If you are an animal lover, then an African safari knows no bounds. This continent is full of wildlife destinations, each one designed to get you close to some of the most incredible animals that roam the wilds, which can't be experienced even in a lifetime of exploration.
That said, Ethiopia is one such country which is radically different from the usual African experience because of its unusual wildlife, abundant birding and the utterly fascinating people. This Ethiopian itinerary is ideal for nature enthusiasts who wish to get immersed in the abundant wildlife of this amazing country at a gentle pace.
Best time to visit Ethiopia
The rainy season, throughout Ethiopia, is during July and August, when rainfall could be double of the rainfall of London. As such it is best to avoid both Bale and Simien mountains in this period when you plan your Ethiopia holidays.
The weather is perfect between January to March, making the country ideal for touring. The main tourist circuits have temperatures ranging from 22° to 28° with cool evenings to justify wearing a jumper. Bale and Simien are at high altitude and require warmer clothing. The Rift Valley region is warmer but just by a few notches.
Day one – Addis Ababa
On your first day in Ethiopia, you will be transferred from the Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa, to a nearby hotel for rest and relaxation. Later in the day your guide will show you some of the highlights of the city mainly, the Mt Entoto Park overlooking the capital, also referred to as the ‘lungs of Addis Ababa'. Overnight stay in Addis Ababa.
Day two – Simien Mountains
An early morning flight from the domestic terminal will bring you to Gondar in an hour's time. On arrival, a two hour drive will take you to the high flying Simien Lodge inside the Simien Mountains National Park, for an all inclusive two nights stay.
After a brief rest, an introductory stroll around the lodge will reveal large troupes of the unique Gelada monkey, the only primate in the world which depends on Afroalpine grasslands and heathlands for food. Overnight at the lodge.
Day three – Simien Mountains
After breakfast head to the Chennek, located deep inside the park in an attempt to see the endemic and critically endangered Walia Ibex, a species of wild mountain goat found nowhere else in the world. Many of these are known to frequent the rocky slopes of this area.
Massive erosion over millions of years has created staggering geological formations with precipices dropping to over 1500 m in places. Other large mammal species seen here include the Anubis baboon, Hamadryas baboon, Klipspringer and the Golden Jackal. Apart from spectacular scenery, birding enthusiasts will be thrilled to see raptors like the Golden eagle, Verreaux eagle and another endemic in the Thick Billed Raven. Overnight at Simien Lodge.
Day four – Gondar
Today you make a short trip to the Sankaber, located in the sub Afroalpine zone. A walk along the ridge to the nearby Kedadit Point, offers great views of the lowlands and will again feature large numbers of Gelada baboons as they return to their mountain caves at sunset.
Catch a view of the fast flowing Zinbar River as it plunges 500m into the Geech Abyss below. Travel back later in the day to Gondar for an overnight stay at the Gondar Hills Resort.
Day five – Lake Langano
From Gondar airport fly back to Addis Ababa. On arrival drive straight to the south of the country for four hours to access the Rift Valley Lakes region and check in into the scenic lakeside resort of Hara Langano. Enjoy the magical sunset while listening to a cacophony of hundreds of frog and bird sounds. Spend overnight at the resort.
Day six – Bale Mountains National Park
One of the most thrilling legs of your Ethiopian safari begins as you drive to Dinsho, the headquarters of the popular Bale Mountains National Park. It is imperative to stop here to collect the permits for getting entry to the park. As the paperwork is being sorted, a walk around the neighbouring Hagenia and Juniper forests could easily target the two endemic antelope species of Mountain Nyala and Menelik's Bushbuck.
The birding here is also excellent with local species like the Abyssinian catbird, the finest songster in Africa, found here in good numbers. A short 40 minutes drive on Africa's highest road over the Sanetti Plateau will bring you to the luxurious Bale Mountains Lodge, where you will be staying for the next three nights. Overnight at the lodge.
Day seven – Sanetti Plateau
Today, if your luck holds, you will get up close to one of the rarest Canids in the world namely, the Ethiopian Wolf. With less than 400 individuals surviving in the wild, and none in captivity, these highly endangered animals offer fantastic photo opportunities in this alpine moorland region.
The main prey of these wolves, the Giant Mole Rat is another interesting animal found here. Watching the wolves, during the day, hunting for their favourite prey is an unforgettable experience. Birdlife features a number of raptors and Africa's only goose species, the Blue-Winged Goose, the Spot-breasted lapwing and Rouget's rail, all of which can be easily spotted in the small water bodies along the road. Overnight at the lodge.
Day eight – Harenna Forest
Since the Bale Mountains National Park is separated by an escarpment, it requires at least three days to explore this spectacular region properly. Your last day will be spent in the beautiful Harenna Forest area, in which your luxury lodge is located.
The area is simply a mecca for nature lovers, as it holds a number of rare animals, like the Bale monkey, Giant forest hog, Warthog and Menelik's Bushbuck, and some exceptional birdlife, such as Narina trogon and the White-cheeked turaco. There have been several new discoveries of frogs and reptiles in this large evergreen forest in recent years. Overnight at the lodge.
Day nine – Lake Langano
Today you drive back to Lake Langano and have an opportunity to see the splendid Rift Valley Lakes region. Among the many wonderful bird species which can be seen here is the Black crowned crane, apart from seven others which are endemic to Ethiopia. There are numerous wild animals including warthogs, baboons and the occasional hippo. The forest is full of Colobus Monkeys. Overnight at Hara Langano.
Ethiopia is home to the largest endemic species of birds as well as animals as compared to its African counterparts.This Ethiopian itinerary is tailor made for those wishing to experience the incomparable blend of culture and natural history, with knowledgeable and professional experts, who will ensure a superb trip all the way.