Tag Archives: UNESCO

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 on the Drakensberg Mountains South Africa

The Drakensberg Mountains are found in the province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. This stunningly picturesque region is a 200-kilometre-long mountainous  UNESCO world heritage site.

The Zulu people named it ‘Ukhahlamba’, the Barrier of Spears, and the Dutch pioneers called it the Dragon Mountain’, hence the name Drakensberg, and both names are very appropriate for the awe inspiring craggy peaks and beautiful mountain landscapes. This area has been home to mankind for a very, very long time with thousands of rock and cave paintings by the early San people (also known as Bushmen). In fact the history of the area is so important that it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 2000 in order to protect and preserve its cultural and natural heritage.

The scenery is truly epic in the Drakensberg Mountains and it is a popular destination with tourists to South Africa. It is an area that combines well with a safari in the Kruger and makes for a great self-drive itinerary. Combining sheer natural beauty with a wealth of biological diversity, this enormous 243,000 hectare mountainous region provides a great contrast to other parts of South Africa and offers a unique atmosphere for the visitor. The mountains tower above the surrounding African bush, with slopes lined with lush forests, deep valleys, stark cliffs and cascading waterfalls.  The line of mountains creates a massive barrier which separates KwaZulu-Natal from the neighbouring Kingdom of Lesotho. The only road access to the Drakensberg is via the Sani Pass, which at the top, boasts the highest pub in Africa, where you can enjoy a drink at 3,000 metres above sea level!

There are lots of activities to choose from whilst staying and visiting the Drakensberg Mountains. The bravest can tackle sheer rock or ice- climbing or even the adrenaline rush provided by abseiling, white water rafting or taking a helicopter ride to view the Drakensberg mountains from above. Others might prefer hiking through the stunning scenery with plenty of trails and routes to choose from. There are gentle strolls exploring the lower slopes or you can explore further on a two day camping hikes up in the higher peaks for the hardier souls. The flora and fauna of the region are not to be missed with 290 species of birds, 48 species of mammals, and many rare varieties of plant life found in this national park.

The scenic highlights that should not be missed off any itinerary include Cathedral Peak, the Giant’s Castle, Champagne Castle or Peak (3248m), the Amphitheatre, and Tugela Falls which cascades down 5 separate drops to form  the second highest waterfall in the world. The area was also home to the Boer War between the Dutch Voertrekkers and the British and the wars between the native Zulus and the European Settlers. Many of the battle sites can be visited today.

The area is divided up into four valleys, beginning with the Champagne Valley in the Central Berg, through the Cathedral Peak and Didima Valley, then the Royal Natal National Park and Amphitheatre Valley, and finally the Middledale Pass Valley in the Northern Berg. Each of the four valleys has its own kind of beauty and character; all have magnificent mountain views. Accommodation can be found across the region ranging from luxury mountain resorts to small, cosy family run hotels and lodges.


Five African attractions added to the UNESCO World Heritage Lists

From the 24th to the 28th of June 2011 five African attractions and destinations were added to the UNESCO World heritage list. The five were part of 25 new entries from around the globe.

In the Natural Properties category, the Lake System of the Great Rift Valley in Kenya was added. The three lakes concerned – Bogoria, Nakuru and Elmenteita are shallow, alkaline lakes that between them cover just over 34,000 metres. They are home to 13 threatened bird species, as well as important breeding grounds for both the Lesser flamingo and the White Pelican. The reserves around their shores are home to many large mammals, including the black rhino, wild dogs, lion and cheetah. The lakes are a popular attraction for visitors on safari holidays to Kenya, the sight of hundreds of thousands of flamingos feeding in Nakuru and turning the lake pink being a breath-taking site. It is also one of the best places to see Rhino in Africa.

Another place to get official status in Kenya was Fort Jesus in Mombasa, added to the Cultural properties. This Portuguese Fort, built in 1593, was constructed to guard the port at Mombasa, and was built in the shape of a man. It has a colourful history, attacked and captured on no less than nine occasions, despite being the first fort built outside Europe to be able to withstand cannon fire. Today it can be visited and is home to a small museum.

