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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Use the Google map to explore Great Rift Valley. Feel free to Print the Street Map when you're ready.