Ethiopia – from the Rift Valley to the Bale Mountains
Ethiopia is often called The Roof of Africa and is amongst the continent’s top wildlife destinations. Our tour will take us through a wide range of habitats, from mountain peaks and forests, to desert plains.
The extensive highlands are the largest mountain block in Africa, with local specialities such as Gelada Baboon, an impressive but gentle primate to be found grazing the escarpment slopes in troops of hundreds of individuals, Mountain Nyala, Giant Mole Rat and around 30 bird species confined to this dramatic region, including Rouget’s Rail, Blue-winged Goose and the handsome Spot-breasted Lapwing. These scenic mountains are also famously home to the Ethiopian Wolf, probably the world’s rarest carnivore with as few as 200 mature animals, of which half are found in the Bale National Park, where we will spend time looking for (and hopefully watching!) these magnificent, and highly endangered animals as they hunt amidst giant lobelias.
The Great Rift Valley scythes the highlands down the middle. Dotted with lakes and covered in arid savanna and grasslands rich in wildlife, with ’familiar’ East African species combining with the more localised species as well as the influx of European and Central Asian migrants here for the winter, to create not only a distinctive mix, but also a diverse one. In Awash National Park we will look for local specialities such as Northern Gerenuk, Lesser Kudu and Beisa Oryx, Arabian Bustard and Somali Ostrich.
Our time in Ethiopia will be a truly wildlife-filled experience in an unusual country, combining endemic birds, unrivalled scenery, unique mammals and fascinating cultures, a long awaited trip not to be missed!
1 – 15 February 2020
Philip Precey with local guide
Single Room Supplement – £350
Return flight from UK. Local transport as specified in itinerary. Twelve nights’ accommodation, full board.
Visa for entry into Ethiopia. Refreshments. Gratuities. Travel insurance.
Minimum 8, maximum 12.
Day 1 Our flights take us via Frankfurt to Addis Ababa, arriving in the evening.
Day 2 After an introduction to our trip, and our first introduction to the birdlife of Ethiopia in the gardens of our hotel, where Wattled Ibis may be the first of many endemics, we will set off north east across the grassy highlands of the Sululta Plain, before we arrive at the Jemma Valley escarpment, and hopefully our first encounter with Gelada Baboons.
Day 3 An early start will take us down into the Jemma Valley, part of the Blue Nile catchment. The rocky slopes are home to Harwood’s Francolin, restricted to this tiny corner of Ethiopia, while the valley will give us our first taste of the Great Rift, before we head back up to the plateau, home to the handsome Spot-breasted Lapwing.
Day 4 Today we head down from the Ankober escarpment to the Melka Ghebdu stream, where we will look for the Yellow-throated Seedeater, a bird only rediscovered in 1989. In the afternoon we climb back up the escarpment to misty Ankober, home to the endemic Ankober Serin.
Day 5 A travel day will take us back to Addis and then eastwards towards the Awash National Park.
Days 6/7 We will spend two days in the Awash area. The National Park is home to a good variety of ‘game’, including Beisa Oryx, Salt’s Dikdik, Soemmering’s Gazelle, Lesser Kudu and the long-necked Gerenuk, along with Bat-eared Fox, Grivet Monkey and both Olive and Hamadryas Baboons. Amongst the abundant birdlife we hope to find the lovely blue-necked Somali Ostrich and Arabian Bustard.
Day 8 Back on the road, this time heading southwards, via a series of Rift Valley lakes, where we will look for various waterbirds, as well as the uninspiringly-named Sombre Rock Chat on an area of impressive lava flows.
Days 9-11 After some morning birding, we set off towards the Bale Mountains National Park and the Sanetti Plateau. Here the Hagenia forests support Abyssinian Owl and Abyssinian Catbird, while the open grasslands of the high plateau, dotted with Giant Lobelias, are home to Blue-winged Goose, Rouget’s Rail and Thick-billed Raven, along with Mountain Nyala, Ethiopian Klipspringer, Starck’s Hare and the rare Bale Monkey. Chief amongst our targets here is the elegant Ethiopian Wolf. The Park is home to around 100 of these beautiful canids, half the world’s total population, and we will put the effort in to catch up with them as they hunt Giant Mole Rats on the plateau grasslands.
Day 12 We spend one last morning in the National Park, enjoying the high-altitude scenery and hoping perhaps for that one last sighting of a Wolf, before travelling via the Gaysay Grasslands, home to abundant Bohor Reedbuck and Warthogs, to the shores of Lake Awassa.
Day 13 The grounds of our hotel are rich in birdlife, with African Spotted Creeper and Northern Carmine Bee-eater amongst the hoped-for species. The nearby Lake Awassa supports a plethora of wetland birds, including various herons, ducks, pelicans and waders, as well as African Fish Eagle and Hippopotamus.
Day 14 Our time is almost up, and today we spend the day heading northwards back along the Rift Valley, making a few stops along the way, before arriving back in Addis Ababa, with time for one last delicious Ethiopian dinner before our flights home, via Frankfurt, arriving back in the UK early on Day 15.
Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.
Accommodation in Ethiopia has improved greatly in recent years. All our hotels will be clean and comfortable, if at times a little basic, with private facilities. We are catered on a ‘full board’ basis, with a mixture of international and local cuisine
We will be travelling by comfortable coaster minibus, with a driver experienced in wildlife tours.
The group flights are with Lufthansa from London Heathrow.
1 February depart London Heathrow 07.30, arrive Frankfurt 10.05
1 February depart Frankfurt 13.00, arrive Addis Ababa 21.45
14 February depart Addis Ababa 23.45, arrive Frankfurt 05.25 (15 February)
15 February depart Frankfurt 07.00, arrive London Heathrow 07.45
It is also possible to fly from Manchester, joining the group flights in Frankfurt.
Ethiopia is three hours ahead of GMT, Germany is one hour ahead of GMT.
We will be travelling during the dry season, although there is always a chance of some rain. We can expect hot days (c30 degrees) in the lowlands, and cooler conditions in the highlands, where we spend most of our time. Nights and early mornings can be surprisingly cold.
You should consult your GP for advice on travel health as soon as possible, at least 8 weeks before the trip.
Travellers should be up to date on the routine vaccinations as recommended in the UK, including MMR, tetanus, diphtheria and polio. Vaccinations for hepatitis A and typhoid are recommended for most travellers visiting Ethiopia, and you may also want to consider vaccinations for cholera, hepatitis B, rabies and meningococcal meningitis. We will be visiting areas where both malaria and yellow fever are present.
This holiday does not involve any strenuous walking. We will be visiting high altitudes, mostly around 2500- 3000m but up to around 4100m on Sanetti Plateau. Our accommodation is all lower than 3000m. If you have any reason to believe that you will be adversely affected at altitude, please consult your doctor prior to booking.