The Rift Valley Of Kenya
Stretching across Africa like a massive wound, the Rift Valley is more than 6,430 km long and as low as 1,520 metres deep. It cuts through from Jordan all the way to Mozambique and, when viewed from space, it is apparently the single most recognizable geographic site on the face of the planet.
Intense Volcanic Eruptions
Geologists believe, it’s the outcome of intense subterranean tectonic pressures which essentially ripped Earth’s crust apart, triggering enormous portions of earth to sink between parallel fault lines. Rock was then forced up to the surface in a series of volcanic eruptions.
Basically over 40 million years back, Africa started splitting apart along these massive fault lines. The lands between slipped down, creating the Rift’s unique valley like appearance. This process called rifting is still underway with steaming warm springs and hissing from hot spring vents.
These millions of years of tectonic and intense volcanic activity have essentially ripped the land apart which split the Rift into 2 different branches. The largest and longest of these is the Eastern Rift, which splits Kenya from north to south in a series of fault lines which give rise to the magnificent shape of this landscape.
Kenya’s Eastern Rift Valley
In Kenya, this Eastern Rift has splendid cliffs, volcanic cones, lava flows and a smattering of lakes. This part of the Rift is up to 100km in length and reaches its narrowest just north of Nairobi, where it is approximately 45km throughout.
The valley is at its shallowest near Lake Turkana, in the very north of Kenya, where there is practically no difference between the Great Rift and it’s bordering desert.
Rift Valley Lakes In Kenya
Further south, the valley walls form extremely high cliffs rising to 1,800 metres where Lake Naivasha is. It is the highest lake in the Rift system. It is also one of the few freshwater lakes in the Rift Valley. South of Naivasha, the Rift comes down once again to 580m at the Tanzanian border.
Boiling, steam-spurting geysers can be seen throughout the Great Rift. You’ll find them populated around many of the lakes which, are speckled with the slender, pink-feathered bodies of countless flamingos.
If you’re adventurous enough to check out Lake Magadi in the southern part of Kenya’s Rift, you’ll witness a remarkable but hellishly hot climate where virtually no living thing except the toughest of Kenyan tribes people can endure.
Lakes – Nakuru, Naivasha, Baringo And Bogoria
Climate and conditions are much easier at Lake Nakuru, where the alkaline-rich waters develop an environment for special algae and tiny shrimplike animals, which is the reason flamingos are drawn to these soft drink lakes in the first place. Lake Nakuru is among the most preferred wild animals preserves in the country, stuffed with rhino and big predators.
Of Kenya’s Rift Valley lakes, Naivasha and Nakuru are the easiest to get to. Together with Lake Baringo, this is a great circuit and can be travelled in a couple of days, starting from Nairobi.
The eerie, mesmeric Lake Bogoria with its surface area capped by a flotilla of anxious looking flamingos and its apocalyptic looking shores, populated with steam spurting warm springs and scalding geysers is an easy enough trip from Baringo.
Lake Magadi lies just south of the Capital Nairobi which is also within striking distance of Tanzania’s Lake Natron.
Northern Rift Valley And Lake Turkana
Lake Turkana, in the far north of the nation is also part of the Rift Valley system and sits amid one of the most inhospitable regions in East Africa. It can only be described as a tortured desert landscape which is constantly punished by extreme heat and very strong winds.
Exploring the Great Rift Valley
The best bet is using 4 wheel drive jeep and driver (an experienced local guide and driver). The Rift Valley and Lakes of Kenya can be traveled as a round trip starting in Nairobi.
Spend a night or two at Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru and round off with a number of enjoyable days among Lake Baringo’s remote islands. From there, you can either drive or fly back to Nairobi over this magnificent landscape.
And if you can travel to Northern Kenya with a visit to Lodwar town and a couple of nights in Eliye Spring on Lake Turkana with it’s beautiful warm water, then you will forever say “My heart is in Turkana.”