Mammals of Ethiopia - 14 day, private journey

Looking for a unique wildlife holiday a little different from the typical African wildlife safari? Then Ethiopia is an excellent choice with exciting, endemic wildlife and amazing natural beauty.

The Mammals of Ethiopia wildlife tour focuses on the varied mammals found in the four national parks and Great Rift Valley lakes region of Ethiopia.

Highlights of the Tour

  • See the breathtaking landscapes of Simien Mountains National Park and Bale Mountains National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • Experience the Great Rift Valley lakes and abundant birdlife of Ethiopia.
  • Explore the beautiful Nech Sar National Park and Awash National Park.
  • See the Senekele game reserve.
  • Witness tribal culture in the southern Ethiopia.
  • Visit the fairytale castles of Gondar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Enjoy a city tour of Addis Ababa.

Wildlife You May See on the Tour

  • The last wolf of Africa — the endangered Ethiopian Wolf
  • The Gelada “Bleeding Heart” Baboon, the last and only grazing primate
  • The magnificent Walia Ibex, the handsome Mountain Nyala, and Menelik’s Bushbuck 
  • The endemic Bale Monkey and Giant Mallrat
  • Grevy’s Zebra, Gerenuk, Beisa Oryx, giant Nile Crocodiles, and more.

Day 1: Addis Ababa

Welcome to Ethiopia!

Upon arrival at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (ADD), you will be welcomed and assisted by your tour guide and driven to Jupiter Hotel.

Addis Ababa, founded in 1886 by Menelik II, is situated at 2,500 meters (8000 ft.) above sea level. It is the 5th highest capital city in the world. The city enjoys an excellent climate year-round, with an average temperature of 25C (77F). With a multiethnic population of over 5 million, Addis Ababa is a pleasant city with wide avenues of jacarandas, interesting museums, and one of the largest open-air markets in Africa, known as the “Mercato”.

Overnight: Jupiter Hotel, Addis Ababa

Day 2: Addis Ababa - Awash National Park

This morning set off towards the great East African Rift Valley.

The Awash National Park was established in 1966 as the royal family’s recreational park. The Awash area is part of the Great Rift Valley, and here, in different parts of the park, you will witness volcanic activity.

The Awash park is home to over 460 species of birds and several mammals, including the Beisa Oryx, Desert Warthog, Summering’s Gazelle, Lesser Kudu, Hamadryads Baboon, Olive Baboon, Grivet’s Monkey, Abyssinian Hare, Harar Dik Dik, Spotted Hyena, Aardwolf, Bat-Eared Fox, Golden Jackal and African Wild Cat.

Once at Lake Beseka, we will walk around the lake and near the foot of Mount Fenta’ale, for bird viewing. Here, around dusk, we will look for groups of spotted Hyena teaming out of the caves.

Overnight: Awash Falls Lodge, Awash National Park

Day 3: Awash National Park

After an early breakfast at the lodge, we drive to Alideghe Game Reserve, northeast of Awash National Park. Here we will do a game drive and scan the vast plain for Grevy’s Zebra, Gerenuk, Beisa Oryx, Simmering Gazelle, Grant’s Gazelle, Somali Ostrich and rare birds. We then drive to Doha Lodge for lunch and enjoy the natural hot springs under the vast palm trees.

After relaxing at Doho, when the day starts to cool down, we will take a short drive to Awash National Park. For the rest of the afternoon, we will have a game drive around Ilala Plains. Here we should see herds of Beisa Oryx, Sommering’s Gazelle and possibly Leopard Tortoise. If we are lucky, we will spot some of the rare animals like the Bat-Eared Fox, African Wild Cat and different endemic birds. After we finish our game drive, we will take a relaxing walk to our lodge and wander around the waterfalls spotting crocodiles and monkeys.

Overnight: Awash Falls Lodge, Awash National Park

Day 4: Awash National Park to Bale Mountains National Park

Driving from Awash National Park to the Bale Mountains, we will pass through different landscapes and vast farm land. We will reach Dinsho and walk the buffer zone Gessay Valley for our first encounter with the Mountain Nyala, Bohor Reed Back, Common Warthog, and some endemic birds. We then walk inside the reserve for more encounters of the Mountain Nyala and other endemic wildlife in the park including Menelik’s Bushbuck and some other commonly seen mammals and birds. After our walking safari, we will have an hour drive to Goba for overnight.

