birds and mammals in Ethiopia's highlands



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Ethiopia is unique among African countries in that it is the only one never to be colonised. The physical barriers that helped protect it also isolated the wildlife, resulting in a level of endemism unparalleled in mainland Africa. There are over fifty endemic or near-endemic birds and many more local races. The Simian Wolf is of course the most famous mammal here and we have excellent chances of seeing it.


We will visit at the height of the dry season. Just as temperatures are dropping to their coldest in Europe, Ethiopia is enjoying glorious sunshine with very little chance of rain. At this time many northern migrants join the resident birds of Ethiopia. Lakes and rivers become magnets to birds and other wildlife.


If your image of Ethiopia is of a dry, barren country with poor accommodation think again. We will visit dry areas but we will also visit many wetlands and lakes, lush middle elevation woodlands and high mountains. Hotels and lodges have improved beyond recognition in recent years and we stay at some excellent accommodation.


We begin in the Awash National Park which is savannah and scrubland with a very impressive gorge. Next we will visit the lush northern section of the Ethiopian Rift Valley and sample some of its lakes and woodlands. From here we travel to the Bale Mountains for Simian Wolf and many endemic birds. We then head over the Sanetti Plateau and into the rich Harrena Forest coming out into the deserts and grasslands of southern Ethiopia. We return through the Rift Valley, passing coffee plantations and woodland for a final night in Addis Ababa.





After our overnight flight we will arrive early in the morning. Driving out of Addis we will stop at a large wetland where we are likely to encounter flamingos, Common Crane, Great White Pelicans, and Marabou and Abdim’s Storks. We will drive through the plains of the national park looking for Kori and Arabian Bustard. Buff-crested Bustard may be seen doing their spectacular rocketing display flight. White-bellied and Hartlaub’s Bustards may also be encountered. Antelope here include the beautiful Beisa Oryx which is restricted to the Horn of Africa. Soemmering’s Gazelle, Salt’s Dik-dik and Greater and Lesser Kudu can also be seen. Other large animals include Olive and Hamadryas Baboons, Warthog, Vervet Monkey and Nile Crocodile. One of the spectacular birds we will be looking for is the Secretarybird. Other species include Black-winged Lovebird, Rosy-patched Shrike and Martial Eagle. Awash National Park boasts an impressive 450 plus species of birds on its list and 81 species of mammal. On the second evening we plan to visit a cave where more than a hundred Spotted Hyenas may emerge before dispersing across the park. We will stay at the recently opened Awash Falls Lodge which is actually within the park. As the name suggests, it is close to the spectacular falls, where African Fish-Eagle regularly perches.



After two nights at Awash we will drive south to the Rift Valley lakes. Birds may include Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Senegal Thick-knee, Black-crowned Crane, African Pygmy Goose, and African and Lesser Jacanas. After several birding stops we will arrive at Bishingari Lodge at Lake Langano. This is an excellent lodge and we will spend three nights here birding the grounds and surrounding area. Narina Trogon, Yellow-fronted Parrot, Tambourine Doves, Abyssinian Ground-thrush and Sharp’s Starling are just a few of the birds to be seen.



The drive from the rift valley into mountains is spectacular and fascinating. On the way we will be looking out for the endemic Spot-breasted Lapwing, Abyssinian Longclaw and Erlanger’s Lark. At some small crags we have a good chance of seeing Cape Eagle-Owl. We will drive to Goba which makes an excellent base for our three night stay. On the first full day we will visit the Sanetti Plateau. As we ascend the plateau slopes we will be looking for Abyssinian Woodpecker, White-cheeked Turaco and the Bale Parisoma. The Simian Wolf tends to emerge once the day has warmed up. The top is dramatic with a unique flora including Giant Lobelias. Small pools provide a home for Blue-winged Goose and Wattled Ibis. Rouget’s Rail can often be seen by the road. We will also look out for Moorland Francolin, Wattled Crane and Verreaux’s, Tawny, Eastern Imperial and Golden Eagle.


Ethiopia has a small population of Ruddy Shelduck; the only breeding population south of the Sahara. Red-billed Chough is another species in this category of relict populations. Meadow-rats are common but the staple diet of the wolf, the Giant Mole-rat is a little more wary. With luck, we should see a few poking their large, blunt heads nervously out of their burrows.


