How many UNESCO World Heritage Sites are there in Africa?

UNESCO (The United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) runs a programme to protect and maintain places that are extremely important either for conservation of the environment or culturally important sites. These places are given UNESCO World Heritage Site status in order to protect them under international law and to be able to raise funds to help secure their protection for the future. There are currently 981 sites worldwide of which 759 are cultural and 193 are natural and 29 are both.

So how many are there in Africa? Well, there are an amazing 94 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and they range from all kinds of natural environment to incredible ancient cultural sites. Unsurprisingly really considering Africa is the birthplace of mankind and also home to some of the most diverse landscapes and wildlife on the planet.

In Southern Africa there are some incredible sites all worth visiting. In Zimbabwe you have Mana Pools National Park, the Great Zimbabwe Monument and of course shared with Zambia the world famous Mosi-oa-Tunya otherwise known as Victoria Falls. In South Africa you can visit various Humanid Fossil Sites or the stunning beautiful Drakensburg region. In Namibia there is the Namib Sand Sea with its enormous sand dunes and Twyfelfontein. In neighbouring Botswana its Tsodilo makes the list and in Malawi it’s the Lake Malawi National Park and the ancient rock art of Chongoni.

In Eastern Africa there are so many UNESCO World Heritage Sites you would have to return many times over to see them all. In Ethiopia there are the famous cultural sites of Lalibela, Aksum, the Omo Valley and Fasil Ghebbi in Gondar but did you know that the stunning Simien Mountains were also a world heritage site under UNESCO’s protection? Other cultural sites include Stone Town on Zanzibar, Fort Jesus in Mombasa, Lamu’s Old Town in Kenya and the rock art sites of Kondoa in Tanzania.

Of course East Africa is famous for its stunning scenery and much of this has world heritage status including the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Serengeti National Park, Selous Game Reserve and Kilimanjaro National Park – and that’s just Tanzania. In Kenya the Great Lake region of the Rift Valley, Lake Turkana National Park and Mount Kenya National Park are all protected with this status. Over in neighbouring Uganda the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and the Rwenzori National Park are both world heritage sites as is the Virunga National Park in Rwanda. And last but not least one of our favourite destinations in Mozambique, the island of Mozambique itself has world heritage status.

In fact Africa has so many important sites that another umbrella group was set up to run the programme. The African World Heritage Fund (AWHF) is the first regional funding initiative within the framework of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. Created in 2006 through a joint initiative by the Government of South Africa, the African Union and UNESCO, the African World Heritage Fund is an intergovernmental organization based in South Africa whose mission is to assist African countries in: increasing the number of African sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List, conserving and managing natural and cultural heritage, rehabilitating sites on the list of World Heritage in Danger, training heritage experts and site managers, and ensuring the participation of local communities in decisions concerning their heritage and to ensure that they receive tangible benefits from World Heritage. On Friday 31 January 2014, UNESCO joined forces with the African Union Commission to raise awareness and funds for the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF) during the African Union (AU) Heads of State luncheon at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Participants pledged a total of three million US dollars in support of the AWHF Endowment Fund.

It is good to know that these amazing beautiful and historic places are being actively protected and that future generations will be able to enjoy them and learn from them as we have. The only problem I have is trying to decide which one to visit next……….

Posted by Ruth

Spotlight: Mozambique

Mozambique is a new destination on the map for holidaymakers as its tourism industry has really only established itself over the past few years. Most people are pretty unsure as to where it is and what it might offer. But don’t let this fool you –Mozambique is spectacular and offers some of the most fantastic diving and some of the most stunning beaches in the whole world.

Mozambique is in south eastern Africa on the Indian Ocean neighbouring South Africa,  Zimbabwe,Tanzania and Malawi. It combines beautiful inland scenery with fantastic coastal scenery. Inland you can go on safari as Mozambique has created some national parks including the Maputo Special Reserve and the Gorongosa National Park. Animals numbers are being re-built with help from their neighbours and this is a great place to go on safari if you fancy trying out a new country away from traditional safari destinations. The capital city o f Maputo is interesting to visit as it reflects the country’s mixed heritage of Portuguese and Arab influences combined with Africa. Mozambique has a flavour all of its own.

The best time of year to go is during the dry season which is from April through to September. The wet season runs over the winter months and the rainfall is heaviest along the coast. Heavy rain means diving visibility is limited and its not so much fun on the beach either so aim for the summer months when visiting.

There is a wide range of accommodation in Mozambique from large resort hotels to small safari camps. The best range of accommodation is available along the coast and on the islands where you can find full equipped beach resorts with spas and a huge range of water-sports and diving centres.  You can learn to sail, scuba dive, fish, windsurf or waterski here! You can also find lots of tiny little private islands and boutique hotels which are much smaller and more intimate. These range from basic rustic to barefoot luxury, from eco-friendly to top of the range. In fact the often stylish and romantic accommodation has made Mozambiquea very popular destination for honeymooners wishing to get off the beaten track and have the beach to themselves.

Swimming and diving really are the two main diversions for the holidaymaker in Mozambique and the beautiful coast is the main attraction. The Mozambique Coast is made up of many different islands and bays. Off the coast is a huge range of coral reefs which are home to some fabulous marine wildlife and which make this area such an exciting place to come diving. There are various different archipelagos which are popular depending on their accessibility or their facilities. Some islands are so remote you can only reach them having travelled by plane, helicopter and boat! Much of the coastline is protected as one of the world’s first and most important marine national parks.

