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The Great Rift Valley was first recognized by a Scottish geologist, Walter Gregory early 1890s around Lake Naivasha, it is believed to have been formed millions of years ago as a result of continental drift processes. These strong underground forces led to the pulling apart of the earth crust causing the falling of the land between parallel fault lines. It is actually part of the 6000km long Afro-Asian rift system that runs from up north in Jordan, down to Mozambique in south Africa.
The floor of the Rift where it enters Kenya through Lake Turkana lies at an altitude of around 198 meters above the sea level. It then meanders through the Cherengani hills with a considerable rising altitude in depth towards Lake Baringo to the South, where the valley rises to 914m, widening to around 16.5km. On both sides of the valley, the rising altitude continues to display a breathtaking escarpment until it just reaches 1829m in the Central highlands forming other lakes on the Rift's floor including Lakes Bogoria, Nakuru, Elementaita, Naivasha, and Magadi at the boarder of Kenya and Tanzania at which point the altitude drops considerably. All these together make some of the most interesting places to visit and any tourist who wants to enrich his or her Kenya safaris should not miss trying these fantastic sites.
Lake Turkana in the Northern Kenya for instance, a huge lake situated in the semi-desert north is an important asset for the nomadic pastoralists living around here. The Cherengani hills on the other hand is one of the best known places that provides an excellent walking opportunity through brilliant scenery. The lakes in the central region are also a naturalist dream that attract millions of birds including the famous greater and lesser flamingoes. The Kenyan rift valley is a home to several extinct volcanoes including the easiest to climb and most accessible Longonot, the most dominant feature as you enter the view point of the great rift valley from Nairobi. As one stretches down to the south, are vast plains that accommodate the famous Maasai community leaving in the same neighborhood with the wild animals.
The drainage system of the valley is generally poor because of the nature of the edges of the escarpment that tend to bend directly away from the valley. This in return has led to the formation of the shallow lakes along the trough, most of which have got in-lets but no out-lets. As a result of high evaporation, especially in this particular region of the country, the waters of all the lakes of this rift except lakes Baringo and Naivasha which are believed to have underground outlets are saline. The high alkalinity that results from the deposition of the volcanic sediments creates a condusive environment for the breeding and growth of microscopic organisms like the blue-green algae which are food for the tiny crustaceans and insect larvae, eaten by soda-resistant fish. The waters of these lakes are soapy and don't feel pleasant to the smell, although the abundant algae, insect larvae, the crustaceans and the fish make these lakes party arenas for millions of water birds every day.
The escarpments of the rift valley can best be seen from the strategically signposted points called 'the viewpoints', just a little past Limuru town along Nairobi-Naivasha highway. There is a slip road to the left descending down to the valley, with Mount Longonot right in front of you and the Masai Mara plains forming a wonderful view yonder across the valley. If you would like to buy any souvenirs on your way down south, this is one of the right places to do it although some tourists prefer doing the same on their way back to Nairobi. If you would like to view the rift on your way to Maasai Mara or Mount Longonot, take the old road to Naivasha.
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