The Photogenic Wildlife Highlights of Ethiopia – With Oliver Smart

# Group Tour

The Photogenic Wildlife Highlights of Ethiopia – With Oliver Smart

16 Days from £4766 per adult. Prices based on flight fares at the time of costing & may vary. Please ask for a definitive quote
16 Days
Group Tour
Primate Watching
Culture and Archaeology

This expert-led small group tour concentrates on the unusual and photogenic wildlife and landscapes that set Ethiopia apart from the rest of Africa. Ethiopia is truly a photographer’s dream destination with wildlife, especially birdlife, surprisingly tolerant of people. There will be an emphasis in this group tour on photography and tuition in addition to observing Ethiopia’s magnificent wildlife.

It will be jointly led by award-winning wildlife photographer, ornithologist and naturalist Oliver Smart and local wildlife expert Daniel Million who will help you make the most of the many photographic opportunities: most of the pictures in this itinerary were taken by Oliver, which will give you some idea of his abilities. His humour, knowledge and experience will help you gain maximum enjoyment and results from this exciting adventure.

Highlights on the trip will include sitting among gelada baboons (sometimes a few feet away) as they feed and chatter on the montane grasslands of the Simien Mountains. You should also see impressive walia ibex, soaring lammergeiers, agile klipspringers and the jaw- dropping scenery of the Simien Mountains. As we move into the Awash Valley there will be more typical East African savannah and wildlife such as Besia oryx, Grevy’s zebra, Somali ostrich, bustards, various bee-eaters and raptors, crocodile, leopard tortoise and spotted hyena. The Bale Mountains come next, inhabited by the world’s rarest canid and Africa’s most endangered carnivore, the beautiful Ethiopian wolf. Seeing this elegant, rare predator hunting giant mole rats on the moonlike Sanetti Plateau is an experience to savour. The Afro-alpine moorlands and lush lichen-clad cloud forests of the Bale Mountains are home to many other endemic and unusual species including mountain nyala, Bale monkey, serval, crowned eagle, blue-winged goose and the Bale chameleon. There will also be hippos and vast flocks of flamingoes and other varied birdlife in the Great Rift Valley Lakes. Ethiopia’s fascinating history and unique cultures combine with its wildlife to make for an unforgettable adventure in one of Africa’s most diverse countries.

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Price from £4766 per adult. Based on sharing double / twin rooms

Day 1 - Addis Ababa

Arrive Addis Ababa. On arrival we transfer you to the hotel for breakfast and some time to freshen up and rest. Later we will visit the Ghion Hotel area for some birdwatching where highland bird species such as tacazze sunbird, Abyssinian slaty flycatcher and wattled ibis can be seen. Later in the afternoon we take a guided city tour of Addis including a visit to the National Museum to see the Lucy exhibit which houses the remains of one of the oldest humans ever discovered. Return to the hotel for the evening.

Staying at Getfam Hotel. Includes All Meals.

Day 2 - Simien Mountains

Morning transfer to the airport and take domestic flight to Gondar. On arrival we drive north to Debark and into the wonderful Simien Mountains National Park. Afternoon excursion for our first encounters with geladas, highland birds and some magnificent scenery. The volcanic Simien Mountains date back nearly 20 million years and offer some of the most rugged and dramatic mountain landscapes in all of Africa. The altitude of most areas we will visit will be around 3,300 and 3,500 meters above sea level.

Staying at LimaLimo Lodge . Includes All Meals.

Day 3 - Simien Mountains

Today we can enjoy a full day exploring the Simien Mountains National Park with a packed lunch, enabling us to reach the remote Chennek Valley. Here we will hopefully find the agile endemic Walia ibex which are surprisingly at home on the craggy ledges of the mountains. We will also be on the look out for the impressive lammergeier alongside numerous other species of birds of prey, croaking thick-billed ravens and nimble Ethiopian klipspringers. One of the highlights of the day will be spending more time with the habituated geladas (or bleeding heart baboons) as they graze the montane grasslands of the park, offering exceptional photographic opportunities.

Staying at LimaLimo Lodge . Includes All Meals.

Day 4 - Gondar

This morning we will look for birds and other wildlife around the lodge grounds where Abyssinian catbird and Abyssinian groundscraper thrush may be seen. Later we will return to the historic town of Gondar to visit the seven castles of Fasil Ghebbi, built by Emperor Fasilides in the 17th Century. After this we will visit the impressive Debre Birhan Selassie Church; one of the most beautiful churches in all of Ethiopia with intricate ceiling and wall paintings dating back to the 17th Century.

