Ethiopia is also a land of natural contrasts, from the tops of the rugged
Simien mountains to the depths of the Danakil Depression, at 120 meters
below sea level one of the lowest dry land points on earth. The cornucopia
of natural beauty that blesses Ethiopia offers an astonishing
variety of landscapes: Afro-Alpine highlands soaring to around 4,300
meters, deserts sprinkled with salt flats and yellow sulphur, lake lands
with rare and beautiful birds, moors and mountains, the splendor of
the Great Rift Valley, white-water rivers, savannah teeming with game,
giant waterfalls, dense and lush jungle the list is endless.
Ethiopia's many 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.
Awash National Park is the
oldest and most developed wildlife reserve in Ethiopia. Featuring the
1,800-metre Fantalle Volcano, extensive mineral hot-springs and
extraordinary volcanic formations, this natural treasure is bordered
to the south by the Awash River and lies 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, colobus and green monkeys, Anubis and Hamadryas
baboons, klipspringer, leopard, bushbuck, hippopotamus, Soemmering's
gazelle, cheetah, lion, kudu and 450 species of bird all live within
the park's 720 square kilometers.
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 Deemtu, stands at 4,377 meters.
establishment of the 2,400-square-kilometre
Bale Mountains National Park
was crucial to the survival of the mountain nyala, Menelik's bushbuck and
the Simien 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
often being seen in large numbers. The Bale Mountains offer some fine
high-altitude horse and foot trekking, and the streams of the park - which
become important rivers further downstream - are well-stocked with rainbow
and brown trout.
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The Baro River area, accessible by land or air
through the western Ethiopian town of Gambela, remains a place of
adventure and challenge. Traveling across the endless undulating plains of
high Sudanese grass, visitors can enjoy a sense of achievement in just
finding their way. This is Ethiopia's true tropical zone and here are
found all the elements of the African safari, enhanced by a distinctly
perch weighing 100 kilos can be caught in the waters of the Baro,
snatched from the jaws of the huge crocodiles that thrive along the
riverbank. The white-eared kob also haunts the Baro, 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. Click here for
to the south-west lies Omo National Park, the
largest in the country, with an area of 4,068 square kilometers. It is a
vast expanse of true wilderness, adjacent to the Omo River, which
flows southwards into Lake Turkana and is one of the richest and
least-visited wildlife sanctuaries in eastern Africa. Eland, oryx,
Burchell's zebra, Lelwel hartebeest, buffalo, giraffe, elephant,
waterbuck, kudu, lion, leopard and cheetah roam within the park's
Omo Valley is virtually free of human habitation but is rich in
palaeo-anthro-pological remains. According to scientific research
done in 1982 by the University of California at Berkeley, hominid remains
from the Omo Valley probably date back more than four million years.
of Africa's volcanic activity is concentrated along the immense
5,000-kilometre crack in the earth's surface known as the Rift Valley. It
is the result of two roughly parallel faults, between which, in distant
geological time, the crust was weakened and the land subsided. The valley
walls - daunting blue-grey ridges of volcanic basalt and granite -
rise sheer on either side to towering heights of 4,000 meters. The valley
floor, 50 kilometers or more across, encompasses some of the world's last
Ethiopia is often referred to as the 'water tower' of eastern Africa
because of the many rivers that pour off its high tableland, and a visit
to this part of the Rift Valley, studded with lakes, volcanoes and
savannah grassland, offers the visitor a true safari experience.
River tumbles its 350-kilometre way through a steep inaccessible
valley before slowing its pace as it nears the lowlands and then meanders
through flat, semi-desert bush, eventually running into Lake Turkana.
Since 1973, the river has proved a major attraction for white-water
rafters. The season for rafting is between September and October, when the
river is still high from the June to September rains but the weather
river passes varied scenery, including an open gallery forest of tamarinds
and figs, alive with colobus monkeys. Under the canopy along the
riverbanks may be seen many colorful birds. Goliath herons, blue-breasted
kingfishers, white-cheeked turacos, emerald-spotted wood doves and
red-fronted bee-eaters are all rewarding sights, while monitor lizards may
be glimpsed scuttling into the undergrowth. Beyond the forest, hippos
graze on the savannah slopes against the mountain walls, and waterbuck,
bushbuck and Abyssinian ground hornbills are sometimes to be seen.
Abundant wildlife, spirited rapids, innumerable side creeks and
waterfalls, sheer inner canyons and hot springs all combine to make
the Omo one of the world's classic river adventures.
of the Omo River and stretching south towards the Chew Bahir basin
lies the Mago National Park, rich in wildlife and with few human
inhabitants. The vegetation is mainly savannah grassland and bush,
extending across an area of 2,160 square kilometers. Mammal species total
81, including hartebeest, giraffe, roan antelope, elephant, lion,
leopard and perhaps even a rare black rhino.
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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 Gelada 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
also soar above this mountain retreat.
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
Simien escarpments, which are often compared to the Grand Canyon in the
United States of America, have been adopted by Unesco as a World
Heritage Site. Click here for