Posted in Geography, Nature, Travel, Wildlife

Around the World: Cape Town, South Africa

South Africa is a country of extraordinary qualities. Affectionately known as the “Rainbow Nation,” the country is breathtakingly scenic, historically significant, ethnically diverse and is the only country in the world which contains two countries within it.

But today we take a closer look at the coastal city of Cape Town, long considered one of the most beautiful cities in the nation, and perhaps the world. The city comes with a fascinating history as well, which you can explore here. History aside, the sights and sounds of Cape Town are spectacular. In 2014, The New York Times and The Telegraph named Cape Town the world’s best place to visit. The reasons? Read on.

Naturally Astonishing

Cape Town sits just beyond the flat-topped plateau known as Table Mountain, which is about two miles of flat surface with steep cliffs on either side. The plateau is a mind-blowing 260-million years old (compared to the 40-million-year-old Himalayas), and also among the New 7 Wonders of the World of Nature. Also neighboring the city center are the mountains Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head. Together, these form the City Bowl, which consists of Cape Town itself. Table Mountain is often enveloped in low-forming clouds, which locals call the mountain’s “tablecloth”.

Table Mountain

Table Mountain National Park is home to 8200 plant species, of them 1400 unique to the area. It’s no wonder that the protected sites around the city — including Cape Floral Kingdom — are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Animals such as the table mountain ghost frog are only found in the particular square mileage of Table Mountain. But other animals such as mongooses, porcupines, tortoises and dassies can be found there as well. The goat-like Tahr is indigeneous to India, but many of the species began breeding on Table Mountain beginning in the 1930s.

And the African penguin, which is known for its donkey-like braying sound, can be found only on the coasts of southern Africa, and is a popular sight among tourists.

The Human Angle

Cape Town has one of the youngest populations under the age of 25 for its over 3 million residents. It is also the most entrepreneurial city in the nation, with people there 190% more likely to pursue starting a new business, versus the rest of South Africa. Perhaps their natural surroundings have had an effect?

An aerial view of Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Roger de la Harpe/Corbis via National Geographic.

An unforgettable experience

Cape Town features other notable places. One such place is the Robben Island Museum, which marks the site where former President Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. The city is also well-known for its harbor (below), Cape Point, its friendly population, Mediterranean-like climate and an overall cosmopolitan feel in its multicultural and multiheritage elements.

With so much to do and see in Cape Town, the city is naturally a tourist magnet.

The city of Cape Town, South Africa. Photo via ExpatCapeTown.com.

Thought it might not be so surprising that such grandeur and splendor exists in the world, it’s worth a revisit and reminder that indeed our world is actually magnificent. It’s a little comforting, don’t you think, that natural beauty and scenery and brilliance still exists?

Stay inspired,

C x N

Sources: National Geographic, Cape Town Tourism, Cape Town Magazine, Sites Atlas, South African History Online
Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons (A panorama of Cape Town)
Posted in Geography, Nature, Science

Around the World: The Baobab Tree

*~* This post continues a series highlighting places and things from around the world. The first in the series, a journey to the ancient civilization of Machu Picchu, can be found here. *~*

Trees need no introduction. They provide humans and animals oxygen, shade, innumerable fruits and…water? Typically, we associate trees with the former qualities, but one tree shatters stereotypes and defies the odds by proving the latter. All the while never moving an inch.

Case in point: the Baobab Tree. Known in many parts as the “tree of life”, the Baobab (BAY-o-baab) tree stores water in its trunk. And this isn’t just a few gallons of water, but up to 30,000 gallons of water at once! These trees have given critical support for travelers in the deserts where they are found, providing water to humans and animals by simply cutting a part of its branches or trunk. Wild animals need only to chew its branches to have access to water which would otherwise be impossible to find. Thus, the “tree of life”.

But that’s not all. Here are some more facts about this spectacular tree.

The Baobab tree is native to Madagascar, other parts of Africa, the southern Arabian peninsula and Australia. Its height ranges between 16 and 98 feet, and its diameter between 23 and 36 feet. Its carbon samples date back 6,000 years, meaning the Baobab tree could very well be the oldest living tree in the world.

The “Avenue of the Baobabs”, Menabe, Madagascar. Photo by Getty, via the Travel Channel.

