Africa travel is one of the most thrilling experiences a traveler could ask for. Africa’s diverse landscapes, its wide range of wild animal life, its geographic, topographical, and geological features, its moderate to warm climate with short and long rainy seasons, and its cultural diversity make it a place that is unique to adventure travelers. As vast areas of Africa’s interior are remote and undeveloped, it invites great mystery and intrigue for the curious traveler looking for natural, pristine, and unspoiled environments.
Africa’s Diverse Physical Features
The African continent is composed of 62 political territories and is the largest land mass projecting southward on earth with a north-south length of 5,000 miles and an east-west length of 4,600 miles. Its average elevation is 2,000 feet above sea level.
Africa’s diverse physical features include the savannas in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of central Africa and vast deserts such as the Sahara desert in the north. The Sahara is the world’s hottest desert and the largest desert in the world after Antarctica and the Arctic. The Kalahari Desert is in the south. Its mountain ranges include the Atlas Mountains in northwest Africa and the world’s largest free-standing mountain, Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
Africa’s tropical rain forest located in the Congo River basin in west-central Africa is the third largest rain forest in the world. The Congo River basin includes a vast network of tributaries and has at least 700 species of fish, though much of the basin has not yet been studied.
Africa’s distinctive physical feature, the Great Rift Valley, formed about 30 million years ago cutting a 30-40 mile wide and up to a mile deep gaping geological depression running north-south from the Jordan Valley southward 4,000 miles to Mozambique. It is responsible for creating some of the oldest and deepest lakes in the world including Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi in sub-Saharan East Africa.
The Rift Valley created some the oldest and deepest lakes in the world. Lake Victoria is the largest Lake in Africa and the worlds second largest freshwater lake. Bordering Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, this freshwater lake is the source of the Nile River that flows northwards to the Mediterranean Sea from its northern tributary in Jinja Uganda.
Lake Tanganyika in the Great Rift Valley is one of Africa’s Great Lakes. It is the second largest freshwater lakes and the second deepest lake in the world. Its aquatic biodiversity is so dense and the lake is so clear you can see its multitude of fish right from the surface. It extends 400 miles southwards bordering Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia and Burundi. Formed by the Great Rift Valley 30 million years ago, it is the deepest lake in Africa. It is inhabited by 250 species of cichlid fish that developed as a result of the Ice Age when the lake’s surface dropped creating separate habitats and then reconnected following the Ice Age. Its waters are crystal clear and its dense population of aquatic life stay relatively close to its surface.
The Nile River is the world’s longest river. It flows 4,150 miles north from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean. The Zambezi River at the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia in south central Africa becomes Victoria Falls, the world’s largest waterfall. During the rainy season (February to April), its width extends to 5,600 ft and drops 354 ft. to the gorge below. Its original name, Mosi- oa-Tunya, means “ the cloud that thunders” zigzags its way south as it enters various gorges and chasms. The Congo River flows 2,900 miles westwards through the rainforest in central Africa and is the deepest river in the world. The river begins peacefully in the savannas near Like Tanganyika and gradually widens and speeds up as it reaches the area called the “Gates of Hell” which are turbulent and impassable rapids.
Cradle of Civilization
Africa is the cradle of civilization and the birthplace of humanity. Based on the archeological, anthropological, and paleontological evidence unearthed by Mary and Louis Leaky in the Serengeti Plain in the mid-20th century (Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania), the oldest human fossilized remains, footprints, and stone tools were located from 3 million years ago.
The Nile River that runs northward from Lake Victoria in Uganda to its delta located just north of Cairo Egypt as it enters the Mediterranean Sea supported a dense population from ancient times which led to the development of the earliest advances in human civilization. Africa is rich in natural resources including the precious metals under its surface and its diverse range of plants, produce, and animal life that live and grow throughout the continent. It’s natural richness and its diverse cultures have contributed to developments in the arts and music.
Being mineral rich and growing highly valued products such as rubber and other products, Africa ultimately suffered as it was attractive to outsiders who wanted to exploit its vast natural resources. African slavery began in the central African region 5,000 years ago. The colonial powers dominated Africa from the 19th to mid-twentieth century. When the colonial powers exited, it led to internal strife.
Diversity of Peoples
A trip to Africa is not complete without meeting its diverse peoples, some of which are the oldest tribal-based communities in the world. This includes the Kalahari bushmen in Southern Africa and the Berber tribesman in Morocco and Algeria in northwest Africa. Various remote tribal communities olive in central Africa. This includes the Pygmy peoples in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda who inhabit the tropical rainforest whose future is threatened due to deforestation as a result of logging. The Maasai are pastoralist tribesmen in Kenya and Tanzania and the Hadzabe Bushmen live around Lake Eyasi near the Serengeti in Tanzania. They are one of the last hunter-gatherer peoples in the world going back to the Stone Age, 10,000 years ago. The remote Omo River people live along the Oma River in southwest Ethiopia. Composed of over 45 ethnic groups, they lived isolated from the outside world until the second half of the 20th century. There is paleontological evidence these colorful people have lived in this remote region for over 100,000 years.