12 of Africa’s Most Awe-Inspiring Natural Wonders

The Nile River

(image via: dale gillard, wikimedia commons)

The longest river in the world runs through the world’s largest hot desert, and it has played a notable role in some of the greatest human civilizations of all time. Running from Lake Victoria in Uganda (the White Nile) and Lake Tana in Ethiopia (the Blue Nile) all the way to the Mediterranean Sea, the Nile River runs through nine countries and is the site of many of Ancient Egypt’s most important historical sites.  Its floodwaters produce very fertile soil that has enabled millions of people to live in an otherwise inhospitable climate. More than 300 species of birds call the Nile River home, as well as Nile crocodiles.

The Dunes of Namibia

(image via: monica guy)

The world’s 34th largest country, Namibia, is largely desert – and perhaps no desert in the world is quite as visually stunning as the Namib. Stretching along the country’s entire coastline, it features massive sand dunes formed by wind and seawater, surrounded by dry basins of salt and clay known as Sossusvlei. During exceptionally rainy seasons, these basins fill with water, drawing locals out to witness the spectacular sight.

Lake Turkana

(image via: dfid)

Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink. That saying has never been more true than when it’s applied to Lake Turkana, the world’s largest permanent desert lake and the world’s third-largest salt lake. A wide expanse of water in the Kenyan Rift Valley, the lake is surrounded by primarily volcanic rock. Because it’s hard to access, it’s still very wild, and thousands upon thousands of Nile crocodiles can be found all over its shores. The unique wind conditions around the lake make it ideal for a wind farm, which is planned to power Kenya’s electricity grid.

Mount Kenya

(image via: wikimedia commons)

Africa’s second-highest mountain is located in central Kenya, with its highest peak reaching over 17,000 feet. Because it was covered in ice caps for thousands of years, it is extremely steep, with highly eroded slopes. Millions of years ago, it was an active volcano, and it is still covered in a number of glaciers, which are retreating rapidly due to changing temperature trends. Its lower forested peaks, and the land that surrounds them, make up the protected Mount Kenya National Park. These lower areas are a hospitable habitat for many small mammals like monkeys, hyrax and porcupines as well as a few larger species like antelope and leopard.

Okavango Delta

(image via: lwh50, gusjer)

Representing yet another of Africa’s world records – the largest inland delta – the Okavango Swamp in Botswana swells to three times its normal size in the dry winter months of June and August, creating one of Africa’s largest concentrations of wildlife. An oasis in arid desert country, the delta has an unusual way of emptying: almost all of the water goes to the plants, or evaporates, rather than draining into Lake Ngami. This means that the minerals in the river can’t be flushed out, an has led to the formation of thousands of salt islands where plants can’t grow. The Okavango Delta is packed with wildlife such as the lichee antelope, African bush elephant, African buffalo, hippos, wildebeest, giraffes, crocodiles, lions, cheetah, leopards, hyena, rhinos, zebra, warthog, wild dogs and baboons.

Tassili n’Ajjer

(image via: wikimedia commons)

A mountain range in the Algerian section of the Sahara Desert, Tassili n’Ajjer is not only a rich archaeological site filled with prehistoric rock art, it’s also a vast sandstone plateau with over 300 natural rock arches and other rock features that have formed as a result of erosion. These formations give the appearance of a ‘rock forest’, a landscape so unusual it’s almost lunar.