Outstanding Natural Beauty of World Heritage Sites in Africa [36 PICS]

August 27th, 2013 Permalink

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated 129 World Heritage Sites in Africa, but these 36 are listed as Outstanding Universal Value for natural heritage. As you might expect, there is a wide diversity of flora and fauna in each. Sadly, some of these have also been placed on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage Sites in Danger, most often due to poaching of endangered wildlife. The UNESCO committee may inscribe new sites on the list, or it may delist sites if the area no longer meets the criteria, but this is UNESCO’s current list for Africa in 2013 as of the time of publishing.
[36 Photos]

Lion at Serengeti National Park, Masai Mara, Tanzania

Lion at Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. It is one of many UNESCO World Heritage Sites for natural and outstanding universal value in Africa. This vast savanna has 3,648,000 acres (1,476,300 ha) and is world-renowned for its annual herd migrations in search of water and pasture. Two million wildebeests, hundreds of thousands of zebras and gazelles, and all their predators make it “one of the most impressive nature spectacles in the world.” Because there is so much prey, it contains the “Big Five.” Serengeti is believed to hold more than 3,000 lions, the largest population of lions in Africa, about 1,000 African leopards, African Buffalo, African Elephants and Black Rhinoceros — but few rhinos are said to remain due to “rampant poaching.” It was designated as a natural site by UNESCO in 1981. Photo #1 by Anita Ritenour

The Lava Lake of the Nyiragongo Volcano, one of the spectacular sights of Virunga NP

Virunga National Park has 2,000,000 acres (800,000 ha) with swamps, savannas, snowfields and the Lava Lake of the Nyiragongo Volcano, the largest in the world. It was designated to the list of African World Heritage Sites in 1979, and a Site in Danger in 1994 due to the war in Rwanda, increasing population of refugees, deforestation, poaching, departure of park staff, and depletion of forests. Photo #2 by Cai Tjeenk Willink


Aerial shot of elephant herds roaming through Garamba National Park

Aerial shot of elephant herds roaming through Garamba National Park, which has a total of 1,200,000 acres (500,000 ha). “One of Africa’s oldest National parks, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. Garamba is (or at least was) the home to the world’s last known wild population of Northern White Rhinoceros. Due to poaching of the rhinos within the park, it was added to the list of World Heritage in Danger in 1996. The park is also well known for its African elephant domestication program started in the 1960s, which managed to train tourist-rideable animals from the naturally wild beasts.” Photo #3 by Nuria Ortega

Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley

The Great Rift Valley, Kenya, has three lakes: Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru and Lake Elementaita that make up Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley. The 399,040 acres (161,485 ha) contain a wide diversity of birds, including several threatened species, and was named a World Heritage Site in 2011. The photographer added, “Situated on a volcanic hotspot on Africa’s Great Rift Valley, lonely Lake Bogoria is a caustic cauldron fringed by geysers and populated by over a million flamingos. When we visited Bogoria we were the only people there! (Lake Bogoria, Kenya).” Photo #4 by Steve Garvie from Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland

Kolmanskop ghost town

In the constant waves of sand from the 7,605,000 acres (3,077,700 ha) of the South Namib Desert, a creepy ghost town is slowly being devoured by the desert. Caught between appearing eerie and cool, the sand dunes are moving into this house and slowly burying it in Kolmanskop ghost town. Namib Sand Sea was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 2013. Photo #5 by Damien du Toit

Huge hot cat, rare leopard at Niokolo-Koba National Park

Wildlife at Niokolo-Koba National Park, Senegal, Africa. UNESCO assigned the 2,260,000 acres (913,000 ha) of this park as a World Heritage Site in 1981. “The national park is known for its wildlife. The government of Senegal estimates the park contains 20 species of amphibian, 60 species of fish, 38 species of reptile (of which four are tortoises). There are some 80 mammal species. These included (as of 2005) an estimated 11000 buffalo, 6000 hippopotomii, 400 western giant eland, 50 elephants, 120 lions, 150 chimpanzees, 3000 waterbuck (kobus ellipsiprymnus), 2000 common duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia), an unknown number of red colobus (Colobus badius rufomitratus) and a few rare leopards and african wild dogs (Lycaon pictus), although this canid is thought to be wiped out throughout the rest of the country. Around 330 species of birds have been sighted in the park.” Photo #6 by tercita