Pemba is renowned as being a fantastic destination for scuba diving enthusiasts as it is home to a wonderfully pristine coral reef which is easily accessible. Pemba is a popular holiday spot already for upper-middle class Mozambicans and South Africans and as such as a good range of hotels and restaurants and other facilities. Pemba is the closest major city and airport for those who wish to visit Quirimbas Islands and Quirimbas National Park. The Quirimbas Islands lie in the Indian Ocean off the northeastern coast. The archipelago consists of about 27 islands and was made up of Arab trading posts and small fishing villages. Today, many of the islands are un-inhabitated – just the place for a picnic with the place just to yourselves!

The islands of Mozambique are famous for their high-quality diving sites, including spectacular drop-offs, some up to 400 meters. The Quirimbas National Park, is a protected area in the islands which spans around 7,500 km², includes the eleven most southerly islands. Also worth visiting is the Bazaruto Archipelago which is a group of six islands in near the mainland city of Viklankulo. It is a proclaimed marine national park that boasts sensational beaches and magnificent scenery.

The archipelago comprises of the islands of Bazaruto, Benguerra, Banque, and Santa Carolina and Shell Island. Tourist attractions include sandy beaches and coral reefs – again perfect for swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving. There is a wide abundance of reef fish, Surgeon, Moorish Idols, Parrot, Angel and Butterfly fish to name but a few. There is so much marine life here in abundance. You see dolphins as a matter of course and often you can catch a glimpse of whales as they pass through the warm waters on their way to South Africa on their migration.

You may also see the majestic spectacle of giant manta and devil rays as the glide smoothly through the crystal clear waters. These are amazing creatures and fascinating to watch. If you are really lucky you might even catch sight of the endangered and very elusive Dugong or sea-cow.  If you like the beach you really are spoilt for choice when you come to Mozambique and it will capture your imagination like nowhere else.

Lily’s Epic African Odyssey – Part One. Mozambique

Lily is one of our very well travelled Sales Consultants here at Real Africa and over the summer she had the opportunity to travel right across Southern Africa. We send out Sales Consultants off on regular trips to visit the accommodation we use, develop our relationships with local partners, explore new destinations  and to create new and exciting itineraries.

Starting in Mozambique (our new tours will be up shortly!)  Lily then moved onto Zambia before ending up on the stunning Lake Malawi. She travelled vast distances and saw fabulous sights en route and despite the early morning starts Lily says it was one of the most wonderful trips she has ever taken – and she is a very well travelled lady!  Over to you Lily.

I started off flying down to South Africa where I spent the night in Johannesburg before taking my flight over to Maputo in Mozambique. From there I took another flight to Pemba and then another to a tiny island in the archipelago called Ibo Island. Ibo Island is in the Quirimbas National Park an area of great scenic beauty, boasting high levels of marine and terrestrial biodiversity, and some of the most unspoilt reef eco systems anywhere in the Indian Ocean. This area also boasts a rich history and culture whose blend of indigenous African and exotic Arabic and Portuguese influences is epitomised by the historic town of Ibo on the island of the same name.

I stayed at Ibo Island Lodge which is comprised of three original historic mansions which have been stylishly renovated.  Furnished with antique furniture it has a mix of European, Arab and Swahili atmosphere.  Wide verandas furnished with soft cushions, teak furniture and a roof top terrace which is the ideal spot for sundowners and the other rooms had lovely views over the waterfront and distant islands. Ibo is the tourist hub of the archipelago which is pretty much undeveloped. The views over the islands with their turquoise clear waters, white sands and green mangroves as you fly in are spectacular and give you a great idea of how the islands operate (a lot depends on high tide and access by boat). Activities in the area include swimming, diving, kayaking and dhow cruises.

I then transferred by speedboat to Azura Quilalea Resort just over an hour away. This resort is a true romantic get-away. The staff all greeted me with a welcome song and then I spent the rest of the day walking around the island and looking for the turtles that live on the beach. The villas are hewn from local material with natural coral stone walls, carved wooden beams, makuti thatch roofs, and timber wooden decks. Windows have no glass, but have shutters made from local reed that can be opened to allow the breezes through, or closed for privacy at night. Handcrafted oversize beds, comfortable, all natural, designer ‘beach-chic’ finishings and furnishings, and spacious bathrooms with baobab tiled shower and views out to sea. There are no telephones and Ipod docks here, just a fan to cool you down, an aircon should you need it, a fridge full of your favourite beverages, and a wooden pirate chest to store your most precious belongings. Outside, there are daybeds and sun-loungers for relaxing, and the private decks have fabulous uninterrupted views out to the beach and sea beyond. Needless to say the food was also excellent and I sat in a different location for every meal i.e. under a tree set up from the beach; on the beach; by the swimming pool. Bliss!

Next week we will follow Lily’s journey as she head’s off to Zambia, visiting the Victoria Falls and going on a walking safari in the South Luangwa National Park.

A “Lost forest” discovered in Mozambique

After all the excitement recently of Atlantis being discovered in the Atlantic on Google Ocean (which sadly turned out to be untrue), we are happy to report the successful identification of a “lost world”. UK scientists, using Google Earth, have successfully identified a lost forest in Mozambique in the Mount Mabu area.

Due to the terrain many Mozambique residents didn’t even realise that Mabu existed and it wasn’t marked on many maps. Despite this the experts are claiming it to be the biggest area of medium-altitude forest in Southern Africa covering over 7,000 hectares. More excitingly for them it was completely unexplored.

On an exploratory visit the botanists from the Royal Gardens in Kew have discovered new species of insect, snakes, monkeys and a host of new flora. Amongst the new discoveries was a new type of Pygmy Chameleon.