Breathtaking Natural Stone Arches of Legzira Beach in Morocco

The Legzira Beach can be found between Sidi Ifni and Mirleft in Morocco. Not only is the Legzira Beach the most unique beach in Morocco, it’s also one of the most astounding beaches in the world. Its uniqueness comes mostly from the presence of two breathtaking naturally formed stone arches that make Legzira Beach a sight to behold.

Natural Arch on Legzira Beach in Morocco, Photo: Tine72, Flickr
Natural Arch on Legzira Beach in Morocco, Photo: Tine72, Flickr

Washed by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Legzira Beach is 8km long, rocky and windy and exposed to significant tides. Natural stone arches can only be accessed during low tide, but it pays off to wait till the water descends. Years of erosion carved out giant holes in the cliff creating natural arches of magnificent visual appeal.

View of Natural Arches on Legzira Beach from the Air, Photo: penbontrhydybeddau, Flickr
View of Natural Arches on Legzira Beach from the Air, Photo: penbontrhydybeddau, Flickr

Like many other popular tropical destinations, Morocco attracts large numbers of tourists, especially from Europe, who come here to enjoy surfing and para-gliding, however despite excessive tourism focused development, the area around the Legzira Beach is still full of traditinal Moroccan huts with fishermen hauling around their catch on donkeys.

Namib Desert of Namibia

Vast expanses of desolate beauty, peaking red sand dunes and some of the toughest animals in the world, the Namib Desert of Namibia is a harsh but beautiful environment where animals and plants have learned to adapt in this water deprived environment.

Climbing the Dunes of the Namib Desert in Namibia, Photo: Paul Watson, Flickr
Climbing the Dunes of the Namib Desert in Namibia, Photo: Paul Watson, Flickr

The Namib Desert is recorded as being the oldest desert in the world, created by the weather patterns within the region and resulting in a barren landscape with a few pans, such as the Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei pans. In the indigenous language of Nama, The Namib Desert means vast, which is reflected in the massive area that it stretches across within the Namibian and parts of Angolan countries.

The Namib Desert of Namibia is home to some of the oldest species of plant and animal life, such as the Welwitschia plants. This plant is considered to be the longest living member of the plant kingdom in the world. This fact is attributed to the specific and stable climate the region has. Add to this the unique insects that have adapted to these conditions, and you have a place that’s sure to tickle a nerve of any nature lover.

Aerial View of the Namib Desert Dunes, Photo: DaveC71, Flickr
Aerial View of the Namib Desert Dunes, Photo: DaveC71, Flickr

A variety of activities, sights and sounds can be enjoyed in the Namib Desert, ranging from hiking, to 4×4 drives and exceptional photographic opportunities of the contrasting landscape. The region includes limited access areas, such as the Skeleton Coast or the Sperrgebeit, which is a diamond mining center.

Although the region is mostly covered with sand, the inner Namib desert supports a large number of antelope, whilst the coastal regions provide magnificent feeding grounds for marine birds. Here one may view the many species of flamingos, penguins, gulls and pelicans that feed in the Atlantic Ocean.

The greater area of the Namib Desert is largely uninhabited, however if one chooses the self drive option, there are a number of settlements scattered across the region, as well as a few luxury lodges for accommodation. Many of these lodges will offer guided tours into the desert with professional guides that can take you to specific areas of interest, such as the pans, dunes and canyons within the region. The region is relatively spread out, and you may want to consider starting from one of the various coastal towns, including Luderitz, Swakopmund or Oranjemund. If you enjoy quality lobsters, the Luderitz is an absolute must, as it serves as the center of the lobster industry in Namibia.

Kolmanskop Ghost Town in Southern Namibia, Photo: geoftheref, Flickr
Kolmanskop Ghost Town in Southern Namibia, Photo: geoftheref, Flickr

In Swakopmund you will have the chance to experience quad biking in the dunes. This is one of the top attractions in the region, and offers a great chance to experience the wild rides on the dunes of the Namib desert surrounding the town. Additionally the town is based upon a beach resort, within the German Colonial genre, and sports one of the world’s only all grass desert golf courses. This town is also the birthplace of the celebrity couple of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s child, Shiloh Jolie-Pitt.

