Day 1 Depart UK
- On arrival at Addis, we are welcomed by local staff and check in to our modern, comfortable hotel.
- Later we will make a visit to Gefersa Reservoir. On the northwest edge of the capital, this is a fine site for many of Ethiopia’s highland birds, including several national and regional endemics. Species we may see here include blue-winged goose, wattled ibis, Erlanger’s lark, Tacazze sunbird, groundscraper thrush, Ethiopian siskin, moorland chat and rusty-breasted wheatear.
- Accommodation: Jupiter Hotel, Addis Ababa, 2-nights on full board basis.
- This morning we drive to Sululta Plains, where around seasonal ponds we hope to see endemic spot-breasted lapwing, blue-winged goose and Abyssinian longclaw, accompanied by migratory waders including Temminck’s stint, little stint and wood sandpiper.
- We continue the short distance to Debre Libanos. Along the cliffs of the Jemma Valley we have good chances of seeing lammergeier, Rüppell’s vulture, Verreaux’s eagle, white-billed starling, Ruppell’s robin chat and Erckel’s francolin. The gelada, a magnificent endemic primate, is common here and we are sure to delight in watching gelada families graze and play.
- In the forest surrounding Debre Libanos Monastery endemics and near endemics such as white-cheeked turaco, banded barbet, white-backed tit and Abyssinian woodpecker may be seen.
- We return to Addis Ababa for the night.
- This morning we leave Addis Ababa and the highlands, driving down into the Rift Valley and to Lake Langano. Birds we may see along the route include striped kingfisher, purple roller, Rüppell’s and vitelline masked weavers, banded barbet and Nubian woodpecker.
- The reddish-brown water of Lake Langano in Ethiopia’s Rift Valley supports abundant birdlife. We spend this afternoon and much of the following day exploring the lakeshore and its surrounding woodland. African fish eagle, great white pelican, Senegal thick-knee, spur-winged lapwing, red-billed oxpecker, bare-faced go-away-bird and black-winged lovebird are just some of the many beautiful bird species which are found here. Just offshore from our lodge we may see hippos. wryneck, dark-capped yellow warbler, and beautiful sunbird.
- Accommodation: Sabana Beach Resort, Langano, 2-nights on full board basis.
- In addition to further exploration of the beautiful shore of Lake Langano, today we may make a visit to a neighbouring protected area. Though tiny, Abijatta-Shalla National Park embraces two very distinct lakes. One of them, Lake Abijatta, is to Ethiopia what Lake Nakuru is to Kenya: shallow and saline, home to thousands of greater and lesser flamingos, black-winged stilts, Cape teal and wintering black-necked grebes.
- Surrounding the lakes is arid acacia scrub and, driving out of the park, may see a group of Bright’s gazelles, or catch sight of a spotted hyena or an African golden jackal.
- Today we continue our journey south through the Rift Valley to Lake Awassa. Driving through farmland and light acacia scrub, we may see lilac-breasted and Abyssinian rollers, speckled and blue-naped mousebirds, Abyssinian ground hornbill, augur buzzard and many colourful starlings, including superb, wattled and Rüppell’s.
- Highlights along the lake shore by our hotel may include pink-backed pelican, African pygmy goose, hippo and African fish eagle, though common birds such as white-faced whistling-ducks and hamerkop will be no less appealing.
- Accommodation: Haile Resort, Awassa, 2-nights on full board basis.
- Early in the morning we drive to Wondo Genet, a small town celebrated for its hot springs, to enjoy a full day of birding. The remnant forest here supports both endemic birds and other species that we are unlikely to see elsewhere. These include Abyssinian woodpecker, yellow-fronted parrot, African hill babbler, spotted creeper, grey cuckooshrike, African crowned and Ayres’s hawk eagles and white-rumped babbler. We return to Lake Awassa for the night.
