The Great Rift Valley is a recent, geological phenomenon, not older than 35 million years, which stretches across Africa building a 50-90 km wide and 6000 km long valley. The valley is lined up with blue grey ridges of volcanic basalt towering up to a height up to 4000 meters and goes all the way from Syria to Mozambique. In a few million years a new continental plate, the Somali-plate, will be separated from the African continent.
The crack runs across Ethiopia over a distance of 2800 km. It separates the geologically older Ethiopian Highland and creates in the north of the country, in the Afar region, the famous Danakil depression, which is, with -116 m below zero, one of the lowest and hottest places on earth. The whole area is seismically active while the earth crust is thin, creating volcanoes, natural hot springs and some of the world's last true wildernesses.
The Great Rift Valley in Ethiopia is marked by a chain of seven, elongated lakes, numerous hot springs and mild, pleasant climate. The natural hot springs are highly valued for their therapeutic purposes though at present they are not fully utilized. Each of the lakes has its own character as well as specific flora and fauna and most of them are also suitable for water sports, swimming or fishing. Nile perch, catfish, tilapia and tiger fish are just some species which can be caught here.
The northernmost lake is Lake Zeway, 160 km form Addis. South of Addis lay Lake Abyata, Lake Shalla and Lake Langano which are clustered closely together. Lake Abyata and Shalla are ideal places for bird watchers. The 260 m deep Lake Shalla is one of the most important breeding colonies of Great White Pelicans. The 72 km long Lake Abaya provides well-stocked fishing grounds for many water birds like Pelicans and Flamingos. Lake Langano, with its sandy beaches and water sport possibilities (Swimming, sailing, water skiing and wind surfing) 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 shores.
Further to the south lays Lake Awassa and much further south Lalke Abaya and Chamo. On the shores of Lake Chamo lays the Nech Sar National Park, one of Ethiopia's finest national parks. In the reed-fringed bays hundreds of hippos emerge at night to graze on the shores. Lake Chamo is a sanctuary for hippos, thousands of crocodiles, water birds and fish species.