The various towns and settlements are steeped in history and offer a number attractions that the tourist may enjoy whilst in the town centers, as well as when venturing out into the desert. Remember to drink lots of water here, it is hot, and you certainly do not want to get lost in the Namib Desert, so guided excursions may be best.

Dead Vlei of Namibia

This beautiful, albeit eerie, old pan is said to rival the stark beauty of the Sossusvlei located nearby, and situated in the Namib-Naukluft National Park in Namibia. The name Dead Vlei is derived from the Afrikaans term of vlei, meaning marsh and combined to mean Dead Marsh. You will notice this clearly when you see the Dead Vlei, with a number of dead trees that dot the landscape.

The Dead trees of Dead Vlei in Namibia, Photo: monsieur rico, Flickr
The Dead trees of Dead Vlei in Namibia, Photo: monsieur rico, Flickr

The Dead Vlei pan developed as a result of a drought in the region, which came about hundreds of years ago. The area supports only the hardiest of wildlife and plants, that mostly survive on the very rare rainfall and morning mist in the region. The sand dunes surrounding Dead Vlei are reported to be some of the highest in the world. Aptly named Big Daddy and Crazy Dune, these dunes reach heights of up to 400m.

4×4 enthusiasts will be delighted with the available, and clearly marked 4×4 track in the area. And you cannot pass up on watching a magnificent sunset which provides spectacular views of the sand dunes as they change color with the setting sun. One of the best vantage points for watching a sunset is at the Sesriem Canyon. The canyon is pretty easily accessible for climbing down and taking a scenic walk along the dry riverbed.

Dead Vlei is So Dry, There Is Not Enough Moisture For Dry Trees to Decompose, Photo: gregw66, Flickr
Dead Vlei is So Dry, There Is Not Enough Moisture For Dry Trees to Decompose, Photo: gregw66, Flickr

Located in the oldest desert in the world, tourists can stay in any of the luxury resorts within the area. Alternatively the Sesriem camping ground has ample facilities and amenities for the would be camper. Should you wish to remain in one of the more commercial areas of Swakopmund or Namibia’s capital Windhoek, there are numerous tour operators who will oblige in providing you with their services to visit this area. Alternatively the self drive option is a wonderful way to experience the region. It is recommended that you have a reliable all wheel drive to access some of the regions and attractions. The area furthermore exhibits some difficult terrain in the form of mountain passes. Although these have exceptional views, it requires a more experienced and able driver to handle the navigation and traversing.

Hiking, driving and enjoying both the sunrise and sunsets in the Namib desert and areas such as that of Dead Vlei are the primary activities here. You have to take care when hiking, it is after all a desert so you will want to ensure that you drink lots of water and stay hydrated. You should furthermore take the time to climb to the top of at least one dune when visiting this area. This experience and the views will certainly provide a memorable moment in experiencing these age old sites and attractions of Namibia.

Water Deprived Ground of Dead Vlei, Photo: Ikiwaner, Wikipedia
Water Deprived Ground of Dead Vlei of Namibia, Photo: Ikiwaner, Wikipedia

Sossusvlei, Namibia

Sossusvlei Desert of Namibia is best known for its extraordinarily large, towering red sand dunes. That of course after the fact that Sossusvlei is also the oldest and one of the driest deserts in the world. The only source of water is the Tsauchab River that only flows once every 10 years. Even though the dunes of the Sossusvlei are known for being some of world’s most impressive desert formations that will deliver the awe at any time of the day, in order to get the most breathtaking views, it is recommended to appreciate the sights during the sunrise and sunset hours, with the sun’s rays reflecting off the red colored dunes. Aside from offering the most picture-perfect views of Sossusvlei, the dawn and dusk hours also make for more enjoyable experience as the region is a desert and one does not want to spend too much time in the arid heat of the midday hours.

