Great Rift Valley Budget Travel

The Great Rift Valley - place of spectacular scenery and one of the natural wonders of the world!

Where is the Great Rift Valley?

The fault line commonly referred to as the Great Rift Valley extends from Tanzania through Kenya and into Ethiopia, from south to north. Most of the Great Rift Valley falls in Kenya's Rift Valley Province, said to be the most beautiful section.

This famous valley is part of the eastern branch (Eastern Rift Valley) of the larger East African Rift. The Eastern Rift Valley, or Gregory Rift, is one of two branches of the East African Rift, the other is the Western Rift Valley, or Albertine Rift.

The Gregory Rift  (East African Rift system) stretches from the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, at the Afar Triple Junction, southwards to Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The Western Rift, contains a few of the world's deepest lakes and is flanked by some of Africa's highest mountains, including the Virunga Mountains, Mitumba Mountains, and Ruwenzori Mountain Range.

About the Great Rift Valley

Historically the term "Great Rift Valley" referred to the geographical trough stretching all the way from central Mozambique to Syria in the middle east. Today, however, the various rift valleys are not considered to be part of a single system, but are seen as seperate yet connected valleys. The Great Rift Valley remains as an idea, rather than a geographically accurate term.

The Great Rift Valley is an unforgettably scenic area, featuring hot springs, geysers, and lakes, as well as volcanoes, some of which are still active. Some areas frequently experience earthquakes and escarpments flank the valley to the east and west. 

Major Game Parks in the Great Rift Valley

  • Lake Nakuru National Park - famous for its huge flamingo populations and home to Rothschild giraffes, as well as black and white rhino and more
  • Hell's Gate National Park - walking is allowed in this compact park, hosting interesting geological features and a wide variety of wildlife and birds
  • Lake Naivash - home to numerous hippos, monkeys and over 400 different bird species, including flamingos, as well as zebra, impala, giraffe and more
  • Lake Bogoria - known for its hot springs and geysers, hosts vast populations of lesser flamingoes, and a variety of game and other birds and wildlife
  • Lake Manyara National Park - scenic lake on the Northern Tanzania Safari Circuit, hosting huge baboon troops, a great diversity of birds and wildlife 

Rift Valley Lakes

The Rift Valley Lakes, mostly found on the floor of the valley, are a major feature of the Great Rift Valley part of the Eastern Rift. These inland lakes are generally shallow and contain a high mineral content, as well as supporting a diversity of birdlife. Most of the Central African Rift Valley lakes are however found in the Western Rift. All of the Great Lakes formed as a result of the rift.

Lake Victoria, Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika are located in various valleys within the area of the rift system.

Kenyan Rift Valley Lakes

The scenic Kenya Rift Lake system is an important part of the north-south migratory route of numerous birds.

The parks surrounding some of the lakes provide habitat for sizeable populations of black rhino, Rothschild's giraffe, greater kudu, lion, cheetah and wild dogs. 

  • Lake Turkana - the largest of the Kenyan Lakes, occupies the northern end of the Great Rift Valley in Kenya
  • Lake Logipi -  a shallow soda lake fed by a hot-spring, just south of Turkana 
  • Lake Baringo - the second largest Kenyan Rift Lake 
  • Lake Bogoria - a shallow soda lake within a game reserve
  • Lake Nakuru - a shallow soda lake within a national park since 1968 
  • Lake Elementaita - alkaline lake
  • Lake Naivasha -  the highest of Kenya's Rift Lakes
  • Lake Magadi - shallow soda lake that is the most southern of the Kenyan Rift Lakes 

Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru and Lake Elementaita host one of the world's most diverse bird populations, including thirteen threatened species.

These lakes are hugely significant sites for Lesser Flamingos and Great White Pelicans. Other populations of international significance include Black-necked Grebe, African Spoonbill, Pied Avocet, Little Grebe, Yellow-billed Stork, Grey-headed Gull, Black-winged Stilt and Gull-billed Tern.

Tanzania Rift Valley Lakes

  • Lake Natron - a shallow soda lake in Tanzania, stretching into Kenya
  • Lake Manyara - a shallow lake in the Natron-Manyara-Balangida branch of the East African Rift in Manyara Region in Tanzania.
  • Lake Eyasi - a shallow, seasonal salt lake just south of Serengeti National Park and southwest of the Ngorongoro Crater
  • Lake Makati - a shallow soda lake

Facts about the Great Rift Valley 

  • The Rift Valley in East Africa is an important site in the study of human evolution, hosting ancient fossils at Olduvai Gorge
  • The Great Rift Vally reaches its deepest to the north of Nairobi, in Kenya
  • The larger Rift runs from northern Syria, to central Mozambique in South East Africa
  • The African continental plate is slowly splitting along the Rift, forming two new tectonic plates - the Somali and Nubian Plates
  • Lake Victoria, the second largest freshwater lake in the world, is considered to be part of the Rift Valley system

History of the Great Rift Valley

The splitting of tectonic plates gave rise to the East African Rift about 40 million years ago.

The Great Rift Valley was named by the British explorer John Walter Gregory in the late 19th century, referring to the geographic trough stretching about 6 000 kms (3,700 mi) in length.

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Google Map of Great Rift Valley

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