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Dramatic Natural Wonders

Aerial view of Victoria Falls - Dramatic Natural Wonders | Southern African Safaris | Classic Africa

Four billion years of relentless geological activity and weathering have left safari Africa with a dramatic landscape of unsurpassed beauty. Without exception, the top wildlife regions feature spectacular scenery and breath-taking vistas, and most can also be relatively easily combined with the region's many Natural Wonders, some of the most awe-inspiring on Earth.

The Victoria Falls lie on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. At 350 feet high and a mile wide, this is the largest sheet of falling water on Earth, and the most spectacular of all waterfalls. Known in the local Tonga language as Mosi-oa-Tunya ("the smoke that thunders"), over 130 million gallons of water from the mighty Zambezi River plunge down this crevice every minute, shaking the earth and creating a plume of mist that can be seen from 14 miles away.

Botswana's Okavango Delta, covering nearly 6,000 square miles, is the largest inland delta in the world, bigger than the state of Connecticut. Even more remarkable, it exists in the middle of the Kalahari desert as a giant oasis teeming with wildlife: no part of Africa has a higher concentration of game than this "jewel of the Kalahari".

The Ngorongoro Crater is the largest inactive, intact volcanic caldera on earth. Its 2,000' high walls enclose a floor that is 100 sq. miles in size and home to an estimated 25,000 large mammals. Ngorongoro is surrounded by other volcanoes, one of which remains active, forming a highland of immense beauty that is is sacred to the Maasai people, and protected as a Conservation Area.

Mount Kilimanjaro lies on Tanzania's northern border, but is best viewed from Amboseli National Park in Kenya. At 19,341' in height, it is Africa's tallest peak, and the highest free-standing mountain on earth. Kilimanjaro is comprised of three volcanoes, two of which are extinct and, with it's year-round glaciers, is one of Africa's most iconic sights.

At the south-western most tip of the continent, spectacular coastal cliffs overlook the concurrence of the great Indian and Atlantic oceans at the Cape of Good Hope. Described by Sir Francis Drake (first Briton to circumnavigate the Earth) as "the fairest cape in the entire circumference of the globe", this breath-taking coastline, dominated by Table Mountain, has enchanted onlookers for centuries.

The Namib Desert on the west coast of southern Africa is, at 80 million years old, the oldest and most picturesque desert on Earth. As well as boasting the highest sand dunes in the world (over 1,250 feet high), the Namib is spectacularly diverse, with scenery ranging from the mountains of Damaraland in the north, through the Skeleton Coast in the west, to the giant red dunes of Sossusvlei in the south.

The Serengeti is the world's most fecund savanna ecosystem, spanning over 12,000 sq. miles in northern Tanzania and southern Kenya (the Kenyan portion is called the Maasai Mara). The name is derived from the Maasai word "seringit", meaning "endless plains". The Serengeti is most renowned for hosting the world's largest mammalian migration, involving over 2 million herbivores that complete a circular loop from south to north and back again, every year.

The Virunga Massif (home to Volcanoes National Park) is one of Africa's most dramatic geological features, comprising eight neighboring volcanoes whose slopes host an extraordinary level of biodiversity. Two of the volcanoes remain active, including Mt. Nyiragongo which contains the largest lava lake on earth. But the Virungas' greatest treasure is the world's largest population of the critically endangered mountain gorilla.

The Zambezi River is one of Africa's largest and most unspoiled waterways. In the course of its 1600 mile journey to the Indian Ocean, it passes through six countries but no major cities. The most famous feature along the Zambezi is, of course, the Victoria Falls, but the most beautiful and game-rich is the lower portion of the river known as the Zambezi Valley. This stretch, where the Zambezi is channeled by the great African Rift Valley, offers inspirational scenery, high concentrations of wildlife, and some of the most adventurous safari activities in Africa. National Parks preserve the Valley's beauty on both sides of the River - the Mana Pools Park in Zimbabwe, and the Lower Zambezi Park in Zambia.

The Makgadikgadi Pans in northern Botswana are the world's most expansive salt pans. Covering 14,500 square miles, an area roughly the size of Switzerland, they can be seen from space. During the dry season these pans are an enormous and powerful expanse of emptiness; after the first rains they are transformed into one of Africa's most important breeding grounds for flamingos, and attract the continent's second biggest animal migration.

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