Staying at Goha Hotel. Includes All Meals.

Day 5 - Awash National Park

Today we transfer to the airport and take a domestic flight back to Addis Ababa. on arrival back in Addis we transfer 4 hours to the Awash National Park in the Great Rift Valley. Depending on the timing we may explore some of the National Park this afternoon.

Staying at Awash Falls Lodge . Includes All Meals.

Day 6 - Awash National Park

This morning we will take a pre-breakfast walk around the lodge grounds next to the thundering Awash waterfall. Nile crocodiles and monitor lizards sun themselves on the river banks, inquisitive grivet and guereza colobus monkeys frequent the fig trees and birds are abundant including the beautiful Abyssinian roller, dark chanting goshawk, African grey hornbill and goliath heron.

We will also take morning and afternoon safari drives to the Illala Sala Plains in the south of the National Park. This area of semi-arid bush and grassland supports an important population of the elegant Besia oryx as well as small herds of soemmerring’s gazelle, shy lesser kudu, Salt’s dik dik, warthog, olive baboon and a staggering diversity of birds including the kori bustard; the heaviest flying bird in Africa. Some very large Leopard tortoises are also a regular sight on the plains and there are great views to be had of the Awash Gorge too. In the evening we will visit the hyena cave at the base of Mount Fentale to watch spotted hyenas emerge at sun set.

Staying at Awash Falls Lodge . Includes All Meals.

Day 7 - Ale Deghi Plains

This morning we make an early transfer (2 hours) north east to the Ale Deghi Wildlife Reserve where larger herds of oryx and gazelle can be seen. This vast area of open savannah and acacia forest is also home to species such as the long-necked gerenuk antelope and endangered Grevy’s zebra that are absent from Awash. After the morning safari, we will have lunch and some time to relax in the inviting volcanic hot spring pools at Doho Lodge.

In the late afternoon we will take another safari drive on Ale Deghi to spot wildlife including large herds of gazelle and oryx, bat-eared fox, African golden jackal (recently re-named African golden wolf), warthog and if very lucky maybe even lion, cheetah or caracal. In the evening we may see waterbuck, bushbabies and nightjars around the lodge.

Staying at Doho Lodge . Includes All Meals.

Day 8 - Ale Deghi Plains

This morning we make a final game drive on the Ale Deghi Plains. The area is also famed for its birdlife and is often described “The Bustard Capital of the World” with at least 5 species regularly seen. Colourful northern carmine bee-eaters, agile African scissor-tailed kites, blue-legged Somali ostriches and camouflaged double-banded coursers and sandgrouse are among some of the many other avian highlights. This region is also the home of the nomadic Afar people and we will see their temporary settlements along the roadsides.

After lunch back at the lodge we will visit some rocky outcrops near the Filowha Hot Springs where groups of entertaining Hamadryas baboons gather to sunbathe. In the afternoon we transfer to Adama (Nazret) for the evening.

Staying at La Residence Hotel . Includes All Meals.

Day 9 - Bale Mountains National Park

Today we embark on our longest drive through changing landscapes as we leave the dry lowlands and move into the lush mountains of the Bale Mountains National Park. Throughout the journey there will be oppurtuinties to stop and see more of rural life in Ethiopia. We will also spend time in the rolling Gaysay Grasslands where herds of endemic mountain nyalas and bohor reedbucks graze alongside warthogs and olive baboons. With luck we will hopefully also find a beautiful serval here.

We will also make a stop in the Dinsho area for lunch and some exploration of the enchanting Juniper-hagenia forest home to the secretive Abyssinian long eared owl. We then continue the drive to Bale Mountain Lodge arriving in the late afternoon.

Staying at Bale Mountain Lodge. Includes All Meals.

Day 10 - Bale Mountains National Park

We can perhaps start the day with a pre-breakfast bird and wildlife walk through the lush moss and lichen encrusted trees of the Harenna Forest close to the lodge.

After breakfast we will explore the magical high altitude moorlands of the Sanetti Plateau with a packed lunch. During the day, we will explore this unique habitat on safari style drives along the highest all-weather road in Africa. This is the best place in the world to see Ethiopia’s flagship species; the beautiful Ethiopian wolf. These wonderful canids are sadly threatened with extinction and their total global population sits at around 450 individuals, with around 160 in the Bale Mountains. Bizarre giant mole rats, locally endemic Stark’s hares, klipspringers, blue-winged geese, spot-breasted lapwings and golden eagles are other likely sightings.

