Africa is a continent of superlatives: massive congregations of large animals, giant rivers, mist-laden rain forest, the world's biggest desert, and an immensity and diversity of culture to match. What follows are a few sights to see for the outdoors-oriented traveler, a smattering of the iconic to the off-the-beaten-track.
The Skeleton Coast
The Skeleton Coast is a major scenic highlight of Namibia, one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Its northern Atlantic Ocean shore is an arid one, and often shrouded in fog produced by the cold Benguela Current---many a ship has wrecked here, and those ravaged hulls still visible give the Skeleton Coast its name. Wildlife thrives despite the harshness of the Namib Desert environment; in addition to throngs of Cape fur seals, lions are occasionally seen on the beaches. Namibia manages much of the area as Skeleton Coast National Park.
Selous Game Reserve
This massive park, over 21,000 square feet in area, protects a rugged topography of forest, scrub woodlands, swamps and grasslands in southern Tanzania. Its wilderness nature and continuity with adjoining protected areas make the Selous an immensely valuable conservation area, as well as an adventurous destination for travelers. Wildlife is plentiful and varied, including what may be the biggest remaining population of African wild dogs on the continent.
These huge cascades of the Zambezi River are some of the very largest in the world: over 5,500 feet wide, 355 feet tall at their greatest drop, and with a mean flow of nearly 33,000 cubic feet per second. The falls form where the Zambezi surges through a fracture in a great basalt plateau. A number of national parks in both Zambia and Zimbabwe are in the vicinity. The burly discharge of the wet season (February through May) bring Victoria Falls' highest volumes but also roiling plumes of obscuring spray; visitors may gain clearer views of the cataracts during the drier months.
Loango National Park
This spectacular preserve on Gabon's Atlantic coast features shoreline forest and savanna, beaches, swamps and a glimpse of West Africa's primal biodiversity, from gorillas and forest elephants to humpback whales and orcas offshore. The park's designation in 2002 came partly as a result of the pleading of conservationist Michael Fay, who at the turn of the millennium conducted an ambitious, 2,000-mile hike---the "Megatransect"---through a largely unexplored stretch of West African jungle from Congo to the Loango breakers.