DAR-ES-SALAAM, China will provide Tanzania's maiden Geopark with 10 million US dollars financial support, says Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (NCAA) Conservator Dr Freddy Manongi.

The Ngorongoro-Lengai Geopark is earmarked to cover 12,000 square kilometres of rocky hills, lengthy underground caves, lake basins, hominid discovery sites and the active Oldonyo L'engai volcano.

The geopark will be the second in Africa, after the one in Morocco and the first in sub-Saharan Africa. Dr Manongi says: While tourists from America and Europe prefer game driving into National Parks to view wildlife; the Chinese and other Asians are different.

According to Dr Manongi, tourists from China, Korea, Japan and other Asian countries prefer seeing landscapes, mountains, caves, gorges and other geological features.

He believes that the country will use the geopark to attract visitors from Asia, with China alone offering a huge market of 1.4 billion people for Tanzania's geology-based tourism.

We are striving to expand the country's tourism potentials by introducing attractions based on land formations, geology, history and geographical features, all packaged as Ngorongoro-Lengai Geopark, says Olduvai Gorge Deputy Conservator Orgoo Mauyai. Olduvai is part of the proposed geopark.

The main economic activities in the envisaged Ngorongoro-Lengai Geopark is pastoralism, especially along Maasai and Datoga, agriculture, tourism and small-scale trading.

The geopark theme is how local residents earn a living from these geological features without interfering with their natural settings, says Nickson Nyange, a Public Relations Officer at the NCAA.

Ngorongoro-Lengai is tipped to become a popular tourist destination for visits to Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Natron and Eyasi as well as other national parks like Lake Manyara and Serengeti.

The first ever sub-Saharan geopark project was initiated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) under European Union (EU) funding.

NCAA Cultural Heritage Department acting Manager Joshua Mwankunda says the EU has already provided 1.8 million Euros as initial funding to the project.