- COFFEE FOREST
- SOFOMER CAVE
- DANAKIL DEPRESSION
- ERTA-ALE VOLCANO
- ARCHEOLOGICAL SITES
- RIFTVALLEY LAKES
- HOT SPRINGS
- BIRDING TOUR
Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee. Coffee arabica originates in and still grows wild in Ethiopia in areas which are included in the Eastern Afromontane Biodiversity hotspot. In Ethiopia, only about 2000 sq km of high-quality forest with wild arabica coffee remains. However coffee is typically grown in Ethiopia, and so we generally feel good about enjoying Ethiopian coffee from an ecological point of view. Technically, coffee is wild if it grows and reproduces or regenerates on its own within natural habitats.
Forest coffee called “wild” coffee. Here, coffee is harvested from trees growing in the forest, with virtually no management of the surrounding forest or vegetation, except perhaps some removal of undergrowth to facilitate access to the coffee trees
Semi-forest coffee. Most “forest coffee” is probably really in this category, termed semi-forest coffee. Here, the forest is altered and managed, often quite substantially. The canopy is thinned once to several times a year to allow more light to reach the coffee and increase yields. Trees with open, wide-spreading canopies are favored since fewer trees are needed to provide the preferred amount of shade. Undergrowth, competing shrubs, and emerging seedlings of other plants are removed to make harvesting easier and to make room for more coffee. The coffee grows wild, but is also supplemented by shrubs transplanted from elsewhere.
Increasingly, forest coffee is being managed as semi-forest coffee, and semi-forest coffee is being managed and harvested with increasing intensity as coffee prices rise. The increasing management intensity has profound impacts on the forest and biodiversity. This diversity includes the genetic resources of wild races of Coffee arabica, as the practice of swapping and transplanting coffee, and any interbreeding, erodes the integrity of wild genotypes.
Coffee spreads throughout Ethiopia: With ideal growing conditions in the East, South and Western areas of the country. Ethiopia to continue providing the world with wonderful Arabica coffee. It is natural that Ethiopia, the home of coffee, should illustrate its success. Within Ethiopia, there are three main growing regions – Harrar, Ghimbi and Sidamo (also known as Yirgacheffe). Almost all coffee in Ethiopia is cultivated on small farms with the exception of some larger, government run estates. Ethiopian coffees are mostly grown under shade and with little to no use of chemicals.
Over 400, 000 hectares of land to the West, South and East of Addis Ababa above 3600 feet are planted with Arabica coffee. About 80% of Ethiopia’s exports are natural (sundried) Arabica coffees, the rest is washed. The only coffee plantations in Ethiopia exist in Limu, Bebeka and Teppi. All other coffee (over 95%) is grown by small garden farmers or wild in forests. Farmers inter-crop with other product in order to ensure their coffee is shade grown, and to provide them with financial security if coffee prices are low.
It is 215km East of Addis Ababa and cover 756 sq km. Its altitude ranges between 750-2007 m above sea level. The park is known by an interesting range of volcanic landscapes which is the most geologically active regions; this is marked by Fantalle Crater, Filhowa / hot springs and Lake Basaka nearby. Awash River with its waterfall and gorges is scenic features of the park. A range of larger wildlife species particularly a fascinating number of Beisa Oryx and natural beauty of the area as a major tourist attraction.
The wildlife consists mainly of East African plains animals. Oryx, bat-eared fox, caracal, salt dik-dik, colobus monkeys, Anubis and Hamadryads’ baboons, klipspringer, leopard, bushbuck, hippopotamus, Soemmering’s gazelle, cheetah, lion, kudu and others live within the park’s area. About 462 bird species have been recorded recently. Bird species include banded barbet, golden-backed wood pecker, white-winged cliff-chat, thick –billed raven, white –billed starling, secretary bird, bustards and storks.
ABIJATA –SAHLLA LAKES PARK
The park is located 207km south of Addis Ababa. It is famous for and significant ornithological site in the country which is 887 sq. km wide; 482sq km of this is covered by the lakes’ water. The park is created for many species of aquatic birds, particularly great white pelicans and greater and lesser flamingoes. Lake Abijata is used as their feeding sanctuary and Lake Shalla islands are used as breeding sites to the birds.
