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Nature and wildlife

Nature and wildlife

wildEthiopia’s mountains rise up to a height of over 4000 meters, with Mount Batu the second highest peak on Ethiopia rising to 4,307 meters. The national parks enable the visitor to enjoy the country’s scenery and its wildlife, conserved in natural habitats. And offer opportunities for travel adventure unparalleled In Africa.

Simien Mountains National Park

The Simien Mountain massif is a broad plateau, cut off to the north and west by an enormous single crag over 60 kilometers long. To the south, the tableland slopes gently down to 2,200 meters, divided by gorges 1,000 meters deep which can take more than two days to cross. Insufficient geological time has elapsed to smooth the contours of the crags and buttresses of hardened basalt.

Within this spectacular splendor live the Walia (Abyssinian) ibex, Simien red fox and Galada baboon - all endemic to Ethiopia as well as the Hamadryas baboon, klipspringer and bushbuck. Birds such as the lammergeyer, augur buzzard, Verreaux’s eagle, kestrel and falcon soar above this mountain retreat. Twenty kilometers north-east of Gondar, the Simien Mountains National Park covers 179 square kilometers of highland area at an average elevation of 3,300 meters. Ras Dashen, at 4,620 meters the highest peak in Ethiopia, stands adjacent to the park.

The Simien escarpments, which are often compared to the Grand Canyon in the United State of America, have been named by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.     

Lake Tana

Ethiopia boasts seven of the Great Rift Valley lakes. Some are alkaline brown, yet surprisingly good swimming; some are topical in setting; some are bordered or fed by hot mineral springs; some play host to large flocks of flamingos, pelicans, cormorants, herons, storks and ibises; with 831 recorded bird species, Ethiopia is a bird watcher’s paradise.

Ethiopia’s Lake Tana is the source of Blue Nile. The lake is dotted with island monasteries, which house many treasures of medieval art. Only 30 kilometers from the lake, the river explodes over Tis Isat falls (meaning ‘smoke of fire’) - a sight that inspired wonder from the 18th century explorer, James Bruce. Before the Blue Nile joins the White Nile, which flows north from Lake Victoria, it runs for 800 kilometers through one of the world’s deepest and most dramatic gorges. 

Awash National Park

Awash National park is the oldest and most developed wildlife reserve in Ethiopia. Featuring the 1,800 meter Fantalle Volcano, numerous mineral hot-springs and extraordinary volcanic formations, this natural treasure is bordered to the south by the Awash River and lines 225 Kilometers east of the capital, Addis Ababa.

The wildlife consists mainly of East African plains animals, but there are now no giraffe or buffalo. Oryx, bat-eared fox, caracal, aardvark, colombus and green monkeys, Anubis and Hamadryas baboons, klipspringer, leopard, bushbuck, hippopotamus, Soemmering’s gazelle, cheetah, lion, kudu and 450 species of birds of all kind live within the park’s 720 square kilometers.

Bale Mountains National Park

The Bale Mountains with their vast moorlands- the lower reaches covered with St. John ’s Wort- and their extensive heathland, virgin woodlands, pristine mountain streams and alpine climate remain an untouched and beautiful world. Rising to a height of more than 4,000 meters, the range borders Ethiopia’s southern highlands, whose highest peak, Mount Tullu, Demtu, stands at 4,377 meters.

The establishment of the 2,400 square kilometer Bale Mountains National park was crucial to the survival of the Mountain Nyala, Menelik’s bushbuck and the simian red fox. This fox is one of the most colorful members of the dog family and more abundant here than anywhere else in Ethiopia. All three endemic animals thrive in this environment, the nyala in particular being seen in large numbers. The Bale Mountains offer some fine high-altitude terrain for horse and foot trekking, and the streams of the park- which become important rivers further downstream are well-stocked with rainbow and brown trout.

Sof Oma Caves

Some time in the distant past, one of the big rivers originating in the Bale Mountains changed its course, going underground and disappearing under a hill.  Before coming out at the other end a kilometer on, it had created a network of some 16km of limestone caverns full of cathedral-like vaults and 20 meter high pillars. Named after a medieval Muslim leader, Sheik Sof Omar, who apparently used them as a refuge or hermitage, the Sof Omar Caves remain an important shrine and site of pilgrimage for Muslims.  Local tradition holds that the Sof Omar Cave system extends all the way to Somalia.  Sof Omar lies about 100km east of the Bale Mountains National Park.

