Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Best National Parks in Africa

Africa has the highest concentration of national parks than any other country in the world. Wildlife abundance is one of the distinguishing features of Africa. It’s for this reason that each year, people from all over the world converge in Africa, to capture its wildlife treasures. Some of the most breathtaking national parks in Africa include the following: Etosha National Park –Namibia; Kruger National Park –Republic of South Africa; Masai Mora National Reserve –Kenya; Serengeti National Park-Tanzania; Waza National Park –Cameroon.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Spectacular Victoria Falls- One of the Seven Wonders of the World

The spectacular Victoria Falls are located on the Zambesi River, in an area bordering the two Southern African countries of Zimbabwe and Zambia. With a width of 1,708 metres (5,604 ft) and a height of 108 metres (354 ft), this breathtaking falls are the largest in the world. The Victoria falls constitute one of the Seven Wonders of the World; and have been granted world heritage status by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). An estimated 1 million people from all over the world visit the falls each year. The Falls can be visited from either the Zimbabwean or the Zambian side, though historically, more people had tended to visit the falls from the Zimbabwean side.

The falls are formed as the entire width of the river plunges in a single vertical drop into a transverse chasm 1708 metres (5604 ft) wide, carved by its waters along a fracture zone in the basalt plateau. The depth of the chasm, called the First Gorge, varies from 80 metres (260 ft) at its western end to 108 metres (354 ft) in the centre. The only outlet to the First Gorge is a 110 metres (360 ft) wide gap, which is about two-thirds of the way across the width of the falls from the western end, through which the whole volume of the river pours into the Victoria Falls’ gorges.

There are two islands on the crest of the falls, which are sufficiently large to divide the curtain of water even at full flood. These Islands are: Boaruka Island (or Cataract Island) near the western bank, and Livingstone Island near the middle. At less than full flood, additional islets partition the curtain of water into separate parallel streams. The main streams are named, in order from Zimbabwe (west) to Zambia (east): Devil's Cataract (called Leaping Water by some), Main Falls, Rainbow Falls (the highest) and the Eastern Cataract.

The spray from the falls typically rises to a height of over 400 metres (1,300 ft), and sometimes even twice as high, and is visible from up to 48 km (30 mi) away. At full moon, a "moonbow" can be seen in the spray, instead of the usual daylight rainbow. During the flood season, however, it is impossible to see the foot of the falls and most of its face, and the walks along the cliff opposite it are in a constant shower and engulfed by mist. Close to the edge of the cliff, spray shoots upward like inverted rain, especially at Zambia's Knife-Edge Bridge.

A prominent feature at the falls is the naturally formed Devil's Pool, near the edge of the falls on Livingstone Island on the Zambian side. When the river flow is at a certain level, usually between September and December, a rock barrier forms an eddy with minimal current, allowing adventurous swimmers to splash around in relative safety, a few feet from the point where the water cascades over the falls.

The two relatively small national parks at the falls are the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, which is 66 square kilometres (16,309 acres) big; and Victoria Falls National Park, which is 23 square kilometres (5,683 acres) large. However, next to the latter on the southern bank is the Zambezi National Park, extending 40 kilometres (25 mi) west along the river.

Mopane woodland savannah predominates in the area, with smaller areas of Miombo and Rhodesian Teak woodland and scrubland savannah. Riverine forest with palm trees lines the banks and islands above the falls.

The river is home to 39 species of fish below the falls and 89 species above it. This testifies the effectiveness of the falls in dividing the upper and lower Zambezi.
Activities at the falls include: enjoying the spectacular view of the falls, wildlife viewing, bungee jumping, jet boating, sundowner cruises, Kayaking, canoeing, abseiling, river boarding, swinging through the gorge, etc.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Best of Emmanuel Dibango of Cameroon

Cameroon is an alluring vibrant country, bubbling with enchanting real African rhythms; a nation with some of the most talented musicians in Africa. One of Cameroon and Africa’s most celebrated musicians is composer, saxophonist and singer, Emmanuel Dibango, affectionately referred to as Manu Dibango. Nicknamed the “Lion of Cameroon”, Mr. Dibango is famous for an eclectic musical style that draws elements from African, American, European, and techno genres; including jazz, blues, reggae, hip hop, soul, gospel, spiritual, cabaret, as well as makossa, a Cameroonian folk dance rhythm, which Mr. Dibango helped bring to the world musical stage.

Mr. Dibango is versed in a variety of musical instruments, including the saxophone, keyboards, vibraphone, and marimba. He also introduces a great deal of vocals, as an additional ingredient to his performances.

Throughout his prolific career, he has performed countless concerts at world-class venues, and released 42 albums, 45 singles, and 7 compilations.
Emmanuel Dibango was born on February 10, 1934, in Douala, Cameroon, a Central and Western African nation, endowed with rich natural and cultural heritages. As a young boy, he participated in the church choir led by his mother; and would sing all day with the employees of his family’s dressmaking business. He would conduct the group to create harmonic melodies with human voices. Beside classical church tunes, he also listened to modern music.

