Ethiopia - Endemic Wildlife & Ancient Cultures 2019
December 2019 (12 days)
Dates2 Dec 2019 - 13 Dec 2019
Tour LeaderTo be announced
Tour Size8 Participants & 1 Rockjumper Wildlife guide
Start LocationAddis Ababa
Flight Cost (Approximate)Not Applicable
Spaces AvailableSpaces Available
End LocationAddis Ababa
Type of TourWildlife / Landscape / Culture
Gelada Baboon, Walia Ibex, Mountain Nyala, Simien Wolf, Hamadryas Baboon
Day 1: Arrival in Addis Ababa
On arrival in Addis you will transfer to a comfortable hotel within the city limits and be met by your Rockjumper tour leader. Time permitting, we may visit the National Archaeological Museum, which houses the 3.6 million year old remains of “Lucy”, whose skeletal remains were discovered in 1974. Other options include the Ethnological Museum at Addis Ababa University, the Holy Trinity Cathedral or the Merkato, one of the largest open-air markets in Africa. Tonight you will have a welcome dinner and your guide will brief you on the upcoming tour.
Overnight Ghion Hotel
Day 2: Addis Ababa to Lake Awassa
Today we make an early departure from Addis Ababa and head south dropping into the Great Rift Valley. We will make a few stops at the smaller crater lakes closer to Addis Ababa. After lunch at Lake Ziway, we head south to the remarkable Lake Awassa. After checking in at our hotel on the shores of Lake Awassa, we will visit the fish market. This large lake is particularly rich in fish and the fishermen gut their fish and discard the waste around the fish market. This attracts large numbers of disheveled Marabou Stork and other birds. Photographic opportunities are unrivalled. Our lodge is surrounded by tall riparian woodland, home to groups of Guereza Colubus.
Overnight United Africa
Day 3: Lake Awassa to Goba via Dinsho
After breakfast and a morning exploring the wonders of the lake, we bid farewell to Lake Awassa and meander our way upwards towards the world famous Bale Mountains National Park. A permanent feature of driving through Ethiopia is that you always have the chance of observing the farmers along the roadside, engaging in century-old farming methods with their animals – only now is this very gradually changing in a few areas. En route we pass through Dinsho, in the Bale Mountain National Park, from where we drive for about another hour to Goba. Goba forms our base for the next two nights as we explore the famed Bale Mountains.
Overnight Wabishebele Hotel
Day 4: Goba and Sanetti Plateau
Today will be a day of great contrasts and amazing scenery. We will depart early and ascend the Bale Mountain massif onto the Sanetti Plateau, which lies between 3800m and 4377m above sea level. As we ascend we pass through a variety of vegetation zones, including a Tid or Juniper zone before the vegetation becomes lower as we get into the harsh high altitudes. Once we reach this unique plateau, we will be driving on Africa’s highest road, passing close to the summit of Ethiopia’s second highest mountain.
This habitat is termed “Afro-alpine moorland”, and is characterized by Jibrra, or Giant Lobelias, which tower like monolithic giants over the rich tussock grasslands and extensive cushions of yellow Everlasting flowers. This site is an Important Bird Area of immense significance, supporting seven globally threatened species and nearly all of Ethiopia’s Highland biome species. The grasslands are estimated to support an incredible biomass of 4,000kg of rodents per hectare. This obviously attracts an array of raptors and we should see Steppe and Golden Eagles, Augur Buzzard and elegant Pallid Harrier courting over this green sea. They share this abundant food source with the plateau’s most celebrated resident, the Ethiopian or Simien Wolf, crowned with the unenviable title of “the world’s rarest canid.” Watching these vibrantly coloured animals, most closely related to the European Timber Wolf, exhibiting their hunting prowess whilst pouncing on Giant Mole-rats (another endemic to the Sanetti Plateau), is surely amongst Africa’s greatest wildlife experiences. We should enjoy excellent viewing opportunities in this unique montane wonderland.
Day 5: Goba to Lake Langano
We head back towards the Rift Valley today, where we will stay on the shores of Lake Langano, from where we can enjoy views of the 4,000m Arsi Mountains in the background.
We will spend the late afternoon exploring the wonders of the lake surrounds. From our lodge we have excellent views of the lake edge where pods of lazing Hippopotamus are sometimes seen in deeper water and the mammoth Goliath Heron stalk through the shallows.
Overnight Sabana Resort
Day 6: Lake Langano to Awash National Park
Today we head north-east, driving toward the Afar tribal territories that cover the arid northern parts of the country. The arid landscape to the north is inhabited by nomadic Afar tribesmen, who we may see dressed in their fine white cotton tunics, bedecked with traditional jewelry, daggers and spears. The men sport a unique bushy hairstyle, and women and girls are also extravagantly attired and adorned. They adhere strictly to their ancestral ways of tending their camel and goat-herds and roaming throughout this inhospitable land. There will be fantastic viewing opportunities en route.