The tree also grows a fruit which is now being hailed as super in its nature, qualities and benefits. And it might not be long before it’s in grocery stores worldwide. It has already taken the European market by storm. And with good reason. The baobab fruit contains more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than milk, more potassium than bananas, along with high levels of iron and magnesium. So many useful properties, all in a coconut-size fruit.

The Baobab “superfruit” from Mozambique. Photo by Ton Rulkens, via Flickr.

The people of Africa have enjoyed the benefits and splendor of the Baobab tree for centuries, but it’s truly wonderful that the rest of us can marvel at its wonders with just as much appreciation.

Stay inspired,

Curious x Nature

Sources: National Geographic, The Guardian, About.Com, BaobabSuperfruit.Com, Travel Channel.

Featured Image (by Bernard Gagnon, via Wikimedia Commons) can be found here.
Posted in Geography, Out of the Ordinary, Travel

18 National Flags Made From Food

TwistedSifter

ITALY – Basil, pasta, tomatoes

These delicious flags were designed for the Sydney International Food Festival by the advertising agency WHYBINTBWA. It’s a fantastic concept that creates a nation’s flag from the food associated with the country. Now many of you will likely disagree with some of the foods selected to symbolize a particular country, but keep in mind it can be challenging to not only use food that represents the country but also works with the actual design of the flag (e.g., starfruit for stars). And it’s for fun! Don’t take it too seriously 🙂

The Sifter was not able to identify all of the ingredients, so please help label the missing ones! And let us know in the comments which flags you would add and what foods it would be made of! I think for Canada, it would have to be two giant strips of peameal bacon for…

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Posted in Geography, History, Nature

Around the World: Machu Picchu at a Glance

Machu Picchu, Peru

*~*This post marks the first in a series titled “Around the World”, with every post highlighting a certain region, country or place in the world, with a special emphasis on that area’s unique contributions to human civilization. Comments and feedback are always appreciated!

Machu Picchu

Sometimes the most random information is the most interesting, so today I thought we’d begin this series with a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the South American country of Peru. Peru lies on the northwestern coast of South America, and borders Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia, as well as Ecuador and Chile to its north and south, respectively.

“Old Mountain”

One of the new seven wonders of the world, behold: Machu Picchu. This ancient city, whose name literally means “old mountain”, is named for one of the mountains within it. The other mountain in the area is known as “Huayna Picchu”, or “young mountain”. The citadel was a residential palace and ceremonial center of the Inca civilization, and built during the reign of King Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui in the mid-15th century. (The name Pachacuti means “cataclysm”, a name the king gave himself) But the verdict of its actual use is debated by archaeologists to this day.

Hillside at Machu Picchu

The Citadel

There are about 150 buildings within the Machu Picchu complex, most of which are made of granite. The stones of granite are fit so tightly together that it is said even a blade of grass cannot fit between the stones. A style of architecture which is now a hallmark of the Incas. Pretty amazing, considering the builders didn’t use wheels or working animals for assistance, the altitude at the site is nearly 8,000 feet above sea level, and the area is heavily wooded. Most likely workers pushed the huge blocks of stone up inclined planes, but in any case, this is a feat to be admired. Just look at how mesmerized this llama is by the site.

Llama overlooking Machu Picchu. Such a cutie! Source: Schuyler Shepherd via Wikimedia Commons.

He’s fixated.

Construction was such that the buildings look to be a part of the mountains, with trapezoidal doors and thatched roofs a common theme throughout.

One of Machu Picchu’s primary uses is thought to be as an astronomical observatory, and the massive tower known as the Torreón, or Temple of the Sun, may have been used as such (pictured below). The Incas were also deeply interested in the position and movement of the sun, which they tracked using the monthly calendar. The other buildings in the citadel were used as residences, temples, storage houses and altars.

Temple of the Sun

Machu Picchu’s amazing, but is still vulnerable to various natural disasters. For years, it had been protected from enemy threats due to its location in a mountainous, densely vegetated area. Which explains why it was mistakenly thought to be a lost city later rediscovered.

In any case, the Incas provided us with a spectacular achievement which will be admired for generations to come.

Stay inspired,

Curious x Nature

Sources: About.Com, The New York Times, HISTORY.com, National Geographic, The Macchu PIcchu Gateway
Photos: Flickr, Wikimedia Commons (links embedded)