- Several of Ethiopia’s most mouthwatering but least often seen endemic birds are restricted to the far south of the country. They include white-tailed swallow, Ethiopian bushcrow, Ruspoli’s turaco and the critically endangered Liben lark. Our tour makes a concerted effort to see them, so today we continue driving south to reach the town of Arbaminc.
- The road to Arbaminc follows the west side of Lake Abaya, famed for its population of crocodiles, so we will no doubt make stops here to admire more of the wetland and acacia woodland birds so characteristic of the Rift Valley.
- Accommodation: Haile Resort, Arbaminc, 1-night on full board basis.
- Passing Lake Chamo, this morning we head further southeast to Yabelo Wildlife Sanctuary. The star bird here is undoubtedly Ethiopian bushcrow. Happily for us this noisy and social bird is common within its very restricted range. Another quite easy bird here, though it is found nowhere else on earth, is the lovely white-tailed swallow, which we may even see around the town.
- Many beautiful birds here are characteristic of the acacia forests of eastern Ethiopia and Kenya. These include golden-breasted and magpie starlings, spotted palm thrush, bare-eyed thrush, short-tailed lark and the subtly beautiful red-bellied parrot.
- Both the Burchell’s race of the plains zebra and the floppy-eared Grévy’s zebra are still seen in Yabelo.
- Accommodation: Yabelo Motel, 1-night on full board basis
- Due east of Yabelo Wildlife Sanctuary, where the Harenna Forest of the Bale Mountains tumbles onto the plains of East Africa, the area around Negele is home to Ethiopia’s most famous and beautiful endemic bird, Ruspoli’s turaco. In addition to the startling crimson wings which characterise its genus, this gorgeous and highly restricted bird sports a unique pink crest which fades to white at its tip. We will make every effort to see it here.
- Negele’s other star bird is the Liben lark whose last tiny population clings on in grassland near the town. These open plains are also good for regional endemics such as white-crowned starling and Eurasian migrants including both pallid and Montagu’s harriers.
- Accommodation: Turaco Hotel, Negele, 2-nights on full board basis.
- We spend three nights in the remarkable Bale Mountains National Park, with two full days spent exploring its three distinct biological zones: the misty, moss-laden Harenna Forest in the south, the Afromontane wilderness of the Sanetti Plateau in the core of the park and, to the north, the juniper forests of Dinsho and the Gaysay Grasslands.
- Bale Mountains National Park is one of the jewels of Ethiopia’s natural heritage. The park covers more than 2,000 square kilometres and rises steeply from cloud forest at 2,000 metres above sea level to Afromontane meadows above 4,000 metres. It is home both to many of Ethiopia’s most remarkable species, including a quarter of its endemics, and to a wealth of other mammals, birds and other wildlife.
- Among our many target species here are Ethiopian wolf, Starck’s hare, Menelik’s bushbuck, mountain nyala, giant root rat, Bale Mountain monkey, blue-winged goose, spot-breasted lapwing, Rouget’s rail and wattled crane.
- Accommodation: Bale Mountain Lodge, Bale Mountains, 3-nights on full board basis.
- Awash National Park is justly famed for its wildlife: some 460 of bird have been recorded in its diverse landscapes, in addition to many mammals.
- Grassland here is home to charismatic mammals including beisa oryx and the beautiful Soemmering’s gazelle. Thorn scrub is no less exciting as it supports the graceful lesser kudu, clumsy warthog and diminutive Harar dikdik. Olive baboons are common, while in rocky areas the magnificent Hamadryas baboon may also be found.
- Perhaps even more remarkable are the park’s birds. Bustards, from diminutive buff-crested and white-bellied to towering kori, are commonly seen in the park’s lightly wooded grassland, as is a range of raptors, from majestic tawny eagles to pygmy falcons, by way of gabar and eastern chanting goshawks and strange bateleurs.
