Africa Geography

Africa – Home of Black People

A Vast Continent

Africa is the second largest of Earth’s seven continents, after Asia. It accounts for nearly one-quarter of the world’s land. In the northeast, Africa touches Asia in Egypt. In the northwest, Africa almost touches Europe in Morocco. 55 nations are found in Africa. They are home to some 1 billion people. Africa is the only continent that truly straddles the equator, the imaginary line that encircles Earth around its middle.

Mountains

It’s well known that Africa is one of the most — if not THE most — geographically diverse places in the entire world. It should come as no surprise then that it would also feature some of the most interesting and unique mountain ranges and peaks.

For travelers this is a bonanza: Whether you fancy hikes in the foothills or have Everest-like ambitions, there’s something for every type of explorer.

Here are 15 of the most spectacular mountain ranges in Africa; some obvious, and some less well known.

Atlas Mountains

Stretching over 1,600 miles (2,000 km) from Western Sahara through Morocco and Algeria to Tunisia, the Atlas Mountains are the longest unbroken range of mountains in Africa and separate the Atlantic from the Sahara. Largely populated by Berbers, forests, rivers, and snow-capped peaks are waiting to be explored and break your preconceived notion of Africa.

Drakensberg Mountains

Stretching through eastern South Africa and tiny Lesotho, the Drakensberg Mountains have enchanted travelers for centuries. With some of the most dramatic vistas on the continent, Drakensberg Park was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. Flora and fauna not found anywhere else in the world, unique peoples, ancient cave paintings, and dozens of trails are just a few of the reasons to make this an essential stop in your South Africa adventure.

Rwenzori Mountains

Also called the Mountains of the Moon, the Rwenzoris feature some of the last remaining glaciers in equatorial Africa. Located in western Uganda, the plant species range from tropical rainforest to alpine meadow until the snow prevents anything from growing. Go soon though, as the glacier has been shrinking due to climate change.

Nuba Mountains

Located on the new border between Sudan and South Sudan, the Nuba Mountains feature some of the most ancient and interesting tribes of Sudan. Only accessible by foot or four wheel vehicle, the towns, villages, and people of this beautiful area are the main attractions here. Try to catch some traditional Nuba wrestling competitions while you’re here!

Virunga Mountains

Straddling the borders between the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda, the Virungas are home to the last living populations of the critically endangered mountain gorillas which many visitors trek for hours through the jungle peaks to see. Mount Nyiragongo in the DRC, has one of the largest lava lakes in the world.

Simien Mountains

Part of the Ethiopian Highlands and also a World Heritage Site, the Simien Mountains abound with wildlife including dozens of birds, ibex, wolves, and thousands of gelada baboons which travel in packs. Camping and trekking is the most popular way to get up close and personal with the wildlife.

Marrah Mountains

These beautiful and ancient volcanic massifs peppered with crater lakes aren’t likely to be visited anytime soon unfortunately as they sit in the heart of conflict-riddled Darfur in western Sudan. Hopefully, peace will return to the region soon and the beauty of the Marrahs can be enjoyed by all again.

Tibesti Mountains

Ancient oases, Neolithic rock art, wandering packs of camels, and a lunar landscape make the Tibesti Mountains in northern Chad some of the most stunning and inaccessible in Africa. There are some tour groups that visit them, but provisions for every circumstance must be taken due to the remoteness of the range. An almost untouched world awaits those who make the journey, however.

Kilimanjaro

While not technically a range and rather a series of dormant volcano peaks, what list would be complete without Kilimanjaro and its surrounding peaks? One of the most visited sites in Africa, most visitors spend a week trekking to its summit to be rewarded with views over the Serengeti and to set foot on the glacier which is quickly receding due to changing global climates. No trip to East Africa would be complete without at least viewing Kilimanjaro’s majesty which can also be done from the train over the border in Kenya on clear days.

Tsaratanana Massiff

 

The Tsaratanana Massiff in northeastern Madagascar is one of the lesser visited but no less impressive ranges. Rising almost two miles, the landscape changes from lush valleys to volcanic peaks and like the rest of the island, features some plants and animals found nowhere else in the world.

