Cultural and Natural South

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Cultural and Natural South Combining the best that Ethiopia has to offer south of Addis Ababa, this two-week odyssey takes you to the farthest corners of the Omo Valley, through the verdant forests of the Bale Mountains, and across the lakes of the Great Rift Valley.

Included/Exclude

  • Domestic flights.
  • Airport transfers and road transport around Addis Ababa by private minibus.
  • Road transport by standard 4WD with English-speaking driver/ guide, including fuel, driver allowances and accommodation.
  • Accommodation based on double/ twin room sharing.
  • Meal plan bed and breakfast. Full board at Bale Mountain Lodge.
  • Fees for entrances, local guides, compulsory scouts and boats for activities mentioned in the itinerary.
  • All government taxes for the services included in the tour price.
  • International flights and visa fees.
  • Lunches and dinners, unless stated as included above.
  • Activities not mentioned or stated as optional in the itinerary.
  • Fees for photos and video.
  • Other personal expenses, souvenirs, tips and gratuities, etc.

Tour Plan

Fly into Addis Ababa. You’ll be met at the airport by your friendly guide, then transferred to your hotel. With nothing in your itinerary until that evening we recommend you get an early flight so you can spend the afternoon discovering Addis. Visit the various museums, including the National Museum where you’ll discover ‘Lucy’, the fossilized skeleton of an ancient human ancestor dating back 3.2 million years who changed our understanding of human evolution.

Discover the Mercato market, the largest open-air market in Africa, and experience a traditional coffee ceremony. Discover what Haile Selassie and Sylvia Pankhurst have in common at the copper-domed Holy Trinity Cathedral. See why the European Council on Tourism and Trade named Ethiopia its number one place to visit in 2015.

In the evening, get to know your group and tour leader over a delicious dinner in a local restaurant. Your tour leader will give you a briefing on the following days.

Overnight: Capital Hotel & Spa

The next stop is Jinka in the Omo Valley. Jinka is a small market town that houses the South Omo Research Centre Museum. From here there is an optional expedition to the Omo National Park, a lesser-visited national park in Ethiopia, and home to incredible vistas. The park has a rugged, off-the-beaten-track appeal.

Over the next few days, you'll be exploring the Omo Valley by road, and meeting many of the tribal communities that have lived here for millennia. Today, you will meet the Ari people.

Overnight: Eco Omo Lodge

Visit Mago National Park and the Mursi people. Drive (2.5 hrs) from Jinka to Turmi, en route visit Key Afar market. Optional 'Evangadi' dance and/or bull jumping ceremony if it coincides with your stay in Turmi. Note that the ceremony cannot be planned in advance, you have to be lucky to see it.

The trip to Omo National Park will include a stop at one of Ethiopia’s most iconic communities: The Mursi people. The Mursi are famous for the lower lip-plates worn as decoration by the women, along with their traditional dress and ornate headdresses. The Mursi people are one of the few tribes who continue to wear traditional clothing and accessories.

Overnight: Buska Lodge

Today you can visit the Karo people in Kolcho and Nyangatom people in Kangatan.

Overnight: Buska Lodge

In the morning, visit the Dasanech people in Omerate. In the afternoon, visit Dimeka market and Hamar people. The Hamar people are agro-pastoralists who adorn traditional body decoration and colourful beads. The women use ochre and resin to deftly style their hair, which is known as ‘goscha’. When the men come of age they have to partake in a bull-jumping ceremony. These friendly people will welcome you into their community, offer you wild coffee and barbecued goat, and introduce you to their customs and traditions.

Overnight: Buska Lodge

Drive (5.5 hrs) from Turmi to Arba Minch, en route visit Arbore and Konso people. Today you’ll be exploring Konso, a Unesco World Heritage Site. Named after the Konso people, this isolated village is located in hilly terrain at the edge of the Rift Valley. The Konso settlement is over 400 years old with fortified stone walls surrounding the terraced village. Beekeeping, cotton weaving and agriculture are the main local industries. It is most famous for its Waga Sculptures. These anthropomorphic wooden carvings memorialise and commemorate people from the community.

Spend the day with these incredible people and experience their rich culture. Your guide will be there at all times to help you navigate the interactions.

Overnight: Paradise Lodge

In the morning, take a boat trip on Lake Chamo, part of Nechisar National Park. As you head out onto the expansive lake, you'll see crocodiles, hippos and flamingos bathing in the Ethiopian sun. Explore Nechisar National Park, or discover the incredible bee-hive huts of the Dorze tribe, who are famous for their structures, weaving and singing.

