The Great Rift Valley stretches for over 9,600kms form Turkey to Mozambique. In east Africa this crack has made a valley with a length of 6000 kms. The openings of the Great Rift Valley feature are recent phenomena even not older than 20 million years. This is the last massive movement of the earth to play significantly in shaping the landmass of the earth.
Again this features, the volcanoes, natural hot springs and strongly elongated lakes in the Great Rift Valley are evidences in the earth’s crust that threaten eventually to split Africa apart. This split east Africa in to two arms. The valley passes through Ethiopia where its largest area lies. (It is about 2800kms long). In Ethiopia, the northern end of the valley opens in to the famous Dankill Depression 116 meters below sea level is one of the hottest places on the earth.
The volcanic floor is with an average width of 50 km and its maximum width is 90 km. The blue grey ridges of the volcanic basalt and granite either side, towering up to a height of 4000 meters. This volcanic floor encompasses some of the world's last true wildernesses.
The Great Rift Valley’s passage through Ethiopia is marked by a chain of seven lakes. Each of the seven lakes has its own special life and character and provides ideal habitats for the exuberant variety of flora and fauna that make the region a beautiful and exotic destination for tourists. These lakes are Lake Zeway, Shala, Abyata, Langano, Awassa, Chmao and Abaya. Most of the lakes are suitable and safe for swimming and other water sports. Lakes Abiata and Shalla are ideal places for bird watchers.
The northern most Lake is Lake Zeway on 160kms form Addis. Southwards from here three further lakes Abyata, Shalla & Langano are clustered closely together followed by Lake Awassa; much further south Lalke Abaya and Chamo.
Lake Langano has developed into an unsurpassed resort popular with weekend visitors form the capital. There are good camping facilities and excellent hotels and chalet bungalows situated along its bays, fronting sandy beaches perfect for swimming, sailing, water skiing and wind surfing. Lake Shalla the deepest lake of all lakes (260 meters deep) is the most important one for the breeding colony of the Great White Pelicans.
Lake Abaya is the largest and longest in length (72km) provides well-stocked fishing grounds for these splendid birds and also excellent feeding place of Flamingos. Farming people populates the shores and islands of Abaya and Chamo. Lake Chamo forms one of Ethiopia's finest National Parks-Nech Sar. In the reed fringed bays of Chamo’s sparkling aquamarine waters hundreds of hippos emerge at night to graze on the grass shores. Lake Chamo is a sanctuary for hippopotamus, several thousand crocodiles and fish species.
Gazing on these lovely expanses of water body, one cannot help but speculate on the majesty that must once have been theirs when the great rains poured down over Africa.
The Rift Valley is also a site of numerous natural hot springs and the chemical contents of the hot springs are highly valued for their therapeutic purposes though at present they are not fully utilized. In short, the Rift Valley is endowed with many beautiful lakes, numerous hot springs, warm and pleasant climate and a variety of wildlife. It is considered as one of the most ideal areas for the development of international tourism in Ethiopia.
The major ones are
- Lake Abaya (1162 km2, elevation 1285 m), the largest Ethiopian Rift Valley lake
- Lake Chamo (551 km2, elevation 1235 m)
- Lake Zway (485 km2, elevation 1636 m)
- Lake Shala (329 km2, elevation 1558 m), the deepest Ethiopian Rift Valley lake about 260 meters
- Lake Langano (230 km2, elevation 1585 m)
- Lake Abijatta (205 km2, elevation 1573 m)
- Lake Awasa (129 km2, elevation 1708 m)