Hoggar Mountains

If you can make it to Algeria, get a permit to go south, and are okay with spending 16 hours on a bus, you will be rewarded with some of the least visited mountains on the continent. Incredible towering stone bluffs border oasis villages and date palm trees while the cries of endangered painted hunting dogs cut through the night. Another one of the Sahara’s hidden gems.

Cameroon Volcanic Line

The Cameroon Volcanic Line which extends from the Western High Plateau into the islands in the Gulf of Guinea features a dramatic chain of volcanic peaks that terminate into the ocean. Mount Cameroon, roughly halfway in between is also the tallest peak in West Africa at 13,255 ft (4,040 meters).

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Rivers in Africa

As the world’s second largest continent, Africa is home to some of the longest rivers in the world. The longest river in Africa is the Nile, which flows from the north for 6,853 km through 11 African countries (Egypt, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, and South Sudan). The Nile has been considered the longest in the world for years.

Major rivers

Top 10 African rivers to discover and explore

Posted by Editorial Team | Destinations, Environment, Interests, Travel | 0

Last Updated on October 17th, 2019

African rivers are the veins of the continent.

Millions of people rely on these rivers for fresh water, food and transport. Millions of African animals are dependent on African rivers for their survival. Without the rivers, Africa would probably not be a land of lions, rhinos and other magnificent wildlife.

In this article we dive into ten magnificent African rivers, with five lesser known facts on each of them.

10 Incredible Rivers of Africa

The Nile – the longest of them all

This Africa river is over 6000 km long and it links a bunch of countries – Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi! It’s the longest river in the world and the link from East Africa to North Africa. It is a river that brings life to the desert.

The longest river in the world, the Nile, empties into the Mediterranean in northeastern Africa. Ancient Egypt, one of the world’s first great civilizations, developed along the mighty Nile more than 5,000 years ago. Today, its magnificent pyramids still tower above the land.

 

Did you know?

  • Pasquale Scaturro was the first explorer to travel the length of the River Nile, taking 114 days to complete his mission in 2004.
  • Most of the water carried by the Nile originates in Ethiopia.
  • Approximately 160 million people depend on the Nile river for fresh water.
  • The Nile is a popular white water rafting destination – check out the rafting in Jinja, Uganda.
  • People disagree as to the source of this African river and have done for centuries.

The Okavango – pure wildlife magic

The origin of the Okavango is Angola. Known there as the Rio Cubango it flows from the highlands down through Angola, Namibia and Botswana. Unlike other African rivers, the Okavango does not flow into the sea.

The origin of the Okavango is Angola. Known there as the Rio Cubango it flows from the highlands down through Angola, Namibia and Botswana. Unlike other African rivers, the Okavango does not flow into the sea.

The Congo – the African rainforest river

The Congo is one of Africa’s most mysterious and fascinating rivers. It’s the second longest river in Africa and flows through the second largest rainforest in the world. Most of it remains an unknown, as it twists through thick forests where very few people have ever ventured.

Diogo Cão, the Portuguese explorer entered the Congo estuary in 1482 and claimed the territory for his King. It’s fair to say that the history that followed along the banks of the Congo River is nothing short of horrific.

It’s therefore not without irony that the Congo River and basin is now considered absolutely crucial to the ecological health of the African continent.

 

Did you know?

  • The equivalent of 13 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water flow into the Atlantic Ocean from the Congo River, every single second.
  • The freshwater fish diversity is immense with 686 known species.
  • The Congo crosses the equator twice.
  • It’s home to the Gates of Hell, a 120-kilometre long canyon of rapids, not a chapter from Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
  • The Congo basin has been home to people for over 50,000 years.

The Zambezi – creator of Victoria Falls

 

The mighty Zambezi river is one of Africa’s most celebrated rivers, winding its way through six different countries before ending in the Indian Ocean.

The pièce de résistance is Victoria Falls. At the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia the Zambezi meets a 100 m vertical chasm, creating what the locals refer to as the smoke that thunders. Here’s our complete guide to Victoria Falls and things to do on this African river.