Also added to the Cultural list was the Konso Cultural landscape. Situated in the Konso highlands in northern Ethiopia, the area is dominated by stone walled terraces and small fortified settlements, wooden and stone steles and a way of life that can be traced back over 400 years. Unique burial practices, folklore and local heroes recorded on the stele and a complex but ordered system of government make it a unique culture in danger of being swamped by the encroachment of the outside world.

Archaeology was the reason why another African Cultural area was added to the list; the Island of Meroe in Sudan. Situated between the Nile and Atbara rivers, this arid landscape in covered in archaeological sites dating from the Kingdom of Kush, a strong regional power for over 1,000 years from the eighth century AD. These sites include the Royal City of Meroe itself, the religious sites at Naqa and Musawwarat as well as a host of secular, industrial and agricultural works. These include temples and pyramids, many of which have yet to be fully excavated and explored.

The final African addition is in Senegal, the Saloum Delta. Formed by the estuaries of three rivers, a labyrinth of channels, inlets and islands has been formed that is home to a unique way of life. Mangrove swamps, thick forest and Atlantic coastline have contributed to an area that has 218 shellfish shell mounds, some 100s of metres long that have built up over many centuries. 28 of these contain burials, the grave goods in which have given a unique insight into a vanishing and ancient way of life.

Factfile: The Serengeti National Park in Tanzania

The Serengeti is famous worldwide for its wide-open savannas and stunning wildlife, in particular its spectacular yearly migration of wildebeest and zebra. The park is a UNESCO world heritage site, and was recently listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Only way to safariCovering 5,700 square miles, the park is the oldest reserve in Tanzania, having been established in 1951.The Serengeti National Park is located in northern Tanzania (near the border with Kenya) near Lake Manyara, Arusha, and Tarangire National Parks, as well as the Ngorongoro Conservation Area – this group of five reserves makes up what is known as the “northern safari circuit.” Quite a bit of controversy has surrounded the park’s history, in particular the fact that the Masai people living in the Serengeti were moved to Ngorongoro. Despite this, the Tanzanian people feel an enormous amount of pride for this park, and it is one of the must-sees of the Tanzanian game parks.

The terrain of the Serengeti is wild and open – indeed, with the exception of Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) staff and researchers, no human habitation is allowed within the park. The park is a stunning mixture of savanna, grassland plains, and forests. Every year around October, millions of the park’s animals migrate to the Masai Mara in Kenya, making the return journey back to the Serengeti in April. The journey is an arduous one, exemplified by the fact that more than 200,000 wildebeests die while making the journey. Interestingly, the park remains home to one active volcano, called the Ol Doinyo Lengai – tree roots cannot penetrate the volcano’s ash, resulting in the treeless plains which stretch to the west of the volcano.Serengeti View

The animals of the Serengeti are what have drawn visitors and adventurers to the park year after year. The array of beasts is spectacular: gazelles, buffaloes, elephants and lions are just a few of the animals visitors will see when visiting the park. There is a clear distinction in the park between the Serengeti’s predators and preys. Some of these predators are the most stunning of East Africa’s large mammals – golden lions, speedy leopards, and mischievous cheetahs all roam the park, feeding on gazelles and wildebeests. Visitors will also have the chance to view the over 90 variations of dung beetles that populate the park, as well as over 500 different species of birds. There is never shortage to see, and Serengeti travelers will find themselves on sensory overload from the moment they enter this renowned game reserve.

Arriving at the Serengeti is not difficult; because of the park’s popularity, numerous safari tour operators are located in Arusha. Planes from Dar es Salaam to Arusha run daily. If you book with a safari operator before arriving in Tanzania, they can help you in making transportation arrangements. Arusha makes a great base for exploring both the Serengeti and a number of the other northern circuit parks. In order to see the great migrations, visit the park from December to July. However, if you are more interested in seeing predators, June to October is ideal.

Giraffe game-viewing passing visitors

A number of camping sites, lodges, and luxury tents are located within the Serengeti, and to truly take advantage of your safari experience it makes the most sense to stay within the park. After all, there is nothing like waking up early for a morning walk and seeing lions roaming through plains as the sun comes up. Work with your tour operator to find your perfect accommodation. Check out the recently opened Billa Lodge, located within the park, which offers some fantastic package rates. Discuss with your tour operator the type of accommodation you are interested in, as well are your budget restraints, and they will be able to find you exactly what you are looking for.