In the evening we can take a game drive through the dense Harenna Forest below the lodge in search of secretive forest dwellering mammals such as giant forest hog, bushpig, Menelik’s bushbuck and maybe even the rare Abyssinian black-maned lion.

Staying at Bale Mountain Lodge. Includes All Meals.

Day 11 - Bale Mountains National Park

Depending on our sightings, today we can focus on exploring more of the biodiverse Harenna Forest or you may choose to just relax in the beautiful settings. There are various trails leading out from the lodge or a short drive away that we can explore. Some trails lead to waterfalls and others offer a chance to see the locally endemic Bale monkey in the clumps of bamboo. African crowned eagles and mountain buzzards are often spotted soaring overhead and endemic Bale nose-horned chameleons, frogs and butterflies can all be enjoyed in the interior of the forest.

Staying at Bale Mountain Lodge . Includes All Meals.

Day 12 - Lake Awassa

After a last morning walk in the local forestperhaps watching the colobus or Bale monkeys, we will transfer back across the plateau maybe seeing more wolves. We then continue west to Lake Awassa passing different agricultural lands. We will arrive at the hotel in the afternoon and can enjoy some birdwatching and photography in the lodge grounds with species such as scarlet-chested and beautiful sunbirds, African citril finch and Black crake before the sun sets in the evening.

Staying at Haile Resort . Includes All Meals.

Day 13 - Lake Awassa

This morning we will visit the local fish market at Lake Awassa for the spectacle of hundreds of marabou storks gathering only a few feet from us as they wait for leftovers. African fish eagles, Africana jacanas, red-knobbed coots and a variety of other water birds join the storks. We will then take a leisurely boat trip on Lake Awassa to see its marsh terns, kingfishers, pelicans and other waterbirds up close.

We then travel north to Lake Langano and can enjoy the rest of the day at leisure for those thatr prefer or for productive bird and wildlife walks in the acacia woodlands around the lodge. There is also the option of a night walk tonight where African civets, white-tailed mongooses and even aardvarks are occasionally spotted.

Staying at Hara Langano Lodge . Includes All Meals.

Day 14 - Lake Langano

Early morning birdwatching around the lodge grounds where specialities such as blue-cheeked bee eater, yellow-fronted parrot, silvery-cheeked hornbill and bare-faced go-away birds can be seen. The lake itself supports many waterbirds and a group of hippos can also be seen wallowing in front of the lodge each morning.

Later in the morning we visit Abijatta-Shalla National Park for its huge flocks of flamingos, pelicans and thermal springs.

Staying at Hara Langano Lodge . Includes All Meals.

Day 15 - Lake Langano

Today we can enjoy another morning exploring the bird rich habitats around the lake and lodge. Return to Addis Ababa in the afternoon where we will have a special farewell dinner at a traditional Ethiopian Restaurant with live dance performances.

Return to the hotel in the evening for day use of a room before a transfer to the airport.

Staying at Getfam Hotel. Includes All Meals.

Day 16 - Depart Addis Ababa

Depart Addis Ababa on flight home.

Includes No Meals.

Travel Info

Are Flights Included?

Flight Info:
There are direct flights from London Heathrow with Ethiopian Airlines. Flights are 7 hours 45 minutes.

Best visited:
April to April

Area Specialist

Ian Loyd

Add a visit to Lalibela’s incredible rock hewn churches at the beginning or end of the tour. There are flights from Addis Ababa direct to Lalibela.

If you have any queries about this tour please feel free to call me directly on +44 (0)1803 866965 or...

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Route Map

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Getfam Hotel: 8.905084, 38.781889
Limalimo Lodge: 13.197980, 37.896217
Goha Hotel: 12.620579, 37.468306
Awash Falls Lodge: 8.842747, 40.012845
Doho Lodge: 9.135416, 40.084259
La Residence Hotel and Spa: 8.528245, 39.262111
Bale Mountain Lodge: 6.717658, 39.727922
Haile Resort: 7.079588, 38.479094
Hara Langano Lodge: 7.527194, 38.791105
Haile Resort Hawassa: 7.079606, 38.479095