Strolling Along the Edges of Sossusvlei Red Dunes, Photo: aftab, Flickr
Strolling Along the Edges of Sossusvlei Red Dunes, Photo: aftab, Flickr

The name Sossusvlei is based upon a combination of two words which both mean the same thing- march, although this may appear to be odd, as the so called marsh is normally bone dry. On occasion when it does rain and there is water in the Sossusvlei pan, even the locals will make the trip out to view this occurrence. This does not take away from the sheer beauty of the seemingly never ending peaks and troughs of the surrounding sand dunes.

Sossusvlei specifically refers to a small region within the Namib Naukluft Park, said to be the largest nature conservation park in Africa. This National Park spans a massive area of almost 50,000km2 of mainly arid landscape. Surprisingly though, a number of magnificent creatures and wildlife survive within this very difficult and desolate environment. A great fact about the place is that the landscape changes, with winds transforming the dunes in shape and size. If you are a landscape photographer or simply a nature lover, you are sure to appreciate this transforming scenery.

Sossusvlei Clay Pan in the Central Namib Desert, Photo: geoftheref, Flickr
Sossusvlei Clay Pan in the Central Namib Desert, Photo: geoftheref, Flickr

The unique wildlife in the region has managed to survive by the moisture that finds its way into the region. This comes in the form of fog from the Atlantic Ocean, which contributes to the colors of the sand dunes. The iron within the sand oxidizes to form the red and orange colors. The unique insects in the region, such as the famous fog basking beetle which collects the moisture from the incoming fog, offer the avid entomologist the opportunity to witness this first hand.

If you are really lucky you will get to see Sossusvlei after the rains. The pan, when full of water provides a view of the turquoise colored water, and naturally attracts the resident wildlife as a waterhole. This is a rare sight, as the rain is as sparse as the people and vegetation. However the opportunity of witnessing the desolate beauty of the world’s oldest desert will leave you in awe of the continually changing and shifting landscape, both in color and in form.

Walking on the Oldest Desert in the World - Sossusvlei, Photo: Rui Ornelas, Flickr
Walking on the Oldest Desert in the World - Sossusvlei, Photo: Rui Ornelas, Flickr

This stark environment can also be witnessed from the air, in the charter hot air balloon excursions that are available, and one may have the chance of spotting the herds of wildlife that roam this part of the African landscape. This is certainly an option for one who appreciates the natural and evolving beauty of this earth. Although you may well be overwhelmed by a feeling of insignificance as you view some of the tallest sand dunes in the world, within the greater Sossusvlei region of Namibia.

Erta Ale Lava Lake

Lava Lake is exactly what you think it is when you hear the phrase “Lava Lake”. It’s a pool of lava that remains in a lava form for a long time. Normally when a volcano erupts, patches of lava deposits may be created in the neighborhood of the crater, but these patches cool down exposed to the air and turn from liquid form into solid. Lava Lakes are different as lava remains liquefied and “alive” within its lake but many tricky a condition need to be met to ensure such continuous flow and supply of magma which makes the existence of lava lake extremely rare. Right now there are as few as five only active lava lakes in the world. Erta Ale Lava Lake is the most significant as it is the longest lasting lava lake in existence. For your information, the list of all active lava lakes along with locations is below:

  • Erta Ale Lava Lake in Ethiopia
  • Nyiragongo Lava Lake in the Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Kilauea Lava Lake in Haiwaii
  • Mount Erebus Lava Lake in Antarctica
  • Villarrica Lava Lake in Chile
Erta Ale Lava Lake

As its name suggests, Erta Ale Lava Lake is located at the summit of Erta Ale Volcano (<--click on the link to get to information on Erta Ale facts, location and safety information of Ethiopia) in the Danakil Depression (also known as Afar Depression) in Ethiopia. By looking at the pictures, Erta Ale Lava Lake may somewhat remind you of Darvaza Door to Hell. While the two are in no way related, there is no surprise local Afar people refer to it as the Gateway to Hell. The main difference would be that Erta Ale Lava Lake is an entirely natural phenomenon, whereas Darvaza only exists because of intervention by humans (digging and then setting it on fire).

