It's impossible to decide which is better: the imposing profile of Table Mountain cradling South Africa's 'Mother City' or the exquisite wrap-around views from its summit. Throughout Cape Town, the mountain exerts a perpetual pull — regardless of how often you've climbed it (a thigh-crunching two-hour walk) or caught your breath in the vertiginous, rotating cable car.
Beyond the crowded cable station, the Tabletop offers peace and solitude. Rock hyrax hop among the fynbos, while the city glimmers far below. At sunset, the sky blazes crimson behind Robben Island, reddening the magnificent rock buttresses of the Twelve Apostles. - Stephanie Debere
The Great Rift Valley, the world's largest fault, is 800m deep, 30 kilometres wide and a staggering 2500 kilometres long. It is home to some of East Africa's most remote and inhospitable terrain, some of which is accessible only to hardy native tribesmen and a few privileged westerners with helicopters. One such pilot and helicopter operator, Humphrey Carter, has made the remote northern Rift Valley of Kenya his home.
Each day, at dawn, he departs from the Laikipia plateau, delving into the Rift through the spectacular Mukutan Gorge. Continuing north along the course of the Baragoi River and into the Suguta Valley, there are opportunities to touch down next to lakes teeming with hundreds of thousands of flamingos or to visit the remote lands of the Samburu and Turkana tribes. This expedition is a wonderful opportunity to fly with the birds and walk with the nomads. It offers a unique insight into one of the most incredible geological features on the planet and the people and wildlife who make it their home. - Steve Turner.
Skeleton Coast fly-in safari. Namibia It is midday and the desert is bleached by harsh sunlight. The Namib-Naukluft dune field looks more like a mountain range of soft-whip butterscotch ice cream as we fly west across the heart of the desert. After an hour or so, I become aware that the Cessna is losing altitude. A harsh white line wavers in the heat haze far ahead while, below, the dunes are flattening as if someone has tugged the folds from the edge of the Namib.
It happens so abruptly, in a matter of seconds. First, the scattered salt pans, blinding white and so flat I can see a crisp shadow of the Cessna 50m below. Then a row of small dunes, a beach, waves breaking, water churned to foam, and seals! Seals in their hundreds, leaping and twisting, somersaulting from the curling green walls of ocean breakers. Now on a wing tip. Below, nothing but deep cobalt sea, streaked with creamy froth.
Glistening brown stems of kelp loop above the surface like the arms of a sea monster. The Cessna levels out and we are flying north, low and fast above the waves of Namibia's fabled Skeleton Coast. - William Gray.
Arrive at Namibia's Sossusvlei in the early evening, as I first did, and they look like low hills. Driving towards them, it was almost a shock to find sand dunes. I started climbing at dawn when the sand was cool and compacted, but still it was tiring. For every three steps you take up, you slide down two. After a while you stop and look behind, to catch a breath and be reminded of the reason for all your exertion.
You've climbed far above the silvery-white pan. Distance lends perspective: the foliage of knurled old camelthorn acacias seems soft and feathery and the spiky, leafless stems of nara bushes appear like bright green icing on low dunes. All around, dominating the view, are sinuous sand sculptures: terracotta dunes forming perfect curves - each partly iridescent, partly in shadow.
Sossusvlei is perhaps Africa's most beautiful sight — but visit early before the sun gets high, the light flattens and the temperatures rocket. - Chris Mcintyre.
Africa is renowned for stunning sunsets, but this is a place for 'sunuppers'- not sundowners. It is a place where an African dawn is nothing short of magical. Camel owners wait along the path to offer their services to pilgrims and travellers alike, to help them up the switchback trail to the summit of Mt Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments.
It is a small mountain, 2285m high, crowned with an unimposing chapel. I have spent many a night atop this mountain. It is cold until the morning sun picks out the range of peaks. The rocks, poking up from a cotton-wool carpet of cloud below, glow with orange and golden hues. Long shadows are cast before me and long spiritual thoughts are cast into the recesses of my mind. - Guy Marks
I love the Fish River Canyon, but judging by the lack of crowds, few others feel the same way. The road there is intriguing: perpetually climbing and then swiftly dropping, like a fairground roller coaster. Crest by crest, the landscape gradually reveals itself, but the huge gash in the earth, which is the Fish River Canyon, comes as a surprise.
One moment there's a rolling, rocky landscape; the next you are gazing down into one of the world's largest canyons. Walk along the rim, savouring the changing view. If you're lucky, you may spot a klipspringer. At the bottom, Ai-Ais is magical: drive down through walls of rock to a pool of naturally hot mineral water amid this deep river valley. Wherever you go, you'll rarely see others; the Canyon is a soulful place to get up close and personal with mother earth. - Chris Mcintyre