Overnight Awash Falls Lodge
Day 7: Awash National Park
The 350 square miles of Awash National Park are our next destination. Awash is the longest established and best preserved of the Ethiopian national parks. Here we will visit various sites, exploring riverine forests, wetlands, Acacia woodlands, savannas, rocky hills, cliffs and escarpments.
Mammals we will seek out include Grevy’s Zebra, the regal Beisa Oryx, fleet-footed groups of Soemmering’s Gazelle, Swayne’s Hartebeest, the elegant Gerenuk (a giraffe-proportioned relative of the widespread Impala), both Greater and Lesser Kudu and the cute, rubber-nosed Salt’s Dikdik. Both Olive and the outlandish Hamadryas or Sacred Baboon occur and in riverine woodlands while Grivet Monkeys abound. Night drives in and around the park may produce Lion, Leopard, African Wild Cat, Black-backed Jackal, Spotted and Striped Hyena, Abyssinian Hare, Aardwolf and the seldom encountered Aardvark.
Overnight Awash Falls Lodge
Day 8: Awash National Park to Addis Ababa
This morning we will depart from Awash National Park and make our way back to Addis Ababa. Near Lake Baseka we pass a huge flow from around 100 years ago, that supports a number of special bird species and very dark Ethiopian Rock Hyrax that have adapted to the colour of the black lava they live on.
Overnight Ghion Hotel
Day 9: Addis Ababa to Gondar to Simien Mountains National Park
An early breakfast and a quick drive to Bole International Airport, finds us boarding our flight to the medieval city of Gondar, where we then make our way to the highest hotel in Africa situated at 3260 meters. This comfortable lodge will be our base for the next few days when we head further into the mountains in search of the key mammal species found in the Simien Mountains National Park. The area around the lodge already affords incredible views of the surrounding area and we may very well be fortunate to find our first Geladas this afternoon.
Overnight Simien Lodge
Day 10: Simien Mountains National Park
We have two full days to explore the spectacular landscapes of the Simien Mountains National Park. These, the highest mountains in Ethiopia, provide a dramatic backdrop as we seek two of the country’s most endangered mammals, the Baboon and magnificent Ibex.
This World Heritage Site with its jagged skyline and blocks of volcanic core rock standing tall against the Tekeze lowlands was once described by a nineteenth century traveler as a place where “Greek gods play chess”. Troops of Geladas, up to four hundred strong thrive here, and we will spend quality time observing these unique and fascinating primates. With long woolly capes, tasseled tails, bare red chests and an arrogant swagger, these last relics of once widespread grass-eating baboons, are now endemic to the highlands of Ethiopia.
Geladas roost on the massive cliffs that dominate this park, but spend their days hunched over the grasses that form the bulk of their diet. Despite sporting massive canines (the largest in proportion to body size of any mammal!), Geladas are non-aggressive and with patience we sometimes find ourselves in amongst a troop of Geladas as they concentrate on foraging. We may be treated to a formidable lip-flip – the imposing grimace put on by Geladas to reveal their impressive upper jaw and canines, but more likely we will be completely ignored as they go about their daily business. Geladas are extremely vocal, being able to pronounce all nouns and five of our seven vowels. Younger animals are active and playful and we will no doubt be well entertained by their antics. Our time spent with these gentle grass-eaters might very well be the highlight of our Ethiopian adventure. Deeper in the park, we will scan the steepest cliffs and highest peaks for the endemic Walia Ibex, an impressive member of the goat family that has been seen by very few wildlife enthusiasts. The Simien Mountains will also provide us with further chances for encountering Ethiopian Wolf as well as Serval, Menelik’s Bushbuck, Klipspringer, Guereza Colobus, Rock Hyrax and two endemic rat species. The mountains are also home to 16 bird species endemic to Eritrea and/or Ethiopia as well as an important population of the rare and beautiful Bearded Vulture that can frequently be seen gliding along the cliffs here.
Nights Simien Lodge
Day 11: Simien Mountains National Park to Gondar
After leaving the Simien Lodge we head back down and return to Gondar for an overnight stay. En route we will again enjoy the scenic landscapes and make time to visit Felasha village, home to an interesting black Jewish population before arriving back before in the medieval city of Gondar where we will spend a day marveling at the complex of astonishing medieval castles, palaces, churches, banqueting halls, baths and libraries. The city of Gondar was founded in 1636 by Ethiopian emperor Fasiladas and became Ethiopia’s principal cultural center and a major market for trade. Flanked by twin mountain streams at an altitude of more than 2,300 meters, Gondar commands spectacular views over farmlands to the gleaming waters of Lake Tana, which you may glimpse 35 kilometers to the south. The city retains an atmosphere of antique charm mingled with an aura of mystery where an extensive compound near its center contains the hulking ruins of a group of imposing castles – like an African Camelot.
Day 12: Gondar to Addis Ababa and depart
Today we leave Gondar in time to catch our flight back to Addis Ababa where we will bid farewell to our fellow travelers with whom we have shared this remarkable voyage of a lifetime.