Great Rift Valley
Lake Elementaita lies on the floor of the Great Rift Valley, the single most dramatic feature on planet earth. A unique geological phenomenon, the Kenyan Rift is only one small part of a massive continental fault that runs 6000 km from Jordan to Mozambique. The Rift enters Northern Kenya through the jade-green waters of Lake Turkana, slices a wedge through the centre of the country and exits south of Lake Natron into the vastness of Tanzania.
Flowing like molten lava from north to south the rift is up to 100 km wide in some places and features walls that tower 3,964 metres above sea level. Elsewhere the valley floor rises from little more than 200 meters to around 1, 900 meters above sea level. Evidence of the terrifying power of the force that changed the earth can be found in the 30 active and semi-active volcanoes that stud the floor of the Rift and in the boiling springs that bring sodium carbonate bubbling from deep within the bowels of the earth and turn the Rift valley lakes into bitter pans or blistering soda flats.
The first European to investigate the Rift and the man who gave it it’s name, was John Walter Gregory, who in 1893 deduced that this cataclysmic rent in the face of the earth was formed ‘by the rock sinking in mass, while the adjacent land remained stationary’.
History of the area
This area seems to have been a popular haunt for the peoples of the Later Stone Age, many of whom were buried around the area. Research has revealed that their bodies were smeared with ochre, tied into a hunched position and buried in a shallow grave surrounded by beads and ornaments. A large fire was then lit above the grave, which reduced the bodies to charcoal.
The fresh water springs to the south of the lake are thought to have been a regular stopping off point for the ivory and slave trading caravans that travelled to and from the coast into the heart of Africa. It was here too that the local Tugen tribes were in the habit of ambushing the passing caravans. The early explorers also used the springs to fill their water bottles.