Looking Down the Pit of Erta Ale Lava Lake as Hot Lava Boils Away, Photo by Avatar/ΣΙΓΜΑ, Flickr
Looking Down the Pit of Erta Ale Lava Lake as Hot Lava Boils Away, Photo by Avatar/ΣΙΓΜΑ, Flickr

Scientists estimate that Erta Ale Lava Lake has been active since 1906 which make is hands down the longest active lava lake in the world. When visiting Erta Ale Lava Lake at night, you may be able to see the glowing light shining out towards the sky from the pit which offers breathtaking opportunities for photography. Some adventure travel agencies offer tours to Erta Ale which include camping at the summit of the volcano, right by the lava lake itself. That must truly be an unforgettable experience and surely one worth every penny (albeit those tours are not cheap by any means). The tricky part is the overall safety of Afar region which happens to be close to the border with Somalia (no good), plus the presence of Afar warrior tribes with proven track record of hostility towards foreigners.

Taking Pictures At the Edge of Erta Ale Lava Lake, Photo by Avatar/ΣΙΓΜΑ
Taking Pictures At the Edge of Erta Ale Lava Lake, Photo by Avatar/ΣΙΓΜΑ, Flickr

Erta Ale Lava Lake Video

Check out the video of Erta Ale Lava Lake filmed during an expedition to this rugged region. The video contains nice footage of bubbling hot lava as it occasionally overflows from its crater pit bed and erupts in a wavy motion.

If potential safety issues are of no concern to you and you are willing to take your chances nevertheless, you will be rewarded with an experience from one of the least accessible places on Earth. There are no roads leading to Erta Ale and the temperatures continuously rank as some of the hottest on Earth. The region is also world’s driest and lowest, with parts of it placed more than 100 meters below sea level. Welcome to Erta Ale Lava Lake in Ethiopia. Not many tourists make it here.

Erta Ale Volcano in Ethiopia

If you find fascination in volcanoes and appreciate hidden powers of Mother Nature, then you’ve come to the right place. Erta Ale Volcano in Ethiopia may not be the most famous volcano in the world, but its fact sheet is feature rich and beyond impressive. And that’s the beauty of it. Erta Ale Volcano is one of world’s best kept volcanic secrets making it a hidden gem that lacks in no regard but delivers in many an awe.

Aerial image of Erta Ale Volcano in Ethiopia, Photo by Filippo Jean, Wikipedia
Aerial image of Erta Ale Volcano in Ethiopia, Photo by Filippo Jean, Wikipedia

Erta Ale Volcano Map

Erta Ale Volcano is the most prominent feature of the Erta Ale Range located in the north-eastern Ethiopia in the region called Afar. Erta Ale Range is part of Danakil Depression which spreads across the Horn of Africa, partially covering Ethiopia as well as Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia. Danakil Depression is known for being a stretch of land below sea level. The lowest point of Africa is located in Danakil Depression (155 meters below sea level). Check out the exact location of Erta Ale Volcano on an interactive, navigable map below:

Erta Ale Volcano Facts

Erta Ale is a Shield Volcano, which means its hill is formed almost entirely out of lava that was poured out of volcano’s crater. Unlike Stratovolcanoes, Shield Volcanoes are less common, are more shallow (Stratovolcanoes are steeper) and spread over a larger area. Vast and flat profile of Shields gave them the name – they look much like shields of ancient warriors.

Erta Ale is the most active volcano in Ethiopia. The height of Erta Ale is 613 metres (2,011 ft) and since it is located within a depression that’s below sea level, Erta Ale is one of world’s lowest volcanoes. What Erta Ale lacks in height, it makes up for in width – Erta Ale is 50 km wide! To keep up with impressive measurements, the crater of Erta Ale is 0.7 x 1.6 km large. There is another, larger albeit inactive pit located south-east of Erta Ale’s summit which measures 1.8 x 3.1 km (as you can see from the photo above).

In local Afar langue, the name Erta Ale means “smoking mountain” but not surprisingly, the southern pit is locally known as the “gateway to hell”. The single most impressive part of the Erta Ale Volcano is Erta Ale lava lake which is notable for being the longest existing lava lake in the world. There is more info about the lava lake on its dedicated page: Erta Ale Lava Lake.