Most commonly seen birds are Great white pelican, flamingoes, storks white necked cormorant, African fish eagle, Egyptian geese, various plover species and herons; many other types of birds including migratory too.
The park is combination of Lake Abijata and Shalla, and the land between and around them. Geological features include hot springs, lava caves and four islands used as nesting site four different bird species. Some mammals are common to the park like; Grants gazelle, Colobus monkey, and Grivet monkey, Warthog, Klipspringer, Oribi and Jackals. The altitude ranges from 1500 to 2000 meters. The highest peak is Mt fike, situated between the two lakes. The lakes are terminal, but they are very different in nature.
BALE MOUNTAINS PARK
This Mountains National Park is located 400 km southeast of Addis Ababa. It is designated as national park since 1970; this park is the largest Afro-alpine habitat in the whole African continent which covers about 2,200 square kilometers. It stretches the south – eastern part of Arsi- Bale massifs.
The altitude ranges from 1500- 4377 m where a cluster of spectular volcanic plugs, highland lakes, deep rocky gorges and uncovered lowlands picturesque you explore it. That is why this park is home for various flora and fauna species within dense forest, heather moorland and lowland trees.
The park is particular a centre of several endemic species like Mountain Nyala, Semien Fox, Menlik Bushbuck, and from birds like thick- billed raven, Abyssinian cat bird, Watteld ibis, spot- breasted plover etc. (more than 14 endemic bird species) can view here.
The forest is also a home for different pig species, lions, leopards, spotted hyenas, African hunting dogs and many others. The Bale Mountains offer some fine high-altitude horse and foot trekking, and scenic driving which become important opportunities to admire an exhibit of this breathtaking national park.
The Gambella National park is situated 800km in western Ethiopian near the town of Gambella. The park is created for protection of larger animals particularly white -eared Kob, Nile lechewe and white headed stork with extensive swamp habitat. It is the largest national park in Ethiopia which comprises a place of adventure and challenge. Traveling across the endless undulating plains of high Sudanese grass, visitors can enjoy a sense of achievement in just finding their way. This is Ethiopia’s true tropical zone and here is found all the elements of the African safari, enhanced by a distinctly Ethiopian flavor.
The park hosts several wildlife not found elsewhere in Ethiopia including the white-eared kob along with other riverbank residents that are the Nile lechwe, buffalo, giraffe, tiang, waterbuck, roan antelope, zebra, bushbuck, Abyssinian reedbuck, warthog, hartebeest, lion, elephant and hippopotamus. The banks of the baro are rich in birdlife and thus give visitors an extra advantage.
Mago National Park is established in 1975. It is located on the eastern bank of the Omo River 30 km of Jinka town and 800km south of Addis Ababa. It is 2162 sq km in area characterized by Savannah type vegetation within dense acacia scrubs, rolling grassland and deserts, birds dart in and out and the game roams freely. Its altitude ranges between 450 – 2,528m a.s.l adjacent to Omo Park.
It is the best place to visit bigger savanna mammals like Buffalo, Elephant, Lesser kudu, Lelwel hartebeest, Tiang, Oribi, Oryx, Giraffe, Grants gazelle, Gerenuk, Hippotamus, Crocodiles, De brazza’s monkey, Patas monkey, Black- backed Jackal, Warthog, African hunting dog, Guenther’s dikdik, Lion, Leopard, Carcal, Cheetahs, Striped hyena, Bat eared fox and Serval cat.
This park is found near Arbaminch town over an area of 514 sq km south of Addis Ababa; of which 78 sq km is covered by water. It is gifted land between the two rift valley lakes Abaya and Chamo, which are separated by uphill land that is known as “the bridge of God”. The park is the home of undoubtedly the most spectacular scenery in the whole rift valley region of Ethiopia.
The vegetation is savanna characteristics such as grassland, ground water forest, wetlands and bush land. The park is within an altitude of 1,108-1,650m a.s.l. It has features of rift valley escarpments, kulfo ground water forest and hot spring.
