, Kenya

The Great Rift Valley is separated into two districts: North Rift Valley and South Rift Valley. The rift itself is actually a continental ridge that runs from northern Kenya into southern Kenya, and it is part of the larger Gregory Rift which starts in Tanzania and then goes northwards into Ethiopia. The Cherangani Hills are the most predominant feature, but the valley also contains a chain of volcanoes, many of which are active. The climate here is really special: it’s mild compared to many places in Africa, with consistent temperatures never going much higher than a pleasant 28c, and much cooler at night, comfortable for sleeping.  The Tugen Hills – west of Lake Baringo, in the Northern Rift Valley – contain numerous fossils that were caught and subsequently preserved in old lava flows, and here you can find the relics of the very first humans to have evolved from ‘Hominids’, an ancient ancestor to humans. The capital of the district is called Kabarnet, which is a good option for budget travellers and backpackers, as cheap accommodation can be found in the nearby major attractions, such as Lake Bogoria, Lake Baringo, as well as the aforementioned Tugen Hills. The Southern Rift Valley stretches over the capital Nairobi all the way down to Mombasa on the coast, and all the national parks in between, such as the world famous Maasai Mara National Park, as well as Mount Kenya National Park, and Lake Nakuru National Park, which is legendary for bird watching and the thousands of flamingos that live on this lake. Lake Naivasha  is very popular with Kenyans and tourists alike for weekend breaks and has luxury hotels as well as a few budget lodges dotted around the shores. To get to the rift valley is quite straight forward, as it literately runs down the centre of Kenya. So you can get around using minibuses or Matatu (but beware you may end up being crammed in next to chickens as well as locals!), or with those with more cash to spend, hiring a 4×4 with a driver and guide. Trips to visit nomadic peoples such as the Maasai can also be arranged, as well as trips to see the active volcanoes.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Victoria Falls, Zambia

African Natural Wonder: Victoria Falls, Zambia

Described by CNN as one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls marks the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. With a height of 108 metres, it’s the 4th tallest waterfall in Africa. However, if you take into account the width of it at 1,708 metres, and the height, it is actually the world’s largest sheet of falling water. On the Zambian side, there are a series of 6 spectacular Gorges, most being between 2-3 kilometres long, being carved out by the entire volume of the Zambezi River pouring through. You will often see hippos and crocodiles swirling around here in the turbulence of the waters. To get to the falls is very straight forward, as buses and trains make the journey here fairly frequently, and are inexpensive, making the falls accessible for both budget and luxury travellers alike. It is possible to make a trip across the border to Zimbabwe to see the falls from both sides, however visitors with single-entry visas will have to obtain a new visa on the way back in, which is between $50-80  depending on nationality. If you want to combine a visit to the falls with a visit to the Chobe River for a safari, the best time to go is dry season from June to August where game viewing is at its best. However, to see the falls raging away at their fiercest, visit outside of these months in rainy season.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Avenue of the Baobabs, Madagascar

African Natural Wonder: Avenue of the Baobabs, Madagascar

The Avenue of the Baobabs is an awe-inspiring group of the alien Baobab trees, which line the road between Morondava and Belon’i Tsirbihina in Madagascar. It is starting to draw international tourists from all corners of the world, and as such has been designated as “protected” in Madagascar, as only a few dozen of these trees remain due to encroaching agricultural land, making them an endangered species. The scientific name for this type of Baobab tree is Adansonia Grandidieri, and it is endemic to Madagascar. A prominent characteristic of these trees is their massive cylindrical trunks, which can be over 3 metres across. The bark is incredibly smooth and has a red hue to it. They often reach heights of 30 metres or more. At certain times of the year they develop strange bluish-green palmate leaves,  and grow majestic flowers with vanilla white petals, which interestingly only open at dusk, and they smell distinctly of watermelon. The fruits it gives are kidney shaped seeds with an edible pulp. A trip to them is usually best organised from Morondava. A 4×4 truck with a guide is all but essential, due to Madagascar’s notoriously washed out, muddy roads making some routes impassable in the rainy season. This is why April is undoubtedly the best time to visit, as it’s the end of the rainy season and roads are in better condition at this time of year. As for what times to see the trees, sunrise and/or sunset are the most spectacular times to see them, with a multicoloured sky creating long, haunting shadows below the trees, creating the perfect backdrop to see them in all their glory.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Red Sea Reef, Egypt

