We just completed one of our most compelling national rituals – the annual battle between worthy challengers which millions of us wait impatiently for throughout the season. This super rite of passage comes with a tiny promise tucked inside that spring may not be far away (well, maybe not this year).

We thought we’d take a look at a Superbowl of a different kind – the Superbowl of nature’s super bowls, if you will – craters!

Formed by the very forces of the nature, these massive depressions come in a smashing variety of shapes. Impact craters form when meteorites or asteroids strike the earth. Calderas are the remnants of volcanic activity, usually the result of very large explosions that open up the magma chambers below the volcanos allowing them to empty and collapse. Shield volcanoes are created from fluid lava flows that spill over in all directions from a central summit vent or vents that build a broad, gently sloping flat, domical-shaped cone.

The Earth Impact Database by the Planetary and Space Science Centre at the University of New Brunswick, Canada, lists the number of confirmed impact craters around the world at just 190. Not as many as you might expect. But a source has noted that there are about 1,500 volcanoes (not all have craters) that have been active over the past 10,000 years, with some 600 active during the current period through recorded history. About 50 to 60 active volcanoes erupt at least once a year. There is some evidence, however, that suggests that millions of volcanoes may have existed dating back to the origins of earth.

In Africa, Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is, of course, the reigning star with the highest point on the continent at 5,895 meters/19,341 feet. But its remnant caldera does not match that of Kenya’s Empakai Crater, 3,200 meters/10,500 feet, for sheer good looks. This is one of the most beautiful craters in Ngorongoro Conservation Area and measures about eight kilometers/five miles in diameter. From the rim, you enjoy fantastic views into the craters’ lush green floor, a large portion of which is covered with a lake with a wall rising 300 meters/984 feet.

Because of the altitude, the area is often shrouded in mist that when mixed with the green lake creates an almost enchanted atmosphere. The views from the trail into the crater are spectacular, and on the way, you may encounter buffaloes, bushbucks, blue monkeys and birds such as sunbirds and turacos. You may also find waterbucks and elands when you reach the lakeshore. From the northern and eastern side, you can see the dramatic cone of the still active volcano, Oldoinyo Lengai. On clear days, you can see even further to the Great Rift Valley and Lake Natron. If you love hiking, think about including this remarkable environment as you plan your Kenya safari adventure.

New Zealand’s has its share of craters in the Taupo Volcanic Zone on the southern end of the North Island. Mount Ruapehu, also simply called Ruapehu, is an active stratovolcano at the southern end of this volcanic zone. Its most recent major eruptions were between 1995 and 1996 with more activity in 2007. It is within Tongariro National Park on the North Island a short distance Lake Taupo.

The largest active volcano in New Zealand, Ruapehu has the highest point on the island and encompasses three major peaks: the highest is Tahurangi, at 2,797 meters/9,177 feet, followed closely by Te Heuheu and Paretetaitonga. The deep, active crater is between the peaks and the crater’s lake sits on top of the vent, making it subject to change as the activity of the volcano changes. Activities on the mountain range from skiing to ice climbing to hiking. Consider including this active volcano as part of an outstanding New Zealand journey.

Colombia’s Purace Volcano is a 4,750 meter/15,543 feet dormant volcano situated in the Purace National Park. In the southwestern region of Colombia, it faces the Pacific Ocean to the west. Most of the park is over 3,000 meters/9,843 feet high. Two of the highest peaks are Purace and the Pan de Azúcar, both well over 4,500 meters/14,764 feet. Both mountains offer easy hiking opportunities. To reach the summit of the Purace Volcano, one of Colombia’s most beautiful, you need only your trekking gear and water-proof clothing. You enjoy spectacular views of Popayan’s valley and other Coconuco Range volcanoes from the summit on clear days. Purace’s crater is 500 meters/1,640 feet wide. The park also contains the sources of four of Colombia’s greatest rivers: Magdalena, Cauca, Caqueta and Patia. You can incorporate a volcano hike into this lush environment on our 19-day Volcanoes of Latin America.

Don’t wait for next season or next year to set out to find your own Superbowl challenge…  The rewards are worth far more than a trophy.

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Big Five

From: Big Five Travel

About the Author: About the Author: Big Five's overriding mission is to turn dreams into reality. We offer customized luxury travel for individuals and small groups. Our luxury journeys are tailor-made to meet the discriminating tastes of our guests to any of our exotic and exciting destinations in Africa, Asia, Orient, Latin America and South Pacific.

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