As he grew older, Emmanuel was introduced to makossa, a Cameroonian version of West African highlife music, characterised by wind instruments used in jazz music and guitars. These childhood experiences provided the foundation for Mr. Dibango’s subsequent musical ingenuity and thriving career. At age 15, he moved to France to pursue a technical career. He began to frequent jazz clubs in Paris and was exposed to a range of contemporary music genres, while getting to know celebrated musicians such as the legendary Duke Ellington.

After completing college in 1956, Manu Dibango moved to Brussels, Belgium, where he performed with Congolese vocal star Joseph Kabasele. In 1960, he returned to Africa and played keyboard and saxophone with various bands in several countries, before forming his own in his motherland in 1963.

Mr. Dibango moved back to Paris in 1965, to work as a bandleader; and became fond of American soul music. In 1968, he released his first solo album. His international success came with “Soul Makossa” in 1972. The song was also featured in his fourth album in 1973, which includes the scores he composed for the African Football Championship, as was requested by then President Ahmadou Ahidjo of Cameroon.
“Soul Makossa” gained instant popularity in New York City. One hundred and fifty thousand albums sold out in a week. Within a short time, at least 23 versions by other artists were generated to meetthe demand of the public. In subsequent concerts, Manu Dibango had audiences of 40,000 at the Yankee Stadium, and 350,000 at the Madison Square. “Soul Makossa” won a gold record for sales in the United States and a Grammy Award nomination for Best R&B Instrumental Performance of the year.

“Soul Makossa” equally achieved great success in Africa, Europe, and other parts of the world. Its vocal refrain “ma ma ko – ma ma sa – mako mako sa” became so popular that it was later adapted by many renowned artists; including Michael Jackson. Manu Dibango himself was lauded by Billboard’s Emmanuel Legrand as “one of the founders of the world music movement.”

Between 1975 and 1979, when Mr. Dibango was the director of the Radio Orchestra of Cote d’Ivoire,
he composed soundtracks for several African movies, including Cote d'Ivoire’s “Wild Grass,”(French: L’Herbe Sauvage); Cameroon’s “The Price of Freedom,” (French: Le prix de la liberte);and Senegal’s “Ceddo.”  During the decade that followed, he was inspired by reggae and hip-hop music, and producedinfluential albums such as the 1982 “Waka Juju,” the 1984 “Abele Dance,” the 1986 “Afrijazzy,” andthe 1990 “Polysonic.”In 1990, Manu Dibango published his autobiography “Three Kilos of Coffee.” (French: Trois Kilos de Café). Subsequently, he appeared as a host on a weekly live TV music program, “Salut Manu,”  on French TV. In 1994, Manu Dibango celebrated his 60th birthday with the release of the new record “Wakafrika,” which brought his career to an unprecedented height.Joined by a younger generation of top African and international stars, including Peter Gabriel,King Sunny Ade, Sinead O'Connor, Youssou N'Dour, Papa Wemba, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo,Mr. Dibango performed keyboards, saxophone, and did all the arrangement. “Wakafrika” reachedthe 7th place on Billboard’s Top World Music Albums chart in the same year.In 1995, “Lamastabastani,”also known as “Dance with Manu Dibango,” was released, which was, a combination of African spiritual rhythm, blues and gospel tunes.  “African Soul” followed in 1997, featuring the very best of his work up to that year. In 2000 and 2001, he came out with two new albums,“Mboa’Su” and “Kamer Feeling,” respectively.Entering the 21st century, Mr. Dibango released his 70th birthday collection “Africadilac” in 2003. 

Two years later, he scored the soundtrack for the well-received French animated film “Kirikou and the Wild Beasts,” (French: Kirikou et les bêtes sauvages), which is based on a young boy’s interaction with various animal friends. The CD “Lion of Africa” was also produced to commemorate his 50 years of music career in 2007.Now at the wonderful age of 79, Manu Dibango is still traveling around the world to collaborate with major orchestras and enthralling his loyal admirers.Throughout his prolific career, Mr. Dibango has been recognised with numerous distinctions; For example, he received the honorary titles of Knight of Arts and Letters  (French: Chevalier Des Arts et Lettres); Officer of Arts and Letters (French: Officier Des Arts et Lettres) from France, and the Knight of the Order of Valour (French: Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Valeur) from Cameroon. He has been named Honorary Citizen by two Italian cities: Turin and Cortina d’Empezzo. In 2004, Mr. Dibango was named a UNESCO Artist for Peace.

