Africa is a vast land. It stretches from the northern to the southern temperature zones and it spans five time zones. It has an area of over 30 million square kilometers, which constitute more than 20% of the earth’s land mass, or 6% of its entire surface.
If you consider the Suez Canal to be an extension of the Mediterranean and Red Seas, then the continent is completely surrounded with water. It is bounded by the Mediterranean Sea in the north; the Suez Canal, Red Sea, and Indian Ocean in the east; the Atlantic Ocean in the west, and the Antarctic Ocean in the south. It is, however, quite close to Europe. Morocco is a mere 13 kilometers away from Spain, across the Strait of Gibraltar. When in Djibouti, you are only 30 kilometers from Yemen on the Arabian peninsula, across the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait. And of course, geopolitically, Africa’s limits goes up to the Sinai peninsula, east of Suez, since it now belongs to Egypt.
Although considered to be the hottest continent, there are areas in Africa that have subarctic climate, particularly on its highest peaks. Northern Africa is predominantly a desert, stretching from Egypt and Sudan in the east to Morocco, Mauritania, and Western Sahara in the west. Savanna plains and rainforest jungles are found in the central and southern areas. In between the two is a transition area which, like the big desert, also stretches from the Red Sea to the Atlantic. It features grasslands and steppes called sahel with areas covered in wood and shrubs.
The elevation of the land notably lacks extremes, unlike Asia or Europe. There are not many very high or very low grounds. Lands reaching heights above 3,000 meters or going down below 180 meters are rather insignificant. The highest peak in Africa is Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, which rises to 5,895 meters. Only 10 others are over 3,000 meters in height. Of the continent’s main lakes, only 15 are above 180 meters. Lake Naivasha is highest at 1,870 meters, while the lowest is Lake Chad, which is only 259 meters above sea level.
Africa boasts of large lakes and long rivers that supply the needs of the land and its peoples. The biggest lake is Lake Victoria whose shores are in three countries –Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya. There is also Lake Chad in the middle of the continent, and Lake Taganyika, which lies on the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Tanzania, and Zambia.
Africa’s longest river, and the world’s as well, is the Nile, which runs 6,650 kilometers along 10 countries starting from Tanzania in the south all the way up to Egypt in the north. Other major rivers are the Congo river, whose water discharge is highest in Africa, and the Niger which flows through arid areas.