Did you know?

  • Archeological sites confirm people have occupied the land around the Zambezi for 3 million years!
  • Bull sharks, which normally live in coastal waters, have been known to swim far up the river.
  • You can bungee jump from no man’s land between Zambia and Zimbabwe above the Zambezi River.
  • The spray from Victoria Falls can be seen up to 48 km (30 mi) away.
  • Nyami Nyami is the local guardian and God of the Zambezi River Valley.

The Luangwa River – hippos and antelope

The Luangwa River is one of the major tributaries of the Zambezi. It starts in northeastern Zambia then flows in a southwesterly direction towards the Zambezi.

As it flows through the Luangwa Valley, antelope can be seen sheltering under thorn trees, or roaming the plains with predators skulking in the shadows. Hippos bathe in the river and monkeys shout from treetops along the banks.

Did you know?

  • Most of the economic activity in the Luangwa Valley depends on the river.
  • Game protection in the area began in the late 19th century and the river is the lifeblood for most of the country’s big mammals.
  • The Luangwa is home to over 1000 hippopotami!
  • The Luangwa is a breeding ground for carmine bee-eaters.

Natural hot springs can be found in several areas around the river.

The Tugela River – something that startles

Tugela is a Zulu word meaning “something that startles”. It’s the main river in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. This modest little river eventually finds its way to the Drakensberg where it leaps over the edge of a cliff.

At 948 m Tugela Falls is the second highest waterfall on the planet, after Angel Falls in Venezuela. This guide to the Drakensberg explains how you can experience these falls.

Did you know?

  • The Tugela River is 502 km long.
  • The Orange and Vaal Rivers are both tributaries of this South African river.
  • You’re likely to find Nile crocodiles in the Tugela.
  • The Tugela is a popular fly fishing spot.
  • After the falls, this river flows into the Indian Ocean.

Niger River – West Africa’s essential vein

Wearing the title as one of the most dangerous rivers in the world, this African river wiped out 30,000 animals and thousands of people when it burst its banks in 2010. The Niger River is the principal river of West Africa.

With its source in Guinea, the Niger runs through Niger, Mali, Benin and Nigeria before widening to a large delta. It’s the vein that supports much of the wildlife in West Africa.

Did you know?

  • The river’s boomerang shape continues to baffle Western geographers.
  • The Niger Bend brings water to the Sahara desert.
  • The Niger Delta is also referred to as the oil river.
  • The name Niger was first published in Italy by Leo Africanus in 1550.
  • Four of the big five inhabit areas around the Niger River – unfortunately there are no rhinos.

The Chambeshi (Zambezi) River – 4700 km Africa river

Victoria Falls

A small stream begins in the northern mountains of Zambia. Eventually it will become the Chambeshi. It stretches over 4700 km through ten African countries – but hardly anybody has heard of this African river.

Did you know?

  • The Chambeshi is one of the deepest rivers in the world, with sections reaching 240 metres!
  • A 2007 flood turned this African river into a 20-km-wide lake!
  • One of the world’s great wetland systems, the Bangweulu, is fed by the Chambeshi.
  • The Chambeshi floodplains are used for growing large quantities of rice.
  • Fishing is the main source of economic activity around the Chambeshi.

The Orange River – rafting and wildlife

The Orange River (from Afrikaans/Dutch: Oranjerivier) is a river in Southern Africa. It is the longest river within the borders of Lesotho and the Orange River Basin extends extensively into South Africa, Namibia and Botswana to the north.

It rises in the Drakensberg mountains in Lesotho, flowing westwards through South Africa to the Atlantic Ocean. The river forms part of the international borders between South Africa and Namibia and between South Africa and Lesotho, as well as several provincial borders within South Africa. Except for Upington, it does not pass through any major cities.

