Believed to be the birthplace of humanity, the Great Rift Valley is approximately 6, 000 kilometres in length (3, 700 miles) which runs from northern Syria in the Southwest Asia to central Mozambique in South East Africa. The area, which is 35 million years old, was given its name in the 19th century by British explorer John Walter Gregory. Today the name is considered geologically incorrect, because where the 6, 000 kilometre area was once seen as one big rift, it is actually separate rift and fault systems which are merely related to one another.
Therefore the name is mostly used to refer to the East African Rift; this is the opposite plate boundary which extends from the Afar Triple Junction southward across eastern Africa. This part of the Great Rift Valley is in the process of splitting the African Plate into two new separate plates. Today these two developing plates are known by geologists as the Nubian Plate and the Somali Plate.
The East African Rift is also referred to as the Western Valley Rift and the Eastern Valley Rift. The Western Rift Valley is also known as the Albertine Rift and features some of the highest mountain ranges in Africa. They include the Virunga Mountains, Mitumba Mountains, and Ruwenzori Range and also the Rift Valley; which contains some of the deepest lakes in the world. Almost all of these attractions lie within the borders of Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ruwenzori National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park (Uganda) and Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda).
The valley is deepest in Kenya, north of Nairobi, as the lakes in the Eastern Rift don’t have an outlet to the sea. These lakes tend to be shallow and have a high mineral content due to the evaporation of water that leaves salt behind. This is clear when you have a look at Lake Magadi, which has high concentrations of soda, whereas Lake Elmenteita, Lake Bogoria and Lake Nakuru all have strong traces of alkaline. The freshwater sprigs supplying Lake Naivasha on the other hand are important as they contribute to its biological variety.
The Great Rift Valley, specifically the Western and Eastern Valley Rifts, are highly recommended for family tours or romantic getaways as this part of the world offers you a glimpse of some of the earliest evidence of human existence. With Nomad Tours you can experience a true African adventure to the Great Rift Valley. Your Great Rift Valley adventure will be unforgettable, enriching and will show you a part of Africa you didn’t know existed.