Overnight: Wabishebele Hotel, Goba

Day 5: Bale Mountains National Park

Rise early morning to drive up on the Senettie Plateau – on one of the highest roads on the continent, 4000 meters above sea level. This is also the biggest Afro-Alpine habitat in the whole of Africa and is crucial for the survival of Africa’s last wolf, the Abyssinian Wolf, also one of the most endangered canids in the world.

Crossing the plateau to the escarpment, descend towards Harenna Forest, one of the best-conserved Alpine forests in the country. This dense, indigenous forest shelters the endemic Bale Mountains Monkey, Baboons, Giant Hog, Bush Pig, Leopard, Black Manned Lion, Caracal and many forest birds.

After exploring this forest, we drive back to the plateau for some more chances to encounter the Abyssinian Wolf — our star focus on this trip.

Overnight: Wabishebele Hotel, Goba

Day 6: Bale Mountains, Awassa

After again crossing Gessay Valley, we drive southwest to one of the Great Rift Valley lakes, Lake Awassa. While driving from Goba to Awassa, we will ecounter beautiful landscapes before reaching Awassa in the afternoon. After checking into our hotel, we will go on a boat cruise to spot hippos and also scan for different aquatic birds around the lake.

For the rest of the day, you can choose between relaxing in the swimming pool, enjoying the spa at the beautiful lakeside Haile Resort, or taking a relaxing walk along the shore of the beautiful lake.

Overnight: Haile Resort, Awassa

Day 7: Awassa, Senkele, Arbaminch

In the morning, we drive to Arbaminch enroute visiting Senkele Game Reserve. Covering 58 square kilometers, the reserve is located some 10 kilometers south of the Shashemene-Arba Minch Road near the town of Aje. This small open terrain reserve is the only place in Ethiopia where Swayne’s Hartebeest sightings are practically guaranteed. At this reserve, we will have the opportunity to spot the Golden Back Jackal, the Black-Backed Jackal, and some common mammals and many birds.

Overnight: Paradise Lodge, Arba Minch

Day 8: Arba Minch, Nech Sar, Lake Chamo

Nech Sar National Park includes diverse and beautiful landscapes such as the vast woodlands, white grass savannah plains, hot springs, the twin lakes — Lake Chamo and Lake Abaya — and the natural mountain bridge, the “Bridge of God”, which connects the two lakes.

In the morning, we will take a boat cruise on Lake Chamo to see the gigantic Nile Crocodiles, as well as hippos and aquatic birds. Olive Baboons are also commonly seen in the forest near the lake.

After crossing the lake by boat, we will have a guided walking safari tour to the Nech Sar Plains to spot Burchell’s Zebra, Grant’s Gazelle, Swayne’s Hartebeest, the Greater Kudu, and other large mammals.

Overnight: Paradise Lodge, Arba Minch

Day 9: Arba Minch, Dorze, Bishangari

After breakfast, we will drive north to the mountain village of Chencha on the southwestern escarpment of the Great Rift Valley running north to south all the way to Mozambique. This is the home of the Dorze people. The Dorze people, once famous warriors in the region, are now renowned cotton weavers whose tall beehive-shaped and bamboo-woven dwellings are among the most distinctive structures to be seen any where in Africa.

After visiting Dorze, we will drive to Lake Langano, one of the most beautiful Rift Valley lakes, and enroute we will visit different villages including the Rastafarian Community at Shashemene.

After lunch at Shashemene, we continue to Bishangari. After checking into the lakeside Bishangari Lodge, go out on a walking safari to spot wildlife using a flashlight. Our main goal is to encounter the rare and elusive Aardvark. We also expect to spot the Ethiopian Genet, African Civet Cat, White-Tailed Mongoose, Jackal, and Bush Duiker.

Overnight: Bishangari Lodge, Langano

Day 10: Langano, Addis Ababa

We rise early to explore the surrounding area of the ecolodge for more wildlife viewing opportunities then return to the restaurant for breakfast.

