Some thirty lakes make up the African lakes of the rift valley and they include some of the oldest and largest lakes in the world, providing work, food and sustenance for millions who live near them. It is believed that the human race first lived in this area with humanoid fossils of our ancestors being found there that are around 10 million years old. The area is also home to the fossilised remains of 'Lucy' who lived approximately 3.2 million years ago and is currently believed to have been the first humanoid to have walked upright.
The Rift Valley itself, a crack or fissure in the earth's crust created by violent subterranean forces that tore apart the earth's crust, can be seen from space and it runs for approximately 4000 miles from Syria to Mozambique. The valley was formed by movements in the Arabian plate, the Nubian plate and the Somalian plate which are still drifting apart creating low areas where water has accumulated to form the lakes. The Rift Valley is at its most magnificent in East Africa where the process of 'rifting' has led to the creation of the many spectacular lakes that are located in the region. The process itself however is ongoing with many active volcanoes in the area along with numerous hot and boiling springs indicating underground activity.
It is believed that the ongoing underground volcanic activity around the rift will eventually cause the continent of Africa to split with low lying areas, currently under sea level, being filled from the Red Sea, creating a new ocean with the remains of Somalia, Tanzania and Mozambique forming a new off Africa continent. The lakes are broadly grouped into the Ethiopian Rift Valley Lakes which are mostly alkaline, the Eastern Rift Valley Lakes of which three are freshwater and five alkaline, the Western or Albertine Rift Valley Lakes which are freshwater and the Southern Rift Valley lakes which are all fresh water save for Lake Rukwa.
Below is a video explaining how the Rift Valley itself was formed whilst below on this page we explore a number of the Great African lakes in a series of video documentaries. Some of these show how at least two of the lakes are drying up, one because of the construction of a hydro-electric dam on its main tributary river and the implications of that process for those whose lives depend on the lakes.
A short video and information about Lake
Tanganyika, the world's longest
lake and second deepest.
Take a virtual tour of Lake Malawi
above and underwater in another
in our African lakes series.
Pictures and footage of the attempts to save Lake Chad as it shrinks to a mere fifth of its former size.
A video documentary about Lake Victoria, the largest of the African lakes and the world's largest tropical lake.
Information about Lake Turkana in
Kenya, another of the African
lakes at risk of drying up.
All about the River Nile as it winds its
way through Africa from Uganda
to the Mediterranean Sea.
Details of current volunteer work
opportunities in each of the
countries of Africa.
Discover all about Africa and how to
make the most of your
volunteer experience there.
Don't set off on your volunteer experience
in Africa without checking out our
recommended essential supplies.
For a limited period get your
African NGO or volunteer organisation
listed here for FREE!
A must read novel about the pitfalls
of volunteering in Africa written
by the african-volunteer.net team!