Mount Kilimanjaro and elephant, Kilimanjaro National Park

Kilimanjaro National Park, with the highest mountain in Africa in the background. Inscribed in 1987, UNESCO states that the 186,750 acres (75,575 ha) possess “Outstanding Universal Value.” Photo #7 by Larry Woo

Gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Mountain gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which is located in southwestern Uganda in East Africa. Inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1994, the 79,300 acre (32,092 ha) area is one of Africa’s “richest” ecosystems. “The park provides habitat for some 120 species of mammals, 348 species of birds, 220 species of butterflies, 27 species of frogs, chameleons, geckos and many endangered species” like this gorilla. Photo #8 by Joshua Paul Shefman

Mount Kenya National Park wildlife at dawn, Mount Kenya in background

Mount Kenya National Park wildlife at dawn, Mount Kenya in background. Mount Kenya National Park/Natural Forest has 350,900 acres (142,020 ha) and 12 glaciers. It became a World Heritage Site in 1997. The park surrounds the 17,057 ft (5,199 m) Mount Kenya, the highest mountain in Kenya; only Africa’s Kilimanjaro is higher. UNESCO states, “With its rugged glacier-clad summits and forested middle slopes, Mount Kenya is one of the most impressive landscapes in East Africa.” Photo #9 by kimvanderwaal

Gelada baboons grazing in the Simien Mountains at Simien Mountains National Park

Simien Mountains National Park became a World Heritage Site in 1978, and a site in danger in 1996. The 54,000 acres (22,000 ha) include the Simien Mountains, jagged mountain peaks, deep valleys, and sharp precipices that drop about 4,900 ft (1,500 m), as well as Ras Dashan, the highest point in Ethiopia. This African park “is home to a number of endangered species, including the Ethiopian wolf and the walia ibex, a wild goat found nowhere else in the world. The gelada baboon and the caracal, a cat, also occur within the Simien Mountains. More than 50 species of birds inhabit the park, including the impressive bearded vulture, or lammergeier, with its 10-foot (3m) wingspan.” Pictured above, gelada baboons are grazing in the Simien Mountains. Photo #10 by Alastair Rae

12 endangered bonobo monkeys in a clearing at Salonga National Park, Africa's largest tropical rain forest reserve

Salonga National Park is Africa’s largest tropical rain forest reserve. It is located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo located in the Congo River basin. Most of the 8,900,000 acres (3,600,000 ha) are accessible only by the Congo River. The park is home to several endangered species such as “bonobos, Salonga monkeys, Tshuapa red colobus, Congo Peafowl, forest elephants, and African slender-snouted crocodiles.” Although it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, it was added to the list in danger in 1999 due to the civil war in the eastern half of the country. This photo shows 12 endangered bonobo monkeys in a clearing at Salonga. Photo #11 by Terese Hart

Lakes of Ounianga, 18 different lakes, World Heritage Site in 2012

18 different lakes in the Sahara desert, covering 155,200 acres (62,808 ha) make up the Lakes of Ounianga in North-Eastern Chad, Africa; it became a World Heritage Site in 2012. Photo #12 by Jacques Taberlet

Gorilla at Kahuzi-Biega National Park UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site in Africa

Dominated by two extinct volcanoes, Kahuzi and Biega, the 1,500,000 acres (600,000 ha) that make up Kahuzi-Biega National Park is one of the last refuges of the rare Eastern Lowland Gorilla. The park is located Democratic Republic of the Congo. “Prior to conflicts, which have plagued this part of Africa since the 1990s, only an estimated 600 gorillas remained throughout the range. As a result of the remaining gorilla population, the park was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. It is likely that recent war in the region has taken a terrible toll on their numbers. One recent (2005) estimate has suggested that as many as 60% of the population of nearly 300 recorded in Kahuzi-Biega in 1990 may have perished.” It was named as an endangered site in 1997. The photographer added, “Powerful Silverback Cimanuka of Kahuzi-Biega National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo. Shortly after this, Cimanuka led his group deeper into the swamp where we could not follow.” Photo #13 by Advantage Lendl

Okapi Wildlife Reserve, UNESCO World Heritage Site in Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