On the second full day in the Bale Mountains we will head to Dinsho Lodge, the park headquarters. The woodland around the lodge is home to the Mountain Nyala, a beautiful antelope. Bohor Reedbuck, Menelik’s Bushbuck, Klipspringer and Dik-dik are also regularly seen. This is probably the best place to see Abyssinian Catbird, White-backed Tit and Brown Woodland Warbler. The park guide may well know the location of roosting Abyssinian and African Wood Owls.



After three nights at Goba we cross the plateau early to reach the Harrena Forest. This protected area has many bird species. We saw the impressive Giant Forest Hog by the roadside last year. As the forest opens up we will see an attractive landscape of little farms. Thorny scrub with isolated fig trees is the prime habitat of one of Ethiopia’s most sought after birds, Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco. All the turacos are beautiful but this one is particularly attractive, endemic to Ethiopia, and has a tiny range.


Driving on, we reach the hot southern scrub and plains. We are well off the tourist route here but a new hotel in Negelle provides clean, comfortable accommodation. The one full day in the Negelle area will be spent looking for specialists of this dry habitat. One of the target birds is the Sidamo Lark, one of the most threatened birds in Africa. It is confined to the Liben Plain where its habitat is suffering from over-grazing and other agricultural pressures. In the early morning it sings as it hovers just a few metres above the ground. The rest of the time it is more likely to remain firmly on the ground scuttling mouse-like from one tussock to the next.



We will drive through camel country as we continue on our circuit round south-east Ethiopia. Soda is a town that feels well off the normal tourist route but has one visitor attraction, an impressive crater lake. The highly localised White-tailed Swallow can be found here along with many other interesting species. We then head north looking for Vulturine Guineafowl and Streseman’s Bush-crow. The bush-crow is quite common within its range. A few kilometres before Yabello town we arrive at Borana Lodge for a two night stay. This is another new lodge and the accommodation is in very well appointed chalets. The extensive grounds hold a large number of species including Streseman’s Bush-crow, nesting Tawny Eagle, Bearded and Nubian Woodpeckers, African Scops Owl, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Crested Francolin and Orange-bellied Parrot. Various doves and small birds like the Purple Grenadier come down to drink at the swimming pool.



We then cross the mountainous coffee growing area and descend into the lower Rift Valley and the middle-elevation spa resort of Wondo Genet. Remnant forest patches hold a great selection of birds including African Crowned Eagle, Double-toothed Barbet, Spectacled and Grosbeak Weavers, Sharp’s Starling, Blue-headed Coucal, Scaly Honeyguide and the much wanted Spotted Creeper. Half-collared Kingfisher and Mountain Wagtail can be seen by the stream. After a full morning birding we drive to Waliso, birding en route. The next day we spend birding in the superb Ghibe Gorge searching for Western Ethiopian specialities like Egyptian Plover, Abyssinian Waxbill, Black-faced Firefinch and Exclamatory Paradise Whydah. We will then drive back to the capital, spending the last night here before flying back to the U.K.



Breakfast will usually be around 7am to 7.30am. Basic fitness is all that is required. Full days will be spent in the field and short walks will be undertaken regularly. There is some uphill walking but at a sensible pace.



Full board accommodation will be provided with two nights at Awash Falls Lodge, three nights at Bishangari Lodge, Lake Langano, three nights at Goba Wabe Shebelle Hotel, two nights at Negelle Local Hotel, two nights at Borana Lodge, Yabello, one night at Wondo Genet Wabe Shebelle Resort, one night at Negash Lodge, Waliso and one night at Ghion Hotel, Addis Ababa. All hotels are of a good standard and all rooms have en-suite facilities. Lunch will usually be at a restaurant but may be a picnic some days.



All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local guide (starting with lunch on 15th, ending with breakfast on 30th), local transport by Land Cruiser, reserve entrance fees, scout fees in the parks, soft drinks at meal times, international flights and airport taxes.



Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.



Return flights from London Heathrow to Addis Ababa using the scheduled services of Ethiopian Airlines. Outbound flight departs mid-evening; return flight arrives back early evening. Domestic flights from Manchester and other UK airports are available on this tour. See booking form for details.




16 nights including

one overnight flight:


Principal leader:


Local guide:


Maximum group size:


Cost with discount

(if you book before

1st October 2011):


Full Cost:





Single supplement:






14th to 30th January 2012


Andrew Woodall


Negussie Toye


12 clients with one leader

and a local guide



£3220 per person sharing


£3370 per person sharing


A ground only price is available. Please contact our office








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