Day 1 Depart UK
- On arrival at Addis, we are welcomed by local staff, then drive to Sululta Plains, where we can expect to find endemic spot-breasted plover, blue-winged goose, Abyssinian long claw, and migratory waders on the seasonal ponds.
- After lunch, we go birding along the cliffs of the Jemma Valley inside the hotel compound. The endemic Gelada baboon is common here.
- The indigenous forest around Debre Libanos Monastery contains endemics such as white-cheeked turaco, banded barbet, Abyssinian forest oriole, white-backed black tit and Abyssinian woodpecker. Other birds of interest include scaly-throated honey guide and brown woodland warbler.
- Accommodation: Ethio-Germen Hotel, Debre Libanos, 1-night on half board basis
- Starting early, this morning we explore the Jemma Valley again – a good place for raptors, and whose endemics may include white-billed starling, banded barbet, Abyssinian woodpecker, white-backed tit and Abyssinian oriole. Erckel’s francolin, lammergeier, black eagle, Ruppell’s chat and white-backed vultures are also frequently seen, along with tawny and steppe eagles.
- In the afternoon we drive back to Addis Ababa.
- Accommodation: Hotel in Addis Ababa, 1-night on full board basis
- Today we drive towards Awash, spending most of the morning around Debre Zeit to visit Lakes Cheleklaka, Hora and Chefe. Lake Cheleklaka is particularly good for migrant ducks and waders, and we aim to see northern pintail, northern shoveler, garganey, Eurasian teal, tufted dick, black-tailed godwit and Temminck’s stint. So many aquatic birds, including large numbers of common crane, roost along the lakeshore which make identification challenging at times.
- At Lake Hora, we look for deep-water diving ducks, and colourful birds such as the superb blue-breasted bee-eater, red-throated wryneck, dark-capped yellow warbler, and beautiful sunbird.
- Accommodation: Awash Lodge, 3-nights on full board basis
- We spend two full days exploring this park that is home to 460 species of birds and many mammals through game drives and walks, The varied habitats – wetland, acacia woodland, savannah and rocky escarpment – encourage diverse birdlife, including many raptors.
- At the Awash River and its waterfall, we look for Senegal thicknee, woodland kingfisher, hadada ibis, blue-napped mouse bird, tropical boubou, and red-billed and yellow-billed hornbills. We also spend time in Allideghie Wildlife Reserve and at Lake Beseka, in search of great white and pink-backed pelican, greater and lesser flamingos, cormorants, egrets, herons, storks, waders and osprey.
- Out on the grassy plains we should see beisa oryx, Soemmerring’s gazelle, Swayne’s hartebeest, zebra and wild pig, while Anubis and hamadryas baboons frequent the area along the river. Lesser and greater kudus, hippo, hyrax and caracal are also present, along with tiny dik-dik. Cats such as cheetah, serval, and leopard are around but hard to spot.
- In the north of the park we wait in silence for hyenas to emerge from caves at the foot of Mount Feantell; in a single evening we might see over 50 of these powerful predators in close proximity – an extraordinary experience! The rocky fissures are also home to thousands of roosting bats, and we are treated to a spectacular aerial display as they emerge from their daytime roost.
- On night drives we keep an eye out for bat-eared fox, common genet and golden jackal, as well as the more elusive wild cat, caracal, aardwolf and striped hyena.
- Today we drive west to Lake Awassa, then turn south, taking us past several Great Rift Valley lakes. Roadside birding offers chances to see bushland and acacia-loving birds as lilac-breasted and Abyssinian rollers, wood hoopoes, speckled and blue-naped mousebirds, Abyssinian ground hornbills, augar buzzards and many colourful starlings.
- We stop at Lake Ziway, an Important Bird Area that supports many resident and migrant aquatic birds, where the highlight is seeing black crowned crane, pink-backed pelican, African darter, African pygmy goose, and African fish eagle. Along the lakeshore we can watch great white pelican, the huge marabout stork, and the beautiful northern carmine bee-eater.
- Accommodation: Haile Resort, Awassa, 3-nights on full board basis
- Early in the morning we drive to Wondo Genet to enjoy a full day of birding. The remnant forest patches and their surroundings hold an attractive selection of both endemic and other forest species that we are unlikely to see anywhere else. These include: Abyssinian woodpecker, yellow-fronted parrot, Abyssinan oriole, the gorgeous white-cheeked turaco, African hill babbler, silvery-cheeked hornbill, spotted creeper, double toothed and banded barbets, grey and red-shouldered cuckoo-shrikes, African crowned and Ayer’s hawk eagles, thick-billed raven, half-collared kingfisher, brown saw-wing, green-backed twinspot and white-rumped babbler.
