The Great Rift Valley
Kenya is famous for having the Great Rift Valley running right through it. It’s easy to see from the air and if you visit the Maasai Mara, Lake Nakuru or Lake Naivasha, you’ll get wonderful views of it en-route. The Great Rift Valley is the world’s largest terrestrial geographic feature; from north to south, it measures around 6,000km (3,728 miles) , which is about one-seventh of the earth’s circumference. The Great Rift valley started to form around 20 million years ago, when tectonic activity split Africa into two separate landmasses, referred to by geologists as the Somali and Nubian plates.
In the North, the Rift Valley runs from the Jordan, taking in the whole of the Red Sea, through Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi, eventually reaching the ocean near the Zambezi Delta. The western arm if this huge geographic feature, starts in Sudan and runs southward along the Congolese border of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania to join the main Rift close to the northern tip of Lake Nyasa-Malawi.
In parts of the GRV, the walls rise very little above the valley floor; just 30 metres (100ft). In other parts; however, steep cliffs rise sharply to 1,200 metres (4,000ft) and it is here, in the highlands of Kenya, that the Rift is most clearly defined and impressive to see. As well as the towering walls of the Rift, the base of the Kenyan Rift Valley is studded with steaming geysers and dormant volcanoes which remind us of the violent tectonic activity that happened millions of years ago. The same tectonic activity which was also responsible for the giants; Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya and Mount Elgon.
The Seven Kenyan Rift Valley Lakes
Also, lying along the the Kenyan Rift is a chain of seven lakes and none of them has an obvious outflow! Rainfall pours in from the surrounding land and more or less stays there in the shallow lakes. The water evaporates rapidly which keeps the lake levels fairly constant, and also causes an accumulation of salts and minerals in the waters of the lake. Beacause of this, some of the lakes are so saline, they are virtually undrinkable.
- Lake Nakuru (40 km2, elevation 1759 m) a shallow soda lake which has been a national park since 1968. In recent yesrs it has flooded quite dramatically.
- Lake Elementaita – a shallow soda lake.
- Lake Naivasha and Hell’s Gate National Park (160 km2 – varies somewhat with rainfall, elevation 1,890 m) a freshwater lake which is the highest in this group. It is surrounded by flower farms and vegetable growers who use the water on an industrial scale. Some say this has affected the water levels in the lake.
- Lake Turkana (6405 km2, elevation 360 m) This is freshwater and is the largest of the Kenyan lakes, on the border of Kenya and Ethiopia.
- Lake Baringo (80 sq miles, elevation 1000 m) freshwater, second largest of the Kenyan Rift Valley lakes,
- Lake Bogoria (34 km2, elevation 990 m) a shallow soda lake and a national preserve. It is here that you find the most dramatic steaming geysers and hot springs.
- Lake Magadi, This is a shallow soda lake near the southern border with Tanzania.
Lake Victoria (68,800 km2 /26,600 sq mi) It is not considered one of the Rift Valley Lakes but is Africa’s largest lake by area. It is also the largest tropical lake in the world. Kenya borders Lake Victoria, together with Uganda and Tanzania.
Crater lakes, Hot Springs and Waterfalls in Kenya
Lake Chala, Lake Jipe and Mzima Springs are all worth visiting and there are several waterfalls such as Thompson’s Falls and Thika Falls and Paradise Lost which are interesting.