DALLOL DEPRESSION, ETHIOPIA

In this week’s rendition of Destination Wednesday we will be taking a virtual flight to a particular location in Africa.

Dallol is a low-lying area, around 125m below mean sea level, in the Afar Region (North-eastern Ethiopia). This locality, which is in a desert environment, is eminently regarded as the hottest uninhabited place year-round on earth. It is situated on a collapsed volcanic crater. The concoction of highly concentrated salt-water (brines), heat from the magma beneath and ambience, and the inorganic oxidation of iron allows minerals to precipitate in these vibrant colours and unique shape.

So how did this extra-terrestrial landscape form?


Setting the context, the area is situated within the eponymous Afar Triangle; this is a geological depression caused by the triple junction between the African/Nubian Plate (East), Somali Plate (West) and Arabian Plate (North). At the triple junction, these tectonics plates are moving apart from each other and which causes the land in-between to subside (via a combination of faults and magma rising to the surface) … simply put this process is called ‘rifting’ and the result is the Afar Triangle geological depression we see today.

Afar Triangle or Afar depression

Afar Triple Junction – Northern part of East African Rift

Journey

Visiting Dallol via an organised tour is highly advised, after all the area is tectonically active, the pools of water are very hot and acidic, and there are harmful volcanic gases like hydrogen sulphide which are released. To date, the area has not been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, hence funding for its protection and conservation is limited just to Ethiopia. I would also recommend booking tours with reputable agencies such as Ethio Travel and Tours– prices are around £250 for a 2-day Trip to Dallol but police security, water, camping accommodation are all inclusive. Journeys could start from Mek’ele, (Capital of Tigray Region, Northernmost region of Ethiopia) or Addis Ababa (Capital of Ethiopia)

There is a plethora of geological features in the Danakil depression: hot springs, geysers, volcanoes, salt flats culminating from the magma rising from below. 
Other amazing areas to see in the Danakil Depression that you could look for when booking tours

Erta Ale-Active Shield Volcano 
Lake Karum and Lake Afrera– Salt Lakes 

Interesting Facts:

– Dallol has been termed inhospitable however there may be miniscule bacteria extremophiles living in the highly acidic hydrothermal waters according to astrobiologist scientists from Spain led by Felipe Gomez

-Afar Triangle that the fossilised remnants of hominid species named Lucy, which was  found with this Afar Triangle further south near the Awash River 

-In the geological future (millions of years) this low-lying area of Ethiopia and much of East Africa will be covered by a new ocean

Important Note: In writing this blog post, I am aware of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia that occurred in the killing of 600 civilians in Mai Kadra, Tigray. As am I aware of the existing tensions between the central Ethiopian government and the government of Tigray, north Ethiopia. In a country coined the cradle of humanity, owing to its significance for our past and I suspect future, I hope and pray for peace within the nation.

We hoped you enjoyed this week’s destination! See you next week!

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*All images and information was sourced from the internet*

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