Crater of Erta Ala Volcano with Active Laval Lake Inside, Photo by filippo_jean, Flickr
Crater of Erta Ala Volcano with Active Laval Lake Inside, Photo by filippo_jean, Flickr

Erta Ale Volcano Eruptions

Erta Ale is very much an active volcano with latest eruption being as recent as 2009. Seven major eruptions occurred in last 125 years with most recent being the one from September 25, 2005.

Erta Ale in Ethiopia – Safety Issues

While Ethiopia is considerably safer when compared to many other African countries, it is not to say that its overall safe. Given that it shares border with hostile Somalia with Somalis operating in some regions of Ethiopia, daring to travel to the country bears certain risks. According to many reports from the college of scientists, ongoing research on Erta Ale has not been without issues. One of the reasons is that the Afar Depression is one of the hottest regions in the world and another is the hostility of local Afar people as well as unpredictable, but possible presence of Somali separatist groups known for their guerrilla attacks and kidnappings of foreigners. Afar region has long been known for activity of armed insurgent groups.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada has an ongoing travel warning for all Canadians traveling to Ethiopia. While “Exercise high degree of caution” warning applies to some regions of Ethiopia, there is an “Avoid all travel” warning (same warning applies to war torn region, such as Afghanistan or Iraq) in place for Border with Eritrea, Danakil Desert and Somali region. It’s the Danakil Desert region which includes Erta Ale range. According to the warning, the area is heavily mined with fatal incidents occurring each year, plus there are ongoing armed assaults with some attacks targeting tourists and convoys. Furthermore, Afar region towards the border with Eritrea (north of Afar) has been subjected to military tension due to border disputes. Kidnapping and banditry occur often in the region.

US Department of State website simply mentions that “travel to the northern Afar region is discouraged” and that “armed insurgent groups operate Afar region of Ethiopia”.

That makes for an interesting tourist destination as there are high guarantees none of your friends, regardless of how well travelled they are would have been there. The risk associated are considerable so one would have to think carefully whether it’s worth it and how to prepare for such trip so as to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Erta Ale Volcano Video

Check out this video from the Danakil Desert featuring Erta Ale volcano including lots of footage of the Erta Ale lava lake. Impressive aerial photography of the volcano is towards the end of the video:

While Erta Ale seems like an extremely attractive travel destination, I’m a bit deterred by potential dangers of the region. The activity of armed insurgents and notorious hostility of local Afar people spoil most of what’s so great about the region. Perhaps one of these days when I man up I may head down there. I’d like to hear from everyone who visited Ethiopia to share their stories and set the record regarding the dangers of the regions surrounding Erta Ale straight. In the meantime, anyone wishing to visit Africa but not willing to compromise their safety no matter how attractive a location, you can always rely on the safety of Botswana. I’m putting Ethiopia on hold for the time being.

Botswana Safari Holidays

Botswana Safari Holidays Offer Eye Popping Excitement with Large Animal Encounters, Photo: dominik.kreutz, Flickr
Botswana Safari Holidays Offer Eye Popping Excitement with Large Animal Encounters, Photo: dominik.kreutz, Flickr

I’ve never known anyone who wouldn’t return home from Botswana Safari Holiday entirely speechless. The wildlife and landscapes of this African country have been inspiring and delightful since the dawn of tourism. Having close encounters with wild beasts and seeing nature’s finest in their natural habitat is thrilling beyond words. Watching programs on The Discovery Channel or on National Geographic’s discs is one thing. Seeing it with your own eyes and being there when it happens takes it to a whole new level. Don’t get me wrong, African nature discovery programs are mind-blowing to watch on the tube, but getting there and living it with all five senses is unparalleled.

Botswana Safaris in Popular Literature

Botswana Safaris were the subject of Mark and Delia Owens 1992 best-seller ‘Cry of the Kalahari’. The book describes Botswana Safari in great detail and a lot of passion. It is easy to fall in love with Botswana and write about Safari tours with passion, because few African countries offer better Safari vacations that Botswana. But the greatest selling point is the fact that Botswana is not as over run with tourists as most other African countries.

