The KAZA project is the largest cross-border natural reserve on the planet. But the fight for conservation in some of the poorest regions of southern Africa has many challenges, including finding the right balance between tourism and wildlife protection.
The most threadbare word in travel would surely be “paradise”. But what exactly do people mean when they over-use this descriptor? The simplest manifestation of a traveller’s nirvana is a magnificent location. But one person’s notion of beauty is another’s monochrome.
Deserts or big-sky plains could be heaven to some, alarmingly unstructured to others. Mountains and forests are one person’s spiritual home, another’s claustrophobia. Thickly peopled cities, with their weight of history and culture, are the essence of civilisation or its betrayal. Even the ocean and its salty associations, though commonly accepted as the apotheosis of paradise, has its critics.
Paradise is more a state of mind – not simply a beautiful place but an emotional condition, a spiritual epiphany, a sense of serendipity or accident of fate where perfection collides – or all of the above. Paradise is highly personal, because it’s where you feel happiest.
At its most complex, it could be a yearning for something unique, pure and mystical, for perfection in a flawed world. It might relate to our happy childhood places.
There certainly are many things to divide us, but there is one aspect of Africa that can’t be argued over our natural heritage. Proof of that can be found in the amount of UNESCO World Heritage Sites that we have spread out around our continent.
Here are a few top World Heritage sites around Africa that will allow a moment to appreciate our continent’s beauty and how privileged we really are to call it home.
1. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda
This isolated forest is the most diverse in East Africa, with more than 160 species of trees and 100 species of ferns. It gets its name from having a very dense cover of herbs, vines and shrubs, with steep ridges and slippery valleys. The terrain is difficult to explore, giving it a truly adventurous side.
Appreciate this: More than half of the world’s Mountain Gorilla population can be found here and you can go on a gorilla trekking expedition to observe them and see just how closely we’re related.
From giant flat-screen televisions to 3D 12-channel surround sound IMAX, the technology now exists to bring the wonders of the natural world to our living rooms and cinema screens in ever more realistic ways. Hence the appeal of Blue Planet II, the most-watched television series in Britain last year – so popular in China that it slowed the internet.
But however advanced the gizmos, nothing can match the visceral thrill of witnessing animals in the wild. Whether it is swimming with a whale shark on Australia’s Ningaloo Reef, or coming face-to-face with a silverback gorilla in Uganda, nature has a way of reminding us how insignificant we are.
Everyone has their favourite animal. For me, it is any of the big cats – and I’ve been lucky enough to witness everything from the mating rituals of leopards to a tigress playing with her cubs. I’ve even been charged by a lion on a walking safari in Zambia. Happily everyone in our group remembered the golden rule: “Whatever you do, don’t run!”