UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa
Named after a w-shaped bend in the Niger River and extends into large parts of Burkina Faso and Benin. The 2,200-square kilometre Nigerien part of the park is home to elephants, hippos, buffaloes, baboons, warthogs and numerous types of antelope. Here's also lions and leopards roaming the park, but they stay well hidden from visitors' eyes. In general, it's one of the better parks in West Africa and well worth a visit. While you'll need your own wheels to visit, the Nigerien part of Parc du W is easier accessed than its Burkina or Benin counterparts. The park can be reached on a day-trip from Niamey, but it's much more worthwhile to visit overnight as animal sightings are likelier during dusk and dawn when the scoring sun has retreated, and the animals leave their shady hideouts.
The only place in the world where you can walk in a Coco de Mer palm forest is the UNESCO World Heritage enlisted Vallée De Mai. Coco de Mer palm is endemic to the Seychelles islands of Praslin and Curieuse and produces the world's largest and heaviest nut, the fruit (green one) can weigh up to 40 kg and the seed (brown one) up to 18 kg. The outside world actually knew about the Coco de Mer before the Seychelles were discovered, as nuts had been carried by the ocean currents to distant shores on the Maldives, India and Indonesia. Seamen thought they were from an underwater forest, therefore the name "coconut of the sea". The double nut is the national symbol of the Seychelles and even the passport stamp is shaped like a Coco de Mer nut. Every single Coco de Mer palm is owned by the government, even if it grows on private land, and heavy fines and prison terms apply for stealing one. However, it's possible to buy a nut (with export permit) at the souvenir shop on site.
The Drakensberg, or Dragon Mountains, are so named after the many jagged peaks that give an appearance of teeth. They are a hiker's paradise, providing some of the finest trails and views in all of Africa. The sheer vastness of the mountains - the range stretches for some 1000 km - means that there is practically unlimited choice depending on weather, fitness levels and interests. The best hiking (and certainly the best facilities) is arguably in KwaZulu-Natal, although Lesotho boasts some impressive sites, too. Walks range from short and easy to multi-day treks, with everything in between. The mountains are also covered with San rock paintings, and they boast an impressive array of flora and fauna. The weather is unreliable at best, and some of the roads are impassable in winter due to snow. But the walks are enjoyable in sunshine or rain, and the mood of the mountains changes dramatically from moment to moment. Although some of the camps get busy, the trails rarely do, and there is a magnificent feeling of having the world to yourself when visiting the Drakensberg.
The Ngorongoro crater is one of those magical places you can't forget. The collapsed volcano is the largest unbroken caldera in the world (300 sq km), home to a great variety of wild animals, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Picture everything you can imagine about the East African plains: tall grass in hues ranging from green to golden, a soda lake whitening as dry season advances, grazing antelopes, hunting lions... All of this surrounded by a tall wall of mountains, with the rim of the crater often coated in a thick fog, much like whipped cream on a Bundt cake. The descent into the crater is breath taking: the view of the entire caldera is spectacular in itself, but as you go down, you start to make out the different animals that you will come to meet up close. The area is not a national park, and the Maasai people that inhabit the region have a special agreement with the government regarding the use of the land. Seeing these beautiful people tending the cattle just adds to the experience.
Charming Stone Town has such an exotic reputation. It has been a trading post for centuries with shifting powers all putting their mark on this vibrant harbour town. First it was Arabic spice (and slave) traders, then came the Indian merchants, and later the British. Today every safari tourist in the country ends their holiday with a few day on Zanzibar with a mandatory tour of Stone Town. But Stone Town lives up to its reputation. The old town is still magnificent with its maze of narrow alleys and whitewashed traditional houses with finely decorated wooden doors. Some buildings have been done up and turned into boutique hotels or tourists shops, while others look like they haven't been maintained since Freddy Mercury was born.
East of present day Kande have the Tamberma people through centuries protected themselves by living in one family fortresses, so called Tata Houses. The small defense complexes are built with sticks and mud, and are decked out with watch towers which doubles as silos and sleeping chambers. The houses are built very functional with everything within the house, so they could withstand long sieges. Though the people don't have to fear slave traders today, some families still live in the fortresses. In 2004 the Tata Houses were enlisted as a UNESCO Heritage site - Togo's one and only. It's possible for a fee to visit the houses, also the inside and roof. It's a good idea to bring a guide, who can explain the many weird things, like the fetishes which usually decorate the entrance (can be hired at the gate near the Kande).
Even centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, countless architectural symbols of it's magnificence still scatter the Mediterranean coastline. While everyone knows about the Colosseum in the centre of Rome, not so many know of the UNESCO listed Amphitheatre of El Jem. Built in the 3rd century for up to 60,000 spectators, the amphitheatre is the 3rd largest of it's kind in the world. Even today, the amphitheatre is the centre of town life. Surprisingly, the area is not a touristic as you might expect for such an great site. And being so big, it's easy to escape any of the few tour groups that make it here.
Amazing Victoria Falls is just an impressive sight. A wall of water more than 1700 m wide, plunging more than 100 m down into a gorge. It can be visited from both the Zimbabwean side and the Zambian side. Though most of the front of the falls is one the Zimbabwean side, the Zambian side has its fair share of great view points, some really close to the action. And for views of Victoria Bridge (where the bungy jumping is done from), you can't beat the Boiling Point. In the end of the dry season (April to October) and before the rainy season (November to March) picks up, parts of the Zambezi dry up and it's possible to walk across some streches at the crest of the falls. Through Livingstone Island you can get out to Devil's Pool, a natural rock pool right on the edge of the falls, where brave people have a dip and foolish people slip over. In the flood season (February to May) the falls are enveloped in mist, which can be seen many kilometers away. A visit to the falls at this time will leave you drenched and entranced by the power of nature.
Without actually holding any record, Victoria Falls is considered to be the greatest waterfall on the planet. Though its measurements are impressive - 107 m high, 1737 m wide and gushing out 1746 mÂ³ of water every second - it is beaten in all categories by other falls. Angel Falls is 979 m high, Iguazu is 2700 m wide and 2407 mÂ³ flows over Niagara Falls every second. But Victoira Falls is not about records, it's just one of those places that have to be seen. The Zambezi River flows between Zimbabwe and Zambia acting as the natural border. Wide upriver, but suddenly plunges into a deep narrow chasm at Victoria Falls before it winds its way hidden at the bottom of the gorge. At the end of the rainy season (November to March) the falls are almost obscured in spray, and during dry season (April to October) and right after, large sections are almost dried up. But no matter which season you come, you will be blown away by its sheer size and beauty.