If you opt for Safari in Botswana, you are unlikely to compete with other vehicles plowing through the same area. This has its advantages for some people and disadvantages for other. If you prefer meeting other explorers from different parts of the world, you may like taking a Safari tour in Kenya better. The grasslands there are full of tourists who can often point you to where large herds of animals were seen. In Botswana you are often left to your own devices. Which makes it more adventurous and you are not “forced to share” what you see.

If you’re looking for ultimate in adventure, I recommend Botswana Safari Holidays, you’re gonna love it.

Botswana Hotels

Tourism is one of the main ingredients of Botswana’s economy and the government has been looking at improving services provided. Chains of quality hotels are now available so your hospitality experience is as pleasurable as the safari tour itself. Botswana hotels are often introduced into the natural surroundings in a way so as to match the breathtaking spirit of the wildlife and the scenery.

Let’s explore some of the best Botswana Safari Locations

Botswana Safari Tour, Photo by dornfeld, Flickr
Botswana Safari Tour, Photo by dornfeld, Flickr

Botswana Safari in Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta in Botswana is the largest inland delta in the world. It’s well watered, thanks to delta’s waterways that pass through the Kalahari Desert without flowing into the sea irrigating the area and creating a mosaic of palm islands. These islands are rich in vegetation, often overgrown with lush grass. Beautiful mammal species can be encountered throughout the Okavango Delta, including elephant, buffalo, giraffe, and more. Ample varieties of bird species are plentiful on the banks of the Okavango Delta offering spectacular photo opportunities.

Botswana Safari in Moremi Reserve

The Moremi Reserve bears the name of chief Moremi of the BaTawana tribe and is located in the heart of the Okavango Delta (see above). The Moremi Reserve is regarded as one of the most beautiful wildlife reserves on entire African continent. You can see wide range of wild animals, like elephant, zebra, giraffe, or buffalo there, but the park is also rich in presence of many predatory animals, such as leopard, cheetah, lion, etc.

Botswana Safari in Xakanaxa Lagoon

The Xakanaxa Lagoon is right in the heart of Moremi and is known for large herds of antelope, along with wild dogs and leopards. It is possible to lodge directly on the lagoon which pushes the entire adventure to a whole new dimension. Several private camps are set-up along the edge of Xakanaxa, so you can choose according to your luxury expectations and budget. ‘Chiefs Safari Camp’ and ‘Camp Moremi’ are situated and integrated with the landscape so well, that you can stay within the safety of the camp while still observing wild game that’s literally within your reach.

Botswana Safari in The Desert

If you can make it to Botswana during animal migration season – which is between March and May, you can hire a 4×4 and take it into the desert for some real safari. There is no where to camp in the desert, so you would be sleeping underneath the stars. The ramifications for those who dare are awesome. You need to be aware of what you’re doing and do not underestimate the desert. Sufficient supplies and a guide should be a must, unless you’ve lived in Botswana long enough to know the ins and outs. Besides, guides know where in the desert to go in order to get the most out of your adventure.

Hyena, jackals, antelope, lion and many other animals, including countless species of birds and reptiles live in the desert. There is something to see any time of the year.

Elephant Crossing the Road in Moremi Wildlife Reserve, Botswana, Photo: Ian Sewell, Wikipedia
Elephant Crossing the Road in Moremi Wildlife Reserve, Botswana, Photo: Ian Sewell, Wikipedia

Cheap Safari Holiday in Botswana

While there are many travel agencies that specialize in adventure travel, these type of holidays are not the cheapest. Think $4500 or more. If your pockets are deep and you can afford it, this might be the best option for you. However if you’re a little bit price conscious or just don’t like spending money if there are less expensive ways to get the same or more. For a cheap Botswana Safari holiday, I would recommend booking nothing but the fight to Botswana from one of the cheap flight outlets in your area and rent your 4×4 when you get there. It will be more adventurous than having everything prearranged and the outcomes are typically far better as you’re not stuck with the schedule. It’s not difficult to stay at a camp in Botswana as arrangements can be made on the spot in person. If you do it this way, you’ll get your Botswana Safari trip for the cheap, saving about 50% of otherwise high costing adventure.

And yeah, do Botswana Safari if you can. The impressions it’ll leave on you will last a life time.