 The Orange River plays an important role in the South African economy by providing water for irrigation and hydroelectric power. The river was named the Orange River in honour of the Dutch ruling family, the House of Orange, by the Dutch explorer Robert Jacob Gordon. Other names include simply the word for river, in Khoekhoegowab orthography written as !Garib, which is rendered in Afrikaans as Gariep River with the intrusion of a velar fricative in place of the alveolar click, Groote River (derived from Kai !Garib) or Senqu River (used in Lesotho), derived from ǂNū “Black”

Flowing across the arid plains of Southern Africa, the Orange river is a very popular destination for adventure seekers and wildlife enthusiasts.

You can go rafting down this African river and discover a wonderful assortment of birds, along the border between South Africa and Namibia.

Did you know?

  • The first diamond discovered in South Africa was on the banks of the Orange River by 15-year-old boy, Erasmus Jacobs.
  • There are no large or dangerous animals on the Orange river – one reason it’s such a favourite rafting destination.
  • The hottest temperature recorded on the Orange river is 47.8º C in 1939.
  • The Orange river is home to 189 bird species.
  • This Africa river is over 2000 km long.

The Kasai River

The Kasai starts in Angola and stretches 1800 km before flowing into the Congo River. The history of this river is not an entirely happy one. Slave traders used the Kasai to navigate equatorial rainforests then transport captured slaves back to the Atlantic Ocean, where their ships would await.

Thankfully this history does not define the Kasai. This is another African river home to a wonderful array of wildlife.

Did you know?

  • The Kasai has rich deposits of alluvial diamonds.
  • The river bulges to 4 km wide for stretches of up to 700 km.
  • It’s rich in fish with over 200 known species.
  • More than 60 species of frog hop across this river, including the African bullfrog.
  • The Kasai river and Mai-Ndombe river cross each other, but never mix.

 

The Volta River

The Volta River is the main river system in the West African country of Ghana. It flows into Ghana from Bobo-Dioulasso highlands of Burkina Faso. The main part of the river are the Black Volta, the White Volta, and the Red Volta.

In the northwest, the Black Volta forms the international borders between the Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Burkina Faso. The Volta flows southward along Akwapim-Togoland highlands, and it empties into the Atlantic Ocean at the Gulf of Guinea at Ada. It has a smaller tributary river, the Oti, which enters Ghana from Togo in the east. The Volta River has been dammed at Akosombo for the purpose of generating hydroelectricity. The reservoir named Lake Volta stretches from Akosombo in the south to the northern part of the country, thus being one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the world.

Akosombo on the Volta

Volta Dam

Akosombo Resort Hotel on Volta

Your Adventure on Africa’s Rivers

A selection of ten awesome rivers in Africa, some you may have had the pleasure of experiencing, others you probably never had heard of. Be it white water rafting or gently kayaking to an overnight camp site, these African rivers are majestic works of nature.

Rich in history, wildlife and culture, each Africa river has its own unique story to tell. They are the veins of Africa and a wonderful way to connect with your wild side.

California Aqueduct Facts

The Edmund G. Brown California Aqueduct is the state’s largest and longest water transport system, stretching 444 miles from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in the north to Lake Perris in Southern California. The aqueduct and associated channels supply water for about one million acres of farmland. Pitched during Brown’s tenure as governor, the SWP was initially sold to the public in 1960 for an estimated total cost of $1.75 billion in state bonds-a misleading and low-balled figure. Construction began in 1961 and though still incomplete, the total cost for the project has grown over $4.3 billion for twenty-five dams and reservoirs, eighteen pumping plants, 683 miles of aqueducts, and hydro-electric power plants.

Africa Aqueducts

With so many rivers in Africa, we can easily build aqueducts to feed the dry areas and produce more than enough food to feed everybody in Africa at a very low cost compared to the California project. For example, the Congo River, Central Africa’s largest waterway, empties into the Atlantic Ocean near the equator. The Congo drains a vast basin in Central Africa that receives more rainfall than any other part of the continent. It carries more water than any river in the world except the Amazon River in South America. An aqueduct that sources its water from the Congo River can be channeled south to Angola to Namibia. This can supply water for agricultural as well as fishing industry.

