Extensive 3D seismic datasets acquired during exploration offshore southern Tanzania have revealed the complex architecture of two contrasting styles of hybrid turbidite–contourite deposits that formed in the Cretaceous (Albian–Early Campanian) and Paleogene (Paleocene–Oligocene). Both sequences are characterized by migrating channel-levee complexes, interpreted to record, and be diagnostic of, the synchronous interaction of eastward, downslope flowing turbidity currents and northerly, along-slope flowing contour currents. Flow stripping of the fine-grained suspended part of the turbulent flow by weak contour currents led to the formation of expanded levee-drifts on the northern (downstream) side of the channels, which prograded southwards (upstream), driving southwards migration of the turbidite channel axis.
The difference in the architecture of the two successions is due to the variation in slope topography at the time turbidite activity commenced and the frequency of coarse clastic input into the basin. Cretaceous (Albian–Campanian) turbidite systems were strongly controlled by the position of pre-existing contourite drifts and moats. The contorted geometry of the system provided loci for the deposition of Cretaceous reservoirs comprising thick, amalgamated channel deposits with a high net-to-gross ratio (N:G) and good vertical connectivity, and intra-slope fans with lower N:G and poor vertical connectivity.
Paleogene turbidite channels initially evolved on a smooth slope. Sustained southward channel migration produced Paleogene reservoirs comprising complexly laterally-connected sheets of channel and lobe deposits above a southward-younging, diachronous compound unconformity. In both hybrid systems, contour current influence modified the geometry of the turbidite systems, resulting in temporal and spatial partitioning of the depocentres on the slope.