Baro River

The Baro river area, accessible by land or air through the western Ethiopian town of Gambela, remains a place of adventure and challenge. Travelling across the endless undulating plains of high Sudanese grass, visitors can enjoy a sense of achievement in simply finding their way around. These are Ethiopia’s true tropical zone and here are found all the elements of the African safari, enhanced by distinctly Ethiopian flavor. Nile perch weighing 100 kilos can be caught in the waters of Baro, snatched from the haws of the huge crocodiles that thrive along the riverbank. The white eared-kob als haunts the Bari, along with other riverbank residents that include the Nile lechwe, buffalo, giraffe ,tiang,  waterbuck, roan antelope, zebra, bushbuck, Abyssinian reedbuck, warthog, hartebeest, lion, elephant and hippopotamus.

Omo National Park

This is the most remote, least developed, and so least accessible and the largest (3,450 square km) of Ethiopia’s national parks. It is also the most plentiful of the usual African big game with a great variety of bird species. The park occupies the southern west bank of the Omo River.

Mago National Park

With an area of 2,162 square km and at 770 k from Addis Ababa, Mago National Park is one of the relatively more accessible and thus more frequented parks because it offers a combination of great camping environment, game viewing and tribal people close by. Mago lies opposite the Omo National Park on the eastern bank of the river.  Among the 81 mammal species recorded for Mago and relatively easy to see are herds of Elephant, Buffalo, Swayne’s Oryx, Greater and Lesser Kudu.  With some persistence, it is possible to see lions, Cheetah, Leopard and Giraffe. Some 153 species of birds have been identified in the Mago National Park.

Nech Sar National Park

Some 300 km east of the Omo, Nech Sar embraces the eastern shores of the two southernmost of Ethiopia’s Rift Valley Lakes, Abaya and Chamo. The park was established as a sanctuary for the endangered endemic Swayne’s Hartebeest.  But no less than 84 mammals and 343 bird species have also been recorded in the park.  The bluff between the two lakes and by the park headquarters has some wonderful rain forest with great camping sites.  Although it lies outside the town of Arba Minch so named because of the 40 springs found also in the bluff.

Abijatta-Shalla lakes National Parks

Using lake Langano as a base (225 km from the capital, and the only blaneable lakes of the Rift), it is an easy side trip to visit the Abijatta-shalla lakes National Park, 887 sq. km, 482 of it water. Are both terminal lakes but very different in nature. Surrounded mainly by acacia woodland, Lake Abijatta is a shallow pan 14 meter deep saline beach. While Lake Shalla is at 260 meter deep (Ethiopian deepest Rift Valley lake, possibly the deepest lake in Africa north of Equator), with several hot springs, rocky, salted, with few fishes.

Many birds, as white pelicans, greater and lesser flamingo, white-necked cormorant, African fish eagle, Egyptian geese, herons and more leave here together with greater-kudu, oribi, warthog and golden jackal.

Other equally important parks to be visited are yangudi Rassa, Gambella National park & many other wildlife sanctuaries.

Apart from its historic sites, beautiful scenery, wildlife sanctuaries and other things, Ethiopia is a home for people of unique cultures and ways of life, especially to the south of the country. You will be experiencing people of extraordinary ways of life. Many of these people, despite the world around them, have preserved a cultural way.

Just to mention some names:

- Omotic people around the Mago National Park and below Arba Minch and Awassa towns: the Konso, Borena, Tsemay, Ari, Benna, Mursi, Karo, Bume, Dassanech, Hammer, Erbore, Dorze people…

- On the west bank of Omo river and up to around Gambel town (part of them Nilo-Saharian people): surma, Dizi, Tishena, kitchepo, Anuak, Nuer,….

East Ethiopia: Kereyou, Afar and Issa. All with unique traditions and cultures.

We can mention Konso’s terracing agricultural, wooden totems and unique tradition: Dorze’s intricately woven houses and their woven cotton clothes, false banana and sorghum cultivations and more; Mursi and Surma’s men scarification and women wooden or terra-cotta disks into the ears and lips for beauty; Hammer, Karo, Dassanech, Erbore, Tsemay and others elaborated hairstyles, many form of gleaming adornments, men carve deep incisions on their arms and women in their body, and body painting (using clays and locally available vegetable pigments) on face, chest, arms and legs, and so on. But also their ceremonies make them unique. As Hammer people marriage ceremony, with women’s slashing and men’s jumping of the bull; Mursi and Surma game of the Donga (a ritual stick fighting), and many others.


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