Prolific wildlife of the Nechisar plains allows roaming it especially Burchell’s Zebra, Swayne’s hartebeest, great kudu, guenther’s dik dik, red bushbuck, bush pig, Anubis baboons and vervet monkeys, warthog, African hunting dog, hippopotamus, crocodile and others are the treasures of the park.
It is also the best place for Ornithologist’s for discovering different types of birds over hundreds including the Endemic Nechisar nightjar, red-billed and grey hornbill, Abyssinian grand hornbill, fish-eagle, kingfishers and various bustard species and more… The two lakes are of course habitats for the aquatic lives like crocodiles and hippos. Lake Abaya, the largest of the Ethiopian rift valley lakes, is recently known for its crocodile farm; and the adjacent Chamo Lake is famous for its crocodile market.
Far to the south-west lies 870 km south of Addis Ababa with an area of 4,068 square kilometers. Its altitude ranges between 400- 1183m asl. It is a vast expanse of true wilderness, blessed by Omo River, which flows southwards into Lake Turkana and is one of the richest and Least-visited wildlife sanctuaries in eastern Africa.
The Omo River is the life blood of park and another wilderness for who loves white-water rafting. As the river passes varied scenery, it gives chance along the riverbanks many colorful birds and animals like Goliath herons, blue-breasted kingfishers, white-cheeked turacos, emerald-spotted wood doves and red-fronted bee-eaters are all rewarding sights, while monitor lizards may be glimpsed scuttling into the undergrowth. Beyond the forest, hippos graze on the savannah slopes against the mountain walls, and waterbuck, bushbuck and Abyssinian ground hornbills are sometimes to be seen.
The spectacular number of Eland, Oryx, Burch ell’s zebra, Lelwel hartebeest, buffalo, giraffe, elephant, waterbuck, kudus, lion, leopard and cheetah roam within the park’s boundaries. Abundant wildlife, spirited rapids, innumerable side creeks and waterfalls, sheer inner canyons and hot springs all combine to make the Omo one of the world’s classic river adventures.
SEIMEN MOUNTAINS PARK
This is the park where registered the as a World Natural Heritage Site by UNSECO in 1978 because of its scenic value and centre for endemic mammals of Ethiopia. It is found in the north western part Simien Mountain massifs. It is the most rugged mountains part in Africa. The park was created primarily to protect the Walia Ibex and other endemic species.
It covers 179 square km within the breath- taking views and spectacular meeting with the Walia (Abyssinian) ibex, Simien red fox and Gelada baboon – all endemic mammals to Ethiopia – as well as the Hamadryads baboon, klipspringer and bushbuck. Birds such as the lammergeyer, augur buzzard, Verreaux’s eagle, kestrel, falcon and more than 50 species also soar above this mountain retreat.
The park lies within an average elevation of 3,300 meters. Ras Dashen, at 4,620 meters the highest peak in Ethiopia. The vegetation types are mountain grasslands with fescue grasses as well as heathers, splendid Red Hot Pokers and Giant Lobelia.
Geological features of the park are spectacular mountain secenary and escarpments consist of dark Trapp basalts and bright, soft tuff, landscape, cool climate and endemic wildlife. The attractions can be largely discovered through trekking. That is why trekking is one of the main reasons to visit the park.
YANGUNDI RASSA PARK
Yangudi-Rassa National Park is situated 365 km from Addis Ababa in the centre of the Afar Region between the towns of Gewani and Mille. The park is characterized by desert eco system with reverie forests along the Awash River, marshes and small lakes, dry riverbeds, rocky hills, sandy semi-desert and wooded grasslands.
The park ranges between 400-1460 m asl; and specifically designated to protect wild Ass. More than 230 bird species have been recorded in this area with many migratory species too. Besides the wildlife, the park is also important for safeguarding a 50-km strip of rich archaeological remains along the eroded hills near the Awash River.
The major wildlife species of the park are Wild Ass, Soemmerring’s Gazelle, Hamadryads’ Baboon, Gerenuk, Cheetah, Leopard, Lion, Greater Kudu, Lesser Kudu, Salt’s dikdik and Warthogs. Active volcanoes, archeological sites, extensive arid desert ecosystem and Awash River are additional attractions.
