Atacama Desert, Chile
The Atacama Desert, bordering Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru in South America, is considered to be the driest desert in the world. It is a plateau that is between 1 000 km and 1 100 km long and covers around 105 000 km2 to the west of the Andes mountains. The area, rich in metallic and non-metallic minerals, mainly consists of salt lakes, sand and felsic lava. In addition, it is home to the world’s largest supply of sodium nitrate (commonly known as Chile saltpeter or Peru saltpeter).
Table Mountain, South Africa
Found in the Table Mountain National Park, Table Mountain soars over the Cape Peninsula in South Africa. The mountain is flanked by Lion’s Head (west) and Devil’s Peak (east) with its highest point, marked by Maclear’s Beacon, roughly 1 086 m above sea-level. The most notable feature, its flat plateau, measures about 3 km from side to side. The mountain also has a constellation named after it – mensa (‘table’ in Latin) – the only terrestrial feature to share its name with a constellation.
Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
The Ngorongoro Crater is located in northern Tanzania and is the world’s largest unflooded caldera (collapsed volcano). With its walls still intact, the caldera measures between 16 km and 19 km across, is roughly 600 m deep and the floor area amounts to over 260 km2. It contains vast expanses of savannah, highland plains, forests and woodlands that are home to numerous endangered species and has one of the densest lion populations in the world. Coupled to this, with the crater being part of the greater Serengeti-Ngorongoro-Maasai Mara ecosystem, exceptionally large herds of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle
migrate through it every summer.
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Ha Long Bay, in the northeast of Vietnam, in the Gulf of Tonkin, is made up of more than 1 600 limestone karsts, uninhabited islands and isles in countless sizes and shapes. These limestone formations form a magnificent seascape, comprising various coastal erosion features such as caves and arches. It is an almost perfect model of a mature karst landscape that has evolved in a warm and wet tropical climate. The landscape is complemented by a tropical evergreen biosystem, as well as oceanic and sea shore biosystems, boasting around 14 endemic floral species and 60 endemic faunal species.
More or less 460 km to the southwest of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory Outback in Australia, is Uluru – an orange/brown sandstone formation with a circumference of around 10 km. It measures almost 350 m high, towering above the plains of spinifex grass. Formed after the slow erosion of the original mountain range it belonged to, this inselberg (‘island mountain’) extends some 2.5 km into the ground and changes colour at sunrise and sunset – one of its most notable features.
Wadi Shab, Oman
Wadi is the traditional Arabic term for ‘valley’ – a highly fertile environment in the midst of a desert. Regarded as the most famous wadi in Oman, Wadi Shab is a gorge-like valley located 140 km from Oman’s capital Muscat. It has a unique ecological system as fresh water flowing from the tops of the valley’s cliffs meet the saline ocean water on its banks. The wadi’s environmental system is characterised by a wealth of natural attractions such as an abundance of mango and banana trees, natural pools filled with its well known emerald green/turquoise water and a waterfall in a cave that can only be reached
by swimming to it through a ‘keyhole’ opening.