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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 southern Africa with a dramatic landscape of unsurpassed beauty. Nowhere is this more evident than in 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".

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 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 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 almost equally as breath-taking in its splendor 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.

The Busanga Plains are the heart of Zambia's vast Kafue National Park, and represent one of the most unspoiled and remote "big game" safari areas in Africa. From June through November, this 300 square mile floodplain undergoes an annual transformation from swamp to expansive grassland, attracting large herds of grazers that appear as if by magic as mist evaporates from the Plains each morning. Tree climbing lions, sleek cheetah, and stately sable are among the many highlights of this far-flung Eden. This is also the only "big game" area in southern Africa that offers hot air ballooning.

With over 3,000 miles of unspoiled coastline, southern Africa also features some remarkably remote, pristine, and beautiful beaches, as well as an impressive array of marine life. The endless African bush and sweeping plains of the interior are punctuated with soaring mountain ranges - the Drakensberg and Cederberg Mountains are not only two of the most scenic, but they also host some of the world's most important rockart.

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