In the afternoon, visit the Dorze people and market.

Overnight: Paradise Lodge

Drive (5 hrs) from Arba Minch to Hawassa, en route visit Senkele Game Sanctuary.

Overnight: Haile Resort Hawassa

In the morning, visit the fish market in Hawassa. The Hawassa fish market is famous, and the stalls around the market offer some of the best fish soup you'll ever have.

Next, drive 5.5 hours from Hawassa to the Bale Mountains National Park via Dinsho, the headquarters of the park where you’ll meet your guide. Your guide will talk you through the itinerary for your hike over the next few days.

You’ll drive through the park towards the Harenna Forest. The Harenna Forest is one of the few remaining natural forests in Ethiopia. The forest sits below a 1200-metre escarpment, and is home to a huge number of species. You’ll have plenty of time to trek through this Mecca of Ethiopian biodiversity and soak up the stunning views.

The Harenna Forest itself is astonishing. Moss clings to the gnarly tree trunks, creating an almost alien landscape. The forest is home to many species of plants, amphibians, birds and mammals, some of which are endemic to the area, with some only found in this particular forest. Amazingly, scientists continue to discover new species of animals here, over the last few years they have discovered 22 new moths and butterflies, and a viper.

You’ll stay at the Bale Mountain Lodge, a stunning eco lodge staffed by enthusiastic experts who are always happy to give you more information about the surrounding area, and will go above and beyond to ensure you have a comfortable stay. The Bale Mountains Lodge is one of the best lodges in the whole country. Relax and enjoy the warm ambience of this remarkable lodge, and remember to look out for Bale Monkeys and Harenna Chameleons in the trees.

Overnight: Bale Mountain Lodge

Today is a full day exploring of Bale Mountains National Park.

Awake to the sounds of the Harenna Forest and the smell of freshly brewed ‘wild’ coffee, which is harvested just south of the lodge. In the morning you’ll explore the forest some more, spotting much of the wildlife. Remember your binoculars, and a camera!

In the afternoon, you’ll head to the lunar landscape of the Sanetti Plateau, where you’ll try and spot the Ethiopian WolfAfrica’s rarest carnivore. Although only a few hundred Ethiopian wolves exist in the world today, over half the global population reside in the Bale Mountains. You might also spot the giant mole-rat, another endemic species and the primary food source for the wolves.

Overnight: Bale Mountain Lodge

Drive (5.5 hrs) Bale Mountians to Lake Langano. Spend the afternoon relaxing around the lodge and lake.

Overnight: Hara Langano Lodge

Full day exploring Lake Langano and surrounding area including Abijatta-Shalla National Park. Today you’ll head to Abijatta-Shalla National Park, approximately a 40-minute drive and home to Lakes Abijatta and Shalla. These lakes host an impressive number of flamingos, and also a number of hot springs. The steam rising from the pools casts an ethereal haze over the surrounding area. After this, a 4×4 will take you around the park in search for warthogs, antelopes and ostriches.

In the afternoon, go for a dip in Lake Langano. Retreat to the lakeside lodge and enjoy dinner surrounded by the expansive views and the tranquil atmosphere of this remote region.

Overnight: Hara Langano Lodge

Spend the morning at leisure, then head to Lake Ziway.  Situated between four lakes in the Ethiopian Rift Valley, this town is the perfect base from which to explore the lakes over the next few days.

You’ll see the diversity of animals and birdlife that Ethiopia is famous for. A boat trip on Lake Ziway takes you to Great White Pelicans, Marabous, Hammerkop, Sacred Ibis, Yellow Billed Storks, and flamingos. Of course, hippos are a famous resident of the lake, and you’ll be able to see them bathing in the sun from the safety of your boat.

Of Lake Ziway’s five islands, Tulu Godo has a particularly rich history. After a 90-minute boat ride and a short walk through one of the three settlements on the island, you’ll arrive at the hilltop monastery Maryam Tsion. Supposedly set up by Christian refugees, it is said to have housed the Ark of the Covenant during the reign of Queen Yodit. Your guide will explain in more detail the fascinating stories surrounding this historic place.

After exploring the lake, continue the drive back to Addis to connect with your evening international flight home, or to spend the night before returning home the following day.

Brilliant says: it is easy to adjust the start/end of your adventure to line up with your international flights.

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