Mother Nature is exquisite and her natural beauty surrounds us. Explore the 15 most dramatic landscapes… by Claire Trickett30th August 2016
Famous French author Jules Renard once said, “On Earth, there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it”, and we couldn’t agree more. Mother Nature is exquisite and her natural beauty surrounds us, although most of us are guilty of not always set time aside to get outdoors and explore, experience and appreciate it all.
Our expert travel planners have travelled the world and can tailor-make the most life-changing, dream-inducing and unforgettable adventures on three different continents: Africa, Asia and South America. From the romantic, towering dunes of Namibia’s Namib Desert and the wondrous waterways of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, to the dense jungles of India and the enormous, eerie monoliths on Chile’s Easter Island … there are countless jaw-dropping landscapes just waiting to be discovered.
So why not treat yourself to a time-out. Escape your daily routine and to-do lists and get back to nature. Your soul will thank you.
To choose just 15 was a challenge, but here are some of our favourite, most dramatic landscapes.
1. Namib Desert, Namibia
One of the oldest, driest and most pristine areas on Earth, the vast Namib Desert boasts endless horizons, dramatic desertscapes and jagged mountain heights. The spectacular dunes at Sossusvlei, arrayed in magnificent hues of pumpkin, terracotta and sienna, tower over a vast, dry pan. The largest private nature reserve in Southern Africa, the NamibRand Nature Reserve is also Africa’s first International Dark Sky Reserve and the stargazing here is second to none.
2. Okavango Delta, Botswana
A breathtaking natural wonder, the Okavango Delta is a maze of sparkling lagoons, meandering channels and overgrown islands teeming with wildlife. Known as “the river that never finds the sea”, it lies like a glittering jewel at the heart of the Kalahari Desert. A magical oasis with some of the most sensational sunsets you’ll ever see, the Delta recently became the world’s 1 000th UNESCO World Heritage Site. The best and most peaceful way to experience it is by mokoro (dugout canoe) as you gently glide past dainty waterlilies, colourful reed frogs and other curious creatures.
3. Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana
The Makgadikgadi Pans, one of the largest salt flats in the world, is a giant, starkly beautiful salt pan situated in the heart of Botswana. One of Africa’s largest zebra populations makes this vista of white sand and salt their home. When rains fall during the wet season, the pans are filled with water and attract large flocks of flamingos, as well as big herds of zebra, springbok and wildebeest, followed closely of course by predators, making for some fantastic game viewing.
4. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Also, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls is one of the world’s greatest natural spectacles and the stuff of legends, romance and myth. Long before the Scottish missionary and explorer Dr. David Livingstone ‘discovered’ the Falls in 1855, the local Batonga people had named them Mosi-oa-Tunya, ‘the smoke that thunders’. Livingstone named them for his queen. Today, the town rightly claims the title of Adrenaline Capital of Africa, with its seemingly endless assortment of nail-biting adventures, from bungee jumping and white water rafting to the Flight of Angels helicopter flip and a daring dip in the world-famous Devil’s Pool.
5. Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
Situated in the far northwestern corner of Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park (Parc National des Volcans) protects the steep rainforested slopes of the magnificent Virungas mountain range. Roughly half of the world’s remaining wild population of mountain gorillas, as well as the rare golden monkey, reside on these lush, tropical slopes. Home to the original scientific base of Dian Fossey, wildlife enthusiasts from around the world flock to this spectacular wonderland to experience a gorilla trek, an arduous, yet truly rewarding bucket list wildlife encounter.
6. Serengeti / Mara Ecosystem, Kenya & Tanzania
The world-famous, game-filled Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya share a fenceless border and remain undoubtedly two of the world’s most celebrated wilderness areas and an ongoing source of inspiration to writers, filmmakers and photographers alike. Serengeti means “endless plains” in the local Maasai language and these two enormous wildlife havens are home to the annual Great Migration, when an estimated three million herbivores, mostly wildebeest, make their gruelling trek from the Serengeti all the way to the Masai Mara and back again in search of greener pastures. This is a must-do bucket list experience.