SOF Omer Cave is situated 120 km east of Goba town. One of the most spectacular and extensive underground caves in the world created by Web River. The cave inside worked out by a marvel of architecture – soaring pillars of stone twenty meter high, flying buttresses, fluted arch-ways, and tall airy vaults that makes an extraordinary natural phenomenon of breathtaking beauty.
The cave lies at 1,300m above sea level within fantastic limestone rocks. This is where the Web River starts to vanish into this giant underground world with forming an arched portals, high eroded ceilings, and deep vaulted muffled chambers.
Inside the cave some animals can be observed like bats, fish, crocodiles and are to be found in the river nearby but, perhaps fortunately, seems to shun the cave themselves. The surrounding area is abounds for more wildlife like dik dik, Kudu, Serval cat, rock hyrax, giant tortoises, snakes and lizards as well as more than fifty species of birds.
This cave, now an important Islamic shrine named after the saintly Sheikh Sof Omer, who took refuge here many centuries ago, have a religious history that predates the arrival of the Muslims in Bale.
The Afar Depression is a plate tectonic triple junction where the spreading ridges that are forming the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden emerge on land and meet the East African Rift. The Afar Depression is one of two places on Earth where a mid-ocean ridge can be studied on land, the other being Iceland. At present, the Afar is slowly being pulled apart at a rate of 1-2 cm per year. The floor of the Afar Depression is composed mostly of basaltic lava. The Afar Depression and Triple Junction also mark the location of a mantle trail, a great uprising of mantle that melts to yield basalt.
This place which used to be part of the Red Sea has kilometers of salt deposits. In some places the slat deposits are about 3miles (5 KMS) thick. Below a salt lake is a substantial source of volcanic heat which causes hot water to rise through layers of salt and a hydrate deposits. Minerals get dissolved and are deposited, near the springs, and form shapes very much reminiscent (but smaller than) hornitos on basaltic lava flows. Sulphur, other minerals and possibly Thermopylae bacteria cause spectacular colors.
A special place found in the Afar depression at 613m is called “Erta Ale”. It is a shield volcano, which has a base diameter of 30km and is only 500m high. In its vast summit caldera (1600x700m) there are two pit craters. The larger one (300-400m diameter) in the northern part contained a lava lake in 1968 and 1973 but is now inactive. A central, but smaller pit (140m diameter, 60 to 90m deep) now has an active lava lake 60m wide and 100m long.
Erta Ale is one of the spectacular and unique places in Afar- Ethiopia. It is the most active isolated shield Volcano in Ethiopia famed for its long-standing lava lake activity. On its Summit, the volcano hosts cryptic shaped caldera (mouth of volcano) of about 1600 x 700 meters width. Fresh looking basaltic lava flows fill much of the caldera and have overflowed its rim on the southern side.
The northern half of this caldera contains two steep sided pit craters of different size; one on its northern tip and the other a little down south. Lava containing of up to 20 meters high occurred in different areas at the Crater Lake, but mainly in the west, south and center. There are some records which tell that some very adventurous earth, scientists have dared to walk on top of the temporarily crusted lava with the intention to document the activity of the Lava Lake.
The surface near the crater rim is broken by cracks of different width that run in concentric circles around the crater pit. Many parts of the edge can be seen hanging over the empty space. The crater walls are very instable and rock falls (avalanches) are not uncommon. If one happens to be there at the time of such rock falls one is very likely to see a dramatic cloud of Orange brown dust covering the pit. Recently, after the dramatic eruption of 2005, both the crater pit and the lava lake within have been found to have expanded remarkably. The composition of the rock at Erta Ale ranges from basalt to hyalite. According to earth scientists, Erta Ale has erupted seven times in the past 125 years and has been erupting continuously since 1967.
Ethiopia is the earliest known home of humankind. The lower Awash, Upper Awash and Lower Omo Valley are the best sites where to study and to see. Especially the lower Awash site (Hadar) one of the most important site which more than 2/3 of Human study conducted and registered as a World Heritage. It is the live place where a skeleton of an older human ancestor Australopithecus Afarensis was discovered in 1974. Anthropologists have established that the skeleton covering 40% of the human body had belonged to a twenty-years-old female that lived 3.5 million years ago.