The 3,391,830 acres (1,372,625 ha) that make up Okapi Wildlife Reserve, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, covers a fifth of the Ituri Rainforest in the Congo River basin. Forest elephants, forest buffalo and water chevrotain live in the Ituri rainforest, while the reserve is home to okapi, elephants, leopards, chimpanzees, crocodiles and over 300 species of birds. Due to the many threatened primate and bird species, the reserve became another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Africa in 1996. It was quickly added to Sites in Danger in 1997 after elephants were killed and the reserve staff departed. Originally, zoos did not have okapis until the animals, more closely related to giraffes than zebras, came from this reserve. Although we hunted for a Creative Common License image of an okapi in the wilds of the park, we came up empty. Part of the reason for that might be: “On 24 June 2012, the Epulu Conservation and Research Center was attacked, looted and burned by a group of Mai-Mai rebels consisting of elephant poachers and illegal miners. During the attack, 13 of the 14 okapis at the center were killed (the last died later of injuries sustained during the attack) and six people, including two wildlife rangers, were also killed.” Sorry, but this okapi one was seen in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Photo #14 by Raul654

Karst limestone formation, known as tsingy in Malagasy at Bemaraha National Park

Karst limestone formation, known as tsingy, in Malagasy at Bemaraha National Park. Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve became a World Heritage Site in 1990. The 380,000 acre (152,000 ha) area has a razor-sharp limestone forest full of lemurs and birds, as well as lakes, mangrove swamps, and other undisturbed forests. Photo #15 by Andy Maloney

Aïr Mountains

Africa’s largest protected area consists of 19,120,000 acres (7,736,000 ha) that make up the Air and Ténéré Natural Reserves. It was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1991. By 1992, the reserves were listed as in danger by UNESCO when military conflicts increased and six staff members were taken hostage. “This view shows the central part of the mountains from the southeast with the westmost part of the Ténéré in the foreground.” Photo #16 by Christoph Hormann

Sangha Trinational, Africa, UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2012

Sangha Trinational is made up of three continuous national parks that are mostly unaffected by human activity. They are Lobéké National Park in Cameroon, Dzanga-Ndoki National Park in the Central African Republic and Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo. The 1,853,290 acres (750,00 hectares) feature a wide range of humid tropical forest ecosystems with rich flora and fauna. It was added as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012. The photographer wrote, “I walked for 2 hours through the forest dodging Forest Elephants and waist deep in water to get to the Bai forest clearing. Amazing….The park is entirely covered in lowland rainforest and is situated adjacent to the Sangha River — a major tributary of the Congo River. Large mammals include the western lowland gorillas, forest elephants, forest buffaloes, bongo, giant forest hog, red river hog, chimpanzee, a host of monkey species, sitatungas and a number of duiker species.” Photo #17 by David Holt London

Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve

Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve, Guinea, Africa, UNESCO World Heritage site since 1981. The 44,000 acres (18,000 ha) include most of Mount Nimba, which was endangered because it was proposed as an iron and ore mining site. In 1992, the World Heritage Committee inscribed the park to its sites in danger list. This reserve has over 200 endemic species like multiple types of duikers, big cats, civets, Chimpanzees, and several types of viviparous toads. The mountainous area has a rich tropical forest at about 1,968 – 3,280 feet (600 – 1000 m) with montane grassland at the heights above that. Photo #18 by Dolgyeokjang

Rainforests of the Atsinanana, Madagascar

Rainforests of the Atsinanana in eastern Madagascar is not just one place as its 1,185,300 acres (479,660 ha) hold six national parks: Marojejy National Park, Masoala National Park, Zahamena National Park, Ranomafana National Park, Andringitra National Park, and Andohahela National Park. It was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 2007, but logging and hunting activities escalated and the park was deemed to be in danger in 2010. This shot is of “Lowland rainforest, Masoala National Park, Madagascar.” Photo #19 by Frank.Vassen

Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary

Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary. 40,000 acres (16,000 ha) are home to more than 1.5 million birds, plus crocodiles and African manatees dwelling among the sanctuary’s streams, lakes, ponds and backwaters. It was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1981. Photo #20 by Manu25

Group of young elephants drinking in Lake Malawi National Park

Group of young elephants drinking in Lake Malawi National Park, a park created to protect fish and aquatic habitats. The 23,000 acres (9,400 ha) also have lots of other wildlife. It became a World Heritage Site in 1984. Photo #21 by st georges

Manovo Gounda St Floris National Park World Heritage Site in 1988 due to poaching 80 percent of wildlife

In 1988, Manovo-Gounda St Floris National Park was placed on the UNESCO List of World Heritage sites. However it was listed as being in danger in 1997 due to poaching that is believed to have claimed 80% of the wildlife in the park. Security was deteriorating, and four park staff were shot trying to protect the animals. The park contains vast savannas with a plethora of flora and fauna, including elephants, cheetahs, leopards, wild dogs, red-fronted gazelles and buffalo. However, “it is doubtful whether any black rhino survive.” At 4,300,000 acres (1,740,000 ha), it is the largest park in the Central African savannas. Photo #22 by Human and Natural

