Central Africa, located along the equator, consists primarily of wide plateaus that are smooth in the central areas and more rough along the exterior of the region. The plateaus in the region exhibit a huge range in altitude, reaching up to 16,795 feet at Margherita Peak (the highest point in Central Africa) and descending into the ground in deep and narrow gorges near the Kouilou and Congo. Most of the terrain in Central Africa was shaped by climactic forces prior to human occupation. Ancient Glaciers also played a role in shaping the Central African geography, and cut the the Rift Valley into terrain on the border of the Congo.
Climatically the region is marked by hot and wet temperatures on both sides of the equator. Almost 400,000 square feet of forest line the equator, and three different types of forest are found in Central Africa. The forests are bordered by a band of semi-arid savannah terrain that is speculated to have been created by slash and burn farming techniques.
One of Central Africa’s most famous national parks, Virunga National Park, exists within the borders of Congo. It is home to an unique assortment of native wildlife, including elephants, lions, hippopotamuses, warthogs, forest hogs, okapis, and mountain gorillas on the volcano slopes of the reserve. The Virunga National Park, however, is only one of many of the reserves found in Central Africa. Another notable national park is the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, which is famous for its mountain gorillas.
The landscapes of Central Africa are most often wide plateaus, which are smooth in the central part and etched at the periphery. The interior basin of the Congo River is joined to the Atlantic Ocean by a narrow neck traversing ridges parallel to the coast. The basin contains some marshlands in the region where the Congo, Ubangi, Likouala, and Sangha rivers converge and where Lakes Mai-Ndombe and Tumba are found. Its major part, however, consists of drier surfaces.
Higher plateaus, which extend through older sedimentary strata around the centre of the Congo basin, reach an elevation of 2,600 to 3,000 feet north of Brazzaville and exceed 3,000 feet near the Angolan border to the south. The landscape beyond the divide descends by steps toward Lake Chad. Southwest and south of the Chaillu Massif (3,000–3,300 feet in Gabon and Congo (Brazzaville) are ridges, traversed through deep and narrow gorges by the Kouilou and Congo.
The most rugged terrain lies on the eastern fringe of the Congo basin. North of Lake Kivu and of Rwanda, the Virunga volcanoes form an east-west–trending range. The highest point in Central Africa, Margherita Peak (16,795 feet), whose summit bears residual features of glaciation, is located on the eastern fringe of the Rift Valley on the border of Congo (Kinshasa) and Uganda.
The Congo River basin is second only to that of the Amazon in rate of flow. In the central part of the basin, the fan of quiet rivers constitutes one of the most attractive networks of navigable waters in the world, but this network is cut off from the Atlantic by a succession of rapids in western Congo (Kinshasa) between Kinshasa and Matadi. Downstream from Matadi the river becomes navigable again before entering its estuary. The rivers of the western region are navigable for only a few miles from their estuaries, though the Ogooué, in Gabon, which lies in a wider sedimentary coastal basin, is navigable for more than 100 miles.
Equatorial Central Africa is covered by an evergreen forest with an area of almost 400,000 square miles. This rainforest—an exuberant world of high trees, rich in epiphytes and lianas—takes three main forms: permanently wet marshy forests at the confluence of the Ubangi and Congo rivers; gallery forests, which are subject to periodic flooding, along banks and river floodplains; and, most extensive, forests of dry land, either featuring a single dominant species or, more often, harbouring a variety of species.
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