The Skeleton is popularly known as Lucy or Dinkinesh. The discovery has completed the missing link between apes and men – paving the way for the search to human origins. In addition, the earliest known hominid; 4.4 million years old Ardipithecus Ramidus was discovered in the Middle Awash in 1992. The recent discoveries include Australopithecus Garhi; 2.5 million-years-old hominid. Garhi means ‘surprise’ in the Afar language – a language spoken in the internationally acclaimed archeological site.
The Great African Rift Valley extends down from Jordan in the Middle East all the way down to Mozambique in Southern Africa. It splits the country’s highlands in two and contains the Rift Valley Lakes to the south. These lakes are well known for being amongst the deepest and oldest lakes in the world.
The lakes are mostly alkaline, and do not have outlets for the water contained within them. The major ones are Lake Abaya, Lake Chamo, Lake Awassa, Lake Ziway and Lake Abiata.
Lake Abaya is fed on the northern shore by the Bilate River. Due to a large number of sediments suspended in the water, the lake has a red colour. It does not have an outlet, but when it is very full will flood into nearby Lake Chamo. The lake shore to the south is part of the Nechisar National Park.
Lake Chamo is located to the south of Lake Abaya, and the northern shores are also protected by the Nechisar National Park. There is no outflow to this lake, but it will overflow into the Sagan River. It has healthy populations of hippo and crocodile, and is a wonderful blue colour.
Lake Awassa is the most studied of the Rift Valley Lakes, and it is a freshwater lake which indicates that even though it does not have a visible outlet, the water must leave through a subterranean outlet. Set in a volcanic crater, it has an abundance of plankton and fish, and supports a large city of the same name that has grown up on its edges. With a mountainous backdrop and beautiful vegetation, this is a beautiful lake to spend a night by. There is also a dyke which was built to stop flooding, which is perfect for birdwatching – walking along it, fish eagle, black-winged lovebirds, yellow-fronted parrots and the country’s indigenous oriole are a few of the many species of birds that can be seen.
Lake Ziway is also a freshwater lake, and it has five islands of which one is said to have housed the Ark of the Covenant; this is clearly a topic of some debate, as one of the islands in Lake Tana at Bahir Dar is also said to have been the site the Ark landed on! The lake is fed by the Meki and Katar Rivers, but does not always have an outflow; sometimes it overflows into Lake Abiata. The lake has plenty of hippo in it, and has a healthy population of birds. With large numbers of Tilapia nilotica, a fish that can weigh up to 1.5 kg, the fishing industry does well here and the fish are served fresh in many of the restaurants in the nearby town. The fish also attract a large number of water-associated birds, which can be seen in the reed-lined fringes of the lake. Lake Abiata is to the south of Lake Ziway, and to the north there are a number of hot springs which are important to the locals, and are also a popular tourist attraction. The lake is saline, and has recently undergone a decline in water level. This has resulted in the loss of fish-eating birds as the fish have died, but an increase in algae-eating birds such as greater and lesser flamingos. The lake is located in the Abiata-Shala national park, and amongst the attractions here the greatest are the beautiful lakes and the hot springs.
Due to the volcanic activity ever present in Ethiopia, hot springs can be found throughout the country. The most popular hot springs are
It is southeast of the city Shashamene, and is surrounded by lush forests, wildlife and water beds.These geo-thermally heated hot springs are believed to be medicinal and holy by many Ethiopians.due to its close proximity to Addis Ababa, it is one of the most popular hot springs in Ethiopia. Most weekenders opt to go to the Wondo Genet Resort Hotel which houses a hot water bath. The area is surrounded by wildlife such as monkeys and a beautiful view of mountains. Trekking away from the hotel, one can visit natural hot spring areas.
Sodere is another famous place for those hoping to escape the urban stress of the capital city. Located a close proximity to the city, Sodere provides a place with a resort and natural hot spring baths and showers, as well as a swimming pool.
Negash Lodge is located in Wolliso and is now becoming more and more popular among those hoping to visit a hot spring in Ethiopia. The locals in the area believe that the hot water in the area is very medicinal in nature.