- During our two-day stay we will adapt our plans to reflect recent local advice on wildlife, but, in order to see a range of birds and mammals of grassland, thorn scrub and rocky escarpment, we will include diverse locations. We also plan to visit a site outside the park where spotted hyenas, and sometimes warthogs, may be observed emerging from their dens as night falls.
- Accommodation: Awash Falls Lodge, Awash, 2-nights on full board basis.
- Early this morning we will take a last walk in this fascinating and diverse park, in search of its abundant birds and mammals. We will then make our way up the western escarpment of the Rift Valley to Addis Ababa, in preparation for our flight home late this evening.
Day 19 Arrive UK
All prices are per person and include:
- Services of the naturalist leader
- All meals
- Guided activities
Properties are selected for their location in the natural environment, close to key wildlife sites. In parts of Ethiopia accommodation does not reach the standard expected in much of East Africa, but we choose the best options available in the remote regions where the most-sought birds are found. In most places we stay in locally-owned, simple hotels with en suite facilities. Bale Mountain Lodge is an attractive ecolodge nestled in the cloud forest, allowing you to experience this beautiful wilderness in comfort.
All meals are included.
Breakfasts and cooked dinners are taken at the hotels or lodges. Lunches are a mix of picnics and leisurely sit-down meals at traditional restaurants.
Ethiopia boasts over 800 bird species, including many national endemics, plus regional endemics which are hard to see elsewhere. Our tour focuses on many of the most sought-after.
- Ruspoli's turaco
- Ethiopian bushcrow
- White-tailed swallow
- Blue-winged goose
In addition to widespread East African species, Ethiopia is home to an impressive range of endemic mammals, including the unique, grass-eating gelada and the elegant but highly endangered Ethiopian wolf.
- Ethiopian wolf
- Starck’s hare
- Mountain nyala
- Bale Mountain monkey
Reptiles and amphibians
Ethiopia has a high number of endemic species, and more than 40% of the country's frogs are found nowhere else in the world.
- Bale Mountain two-horned chameleon
- Ethiopian mountain adder
- Grassland forest tree frog
- Ethiopian short-headed frog
Ethiopia is home to some unique vascular plant species and an extraordinary level of biodversity, with 476 indigenous species and over 8,000 species in the region.
- Giant lobelia
- Holothrix unifolia
- Red hot poker (Kniphofia foliosa)
- Black arum (Amorphophallus gomboczianus)
From the dramatic highlands of Bale Mountain National Park, with mist-laden stands of giant lobelias, to the flamingo-crowded soda lakes of the Rift Valley, Ethiopia is a country of striking landscapes. Because our tour focuses on finding as many as possible of the country’s endemic birds and mammals, we visit a wide range of its beautiful habitats from East African savannahs to mossy montane forests.
Ethiopia is rich in photographic opportunities, particularly the dramatic scenery of the Rift Valley, the escarpments of Debre LIbanos and the mystical Harenna Forest, a fairytale woodland with giant trees festooned in moss. Birds in the Rift Valley lakes are often very approachable, making them excellent subjects for photography.
We take short walks at a range of altitudes, from the lowlands of the Rift Valley to above 4,000 metres in the Bale Mountains. Conditions therefore vary widely, though we will never undertake steep climbs or very difficult terrain. All walks will be taken at a gentle pace. Robust footwear is recommended for walking in the mountains.
Price includes scheduled flights London – Addis Abada – London.
Transport is by four-wheel-drive vehicle with a driver, which allows us to reach the more inaccessible parts of the Highlands. Note: to cover the greatest diversity of habitats involves some long driving days, however our itinerary is designed to give us plenty of time to explore each of the areas we visit at a relaxed pace.
On this tour we will travel to over 4,300 metres above sea level.
In winter expect cool temperatures in the highlands, dropping to freezing overnight. February falls in the dry season, when it should be warm and sunny during the day, with an average temperature of around 25⁰ Celsius (ranging from 16⁰ to 35⁰ Celsius).