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Africa: A Wonderous Place
By Rudolph Raath
Natural wonders leave the human soul in awe and feeling touched by a higher power. They also serve as a reminder that we, as humans, may not be the omnipotent creatures we would like to believe we are. There are countless natural wonders around the world, and the children of Africa are spoilt for choice. This is our selection of the best in natural splendour that Africa has to offer.
Table Mountain – Western Cape, South Africa
An obvious choice to open with, Table Mountain was recently added to the list of The 7 Wonders of Nature, and forms the focal point of the Mother City. With a plateau of around only 3km kilometres, and a highest point of 1 086m above sea level, there are much larger or higher mountains in Africa. What makes Table Mountain so special, however, is its rich history, along with its perceived symmetrically flat plateau and aesthetically pleasing lookout over Cape Town and its surrounds.
The Serengeti Migration – Northern Tanzania and South-Western Kenya
Well-known around the world, thanks to David Attenborough’s documentaries, the Serengeti Migration is the world’s largest mammal migration. From January to March every year, more than 750 000 zebra and wildebeest, numbering close to 1.2-million, go off in search of greener pastures, after having given birth to around half a million calves. The total trek is around 800km long, and an estimated quarter of a million wildebeest and zebra die on the journey because of thirst, hunger and predation.
The Aldabra Atoll – North of Madagascar, Western Indian Ocean
Due to its remoteness and inaccessibility, this raised coral atoll has remained largely untouched by humans. One of the largest atolls in the world, it is home to some 150 000 giant tortoises, making it the largest collection of this species on the planet. Geomorphologic processes have produced a rugged topography which, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is around 120 000 years old.
The Hoba Meteorite – Grootfontein, Namibia
With a weight of between 55t and 61t, the 200-million-year-old (estimated) meteorite is the world’s largest single piece of iron ore. What makes it special is the angle at which its approach towards our planet resulted in it not being forceful enough to create any significant crater. Scientists believe that the angle, along with the meteorite’s flat sides, may have made it “bounce like a flat rock on water” upon impact.
The Thukela Waterfalls – Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa
Second only to the Angel Falls in Venezuela in terms of height, the Thukela, or Tugela Falls cascade 948m down the mighty Drakensberg Mountain range. The name given to the falls by the local Zulu population translates as ‘the startling one’ in reference to the inspiring spectacle that is to be beheld after a long hike up the trail. Not nearly the rioting mass of the better-known Victoria Falls, the Thukela Falls are picturesque, with surrounds that include the Thukela Gorge and Drakensberg Amphitheatre. The falls are also a World Heritage site.
The Nile River – North Africa
According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, the 6 650km river is the longest in the world. The basin area into which the Nile River flows out is roughly one-tenth the size of the entire continent of Africa, and has been seen as the catalyst for the rise of the ancient Egyptian empire. Each year the river floods it banks, leaving behind sediment rich in nutrition and making farming possible in the dry and arid surrounds. The influence this mighty river has had on the development of the human race makes it a shoe-in for any list of this kind, and its sheer beauty complements the benevolent manner in which this African jewel has aided its people.
The Victoria Falls – Zimbabwe
While most of the wonders on this list attract our attention because of their absolute beauty or rarity, the Victoria Falls (or Mosi-oa-Tunya meaning ‘the Cloud that Thunders’) will leave you awestruck thanks to its massive presence and unimaginable power. According to UNESCO, during the full-flood season, in February and March, the Zambezi River feeds more than 500-million litres of water over its edges per minute, forming the world’s largest curtain of falling water.