Places Below Sea Level in Africa

Lake Assal is a crater lake in Djibouti.
Lake Assal is a crater lake in Djibouti.

Africa is home to some of the lowest points in the world, including Lake Assal, the third lowest in the world. Here is a list of some of the places below sea level in Africa.

Lake Assal

Lake Assal is the lowest point on land in Africa. The lake is part of the Afar Depression and is located in Djibouti, and Djibouti City is about 120 km to the east. The lake, which is 509 ft below sea level, is also the third lowest point on land in the entire world. Due to the high evaporation rates here, the waters of the lake have a salinity level nearly 10 times higher than the sea. Thus, the lake serves as the world's biggest salt reserve. Proposals have been made to designate Lake Assal as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Danakil Depression

The Danakil Depression is a plain located in Ethiopia in the northern part of the Afar Depression. It was formed as a result of tectonic activities leading to the Asian and African plates shifting away from each other. The depression is located about 410 ft below sea level and measures 200 km by 50 km. Scientists believe the Danakil Depression is the cradle of human life. It was here that the groundbreaking fossil of Australopithecus afarensis, which was named Lucy, was found.

The area of the Danakil Depression experiences extremely high temperatures throughout the year. In fact, the high average annual temperature makes it the hottest place on Earth. The only river that drains the area, the Awash River, does not reach the sea, but dries up on the way and splits into several salt lakes. Most of the year the area remains rain-starved. The Danakil Depression also features several volcanic features and hot springs. The area is of great importance to astrobiologists since they believe that any organism that can survive the extreme environments might also survive in similar environments on other planets.

Qattara Depression

Covering an area of 19,605 square km, the Qattara Depression is located in the Western Desert in Egypt’s Matruh Governorate. The depression lies at an elevation of 436 ft below sea level, and is the second lowest point in Africa. The area features sand dunes, salt pans, and salt marshes. The depression was carved out millions of years ago by wind or fluvial erosion and salt weathering. The climate is highly arid with sparse rainfall. Diurnal and seasonal temperature extremes are also recorded here. There is little permanent vegetation in the Qattara Depression, with the exception of Phragmites swamps and Acacia groves in certain parts. A number of oases also exist here. The cheetah is often sighted in the region, and gazelles serve as their primary prey. Other animals found in the Qattara Depression include the Egyptian jackal, fennec fox, sand fox, and Barbary sheep. The Qara Oasis is home to the only permanent human population in the area. The Bedouins are nomads who live in the depression and migrate between places with their livestock in search of food and water resources.

Places Below Sea Level in Africa

RankName of DepressionCountryElevation Below Sea Level
1Lake AssalDjibouti502 ft
2Qattara DepressionEgypt436 ft
3Danakil DepressionEthiopia410 ft
4Sebkha TahWestern Sahara180 ft
5Sabkhat GhuzayyilLibya154 ft
6Chott MelrhirAlgeria131 ft
7Shatt al GharsahTunisia56 ft
8Sebkhet Te-n-DghamchaMauritania16 ft

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