VE 001B 12 days. Addis Ababa, the Rift Valley Lakes, the Bale Mountains National Park, Wondo Genet, Bilen (Awash)
Day 1: Depart Europe PM with Ethiopian Airlines.
Day 2: Arrive Addis Ababa and transfer to the Ghion Hotel, where a variety of birds can be seen in the extensive gardens including the White-backed Black Tit and the Brown Tit Warbler. After lunch in the hotel, we leave for the Entoto National Park overlooking the city. At between 2600 asl to 3200 asl, there are spectacular views. With its diverse habitats - forest, bushland, cultivated fields, grassy meadows, rocky slopes and cliff, streams and marshes - the park is home to perhaps more than 200 bird species. We can expect to see: the Abyssinian Woodpecker, Abyssinian Catbird, Wattled Ibis, Moorland Francolin, White-collared Pigeon, Black-winged Lovebird, White-cheeked Turaco, Mountain Nightjar, Banded Barbet, White-winged Cliff Chat, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, Brown Parisoma, White-backed Black Tit, Absyssinian Black-headed Oriole and White-billed Starling. The Park also provides great viewing for vultures, of which 5 species including Lammergeyer can be seen, as well as various eagles and hawks. Return to Addis Ababa early evening. (If clients wish, we can visit the Entoto National Park on horseback.) o/n Ghion Hotel.
Day 3: An early start heading south down the main Ethiopian Rift. We will be birding along the main road, stopping off at Koka Dam and the Awash river and then at Lake Zway for lunch. After lunch, we head down to the lake shore where huge numbers of water birds are congregated. African Pygmy Geese, Yellow-billed and Maribou Storks, Collared Pratincoles, Lesser and Greater Jacanas, African Jacanas, White Pelicans, Fish Eagles, Crowned and Common Cranes are some of the species to be seen here in impressive numbers. We leave Zway mid-afternoon, continuing to Lake Langano for an overnight in the Bekele Molla Hotel, situated on the shores of the lake.
Day 4: After breakfast we drive to the Shalla and Abiyata National Park (SANP), situated to the west of the main road. Over 400 bird species were recorded here during the 1970s and 1980s, but since then the environment of the park has suffered as a result of cultivation, widespread grazing and the cutting down of trees for charcoal. The soda ash plant on Lake Abiyatta seems to have caused a fall in the level of the lake, and killed off a lot of its fish life, but Lake Abiyatta still constitutes a wetland of international importance. Entering the park we pass the tame ostriches at the gate and first go to Shalla Lake, the deepest in the Ethiopian Rift, where depths of 270 metres have been recorded. Four of the nine islands in the lake are important breeding sites for birds. Along the shores of the lake are a number of hot springs, some so hot that locals boil maize in them, used by people and animals for their reputed curative values.
We then proceed to Abiyata Lake, where thousands of both lesser and greater Flamingo's congregate along the shores. African Pochard, Avocet, Gull-billed Tern and Pintail, Little Stint, Ruff and a variety of ducks are among other species to be seen. The Park's position at one of the narrowest parts of the Rift Valley makes it a major flyway for both Palaearctic and African migrants. We leave the Park before mid-day for an hour's drive to Lake Awassa and check into Wabe Shebelle #1, situated on the lake shore.
After lunch, we explore the hotel's gardens and make our way to the shores of the lake. Lake Awassa, fringed by mountains, is one of Ethiopia's most beautiful lakes and is rich in bird life. Along the shores of the lake and in the adjoining Black Forest we can expect to see Saddlebill and Maribou Storks, Malakite King Fisher, Spur-winged Plover, Pygmy Goose, Brown Snake Eagle, Grey Kestral, Green-backed Honeyguide, Blue-headed Coucal, Spotted Creeper, African Firefinch, Bruce's Green Pigeon, Red-breasted Wryneck, Bare-faced Go-away bird and the endemic Yellow-fronted Parrot, Black-winged Lovebird and Black-headed Forest Oriole. There are hippos in the lake and Colobus and Cervet monkeys in the gardens of the lake side hotels. o/n Wabe Shebelle #1.
Day 5: Before breakfast we go to the fish market beside the lake for some great photo opportunities, getting really close to birds well used to human company. After breakfast in the hotel we set off for the Bale Mountains National Park, an area of diverse habitats, rich in endemic birds (6 from Ethiopia, 14 including those shared with Eritrea), animals, trees and plants. It has the largest extent of Afro-Alpine habitat in Africa, and the all weather road that crosses the Sanetti Plateau is the highest on the continent. We stop at Dinsho, HQ of the park, for picnic lunch and will spend some time exploring the area around the HQ as here is found the main concentration of the endemic Mountain Nyala. We can also see the endemic Menelik's Bushbuck, Grey Duiker and Warthog. Birds we can expect to see here (as elsewhere in the park) include the Spot-breasted Plover, Rouget's Rail, Thick-billed Raven, Blue-winged Goose, Abyssinian Long Claw, White-collared Pigeon and Black-winged Love Bird. Dinsho has no tourist class hotels so unless visitors are prepared to camp or share space at the Park Lodge, we push on to Goba and the Wabe Shabelle Hotel.