- We return to Lake Awassa for the night.
- Awassa, the largest town in southern Ethiopia, enjoys an enviable location in the Rift Valley on the edge of a beautiful freshwater lake that is set among hills clad with luxuriant vegetation, quite unlike the barren alkaline lakes to the north. On the lakeshore we aim to find African spotted creeper, little weaver, black-billed wood- hoopoe, double-toothed barbet, woodland kingfisher, red-shouldered cuckooshrike, Eastern grey woodpecker and grey-backed fiscal.
- Awassa is also famed for its lakeside fish market, where the waste that the fishermen discard attracts large numbers of birds.
- Nearby, in the mature acacia woodland, we search for grey-headed and woodland kingfishers, red-breasted wryneck, green wood-hoopoe, sulphur-breasted bush shrike, white-browed robin chat, African thrush, rufous chatterer, swamp warbler, red-faced crombec, wattle-eye, puffback, spotted creeper and many other colourful species.
- This morning we head into the highlands of the Bale Mountains, entering the national park via the gate at Dinsho, stopping en route to look for highland specialities such as blue-winged goose, white-collared pigeon, Botta’s wheatear, Erlanger’s lark, black winged and spot-breasted lapwings, Abyssinian long-claw and black-headed siskin.
- At Dinsho we have an opportunity to see the secretive Abyssinan ground thrush, colourful chestnut-naped and brown woodland warbler, white backed tit and rufous-chested sparrow-hawk, along with two endemic mammals: mountain nyala and Menelik’s bushbuck.
- Accommodation: Bale Mountains Lodge, 3-nights on full board basis
- After an early breakfast we explore the Sanetti Plateau, the highest point of our trip, where we hope to see endemic flora and fauna that includes the elusive Ethiopian wolf (Simien fox) and indigenous plants such as giant lobelia and giant heather.
- We also visit Mount Tullo Deemtu, Ethiopia’s second highest mountain, and Harenna Forest; this habitat of Afro-alpine moorland has giant lobelias and rich grassland covered by a cushion of yellow everlasting flowers. This area is also home to the rare and endangered famous Ethiopian wolf, and an Important Bird Area that holds seven globally threatened species. A variety of rodents inhabit the area, attracting raptors and other predators. The main one is the endemic giant mole rat, a favourite prey of the Ethiopian wolf.
- We spend another day walking in Harenna Forest in search of wildlife, with plenty of great birding, before heading to Welman River Falls and cave, a birding paradise.
- Harenna Forest is home to a small population of lion and forest-dwelling wild dog, although in such lush vegetation spotting them is extremely challenging. Breathtakingly beautiful, the forest also hosts a great population of birds, the main ones being blue-winged goose, the uncommon mountain buzzard, African olive pigeon, Ethiopian oriole, slender-billed starling, and yellow-crowned canary.
- We also look out for primates such as eastern black-and-white colombus and blue monkey (a rarity in Ethiopia), along with rare endemic bird species such as white-backed black tit, Abyssinian catbird, black-winged lovebird, golden-backed woodpecker and black-headed siskin.
- Today we drive across the Sanetti Plateau into the remote lowlands of Bale, and then Sidamo provinces, descending as we cross the dry savannah southwards.
- As we approach Negele, we reach the Genale River which is home to the most sought-after of Ethiopia’s endemic species, Ruspoli’s turaco, named after an Italian prince. Other unusual species are Shelly’s starling and white-crowned starlings.
- Accommodation: Hotel in Negele, 1-night on full board basis
- This morning we go birdwatching again to look for more species from the south, before we drive on to Lake Langano.
- Birds we can see today include African pymy goose, hottentot teal, southern pochard, maccoa and white-backed ducks, lesser and African jacanas, black and Goliath herons, Ruppell’s and vitelline-masked weavers, black-winged love-bird, banded barbet and Nubian woodpecker.
- Accommodation: Hara Langano Eco Lodge, Langano, 2-nights on full board basis
- Today we are free to relax and enjoy the eco-friendly lodge and surrounding lake area.
