The Rift valley lakes
The Great Rift Valley is the single largest geographical feature on the African continent, and was the only such feature visible to the first astronauts to reach the moon. The process of rifting started some 20 million years ago along a 4,000km-long fault line that stretches from the Red Sea south toMozambique’s Zambezi Valley. The Ethiopian portion of the Rift Valley runs forms the Read Sea to Lake Turkana on the Kenyan border. Innorthern Ethiopia, it forms the Danakil Depression, and inaccessible and inhospitable desert that dips to an altitude of 116m below sea level, one of the lowest points on the earth’s surface. South of the Danakil Depression, due east of Addis Ababa, the Rift narrows around Awash National Park to bisect the Ethiopia as Eastern and Western Highlands.
The southern part of the Ethiopian Rift Valley is lower, warmer and direr than other densely populated parts of the country. Covered in acacia woodland and studded with lakes. The six main lakes of the Ethiopian Rift formed during the last lce Age, originally as two large lakes, one of which embraced what are now Lakes Ziway, Abiata, Shala andLangano, the other Lakes Abaya and Chamo.
Like a chain of pearls, the lakes cover the bottom of the Rift Valley stretching from Djibouti to Mozambique with a width of 50km. All the Lakes are full of fish like Tilapia and Nile Perch and thus attract many different bird species, making them a paradise for bird watchers. They are also altideal places for a real vacation with relaxation, swimming, boat trips, fishing, watching crocodiles and hippo's and enjoying the serene, romantic views, especially at sunset, with only the voices of the birds or crickets as background music.
The most visited Lakes of the Rift Valley:-
Lake zeway also known as lake Dambal , is the southernmost Ethiopia’s natural rift valley lakes area of 430km2. Zeway lies only three hours from the capital and an ideal first stop on a trip through the Rift valley. Laying at an altitude of 1, 636m and ringed by a steep volcanic hills, this shallow lake is notable not only for its scenic qualities, but also for the large congregations of water-associated birds that are attracted to the reed-lined fringes by a thriving tilapia population. It’s the best bird watching of any Rift Valley lake an it is also very accessible, since it verges on the town of Ziway on the main Addis Ababa-Moyale road
Lake Langano, with a surface area of 305km2 and depth of up to 45m, is more developed for tourism than any other lake in the Ethiopian Rift Valley. Well established resorts lie on the shore. During the week, the resorts all have a more restful air and they will be far more appealing for anybody seeking a bit of natural tranquility. The main attraction of Lake Langano is that it is safe for swimming it’s absence of bilharia. The resort all offer a variety of water sport and boat trips can be made to an island noted for its hot springs or in search of hippos and crocodiles.
Abijata-Shalla National Park
The park is 887 sq. km wide; 482sq km of this is covered by the lakes’ water. The altitude ranges from 1500 to 2000 meters. The highest peak is Mt fike, situated between the two lakes. The lakes are terminal, but they are very different in nature. The park was created for many species of aquatic birds, particularly great white pelicans and greater and lesser flamingoes. Lake’s islands are used as breeding sites by many birds including pelicans; and lake abijata is their feeding sanctuary. Other birds in the area include white necked cormorant, African fish eagle, Egyptian geeze, various plover species and herons.
Lake Awassa is the smallest in Ethiopian Rift valley, covering an area of around 9,000ha. Set in an ancient volcanic caldera, Lake Awassa has no outlets, yet the water remains fresh and the lake supports a rich variety of plankton and abundance of fish. The mountain backdrop of the lake, together with the lush fringing vegetation, matches any of the Kenyan Rift valley lakes for scenery. The dense scrub and fig woodland along the lake’s shore is well-preserved and teeming with birds. Guereza and vervet monkeys are practically resident in the grounds and very habituated to people. Hippos are also present in the lake, but generally only seen from a boat. There is a daily fishing market on the lakeshore.