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Archive for africa

Off the Tourist Trail in Africa

By Linda Tancs

Equatorial Guinea is a small country on the western coast of central Africa, the only independent nation in Africa where Spanish is an official language owing to its past as a colony. Lacking the glam of safari sites like Tanzania and Kenya, it’s perhaps no wonder that it bears the ignominious distinction of being one of the least visited countries in the world. But its off-the-beaten-path status is exactly why you should go. The country’s national park, Monte Alén, is located near the center and is one of central Africa’s hidden gems. Over 100 mammal species are registered there (more than 16 types of primates alone), as well as 2,300 types of birds and 65 species of reptiles. Moreover, the park’s hotel situated on a jungle ridge is an excellent place to experience the lush rainforest—without the crowds.

West Africa’s Largest Park

By Linda Tancs

Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is a West African country with beach resorts, rainforests and a French colonial legacy. The world’s largest producer of cocoa beans, it’s also home to West Africa’s largest national park, Comoé National Park. A prized but imperiled World Heritage Site (due to civil unrest and other activities), it contains the country’s largest concentration of wildlife, including antelopes, hippos, lions, monkeys and other animals. Its habitats vary greatly from forests to a wide variety of savannas amongst its 4,440 square miles. The different waters of the Comoé River and its tributaries are the habitat for 60 species of fish and various reptiles, including the endangered dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis).

Morocco’s Green Revolution

By Linda Tancs

Although it might be better known as Morocco’s imperial capital at the crossroads of French and Islamic culture, Rabat is also the beating heart of the country’s green revolution. This cosmopolitan port city along the shores of the Bouregreg River and the Atlantic Ocean is a peaceful yet vibrant tree-lined tourist destination, the first city in the nation to organize and celebrate the 40th Earth Day anniversary. Its greenbelt extends over 2,600 acres and includes Jardin Exotique outside the city proper. Designed by a French horticulturalist in 1951, the maze-like garden captivates visitors with assorted tunnels, hanging bridges and bamboo bridges. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the capital also boasts sites like the Mausoleum of Mohammad V, the Hassan Tower, Kasbah of the Udayahs, ruins of the old Roman city of Sala Colonia and the Chellah Necropolis.

On the Fringes of the Sahara

By Linda Tancs

Mushrooms. Ice cream cones. Giant pebbles. The desert has a way of making you see things. That’s no less so at the White Desert. On the fringes of the Sahara some 300 miles southwest of Cairo, the desert is a national park of Egypt. It’s best known for its peculiar wind-carved chalk rock formations (hence, the mushroom reference) arising from centuries of erosion and sandstorms. Local Bedouins are available for guided tours.

The Largest Colosseum in North Africa

By Linda Tancs

Few amphitheaters match the grandeur of the Colosseum in Rome except for the ruins at El Djem in Tunisia. The largest colosseum in North Africa, this testament to imperial Rome built during the third century could have seated as many as 60,000 spectators, all awaiting the gruesome play among prisoners, animals and gladiators. The games are long gone, but tourism remains high in this sleepy agricultural village thanks to its architectural wonder as well as stunning mosaics housed in a nearby museum.

An African Treasure

By Linda Tancs

The Blue Nile is a river originating in Ethiopia, heading northwest into Sudan. Of particular interest (and a prime tourist attraction in Ethiopia) is the waterfall, the Blue Nile Falls. Following the rainy season, the width of the plunging waters is impressive this time of year. The waterfall is located about 17 miles southeast of Bahir Dar.

Navigating the Zambezi

By Linda Tancs

On its journey to the Indian Ocean, Africa’s Zambezi River meanders through six countries. It forms a border at various points involving Zambia, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Flanked by two national parks (Lower Zambezi National Park on the Zambian side and Mana Pools National Park on the Zimbabwean side), it also provides a wilderness area that many tout as unparalleled, free of the tourist hordes found in many South African parks. The two parks sit on the Zambezi flood plain, a peaceful haven for buffalo, elephants, lions, leopards, antelope, crocodiles and hippos.

Africa’s Water Tower

By Linda Tancs

Far from just being second banana heightwise to Kilimanjaro, East Africa’s Mount Kenya provides water for about 50 percent of the country’s population and produces 70 percent of Kenya’s hydroelectric power. That’s one tall order. But lest you think it’s only a workhorse, you’ll be pleased to learn that the scenery is just as compelling. In fact, UNESCO describes it as one of the most impressive landscapes in the region, boasting glacier-clad summits, moorlands and enough diverse forest for the hard-to-spot leopard, bongo, giant forest hog and rhino to peacefully abide.

Africa’s Oldest Park

By Linda Tancs

Founded in 1925 by King Albert I of Belgium and originally known as Albert National Park, Virunga became the first national park on the African continent, a refuge today for a quarter of the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas. Located on the border of Uganda and Rwanda, it’s rich in biodiversity. Covering 3,000 square miles, the park features forests, savannas, lava plains, swamps, erosion valleys, the glaciated peaks of the Rwenzori mountains and two of the world’s most active volcanoes. Climb to the top of Nyiragongo volcano and you’ll be treated with a spectacular view of the world’s largest lava lake. Most tourists fly into Kigali international airport and take a three hour taxi ride to the border crossing at Gisenyi, Rwanda.

The Land of Surfing Hippos

By Linda Tancs

Situated on the Equator, Gabon occupies part of the Atlantic coast of Africa. Needless to say, given its location, it’s hot year round.  So it shouldn’t be surprising to think of hippos body surfing in the Atlantic. Or elephants, buffalos, gorillas and leopards meandering among savanna, beach, forest and mangroves. Yet that’s what they do in Loango National Park, hailed as “Africa’s Last Eden” and the “Land of Surfing Hippos.” Conservation is sacrosanct in this western African nation, where 13 national parks cover 10 percent of its land mass. Loango includes part of the Iguéla Lagoon, the only western African lagoon system that is protected within a national park.

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