- The reddish-brown Lake Langano in Ethiopia’s Rift Valley boasts abundant birdlife, and we spend much of the day exploring the lakeshore and surrounding woodlands. Clapperton’s francolin, little rock thrush, buff-bellied warbler, red-billed oxpecker, red-billed firefinch, bare-faced go-away-bird, black-winged lovebird, slender-tailed nightjar, the impressive saddle-billed stork and white-browed coucal are just some of the interesting species found here.
- Today. we are free to relax and enjoy the beautifully appointed, eco-friendly lodge and surrounding lake area.
- On the way back north, we stop at Abijatta/Shalla Lakes National Park, a tiny protected area centred on two neighbouring but distinct lakes. Lake Abijatta is shallow and saline, filled with pink flamingos, pelicans, cormorants, storks, herons and waders, plus some unusual vagrants.
- In the distance, to the east and west, loom the great walls of the Rift Valley. We do a birdwalk on the high ridge that separates the two lakes then, while driving out of the park, may catch a glimpse of Grant's gazelles, and perhaps a spotted hyena or jackal.
- We return to Addis, where hotel rooms will be available so we can freshen up before heading to the airport. Dinner is included before our overnight flight home.
Day 17 Arrive UK
All prices are per person and include:
- Services of the naturalist leader
- All meals
- Guided activities
Our accommodation has been selected in the best locations, close to key birding sites. The hotel in Debre Libanos is rustic but located on the edge of the Rift Valley with stunning views, while Bale Mountain Lodge is a superb thatched ecolodge situated amidst cloud forest, which allows you to experience this pristine wilderness in great comfort. Most accommodation offers rooms with en suite facilities and hot water.
Meals are included, except those in Addis Ababa.
Breakfasts and cooked dinners are taken at the hotels or lodges. Lunches are a mix of picnics and leisurely sit-down meals at one of the region’s traditional restaurants.
Ethiopia is considered to be one of Africa's leading birding destinations with over 800 species. The Rift Valley and its many lakes has few endemics, but offers extremely diverse and enjoyable savannah and wetland birding, plus a host of Afro-tropical and Palearctic migrant aquatic birds.
Bale Mountains National Park is the prime location for highland endemics, and also holds a number of species not found elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, such as ruddy shelduck, golden eagle and red-billed chough. Southern Ethiopia offers superb birding. Sought-after specials of the region bounded by Yabelo in the west and Negele in the east include the endemic Ruspoli's turaco, white-tailed swallow, Ethiopian bush crow, and the highly endangered Liben lark.
- Ruspoli's turaco
- Abyssinian ground hornbill
- Spot-breasted lapwing
- Blue-winged goose
Ethiopia is one of the few countries in the world to have so many endemic species – thanks to its incredibly diverse and unique habitats. With a total of 279 mammal species, it is particularly known for the endemic gelada baboon and endangered Ethiopian wolf.
- Ethiopian wolf
- Gelada baboon
- Mountain nyala
- Big-headed mole rat
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)
With a landscape that ranges from rainforest to grassy savannah, high mountain and desert, Ethiopia boasts scenery that is just as diverse and fascinating as its people.
The highlands, which dominate the centre and north of the country, are divided between the Rift Valley and the arid desert and bushlands in the north, south and east, and wetter woodland to the west. The Rift Valley, known for its large lakes filled with pink flamingos, offers a great mix of savannah and wetland.
There are excellent photographic opportunities, particularly amidst the dramatic scenery of the spectacular Rift Valley, the escarpments of the Sanetti Plateau, and mystical Harenna Forest, a ‘fairy tale’ like woodland with giant trees draped in moss and lichens that seem to drip off the branches. The unique and colourful plants, frogs and reptiles also present good opportunities for macro photography.
Forest trails can be steep in parts, but we take these slowly. Although we reach altitudes of more than 4,300 metres on the Sanetti Plateau, we do not do much walking at these elevations.
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 we spend three nights at most locations, so there is plenty of time to recover and explore.
We reach a maximum altitude of 4,377 metres when crossing the Sanetti Plateau in the Bale Mountains, but spend little time up there. In the Great Rift Valley, Lake Langano lies at 1,585 metres and Lake Awassa at 1,708 metres.
In winter expect cool temperatures in the highlands. February falls in the dry season, when it should be warm and sunny during the day, with an average temperature of around 20⁰ Celsius (ranging from 16⁰ to 30⁰ Celsius).