This is part one of my top ten African travel wonder list. Travel wonders six to ten are posted separately.
Africa is the most geographically and culturally diverse continent on our planet. It the birthplace of humankind. Considerably less visited than the westernized Europe and North America, the rewards of visiting the vast emptiness of the Sahara, the rich rainforests of Central Africa, the 5000 year history of ancient Egypt, the colorful souks of Arabic Africa, the color of tribal Africa or the inspiring and fascinating wildlife of the rift valley offers a lifetime of memories, stories and experiences.
It is near impossible to nominate a top ten travel wonders list without omitting a number of “must see” sights. Here is my list. How many have you seen?
Visitors to the mountain gorillas often describe it as the most moving and uplifting hour of their life. Trek through African jungles for some hours to spend an hour with an habituated group of mountain gorillas (group is typically between 8 and 20) including the alpha male – the silverback, characterised by a silver blanket of hair on his back. Only 700 of these remarkable primates (98% matching DNA with humans) exist across two mountainous areas in Central Africa.
2. Wildlife Safari in East Africa
The African rift valley has the greatest variety of viewing wildlife anywhere on the planet. Whether visiting Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa or another nearby African country, viewing the great African is an experience to savor. While may have seen television footage, nothing can prepare you to see a stalking pride of lions, a cheetah or a leopard hunt down its prey. Try to see the Big Five – the buffalo, lion, elephant, leopard and rhinoceros (both white and black), along with the familiar monkeys, zebras, baboons, giraffes, flamingos, wildebeest, antelope and birdlife. The single greatest experience is the wildebeest migration between the Serengeti in Tanzania and the Masai Mara of Kenya. Give yourself time in these national parks as viewing wildlife is a game of patience.
The only remaining original of the Seven Wonders of the World, the three giant Pyramids of Giza have towered over 5000 years of Egyptian history. These brooding giants stand in a stark sandy expanse in a seething suburb of Cairo, touts eagerly flogging their wares or touting for camel rides. At night, the light and sound show briefly recount the pharaonic history with mood lights and piercing lasers.
4. Victoria Falls
The Smoke that Thunders describes the plumes of spray and the thunderous water explosions as the calm waters of the 1,500 metre wide Zambezi River suddenly plunge an average of 100 metres into a deep chasm below. Only rivalled by Iguaçu Falls on the Brazil-Argentina border, these majestic waterfalls dramatically varies in mood from the dry to the wet seasons.
5. Nile River and Egyptian Temples
Small battalions of river boats ply the Nile between Luxor and Aswan. Viewed at a gentle pace, locals farm the narrow fertile strip of land which has sustained ancient populations for centuries. This green thread is the only break from the yellow desert sands which extend as far as the eye can see. The journey is rich in staggering architectural wonders built as temples to the gods. Luxor’s Temple of Karnak is worship on a huge scale – 1.5 x 0.75 kilometres and highlighted by a hall of 134 towering pillars. Luxor also includes the pharaohs’ resting grounds of the Valley of the Kings in a barren, isolated sandy ravine. At the other end of the journey, south of Aswan lies the lovingly relocated Abu Simbel with the four giant statues of Ramses II as guards. Various other temples litter the banks of the snaking river.
This completes my top ten travel wonders list for this extraordinarily diverse and expressive continent. How many have you seen and which other wonders do you consider should make the top ten list?