Young giraffes at W National Park of Niger, UNESCO World Heritage Site

W National Park of Niger is an extensive 540,000 acre (220,000 ha) habitat for a diversity of flora and fauna. UNESCO inscribed it in 1996 as it is “located in a transition zone between savanna and woodlands and represents a part of the important ecosystem characteristics of the West African woodlands/savanna bio-geographical region.” The photographer called this “Giraffe kindergarten: These young giraffes are resting in the shadow, a rare sight even in Niger, West Africa.” Photo #23 by Christoph Rupprecht

Aldabra Atoll, located in Seychelles, home to the world's largest population of giant tortoises

Aldabra Atoll, located in Seychelles, Africa, was inscribed by UNESCO in 1982. At 86,000 acres (35,000 ha), it is the world’s second largest coral atoll. Four large coral islands and a lagoon are surrounded by a coral reef and home to the world’s largest population of giant tortoises. Photo #24 by Steve Fuerst

Well-preserved palm forest at May Valley Nature Reserve Seychelles, Africa

In the heart of the small island of Praslin, Seychelles, there is a palm forest that is so well-preserved that it is almost in its original natural state. Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve is pretty small, only 49 acres (20 ha), but it where coco de mer, the largest seed in the plant kingdom, grows. Once upon a time, the bizarre seeds were believed to have grown in the depths of the sea. There are male and female palms, each with their fruit/nut resembling a human female or male’s reproductive organs. This nature reserve was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1983. Photo #25 by Bob Shand

White rhino at iSimangaliso Wetland Park

iSimangaliso Wetland Park, formerly called Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, includes 13 separate but contiguous conservation units made up of numerous lakes and reserves. At 591,980 acres (239,566 ha), it is South Africa’s third-largest protected area. iSimangaliso isn’t a play on Apple iOS products, but means “miracle” in Zulu. In 1999, UNESCO inscribed it as a Natural World Heritage Site in Africa with outstanding universal value and exceptional species diversity due to varying ecosytems. “It includes a wide range of pristine marine, coastal, wetland, estuarine, and terrestrial environments which are scenically beautiful and basically unmodified by people. These include coral reefs, long sandy beaches, coastal dunes, lake systems, swamps, and extensive reed and papyrus wetlands, providing critical habitat for a wide range of species from Africa’s seas, wetlands and savannahs.” A few of park’s animals are Nile crocodiles, “elephants, leopard, black and white rhino, buffalo, and in the ocean, whales, dolphins, and marine turtles including the leatherback and loggerhead turtles.” Photo #26 by Josiah Townsend

Cape Floral Region Protected Areas

Cape Floral Region Protected Areas, inscribed by UNESCO in 2004, has 1,370,000 acres (553,000 ha) and contains nearly 20% of the flora in Africa. In fact, “the Cape Floristic Region, the smallest of the six recognized floral kingdoms of the world, is an area of extraordinarily high diversity and endemism, and is home to more than 9,000 vascular plant species, of which 69 percent are endemic.” The photographer called this shot “Jonkershoek glory. Jonkershoek, a component of the Boland Mountain Complex section of the Cape Floral Region Protected Areas World Heritage Site.” Photo #27 by Ralph Pina

Crocodile at Selous Game Reserve

Crocodile at Selous Game Reserve. The 12,000,000 acres (5,000,000 ha) have a wide diversity of wildlife which was why UNESCO designated it as a World Heritage Site in 1982. “Some of the typical animals of the savanna (for example elephants, hippopotami, African Wild Dog, cape buffalo and crocodiles) can be found in this park in larger numbers than in any other African game reserve or national park.” Photo #28 by Sander Kuulkers

Vredefort Crater, Vredefort Dome

Vredefort crater, inscribed in 2005, has 74,000 acres (30,000 ha). UNESCO wrote, “Vredefort Dome, approximately 120 km south-west of Johannesburg, is a representative part of a larger meteorite impact structure, or astrobleme. Dating back 2,023 million years, it is the oldest astrobleme yet found on Earth. With a radius of 190 km, it is also the largest and the most deeply eroded. Vredefort Dome bears witness to the world’s greatest known single energy release event, which had devastating global effects including, according to some scientists, major evolutionary changes. It provides critical evidence of the Earth’s geological history and is crucial to understanding of the evolution of the planet. Despite the importance of impact sites to the planet’s history, geological activity on the Earth’s surface has led to the disappearance of evidence from most of them, and Vredefort is the only example to provide a full geological profile of an astrobleme below the crater floor.” Photo #29 by NASA