After breakfast, we will drive to Addis Ababa. Enroute, we will go to Abiata Shala National Park to look out for the Somali and Masai Ostrich, Grant’s Gazelle, Desert Warthogs, and birds. As we near the alkaline Lake Abiata, we may spot flocks of Greater and Lesser Flamingos and other water birds. We then return to the main road to continue our drive to Addis Ababa visiting Lake Ziway, an excellent birding site, on the way. After lunch at Haile Resort Ziway, we will drive to Addis Ababa.

Overnight: Jupiter Hotel, Addis Ababa

Day 11: Addis Ababa, Gondar, Buit Ras

Early in the morning, transfer to Addis Ababa airport for the 50-minute flight to Gondar. Upon arrival we will be met by our driver for the drive to the Simien Mountains National Park, where the rolling grassy plateau comes to an abrupt stop and sheer cliffs plunge almost vertically 1,000 m (3280 ft) to the plains below. The massif itself has been sculpted by 30 million years of upthrust and erosion into a wonderland of jagged ridges, pinnacles and strangely cropped conical mountains, so that looking out over the heart-stopping precipice you feel you might just be at the edge of the world.

After checking into the Simien Lodge, the highest lodge in Africa at 3260 m, and having lunch there, we will relax and get ready for the afternoon for our first encounter with the endemic Gelada “Bleeding Heart” Baboon. This primate used to live all over Africa but then split from other baboon members over 400,000 years ago and the Ethiopian highland plateau became its last refugee. The Gelada Baboon is the last surviving species of ancient grazing primates that were once found in numerous numbers. Geladas spend most of their day sitting down, plucking and munching on grasses. They have fatty rear ends, much like human buttocks, which seem well adapted to this activity.

Overnight: Simien Lodge, Buyit Ras (3200 m)

Day 12: Simien Mountains National Park

An early morning rise, then after breakfast we will drive for about 2 hours through breathtaking scenery to Cheneck. The main goal today is to spot the magnificent, endemic Walia Ibex and enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Simien Mountains. Around Cheneck, we will find a small population of the Walia Ibex, once considered to be a sacred animal by the ancient Ethiopians and that can be found carved into different artefacts from ancient times.

We will have our picnic lunch under the shade of trees enjoying the magnificent view and observing the endemic birds — especially the giant Lammergeyer and Thick-Billed Raven.

After lunch, slowly drive back to the lodge with several stops for viewing wildlife.

Overnight: Simien Lodge, Buyit Ras (3200 m)

Day 13: Buit Ras, Gondar

Drive from Buit Ras to Gondar with stops in some picturesque spots. After checking into Goha Hotel and having lunch there, we will take a city tour of Gondar. Gondar, founded by Emperor Fasiledas around 1635, is famous for its many medieval castles and the design and decoration of its churches — in particular, Debre Berhan Selassie, which represents a masterpiece of the unique Ethiopian school of traditional art.

Visit the Royal Enclosure, a walled compound having six different castles built from the 17th century by different kings who ruled in different times; the pool of King Fasiledas, which still serves as a baptismal pool during Ethiopian Epiphany; and the famous Debre Birhan Selassie adorned with brilliant frescos inside.

Overnight: Goha Hotel, Gondar

Day 14: Gondar, Addis Ababa

In the morning, we transfer to Gondar airport for the flight to Addis Ababa. For the rest of the day, you will have a city tour of Addis Ababa that includes the National Museum, Mercato, Piassa and more. After checking into the hotel, we will drive to the National Museum to meet our ancestor Lucy. Archeological exhibits include the 3.2 million-year-old fossil of Lucy (or Dinkinesh — “thou art wonderful” — in the native language), a hominoid woman of the species Australopithecus Afarensis. The discovery of Lucy’s fossil in 1974 forced a complete rethinking of human genealogy, proving that our ancestors were walking 2.5 million years earlier than had been supposed. The National Museum also contains many wonderful artefacts dating back to pre-Axumite civilization.

In the evening, there will be a special Ethiopian farewell dinner party with traditional buffet and local drinks. There will also be a live cultural dance show of the different ethnic groups living in the country — the perfect ending for the trip! After the farewell dinner, transfer to Addis Ababa Airport for the flight back home.

Join Sean as he chats with Dave Southwood – photographer, guide and representative for Grand Holidays Ethiopia.