Day 6: Full day with picnic lunch on the 4000 asl Sanetti Plateau, with its striking Afro-Alpine flora, such as the Giant Lobelia and Red Hot Poker. It is the best place in Ethiopia to see the Simien Wolf, the rarest canid in the world, while the huge rodent population, including the endemic Giant Mole Rat, supports a variety of raptors. The rare Wattled Crane is often seen, while there are a good number of the Spot-breasted Plover. Tullu Dimtu at 4377 m is the second highest mountain in Ethiopia and we can drive all the way to the top. o/n Wabe Shabelle Hotel, Goba.
Day 7: We retrace our steps today across the Plateau and then descend the escarpment to the Harenna Forest, where at the southern boundary of the park the altitude is 1700 m asl. The Forest supports a woodland avi-fauna including the African Cuckoo Hawk, Yellow-fronted Parrot and Brown-backed Honeyguide. Wildlife includes Klipspringer, Serval, Bushpig, Giant Forest Hog, Grey Duiker, Colobus Monkey, Lion and Leopard, although visitors are less likely to see the latter two. Picnic lunch, returning to Goba late afternoon. o/n Wabe Shabelle Hotel, Goba.
Day 8: We set off back to the Lakes region, via Dinsho and arrive at Wondo Genet mid afternoon. Wondo Genet is a hot spring resort (there is a naturally heated open air pool) set among forested hills. The springs are said to have curative properties and the Emperor Haile Selassie had a lodge here, now part of the hotel. In the gardens of the hotel we will see the Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, White-cheeked Turaco, and Yellow-fronted Parrot. Before dinner we will explore the juniper forests behind the hotel, where we can see the Black-headed Forest Oriole, the Golden-backed Woodpecker, Redwing Starling, Grosbeak Weaver, Mountain Wagtail and Black-roughwing Swallow. We will also see Colobus monkey, Anubis baboon and bushbuck. o/n Wondo Genet Lodge.
Day 9: We retrace our steps back towards Addis Ababa, turning east at Mojo towards Awash and stop for lunch in Nazret. We pass Lake Beseka (which has grown over the last decade, causing the Djibouti – Addis Ababa railway line to be raised on several occasions), the entrance to the Awash National Park and Awash bridge, turning left towards Assab and continue to the Village Ethiopia lodge at Bilen. Outside the boundaries of the Park, this area shares the same habitats with grassland, savannah and wetlands. Over 460 species of bird have been recorded in this area including: the Abyssinian Roller, Abyssinian Ground Horn Bill, the endemic White-tailed Swallow, Buff Crested Bustard, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Pygmy Falcon, Honey Guide, Woodland Kingfisher, Kori and Arabian Bustard, Black-shouldered Kite, White and Crowned Rosy Patch Shrike, Carmine Bee Eater, Orange-billed Parrot, Lilac Breasted Roller, Lappet faced and Ruppell's vulture. We will also see a variety of different animals, including Greater and Lesser Kudu, Wart Hog, Dik Dik, Gerenuk, Menelik's Bushbuck, Soemmering gazelle, Hamadryas baboons, crocodiles and if we are lucky, lions. (We should be able to hear them at night.) o/n Village Ethiopia Bilen.
Days 10 and 11: We will spend two days birding in the different habitats found in the area, the plains, cliffs, wetlands and the riverine forest by the Awash. Camel trekking can be arranged to some of these sites - one gets a great view from on top of a camel, and can also get closer to birds and wildlife. The Afar communities (with whom there has been consultation as a continuous process about Village Ethiopia's development) provide another focus of interest. A large hot spring near the lodge is a great place to freshen up at the end of the day. o/n Village Ethiopia Bilen.
Day 11: We return to Addis Ababa, with lunch in Nazret and birding stops along the way, arriving
Addis Ababa late afternoon. o/n Ghion.
Day 12: Transfer to the airport for mid day departure.
For those visitors arriving on Lufthansa or Alitalia:
Departure (from Europe) and arrival will be on Day 1. On Day 2 a full rather than half-day will be spent with picnic lunch in the Entoto National Park. (If clients wish, we can visit the Entoto National Park on horseback.) On Day 12 there will be a morning excursion to Gefersa reservoir, some 20 km west of the city, where we can expect to see Rouget's Rail, Abyssinian Longclaw, Blue-winged Goose and Black-headed Siskin. Rest of afternoon at leisure (day rooms will be hired). Souvenir shopping can be arranged. Depart late evening.