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Author Topic: Information about the Great Rift valley and safari in Tanzania  (Read 6811 times)


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The New Zealand Herald published a nice overview about the Great Rift Valley in Africa.

If you come to climb Mt Kilimanjaro it is very much advised to visit the valley and the safari parks surrounding it like the Serengeti.

Here are some bits from the article:

The complete guide to the Great Rift Valley

For all the snorting and braying, dust and heat, there is nothing like rush hour in the Serengeti. The Rift Valley's most spectacular natural performance has to be the annual migration, put on by a cast of over two million wildebeest and a quarter of a million zebra.

Not forgetting, of course, adherent predators such as hyena, jackal and the king of the jungle (or in this case, king of the plain) the lion.

Calving wildebeest amass on the grasslands of the southern Serengeti every November. They eventually make their way north across the Masai Mara in great queues, some six months later, in search of greener pastures, only to hot-hoof it back through the Serengeti in October.

Lying above the Rift Valley escarpment, the Serengeti has the greatest concentration of plains game in Africa, and as such is one of the most coveted spots on the continent for safari. This is the place, if you are so inclined, to start ticking off the Big Five.

Yet one of the most impressive aspects about this part of the Rift is the density of all manner of indigenous mammals and birds, such as the elegant black-striped Thompson's gazelle, characteristic of the east-African plains, and the hefty bovine-like eland, the continent's largest antelope.

The cradle of mankind, the backbone of Africa, the Rift Valley is a 6,400km-long string of superlatives, running from the Dead Sea to Mozambique. A phrase David Attenborough has surely intoned more times than "watch out for that lion", the Great Rift Valley is synonymous with the Big Five but offers travellers far more than big-game safaris.

What is the Rift Valley?

The folding and faulting of the planet's crust, some 20 million years ago, resulted in a block shift and one of the most spectacular geological features on the face of the earth.

Variously referred to as the Eastern or Afro-Arabian Rift Valley, the Great Rift Valley extends its vast escarpments, cliffs, rivers and plains from Jordan in the Middle East, southward through Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi to tip out into the Zambezi river in Mozambique.

The valley averages some 48-60km wide but extends to 96km wide in some places, such as southern Kenya. Just across the border, in Tanzania, the Rift forks into two branches, the western branch forming the Tanzania-Congo border.

That's a lot of land covered. Not to mention water.

The western branch of the Rift takes in Lake Tanganyika, one of the largest lakes of the continent. Other bodies of water within the Great Rift Valley include the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias), the Jordan river, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Aden.

Due to a poor drainage system on the valley floor, the Rift is characterised by a number of shallow soda lakes, favoured habitat of pink clouds of flamingos that like to feed off the sulphuric algae and crustaceans.


So this is prime safari country?

The Rift Valley is one of the few ecosystems that has remained unchanged for centuries. It provides a wildlife-rich course right through the middle of Kenya and Tanzania, eastern Africa's definitive safari spots.

Tanzania is said to be home to the largest concentration of mammals in the world. After the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Tanzania come a respective second and third for the largest concentration of bird species on the continent. More than a quarter of Tanzania alone is taken up with national parks, conservation areas and game reserves. So yes, this is prime safari country. The only problem you'll have is which one to choose.

So it's not all large mammals, then?

Quite the contrary. Starting from the beginning (of mankind, that is), the Rift Valley can lay claim to being the site of the evolution and early history of humanity. In 1957, Mary Leakey, an archaeologist working in the Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, discovered a 1,7 million-year-old hominid skull, named "Nutcracker Man". It provided evidence that hominids began to evolve in the Rift Valley some three million years ago.

Further findings have been made throughout east Africa and the Rift Valley, including stellar sites such as the Awash River in Ethiopia. However, Olduvai, with its excellent archaeological museum, is probably the easiest excursion for those who want to wander from the well-beaten safari track, located as it is, just a few miles from the popular Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area .

Where is the valley at its most spectacular?
Most travellers are familiar with the views of the Rift Valley from the edges of the Serengeti, in Tanzania, where in fact the valley is less obvious because the eastern rim has been eroded.

However, Tanzania's characteristic wide open landscape affords uninterrupted views of the plains and misty escarpment, which in places appears to stretch on to the horizon and beyond, to eternity.

The same tectonic movement that made the Rift Valley also created the 30 or so active and semi-active volcanoes found along its path, including the two highest mountains in Africa, Mount Kenya (5,338m) and Mount Kilimanjaro (5,898m).

Both of these are impressive and iconic African peaks, but in the hotly contested volcano stakes, nothing compares to Tanzania's Ngorongoro Crater, a perfectly preserved mountain with its top neatly blown off.

Ngorongoro represents the world's largest intact volcanic caldera and is also, with its thickly forested outer slopes and central crater lake, one of the most beautifully framed spots in which to view the best of the continent's big game. As such, it is one of east Africa's most popular spots for safari, and along with the Serengeti, is the staple destination on any Tanzania itinerary. Be prepared for herds of migrating tour buses.

(full article can be found here)
"He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary." -- Friedrich Nietzsche
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