Erta Ale and the Danakil Depression
Where: Danakil Depression, Ethiopia
When: October 2018
Duration: 4 days
Tour operator: Brilliant Ethiopia
This is without doubt the most intrepid trip I have undertaken so far. If you like an adventure and aren’t afraid of sleeping under the stars on a volcano crater then this expedition is definitely for you! I bathed in the salty Lake Afdera, ascended Erta Ale volcano and was blown away by the landscape at Dallol, where the scorching heat and colourful salt deposits make you feel like you’re on another planet.
Why I decided to visit Ethiopia
I love to visit volcanoes, and when I heard that Erta Ale – one of only eight lava lakes in the world – existed in Ethiopia I had to pay it a visit. Prior to travelling to the Danakil I had spent two weeks in Addis Ababa on a Projects Abroad internship programme, writing articles for an English-language newspaper. After saying goodbye to my host family I jumped on a plane to Mekele to start my next adventure.
About the Danakil
The Danakil Depression is reported to be “one of the driest, lowest and hottest places on earth“, with a year-round average temperature of 34.4 degrees centigrade. It can reach as high as 50 degrees, therefore it was not without a little trepidation that I sat listening to our Brilliant Ethiopia guide in the little travel office in Mekele telling me that it was imperative to drink at least three litres of water per day!
Situated in the northern part of the Afar Triangle, the region is a triple junction of diverging tectonic plates – where the Arabian, Nubian and Somalian plates are all pulling away from each other. This creates a lot of geothermal activity, and in fact Erta Ale – the volcano I was going to visit – is the most active volcano in Ethiopia.
While it is not possible for life to exist here in the present day, this area is known as the cradle of humanity because the oldest fossilised remains of a human was found here. Named Lucy, this woman lived 3.2 million years ago and is now resting in the museum in Addis Ababa.
The wonders of the Danakil
Over the four days I visited three very special and unique places: