The International A-List

15 Spectacular World Parks
Butting heads in the great African animal migration (Corbis)

"Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountain is going home; that wildness is necessity; that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life." –John Muir (1898)

In a time with GPS units marking our every footstep and SAT-phones keeping us connected 24/7, the world's wild places have thinned out, so much so that Mr. Muir's century-old yet timeless invocation to find our true home begs a desperate, pleading question: Where do nerve-shaken, over-civilized people find rejuvenation?

We've found 15 spots scattered around the globe that still inspire, challenge, and quench the thirst to escape our urban and suburban jungles. Whether you're looking to stomp, swim, trek, paddle, gawk, or just breathe some fresh air, fountains of life still flow freely here...


From July through September, a wave of more than 450 animal species crash into the northern Serengeti, with elephants, gazelles, rhinos, lions, cheetahs, leopards, wildebeest, and zebras flooding across Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve during the world's most impressive annual animal migration. Wildebeest and zebra care for their young while crocodiles and leopards stalk and kill the unfortunate; visitors linger on the fringes, snapping photos that would turn the yellow hue of National Geographic emerald-green with envy. Once the Mara's grass has been consumed in September, the roaming herds turn to tromp hundreds of miles to the southern Serengeti and Ngorongoro plains. Here the young grow strong to do it all again six months later.

Gateway City: Nairobi is 180 miles from Masai Mara—about five hours by road or 45 minutes by plane (flights leave twice daily from Nairobi's Wilson Airport).
Size/Acreage: 583 square miles (reduced from 645 square miles in 1984)
When to Go: The wildlife is most abundant from July through mid-September.
Accessibility: Medium
Prime Activities: Wildlife viewing, bird-watching, and photography
Inside Scoop: If you hit the park just outside main migration season (June or October), there will still be plenty of wildlife, plus you'll save money and avoid the human crowds.
More on Masai Mara:

Table Mountain National Park
(South Africa)

An overconfident 18th-century pirate challenged a stranger to a smoking contest. After four long days, the pirate triumphed, but alas the sore-losing stranger was the devil in disguise, and he took the pirate with him in a puff of smoke. This cloud of tobacco smoke is said to be the legendary "tablecloth" hanging over Table Mountain—or so says one of about a dozen myths that enshroud the sandstone splendor presiding over South Africa's Cape Town. The city is one of the few in the world surrounded by national parkland. Table Mountain National Park stretches across the very tip of southwestern Africa and encompasses the Cape of Good Hope, another world-renowned landmark that stretches 40 miles from Signal Hill to Cape Point.

Gateway City: Cape Town
Size/Acreage: 54,610 acres
When to Go: The summer season—November through February—is the warmest and driest.
Accessibility: Easy
Prime Activities: Hiking, climbing, biking, whale and penguin watching, scenic driving, and horseback riding
Inside Scoop: Much to most people's surprise, Cape Agulhas, and not Cape Point, is Africa's southernmost point. Cape Agulhas lies 106 miles southeast of Cape Town.
More on Table Mountain National Park:
The Cape of Good Hope: Africa's Metaphorical Southernmost Point (from
Table Mountain: Abseil Off South Africa's Ubiquitous Landmark (from

Published: 24 Mar 2004 | Last Updated: 24 Oct 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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