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The Great Rift

"Gorongosa, I will say it now, is ecologically the most diverse park in the world" - E.O. Wilson

About 30 million years ago the African continent began to break up. Pent-up forces of hot magma from the planet’s core, pushed closer to the earth’s crust, created a massive fracture that will eventually divide Africa into two, smaller tectonic plates.  This fracture, known as the East African Rift System, or the Great Rift Valley, now stretches from Jordan in southwestern Asia, throughout eastern Africa, down to Mozambique. Lake Urema, here in Gorongosa National Park, is considered to be the southernmost tip of this magnificent geological formation.

 

Standing on the grassy plains of Gorongosa it is difficult to imagine that this area may at some point become an ocean channel, separating two new continents. If this happens, the Cheringoma Plateau in the eastern part of the park will form the western edge of new, “Somalian” continental islands, whereas Mount Gorongosa in the western part of the park will find itself facing the ocean. But before this happens, the dynamic, geological forces that shape the surface of our planet are creating one of the most fertile and biologically rich ecosystems in the history of Earth. Sinking, uplifting, and warping of the crust over the last 30 million years, combined with natural erosion and annual cycles of flooding and drought have shaped the Gorongosa ecosystem, both in its terrain and biological components.

 

The Park and its wide buffer zone are divided into four ecological regions shaped by the Rift System, each with its own microclimate, water regime, plant communities, and animals.