Africas Greatest Show

© Wildebeest and zebra midgation. Tanzania

Africa is a continent known for its natural diversity and in particular its wildlife. The lure of the big game and wildlife-rich plains is instilled in many people from a young age and although the big game plays a great part in the natural history of the continent there are other aspects of the African wilderness that are often overlooked.

Africa plays host to some of the most dramatic natural occurrences on earth, the most famous being the Great Wildebeest migration of East Africa - but there are other less-known, but just as dramatic, happenings that occur across the continent.

The Greatest Show on Earth

The term 'Greatest Show on Earth' is used to describe the great wildebeest migration that happens on the vast plains of East Africa. The show involves almost two million animals in a constant search for water and food - and all the drama's that go with it.

Two million animals, wildebeest, zebra and gazelles, move across the plains of the Serengeti in Tanzania and the Masai Mara in Kenya. As water and food dictate the migration, the route is not set in stone but what is certain is that great dramas will play out all along the route.

In the north-west corner of Zambia a migration of wildebeest occurs into what is the Liuwa Plains National Park. The attraction of what is considered to be Africa's second largest land migration, with approximately 300 000 wildebeest, is the remoteness of the region contributing to the lack of tourist development in the area.

The Flooding of the Desert

One of the least known natural phenomena in Africa is the annual flooding of the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Situated in the heart of the Kalahari Desert the Okavango is an oasis of channels, lagoons and islands that support a profusion of wildlife.

The most fascinating part of the whole event is that the flooding occurs in the dry season, sometimes as long as six months after the last rain falls in the delta area. The reason for this is that the water that floods the delta comes from the highlands of Angola, some 1 700 km away. The local rainfall usually has a limited effect on the water levels.

The shallow floodplains of the seasonal delta begin to dry up around September with only a brief respite during the rainy season from November through to April. The drying up of the floodplains is the scene for great dramas of survival and death and with the coming of the flood new dramas play out providing one of Africa's great shows.

The Desert Shall Bloom

The Namaqualand region in the north-west of South Africa is an arid and seemingly inhospitable area but for a short time very year, after the first spring rains, the landscape comes alive when the ground is carpeted by a profusion of wild flowers.

For the most the Namaqualand landscape is dominated by rocks and the plantlife consists of succulents that can survive the extreme temperatures but come spring the transformation is mind-boggling to say the least.

Fish Migrations

The greatest migration of animals on earth, measured in sheer numbers, occurs on the East Coast of South Africa where millions of sardines move from the southern ocean into the warmer waters of the east coast - and with them the predators such as sharks, dolphins, gannets and at times even orca whales. This migration is commonly called the 'greatest dive show on earth' by underwater enthusiasts.
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