Described karst landscapes
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What is included in this category?
Limestone, dolostone, and gypsum are quite common rocks and cover a major part of the land. These rocks are soluble and, as the water reaches them, sooner or later voids are forming in the rocks – and the dissolved material is deposited elsewhere, along the path of streams.
Sometimes, if no other rocks cover the land, the soluble rocks are exposed to the elements and our eyes. And, if the layer of the rock is thick and uniform enough, interesting formations are developing after some time. Well, geological time, e.g. tens of thousands of years or even millions of years (in the case of quartzites).
Wondermondo has included in this category these places of the world where a larger area of soluble rocks is exposed and water has shaped unusual terrain from this rock. And, well, some of these places are VERY unusual!
Take one of such places – Tsingy de Bemaraha in Madagascar. Here the former layer of limestone has been washed away, leaving just narrow, vertical needles and arrows of the rocks, rising even 120 m tall. Walking across such an area is nearly impossible – one gets lost in this natural labyrinth and simply cannot pass over these limestone sheets and needles. Lush vegetation grows among the limestone sheets and needles, many rare and sometimes dangerous creatures live here undisturbed by people.
Take another – Cockpit Country in Jamaica. Here dense rainforest grows over countless steep hills which resemble haystacks. Again – one can get easily lost among the endless “sea” of these giant haystacks.
There are several kinds of unusual karst landscapes, such as:
- Kegelkarst landscapes – areas with numerous very steep hills (cone-shaped, similar to haystacks, etc.) close together. These hills can be just a few meters high, but sometimes they are hundreds of meters tall – such as the unforgettable peaks along the Li River in China. Kegelkarst develops in tropical countries such as Southern China, Vietnam, Philippines, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, and some others.
- Tsingy – areas that are covered with bare, knifelike vertical sheets of limestone. These dramatic karst landscapes are not very common. The best and maybe – most impressive – are the tsingy “forests” in Madagascar, as well as Shilin stone forest (China), Mount Api pinnacles (Malaysia) and some more places around the world.
- Limestone pavements are somewhat less dramatic landscapes if compared with the previous kinds of karst landscapes. These are barren fields of pure limestone – but as this rock is soluble, the surface of the limestone is dissected with shallow runnels, with deep trenches – grikes, smaller holes, and larger holes – sinkholes. Thus a limestone pavement is an unusual, fascinating type of landscape. Impressive limestone pavement is Burren (Ireland) – the world’s largest limestone pavement with an area of 290 km2.
- Turloughs are very specific places, found almost exclusively in Ireland. These areas have lakes which appear and disappear seasonally – e.g. suddenly appear in autumn and then disappear in the spring. Sometimes these lakes appear in a few hours’ time and then in a few days are gone again.
This category does not include many karst features, e.g. caves and separate sinkholes, rock stacks, karst springs.
Top 25 karst landscapes
Great Tsingy de Bemaraha
Thousands of rock blocks dissected by 80 – 120 m deep grikes with vertical walls. Sometimes these grikes are very narrow, less than 1 m, and create an immense impression on the one walking through them. Numerous endemic species of plants and animals – 47% of locally met species of plants and animals are found only in Tsingy de Bemaraha – for example, here are 34 endemic species of reptiles.
Tsingy de Ankarana
A forest of up to 20 m high limestone blades. The gorges and canyons dissecting the Ankarana are up to 140 m deep. Patches of primeval tropical forest with numerous endemic species of plants and animals. Some of these forests are available only through caves. Up to 6 m long Nile crocodiles live in these caves. Numerous fossils.
Tsingy de Namoroka
An area with very impressive, up to 80 m tall tsingy formations – walls, needles, canyons and also numerous caves.
Site of unusual beauty – sea bay with approximately 2,000 tower-like islands formed by karst processes. The tallest islands are 100 m tall. The area contains many endemic species of plants and animals. Some islands have impressive caves (such as Hang Đầu Gỗ Cave). Local fishermen live in exotic-looking floating villages.
Unique geomorphological phenomenon – 1,200 – 1,700 similar grass-covered conical hills that form a unique landscape. The height of each hill – 40 – 120 m. During the dry periods, hills turn brown. Formed from coral limestone that has been uplifted and eroded. Hills contain numerous caves.
Guilin - Lijiang Karst
Beautiful karst landscape along the Li River consists of numerous steep, conical limestone pinnacles. Sights of this landscape represent one of the most famous sights of China.
Shilin stone forest
Spectacular karst formation that resembles a giant forest of stone pinnacles. One of the most impressive karst landscapes in the world.
Extremely impressive karst landscape with numerous caves. Numerous endemic species of plants and animals, caves with prehistoric art (Gua Tewet), unexplored areas.
Phang Nga Bay
Sea bay with beautiful karst pinnacles and islands. Here is located also the famous Ko Tapu – a limestone stack that was featured in the James Bond movie in 1974.
Wulingyuan sandstone pinnacles
Unusual geological monument – a group of some 3,100 sandstone pillars that are up to 800 m tall.
Very impressive landscape with thin dolomitic towers rising hundreds of meters tall above the plain.
Libo karst area
Typical cone karst area with cone-shaped, forested hills.
Australia and Oceania
Rock Islands (Palau)
More than 200 amazing small limestone islands, often mushroom-shaped and covered with lush tropical vegetation. Unique landscape element, especially when looking from the air.
Mount Kaijende pinnacle karst
Papua New Guinea
Very impressive “forest” of limestone pinnacles that rise up to 100 m tall. An almost impenetrable area with extremely high biological diversity.
Burren in Clare County
One of the best examples of glaciokarst anywhere. These undulating hills, for the most part, consist of barren limestone pavements. In the limestone cracks grows an unusual community of plants – a mix of the Arctic, alpine and Mediterranean species.
Group of impressive rock formations shaped by karst processes. Some rocks look like oversized mushrooms rising over the trees, some resemble animals and humans.
El Torcal de Antequera
Impressive karst landscape with rugged, barren limestone pavements, many amazing limestone formations.
Interesting karst region, covered with tropical forest. Consists of hundreds of conical, 200 – 300 m tall, steep hills. Numerous caves, underground rivers, rare species of animals and plants.
Unique geological formation – peninsula consisting of pure marble in the beautiful Lago General Carrera has been eroded by the lake water, forming caves, mushroom formations, and tunnels in the marble.
Madre de Dios Island
One of the world’s most impressive limestone karst areas. Most active karst processes in the world thanks to a high amount of precipitation as well as wind action. Magnificent, otherworldly landscapes, enormous caves.