7. Amboseli National Park, Kenya
Kenya’s second most famous national park after the Masai Mara, Amboseli National Park is the place to get that iconic, picture-perfect postcard shot of large herds of elephant with the mighty, snow-capped peak of Mt Kilimanjaro as the backdrop.
8. Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Once a gigantic volcano, the magnificent Ngorongoro Crater in northern Tanzania is the largest intact caldera in the world. It is believed that before it erupted, it would have been higher than Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak. Long since having collapsed and eroded, Ngorongoro is now an extensive highland area with the famous 600 m deep Ngorongoro Crater as its focal point. Nearly three million years old, the ancient caldera shelters one of the most beautiful wildlife havens on earth. Be sure to stop at the lookout point before you reach &Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge … the enormity and sheer beauty will take your breath away.
9. Bandhavgarh National Park, India
An essential stop on any serious tiger safari, Bandhavgarh National Park is celebrated for having one of India’s highest concentrations of these magnificent, striped cats. Cradled between the picturesque Vindhya and Satpura mountain ranges, Bandhavgarh’s breathtaking landscape is dominated by dense verdant valleys, rugged rocky hills, forested woodlands, flat grasslands and serene waterholes. Witness the king of the jungle, among countless other exotic creatures, on a once in a lifetime jungle safari – this is another one for the bucket list.
10. Thar Desert, India
Also known as the Great Indian Desert, the Thar Desert is dominated by undulating, rippled sand dunes that stretch as far as the eye can see. Covering 60% of the state of Rajasthan, it is the most densely populated desert in the world and is also home to the widely popular Jaisalmer Desert Festival every February. Merrymakers flock here to enjoy the famous camel races, traditional Rajasthani folk music and dance, fire dancers, as well as the turban-tying and ‘best moustache’ competitions.
11. Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan
The iconic Taktshang Goemba, also known as the Tiger’s Nest, clings ever so dramatically to a sheer cliff face high above the Paro Valley. It’s a steep, but totally worth it, climb through thick forest and low-hanging clouds up to what is hailed as Bhutan’s most sacred site. The monastery’s seven temples are clustered around a cave and it is believed that in this cave, Guru Rinpoche (the founder of Vajrayana Buddhism) meditated after flying there on the back of a tiger. Words simply cannot do justice to this captivating and oh-so scenic monastery … seeing is believing.
With its towering palm trees, impossibly white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and iconic above-water luxury beach resorts, the Maldives is a tropical paradise for sun worshippers, honeymooners and families alike. This barefoot Indian Ocean paradise boasts some of the world’s best beaches and of course, some of the best snorkelling and scuba diving in the world. As remote and idyllic as it is exquisitely beautiful and blissfully relaxing, this is the perfect place to truly unwind.
13. Atacama Desert, Chile
The stark, awe-inspiring beauty of Chile’s Athetacama Desert is not-to-be-missed. It is a photographer’s dream destination, with its deep ravines and ragged, rocky mountains that are interspersed by a striking white salt pan and surrounded by majestic volcanoes. The world’s driest desert, some areas have not registered even a single raindrop in more than 150 years. Also a designated dark sky reserve, the Atacama Desert is one of the best places in the world for stargazing.
14. Easter Island, Chile
One of the most remote places in the world, Easter Island sits in the middle of the Pacific Ocean some 3 200 km (3 000 miles) off the coast of Chile. It is famed for its ancient, mysterious and truly logic-defying stone statues that are scattered across the island. Adventure enthusiasts and families alike can enjoy horseback riding, cycling, caving, archaeological visits, hiking, snorkelling, scuba diving, surfing and ultimate isolation.
15. Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
In the southern reaches of Patagonia is the breathtakingly beautiful Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, which is dominated by rugged mountain peaks, deep fjords and channels teeming with penguins, and enormous ice fields flanked by brilliant blue glaciers. These magnificent rainforest and mountain ranges that stretch across the horizon are also the official gateway to Antarctica, the earth’s southernmost continent.