Africa Travel Articles
Africa's Famous Places
Author: Dominic Chadbon
Date: December 2012
The natural beauty of the most famous places in Africa never fails to inspire awe in those lucky enough to travel to them.
Locals call it Mosi oa Tunya -the Smoke that Thunders - and in full flood you'll understand why: the rumble made by the Zambezi River tumbling 100 metres into the Batoka Gorge is heard long before you reach the falls themselves, and its spray is visible from 30km away.
A full mile wide, Victoria Falls is one of Africa's most famous sights. Accessible from both the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides of the river, Victoria Falls is at its most dramatic from March to May when the falls are an unbroken cascade of water, decorated by sunlit rainbows. At the height of the dry season - from August to November - only the major channels remain and the Zambian side dries up almost completely.
But there's more to the area than just the falls - this is Africa's undisputed adventure capital. Adrenalin-seekers come here for epic white water rafting and bungee jumping but there's also game viewing, bird watching and canoe safaris as well as elephant-back safaris and lion cub encounters.
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The indigenous Khoikhoi people called it Hoerikiwaggo -the Mountain in the Sea - but it's better known as Table Mountain, the most famous landmark in South Africa.
More complex in shape than its front-on view suggests, Table Mountain is part of a range that ends at Cape Point. Numerous hiking trails snake their way up and all over Table Mountain but the cable-car provides the easiest ascent. The mountain and ocean views from the top are nothing short of spectacular.
Table Mountain's appeal also lies in its unique flora. Known as fynbos, the diversity of flowering plants is staggering - nearly 1 500 species can be found on the mountain, the same number found in the British Isles. Among the most common animals found on Table Mountain are dassies, which look like rabbit-sized guinea pigs and are, amazingly, distantly related to the elephant.
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Lying off Tanzania's coast, Zanzibar is an intense melange of colour, tastes and culture that could absorb you for weeks.
Ringed by sandy beaches and a number of smaller islands, the 'Jewel of the Indian Ocean' combines African, Middle Eastern and European influences to produce a distinct flavour as potent as the spices for which the island is most famous.
Home to a wide range of beach resorts, the snorkelling and diving conditions are superb. The outlying islands of Pemba, Mafia, Chumbe and Mnemba provide classic 'desert island' destinations and top dive sites but be sure to take a walk through the narrow, twisting alleys of Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the island's historical capital.
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One of the most famous sights in Africa is that of hundreds of thousands of wildebeest migrating across the Masai Mara and Serengeti savannah. Huge numbers of zebra and gazelle also accompany the herds, all of which makes for compulsive viewing if only for the chances of seeing Africa's top predators in action.
Kenya's Masai Mara is the starting point. In November, driven by the availability of fresh grazing and water, the herds head south into Tanzania's Serengeti where they spend the next eight months running the gauntlet of crocodile-infested rivers and big cat ambushes. By July, the survivors are making the last of the perilous river crossings back into the Masai Mara.
A contiguous ecosystem with adjoining private conservation areas, the Masai Mara and Serengeti can be visited at any time of year thanks to their abundant resident wildlife, often providing close-up sightings. Red-robed Maasai tribesmen tending their cattle complete the classic East African picture.