To celebrate 50 years of Manu Dibango’s talent as an ambassador of Cameroonian culture through music,
President Paul Biya hosted a special celebration in Yaoundé in 2007. At this auspicious occasion, the city council presented the acclaimed artist with the title Grand Yaoundean; meaning, an honorary citizen of Yaoundé.The versatile and dedicated Mr. Manu Dibango is truly an inspirational figure of world music.
For more about Manu Dibango, please visit

List to Manu Dibango’s music at the following links:

Soul Makossa:
Waka Juju:       
Soir au village (An evening in the village):

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Kruger National Park (South Africa’s Wildlife Paradise)


The Kruger national park is situated in the Republic of South Africa; and it’s one of Africa’s most breathtaking wildlife sanctuaries. The reputation of the Kruger national park is so compelling and far-stretching; rendering it one of the world’s most cherished and highly visited wildlife sanctuaries. Established in 1898, this long-standing spectacular wildlife kingdom is the oldest of its type in Africa; and provides a powerful and unmatched safari experience. The Kruger national park is also the second oldest national park in the world.

The Kruger national park is situated north of Johannesburg, with the core park covering a surface area of about two million hectares, while the greater Kruger national park is approximately twice that surface area, including the unfenced private game reserves, such as the Sabi camps.  This breathtaking wildlife sanctuary is situated on the territories of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, both provinces in the North-East of South Africa. From north to south, the park covers 360 kilometres, and 65 kilometres from East to West.
To the west and south of this wildlife sanctuary are the two South African provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga; to the north is Zimbabwe and to the east lies Mozambique.
The North-East corner of the park is a convergent point for the nations of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and the Republic of South Africa. The Kruger national park is part of the Limpopo transfrontier park, which is a peace park that connects the Kruger national park with the Limpopo national park in Mozambique and the Gonarhezou national park in Zimbabwe.

The Kruger national Park is part of a Kruger to Canyons Biosphere, an area that the United Nationals Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), has designated an International man and biosphere reserve (the Biosphere).

In the North of the park is the Limpopo River, while in the south is the Crocodile River; both waterways serving as the park’s natural boundaries.

For the sake of convenience, the Kruger national park has been divided into three sections; comprising the following: “the circus”, (the southern section, from the Crocodile River to around Satara rest camp); "the zoo" (central section to Shingwedzi) and "the wilderness" (Shingwedzi to Punda Maria in the north).

The Kruger national park exhibits variation in attitude between 200m in the east and 840 m in the South-West. The hill called Khandzalive is the highest point in the park. From the west to the east, numerous rivers run across the park, amongst which are the Sabie, Olifants, Crocodile, Letabal, Luvuvhu and Limpopo rivers.

The means by which visitors can get to the Kruger national is either by embarking on an approximately 5 hour drive from Johannesburg, or boarding a plane from Johannesburg that lands at the Kruger Mpumalanga airport. There, you can rent a car and drive into the park through one of its nine designated entrance points. If you have booked accommodation at one of the Kruger private lodges, then a transfer vehicle would pick you up from the airport.
The Kruger National Park has 21 rest camps, 2 private lodge concessions, and 15 designated private safari lodges. Camping in the park is quite popular amongst visitors, due to its low cost and freedom of access by anyone, without the need for special permission.

The Kruger national park has a Lowveld sub-tropical climatic type, with humid summers reaching a temperature of up to 38 °C. The rainy season normally covers September to May. The most appropriate time to visit the Kruger national park is during the dry winter season. During this time, vegetation becomes more sparse, rendering wildlife viewing much more easier; and also because, each morning and evening, animals converge at the waterholes to drink water. This convergence offers unassailable viewing opportunities for animals.

The vegetation in the Kruger national park comprises four principal plant types as follows: Thorn trees and Red bush-willow veld, Knob-thorn and Marula veld, Red bush-willow and Mopane veld and Shrub mopane veld.

The Kruger national park is incredibly wealthy in view of it population and diversity of wildlife as follows:
Wildlife include: African Buffalo, African wild dog, Black Rhinoceros, White Rhinoceros, Burchell’s Zebra, Bushbuck, Cheetah, Common Eland, Giraffe, Greater Kudu, Hippopotamus, Lion, Leopard, Spotted Hyena, Elephant, Waterbuck, Blue Wildebeest, Impala.

The big five: While in the Kruger national park, you would also be privileged to view the big fives animals, comprising the following: lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros.

Birds: There are 517 species of birds at the kruger national park, 253 of which are residents, 147 non-breeding migrants and 147 nomads. Due to the extensive natural territory of the Kruger national park, there are certain species of very big birds, which can only subsist in such a secured and well preserved ecological area.

Reptiles:  There are about 114 reptiles in the Kruger national park, including black mamba and 3000 crocodiles.

Amphibians and Fish: Kruger national park has 33 species of  amphibians and 55 species of fish.

Activities in the Kruger national park:
While visiting the Kruger national park, one can engage in any of a variety of activities including the following: Archeological site tours, Backpacking trail; Bush walks (guided, daily);Chill out in the rest camp, with cold drink and binoculars for excellent birding; Game drives (self-drive or guided);Golf (9-hole course at Skukuza, wild animals welcome);Mountain-bike rides, day or half-day out rides ;4x4 adventure routes; Multi-day 4x4 eco-trail; Night drive ;Waterhole-hide sleepouts;Wildlife movie shows at some of the larger camps during local school holidays; Wilderness walking trails (guided).
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