Taï National Park, in West Africa, World Heritage Site since 1982 due to flora and fauna diversity

Taï National Park in West Africa has been a World Heritage Site since 1982 due to flora and fauna diversity, including 11 species of monkeys. The 820,000 acres (330,000 ha) are considered to be one of the few remaining sections of the West African tropical forest. However, “the Tai Forest is a natural reservoir of the Ebola virus. The World Health Organization has expressed concern over the proximity of this reservoir to the International Airport at Abidjan.” Photo #30 by African Safari

UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site in Africa, Rwenzori Mountains National Park

In 1994, UNESCO added the 246,000 acres (99,600 ha) of Rwenzori Mountains National Park to the list of World Heritage Sites. The park contains Mount Margherita, Africa’s third highest peak, as well as numerous waterfalls, lakes and glaciers. UNESCO added, “The Rwenzori Mountains are the highest and most permanent sources of the River Nile, and constitute a vital water catchment.” The photographer wrote, “Trekking the highest and most scenic Mountain range in Uganda and Africa. Climbing Africa’s 3rd and 4th highest mountains.” Photo #31 by Jorn Eriksson

Comoé National Park in Cote d'Ivoire, Africa, inscribed as World Heritage Site in danger in 2003

At 2,800,000 acres (1,150,000 ha), Comoé National Park in Cote d’Ivoire is the largest protected site in West Africa. UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site in 1983. “The property was inscribed on the List of the World Heritage in Danger in 2003 because of the potential impact of civil unrest; decrease in the populations of large mammals due to increased and uncontrolled poaching; and the lack of efficient management mechanisms.” Photo #32 by Human and Natural

Hippo emerges from the grass at the edge of the Zambezi River at Mana Pools National Park

Hippo emerges from the grass at the edge of the Zambezi River at Mana Pools National Park, Sapi and Chewore Safari Areas. The 1,672,000 acre (676,600 ha) area was added by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1984. Every year after rainy season, the flood plain turns into a broad expanse of lakes. When it dries up, many large animals come seeking water, “making it one of Africa’s most renowned game-viewing regions.” It has a large hippopotamus and Nile crocodile population as well as other wildlife like buffalo, cheetahs, elephants and leopards. Photo #33 by Terry Feuerborn

Dja Faunal Reserve in Cameroon, Africa, UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987

Dja Faunal Reserve in Cameroon, Africa, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 due to the diversity of species here; there are five threatened species, 107 mammals, more than 320 birds, and over 1,500 known plant species on the reserve. The Dja Faunal Reserve covers 1,300,000 acres (526,000 ha) and the boundary of the Dja River keeps the area mostly undisturbed. Seen in this photo, people are pulling the ferry over to cross the Dja River. Photo #34 by Amcaja

UNESCO World Heritage Site in Africa, Victoria Falls 'the Smoke that Thunders' is the world's largest sheet of falling water

Victoria Falls “the Smoke that Thunders” is the world’s largest sheet of falling water. Named a World Heritage Site in 1989, Mosi-oa-Tunya / Victoria Falls is about twice the height of Niagara Falls and over twice the width of Horseshoe Falls. In both height and width, it is rivaled only by Argentina and Brazil’s incredible Iguazu Falls. The area is 21,700 acres (8,780 ha) at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe in southern Africa. The waterfall is about 1.2 miles wide where the Zambezi River plunges through the first of six gorges. It is possible to swim right at the very edge of the falls in a naturally formed “Devil’s Pool.” Sometimes humans, hippos and crocodiles are swept over the falls; animals “are frequently found swirling about here or washed up at the north-east end of the Second Gorge.” Photo #35 by Pius Mahimbi

Full moon rising over Lake Turkana National Parks

Full moon rising over Lake Turkana National Parks. The 399,040 acres (161,485 ha) that make up this park are actually a group of three national parks located in Kenya. The lake is the world’s largest permanent desert lake as well as the world’s largest alkaline lake. The park was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1997. It is considered important since it is a breeding ground for the Nile crocodile, hippopotamus, several venomous snakes and is a stopping point for numerous migratory birds. Photo #36 by Luciano Rizzello


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