Courtesy of Andrew K/Flickr

African Natural Wonder: Red Sea Reef, Egypt

The Red Sea has been a vital link between East and West for over 150 years, with the completion of the Suez Canal in 1869, allowing a much quicker trade route for sea vessels trading to and from Europe and Asia. But under this sea lies some truly world class coral reefs, all highly accessible from along the Egyptian coast, from the Sinai peninsula in the north, to the resorts of Hurghada south of the Gulf of Suez. The Red Sea Reef caters to all range of budgets, from the luxury resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh, to the mid-range resorts in Hurghada, to the backpacker and budget minded favourite in the north Sinai, Dahab. Just off of the coast of Dahab – which in itself has a laid-back Bedouin culture which sees many tourists falling in love and coming back again and again – is one of the star attractions of the Red Sea Reef: The Blue Hole. The Blue Hole is 107 metres deep, and has an arch that opens into the reef at 58 metres. However, be warned: This is the most challenging scuba diving spot on Earth. It has taken many lives of inexperienced divers who tried to attempt it. It gets its name because from the surface it appears as a giant dark blue hole. But never fear: There are dozens of other world class snorkelling and diving sites suitable for both beginners and the more experienced. The Ras Abu Galum Protected Area off the coast of Dahab has several, including Abu Helal, The Bells, Coral Garden (for its multicoloured soft and hard corals), Eel Garden (for its Conger Eels) and the Three Pools. Further down the coast around Hurghada, there are a plethora of tropical fish and corals just 10 metres off the beach, ideal for snorkelling. Scuba diving is also the main attraction, and like in Dahab dive centres cater to beginners and advanced divers alike. The prices for getting a PADI Open Water certificate here – a 3 day diving course for beginners – are some of the most competitive in the world.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

African Natural Wonder: Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

A dormant volcano near the border to Kenya in northern Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in all of Africa, standing at 5,895 metres. Interestingly, although it lies more or less on the equator, there is snow on the summit year-round: A rarity for Africa. The ascent is – for such a high mountain – fairly easy due to the slopes being a fairly low gradient. This is why it attracts thousands of climbers each year. However, despite this it is not to be taken lightly as altitude sickness is an issue above 2300 metres, adding an extra challenge.The effort is well worth it though, as when you climb the mountain you go through a series of diverse flora: It starts with bushland at the bottom, then tropical rain forest, evergreen forests and desert and alpine regions in between. At the summit it is much more like an Arctic climate! As for wildlife, it is possible to see elephants, leopards and buffaloes. Prices to climb the mountain range from $1000 up to $3,000 depending on where you stay (basic lodges or luxury encampments) when you ascend and descend the mountain, and if you want a guide or not. It generally takes 5-7 days to climb and then ascend again. January and February as well as September are considered the best time to climb, offering optimal weather conditions. To get to the mountain, it has its own airport called “Kilimanjaro Airport” and serves direct flights from Amsterdam with KLM airlines as well as Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airlines. Kenya Airlines and Ethiopia Airlines offer flights within Africa. Alternatively, those on a budget can go overland from Nairobi by bus.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique

African Natural Wonder: Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique

The five islands that make up the spectacular Bazaruto Archipelago – Benguerra, Bazaruto, Santa Carolina, Magaruque and Bangue – are not only the most idyllic islands and beaches in Africa, but are also a contender for most beautiful beaches in the world. Recently the government made it a National Marine Reserve and it is now a heavily protected area, which is fantastic news, because it has absolutely snow white beaches and some of the finest coral reef ecosystems on Earth. And the news is not out yet for these islands, which means you can enjoy this paradise all to yourself, with very little development on any of the islands: Only a handful of resorts exist and the cheapest is around $200 a night all the way up to $1200 if you want luxury. If you’d rather visit on a day trip, then it is best organised from the mainland at Vilanculos. Dive operators can arrange diving or snorkelling trips to some of the finest dive spots in the world. And since the Archipelago is not yet well known, there are no crowds to contend with while you enjoy the 40 metre visibility, with multicoloured reefs that are bursting with life. Expect to see dolphins, hump back whales, whale sharks manta ray and green turtles. There is also a large population of the rare dugong here. To get to the jumping off point of Vilanculos on the mainland, it is best to fly from Johannesburg or Maputo. Day Trips between the islands offer the chance to go by traditional Dhow boats, but if you are staying at one of the resorts you can actually reserve a seat on a seaplane to and from Maputo.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Nyiragongo Volcano, Congo

Courtesy of Nina R/ Flickr

African Natural Wonder: Nyiragongo Volcano, Congo

This mighty and extremely active volcano standing at 3,470 metres, is a true marvel to behold. Its most recent eruption left 200,000 people homeless as Goma town – the provincial capital – was destroyed by Nyiragongo with its notorious lava which runs very quickly like water, which is a geological rarity. But it’s this phenomenon that draws a steady trickle of tourists every year, who brave the summit to the very top of the crater. Their efforts are well rewarded, however, because what they see below is the largest lava lake in the world. All 1.5km of it! Of course, this is best viewed at nightfall or sundown, where the glow of the lava lake can be seen as far away as 80kms. Luckily there are several lodges you can stay in right near the crater of the volcano, so you can enjoy watching the lava lake before going to sleep for a few hours, and then wake up again to see it majestically contrasted with the twilight sunrise. The permit to do this trek up to the lake is $300. This is well worth the money though, because it includes a free stay in one of the shelters at the summit. Also, porters cost only 24$ for an overnight trip and can bring you food and carry other equipment for you. Getting here you can fly into Goma, but Entebbe is the only city that connects to it. Overlanding from Uganda or Rwanda are cheaper, more accessible options. It is advisable to get a Congolese visa beforehand, as the one you receive on the border is 50$ and only valid for the volcano trek, and nowhere else in the country.

Kadealo, African Natural Wonders, Virunga National Park, Congo

African Natural Wonder: Virunga National Park, Congo

This park is named after its active volcanoes in the south of the park (including the aforementioned Nyiragongo Volcano, with its spectacular lava lake) and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site all the way back in 1979. Unfortunately, in 1994 it was considered a critically threatened site due to the bloody civil war and poaching that occurred during the Congo’s political instability. However, the conflict and political situation has become much more stable in recent years, and it looks like very soon Congo will be opening its doors to tourism again. And what a treat they will have, after so many years of isolation this vast and troubled nation has experienced! Virunga National Park will certainly be one of the hidden gems for travellers, all 7800 square kilometres of it. So what makes Virunga so special? For starters the volcanoes in the south provide a nightly glow that can be seen from dozens of kilometres away. But then there is the biodiversity: The years of bloody conflict that isolated this park in a way kept mass poaching like in other less fortunate countries: Indeed, at one point in 2002 it seemed like the park would be all but destroyed, but now the political situation has stabilised somewhat, the park has bounced right back mainly due to the rangers who now have the means and time to patrol the park. Today, the southern section of the park – covered in forests – is home to Mountain Gorillas, but also Chimpanzees, Golden monkeys, Blue Monkeys as well as White Colobus, which makes for a wonderful mix of primates you would be hard pushed to find anywhere else. But Forest Elephants and Buffalo are also abundant, and as the landscape changes dramatically from one part of the park to another, so does the fauna. The central section is covered by savannah, and so you can expect to see Lions, Leopards, Hyena and Warthogs. The lake in the park is also home to numerous Hippos and Crocodiles. In the Northern section of the park – in deep thick Congolese forest is the elusive Okapi. This strange beast is essentially a mix of Giraffe (who are their closest relatives) and Zebra, with Zebra stripes on its body but with the head of the Giraffe. For those wanting to go on a Mountain Gorilla trek, it’s worth pointing out that it is half the price of the permits in neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda. Here it only costs $400 instead of the $800 in those countries. And again, if you wish to trek up the Rwenzori Mountain, which has snow on its higher peaks all year round, a multi-day trek will only cost you $200. This represents fantastic value for money compared to climbing mount Kilimanjaro, which costs a minimum of $1000. A variety of lodges offer everything from Luxury Lodges (£250 per night) to budget ones ($40 per night), and for those on a very tight budget camping (with security guards) is allowed and costs only  $15 a night per person. Just get there before the Congo really opens its doors to mass tourism so you can experience the wonders this park offers without the crowds.

Courtesy of serena_tang/Flickr