select - Africa’s natural wonders
Written by Brian Johnston
From mountains high to valleys low, Africa is full of spectacular natural wonders, some in such curious shapes and colours that they almost seem surreal. Here are some of the best.
Victoria Falls, Zambia
When the Zambezi River plummets 100m into the Batoka Gorge on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, it creates what locals call ‘The Smoke That Thunders’. The spray can be seen for 80km and is created by a 2km stretch of water that is one of Africa’s greatest natural spectacles. Along its banks lies a rainforest created by spray and, at night during a full moon, you see unusual lunar rainbows formed by the mist. Panoramic views and the roar of water are reasons to walk the river’s edge, but scenic flights are equally stunning.
Johannesburg, South Africa
Distance: 6,750 km
Flight Time: 8 hours, 20 minutes
Lake Nakuru, Kenya
Sitting in East Africa’s famous Rift Valley within a day tour of Nairobi, this shallow, alkaline soda lake contains an abundance of algae that attracts vast numbers of flamingos to its shoreline. Millions sometimes gather here, providing a shimmering movement of pink as far as the eye can see. Other bird species include kingfishers, herons, pelicans, and African fish eagles. The lake’s shores are also home to significant numbers of endangered black and white rhinos, and are one of the best places in Kenya to spot leopards.
Distance: 3,612 km
Flight Time: 5 hours, 15 minutes
Frequency: 2 flights a day
Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
This unique environment in the highlands west of Arusha is both a conservation area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The world’s largest inactive volcanic caldera is 610m deep and covers 260 sq. km. Its floor features open grasslands, salt lakes, and small springs that have supplied sustenance to Maasai tribespeople and wildlife alike. Rhinoceros, hippo, zebra, gazelle, cheetah, lion, and leopard are among the animals that can be spotted on safari, and thousands of flamingos populate the lakes.
Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
Distance: 3,790 km
Flight Time: 5 hours, 40 mins
Frequency: Twice Daily
Dallol Volcano, Ethiopia
The Danakil Depression of north-eastern Ethiopia is a natural phenomenon in itself, to which has been added a huge crater created by a volcanic explosion. At 45m below sea level, these are the world’s lowest volcanic vents, spewing hot brine and acids that give rise to lurid green pools amid a landscape of pink, yellow, and white saltpans. The downside: this is also one of the planets hottest places, with average temperatures permanently above 30ºC.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Distance: 2260 km
Flight Time: 3 hours, 35 minutes
Frequency: 3 flights a week
Cango Caves, South Africa
The Swartberg Mountains in Western Cape Province are riddled with caves, none better known than at Cango, where chambers and tunnels wander 4km into the mountains – though only a quarter of them are open to visitors. Spectacular limestone formations are the chief attraction, many of which have been given fanciful names such as Cleopatra’s Needle and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Cape Town, South Africa
Distance: 7,427 km
Flight Time: 11 hours, 25 minutes
Frequency: 4 flights a week via Johannesburg