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Geological Tourism: New tourist product in East Africa

Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) management is now developing tourist lodges and other visitor service facilities in the Geopark to attract more tourists, both foreign and local visitor

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  • Geotourism uses geological heritage and its interaction with ecology and culture to enhance the geographical character of a place, such as the environment, esthetics, culture and sustainable development of community at Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Northern Tanzania is one of the famous tourist attraction sites in East Africa
  • The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Ngorongoro-Lengai as a Geopark site in April 17, 2018 to become the only tourist Geopark in Africa south of the Sahara Desert

Geological features are now new upcoming tourist magnets in Northern Tanzania and other parts in East Africa where attractive geographical features are located.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Northern Tanzania is one of the famous tourist attraction sites in East Africa, where geological features have added to the value of tourist products available there, besides wildlife.

These geological features have been collectively established as Ngorongoro Lengai Geopark within the wildlife-rich Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

Most attractive among these geological hotspots is Mount Oldonyo Lengai – an active volcano in Tanzania. The guide drove on the closer slopes of the mountain as to allow me see its cone-shaped peak where it spits its fire when erupts.

“Mountain of God” in Maasai language, Oldonyo Lengai is a unique and extremely fascinating strato-volcano that towers above the East African Rift Valley.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) management is now developing tourist lodges and other visitor service facilities in the Geopark to attract more tourists, both foreign and local visitors, NCAA Cultural Heritage Manager, Mr. Joshua Mwankunda said.

“Investing in this Geopark would make tourists visiting the wildlife conserved area in this part of Africa to stay longer”, Mwankunda noted.

From the lower slopes of Oldonyo Lengai Volcanic Mountain, my driver Patrick and I drove through to visit Malanja Depression, an attractive geological feature within the Conservation Area.

Malanja Depression is a beautiful and scenery located on the south limb of Serengeti plains and east of Ngorongoro Mountain. The depression was formed by the movement of the land toward the west, leaving the most eastern part depressed.

Maasai children graze big herds of cattle, each with about 200 heads of goats and sheep, inside the depression. The lush grasses in the depression provide good pasture for livestock, also freshwater spring along the southern margin, for wild animals, livestock and the Maasai households.

Maasai homesteads beautify this area within Malanja Depression and provide cultural experiences to the visitors, giving symbiosis of life between man, livestock and wild animals; all sharing its nature.

Nasera Rock is such a spectacular geological feature which I managed to visit. It is a 50 meter (165) feet high inselberg located in the southwestern part of Gol Mountains inside Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

This light-colored rock is metamorphic gneiss into which molten granitic magma was injected and then cooled to form pink granite. It earlier provided shelter to early man.

In these caves, evidence has shown that the early human lived there about 30,000 years ago. Inside these caves, stone tools, bone fragments and pottery artifacts were discovered.

Olkarien Gorge is the other, attractive geological or geographical feature that I was lucky to visit. It is a deep and extremely narrow, about eight kilometers in length.

The gorge is also home to hundreds of vultures flying over. Maasai get their hair coloring soil (Okaria) from this gorge.

The Ngorongoro Lengai Geopark’s geological history began 500 million years ago when granite sand gneiss seen in the North of Gol Mountains and in the West around Lake Eyasi was formed.

Geoparks are mostly focused at building sustainable use of geological heritage and natural landscape as tourism resources to attract tourists to visit Africa, where such natural wonders are located.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Ngorongoro-Lengai as a Geopark site in April 17, 2018 to become the only tourist Geopark in Africa south of the Sahara Desert.

The other Geopark in Africa is M’Goun Global Geopark in Morocco. There are 161 Geoparks globally, in 44 countries listed under UNESCO as global heritage sites.

The size of Ngorongoro as a whole is massive, with Ngorongoro Crater covering an area of  250 kilometers,  Olmoti Crater 3.7 kilometers and Empakai crater 8 kilometers.

Ngorongoro- Lengai Geopark is now becoming an important additional reason why tourists should keep flocking in its volcanic caldera and home to the highest density of big game in Africa.

Geotourism is a nature tourism focused on sustainable use of geological heritage and natural landscape as tourism resources to attract tourists, provide geoscience knowledge to the public and students and encourage appreciation and develop a sense of place and value for protection.

Geotourism uses geological heritage and its interaction with ecology and culture to enhance the geographical character of a place, such as the environment, esthetics, culture and sustainable development of communities.

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority offers a range of investments in accommodation from high class tourist hotels and lodges, semi-permanent camps, tented camps, mobile camps and picnic sites to be put in place by investors including local and foreigners.

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