Tanzania opens first geopark

Tanzania is launching its first geopark with the creation of the 12,000sq-km Ngorongoro-Lengai Geopark in the north of the country, in an effort to attract geology-based tourism.

The landscape of the new park comprises rocky hills, caves, lake basins and important paleoanthropological sites containing hominid fossils. However its main attraction is Ol Doinyo Lengai, or "Mountain of God", an active volcano which experts believe is on the verge of a major eruption.

The world's only known active carbonatite volcano, Lengai emits lava composed of rock such as calcite and dolomite. Located some 150 km west of Arusha, the volcano's largest known explosion occurred in 1940 when it deposited ash within a 100-km radius.

Geophysicists believe the volcano is now showing signs of erupting on a large scale once more, possibly within weeks.

Although Tanzania is home to 16 national parks, a geopark is defined as a unified geographical area which addresses the protection and sustainable use of geological heritage.