Wildlife and Cultural Holidays to Ethiopia – birding, trekking, historical sites
Ethiopia is an amazing country with diverse tribal culture, stunning mountains and lakes and plenty of endemic wildlife. It’s a birdwatchers paradise and perfect for hiking and natural history. Although blighted by drought and famine (in the low lying desert regions) and past civil war and disruptive leaders, modern day Ethiopia is a delight to visit and the people are friendly and welcoming. In the past the country was colonised by Italy and you can still sense that in many places, particularly in Addis where most of the cars are old fiats! Take a wander round the various museums of the capital for a fascinating history lesson.
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Addis Ababa is the highest altitude capital city in Africa and has a cool climate, surrounded by high mountain plateaus and forests. As you travel north you pass the curious bee hive style ‘haystacks’ of ‘teff”, the staple grain food and square houses of the local people. One thing I noticed that was a striking difference in Ethiopia to other parts of East Africa was the use of horses. Ornately decorated horses and their riders can be seen everywhere and the animals are generally very healthy and respected.
The country is generally visited in two halves. To the north of Addis is the ‘historical circuit’ which can be linked by internal flights or take a lovely long road trip and enjoy the scenery as you go. This circuit includes Lake Tana and the Blue Nile, the castles of Gondar, rock hewn churches of Lalibela and the pillars of Axum. Also in the north are the high Simien Mountains, a wonderful area for trekking and camping and home to massive troops of Geleda Baboons, a grazing species of primate who live in large numbers in a complex social structure.
To the south of Addis the land is flatter and hotter apart from the Bale Mountains and plateau which are cool and have alpine vegetation to the top, where you can often see the Ethiopian Wolf and interesting botanical species. There are several endemic mammals in Ethiopia and many hundreds of bird species, most plentiful around the Rift Valley lakes (Awassa, Langano, Ziway. Abaya and Chamo to name a view) and in the tropical forests of Wondogenet.
Accommodation is very simple around the country but nobody goes there for luxury! There are a few good eco-lodges now, but expect the electricity and water supplies to be a little erratic!
Ethiopia is a naturalists paradise and a fascinating place to visit for the history and culture. There are many different tribes people here, especially in the far south around the Omo Valley which is close to Lake Turkana, an area of historical significance in terms of pre-historic finds. Ancient tools and hominid fossils dating back 2.4 million years have been discovered there.
Dallol is at the northern most extension of the Great Rift Valley and acts as a cauldron, trapping the heat. This is a field of phreatic craters in a salt plain north east of the Erta Ale Range in one of the lowest and hottest areas of the desolate Danakil depression, and is home to the Afar people. This is an area of appeal for highly adventurous travellers.
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