The obstacle to this is the European borders that prevent a continentwide comprehensive irrigation projects that benefit all Africa. The same can be done from these rivers to all the dry areas of Africa to yield fertile, arable land for food and life stock production.

The Sahara Desert

The Sahara, the world’s largest desert, reaches across a vast swath of northern Africa. It stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Red Sea in the east. In fact, the Sahara covers one-quarter of the entire continent. The Sahara is mainly hot, dry, and empty. But people have used teams of camels to carry goods across this giant desert since ancient times.

The Sahara is a desert located on the African continent. With an area of 9,200,000 square kilometres (3,600,000 sq mi), it is the largest hot desert in the world and the third largest desert overall after Antarctica and the Arctic.

The desert comprises much of North Africa, excluding the fertile region on the Mediterranean Sea coast, the Atlas Mountains of the Maghreb, and the Nile Valley in Egypt and Sudan. It stretches from the Red Sea in the east and the Mediterranean in the north to the Atlantic Ocean in the west, where the landscape gradually changes from desert to coastal plains. To the south, it is bounded by the Sahel, a belt of semi-arid tropical savanna around the Niger River valley and the Sudan Region of Sub-Saharan Africa. The Sahara can be divided into several regions, including the western Sahara, the central Ahaggar Mountains, the Tibesti Mountains, the Aïr Mountains, the Ténéré desert, and the Libyan Desert.

For several hundred thousand years, the Sahara has alternated between desert and savanna grassland in a 20,000 year cycle caused by the precession of the Earth’s axis as it rotates around the Sun, which changes the location of the North African Monsoon. The area is next expected to become green in about 15,000 years (17,000 CE).

Namib Desert

The Namib is a coastal desert in southern Africa. The name Namib is of Khoekhoegowab origin and means “vast place”. According to the broadest definition, the Namib stretches for more than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) along the Atlantic coasts of Angola, Namibia, and South Africa, extending southward from the Carunjamba River in Angola, through Namibia and to the Olifants River in Western Cape, South Africa.

The Namib’s northernmost portion, which extends 450 kilometres (280 mi) from the Angola-Namibia border, is known as Moçâmedes Desert, while its southern portion approaches the neighboring Kalahari Desert. From the Atlantic coast eastward, the Namib gradually ascends in elevation, reaching up to 200 kilometres (120 mi) inland to the foot of the Great Escarpment. Annual precipitation ranges from 2 millimetres (0.079 in) in the most arid regions to 200 millimetres (7.9 in) at the escarpment, making the Namib the only true desert in southern Africa. Having endured arid or semi-arid conditions for roughly 55–80 million years, the Namib may be the oldest desert in the world and contains some of the world’s driest regions, with only western South America’s Atacama Desert to challenge it for age and aridity benchmarks.

The desert geology consists of sand seas near the coast, while gravel plains and scattered mountain outcrops occur further inland. The sand dunes, some of which are 300 metres (980 ft) high and span 32 kilometres (20 mi) long, are the second largest in the world after the Badain Jaran Desert dunes in China. Temperatures along the coast are stable and generally range between 9–20 °C (48–68 °F) annually, while temperatures further inland are variable—summer daytime temperatures can exceed 45 °C (113 °F) while nights can be freezing. Fogs that originate offshore from the collision of the cold Benguela Current and warm air from the Hadley Cell create a fog belt that frequently envelops parts of the desert. Coastal regions can experience more than 180 days of thick fog a year. While this has proved a major hazard to ships—more than a thousand wrecks litter the Skeleton Coast—it is a vital source of moisture for desert life. – Wiki

Equatorial Africa

Equatorial Africa is an ambiguous term that sometimes is used to refer either to the equatorial region of Sub-Saharan Africa traversed by the Equator, more broadly to tropical Africa or in a biological and geo-environmental sense to the intra-tropical African rainforest region.

South of the Sahara is equatorial Africa, lying on either side of the equator. Here we find lush tropical rain forests and tropical grasslands called savannas. On Africa’s west coast are the trading ports of West Africa. These ports ship crops such as coffee, cotton, and cacao beans to the world.