Awash Filwoha Hot Springs
This hot spring is located in Awash National Park in the northern part about thirty kilometers away from the highway. The temperature of the beautiful blue colored pools reach about 45 degree Celsius and may have some crocodiles in the cooler parts.The natural beauty of the place looks unspoiled by man but caution should be taken. Dangerous quicksand and lions require one to always go with an armed guard and guide.
Birding tour are a feast of birdwatching. Our Ethiopia birding tour has the most comprehensive itinerary and targets every available Ethiopian endemic, including such great birds as Wattled Ibis, Blue-winged Goose, Rouget’s Rail, Spot-breasted Lapwing, Yellow-fronted Parrot, Ruspoli’s Turaco, Banded Barbet, Stresemann’s Bush Crow and Thick-billed Raven.
The endemics are not the only attraction, however, for this remarkable Ethiopia birding tour. Ethiopia, the ‘Roof of Africa’, is a rugged and ancient land that is home to around 50 endemic and near-endemic bird species (many shared with Eritrea, and the precise number depending on which taxonomic treatments you prefer and on whether or not one believes that ‘Nechisar Nightjar’, known only from a wing, is valid or not). Ethiopia is one of the most fascinating African countries for birding, with new and exciting discoveries being made every year, and is surely also one of the most enjoyable, what with its wonderful light, diverse habitats, amazing scenery and very rich and often colourful avifauna.
Indeed Ethiopia is an absolutely ‘core’ birding destination for anyone wanting to see the birds of Africa, having two major advantages over many other destinations on the continent. In the first place it has a much greater concentration of regional specialities than almost any other part of Africa and in the second place birding here is simply wonderful. Habitats are mostly open and there is no need to stay in the vehicles anywhere on the tour, so one can walk at will and follow any of the more secretive species.
Mewael Ethiopia birding tour is the most comprehensive bird tour of Ethiopia available. The primary aim of this special tour is to find the complete set of the country’s endemic bird species (not counting that controversial nightjar) and virtually every other speciality of the country, something which involves a bit more time. Accommodations, and even some of the roads, are now much improved in Ethiopia, making for easier travelling conditions than was the case in the past.
Birds pass unmolested lives in Ethiopia, with the result that the birdlife is not only spectacularly abundant but also remarkably tame. During the northern winter large numbers of Palearctic migrants enrich an already impressive avifauna, with the result that over 840 species of birds have been recorded from the country.
Mewael Ethiopia birding tour starts at Addis Ababa, the capital city. Close to ‘Addis’, ringed by the peaks of the western highlands, we shall drive through the rolling grasslands of the high plateau where shimmering silver tarns are thronged with birds. Even on the doorstep of the capital, we will find endemic and restricted-range birds, Around Debre Birhan and in the Jemma Valley the landscape will be completely different as we gaze across a vast panorama of arid gorges and rugged mountain ranges that stretch endlessly away towards the horizon. Here we will search for such endemics and near-endemics.
Below the spectacular, cloud-wreathed Ankober escarpment, overlooking the forbidding Danakil Depression, we shall track down the extremely localized endemic Yellow-throated Seedeater.
Next we will descend into the Great Rift Valley to savour the rich birdlife of the Bilen region and Awash National Park, which includes such (mostly restricted-range). Continuing through the Rift Valley, we shall visit Lake Zwai, Lake Langano and possibly Lake Abiata. Each of Ethiopia’s chain of Rift Valley lakes is different in character, but several are teeming with waterbirds.
From the Rift Valley we will climb up into the southeastern highlands to the Bale Mountains National Park, where the remaining juniper forests and rocky valleys gifted Owl.
Later, on Africa’s highest road, we will marvel at the stark beauty of these wild uplands with their spectacular Afro-alpine vegetation and unique collection of endemic birds,
Our Ethiopia birding tour then heads southwards through the wild and extensive Harenna Forest deep into the acacia bushland in the Boran region of Sidamo. Here in this remote part of Ethiopia, around the town of Negelle.
Turning back north, we will visit Lake Awassa, a superb freshwater lake in the Rift Valley that holds numerous waterbirds, and another wetland area.