Discover Ethiopia's incredible wildlife and cultures!
- Cost: £2,450 per person for 16 days / 15 nights (all inclusive from start point to end point).
- Start Point: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
- End Point: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
- Dates: We are running this trip several times in 2018. Please email us for dates and availability. The best time to visit is July, August, September and October. Join one of our group tours during those months!
- Group Size: 6–10
- Bespoke Tour: If you do not wish to join a group tour, we can customise a private trip to fit your dates and interests. Please email us for details and a quote.
Forget EVERYTHING you think you know about Ethiopia!
Ethiopia is one of the biologically richest and most culturally diverse countries in the world. Home to snow-capped mountains, alpine meadows filled with exotic wildflowers, spectacular wildlife including baboons, ibex, hippos, crocodiles, hyenas, wolves and dozens of endemic birds, as well as perhaps the most vibrant historical heritage and intact tribal cultures on the entire African continent!
Ethiopia is safe to visit and extremely well organised (with excellent roads and regular, reliable flights between the country’s cities). The accommodation during this trip is comfortable and clean, and all sites on the itinerary are easy to visit (allowing participants of all ages and abilities to undertake this adventure).
The Redfern Team has spent three years developing this itinerary to offer you the chance to see the very best wildlife and cultural highlights of Ethiopia! This is one of our most exciting and diverse expedition ever!
If you enjoyed our Wildlife of Madagascar, Wildlife of Borneo Adventures or Wildlife of Namibia expeditions, and if you want somewhere new and unusual for a completely unique experience, Ethiopia is definitely the place for you!
Ethiopia really is unique. Charmingly, the country works to her own calendar system (it is still the year 2008). She has 13 months in the year, and a completely different system of time. Much of her architecture, food and landscapes seemingly belong to another planet. This will be an adventure that you will NEVER forget!
Day 1: Pick up at 9.00 am from your hotel in Addis Ababa or Bole international airport (we recommend that you arrive one day before the expedition begins). Addis Ababa lies in Ethiopia’s central highlands at an altitude of 2400m, making it the third highest capital in the world. The city is rich in monuments of colonial architecture and many of the best museums in Africa. We tour the highlights, starting with a visit to the National Museum of Ethiopia, which shelters Lucy and many other ancestral hominid remains. We can also visit the famous Ethnographic Museum and Entoto Mountain (with views over the city and ancient palaces). Other options (which we, as a group can chose) include Merkato, the largest open air market in Africa (a fascinating explosion of Ethiopian culture) or a half-day drive to the Tiya Stones (a series of prehistoric large stone pillars, many of which have carved shapes). Overnight in a local hotel and dinner in a local restaurant.
Day 2: We catch an early morning flight (approx 7.00 am) to Lalibela and spend the day exploring one of Africa’s greatest wonders - a series of ancient rock hewn churches carved below ground into the bedrock. Regardless of your interest in religion, the churches leave visitors in total awe and are regarded as one of the great wonders of the world. We explore the network of underground passages and chambers. Some of the churches date back 700 years or more and have spectacular paintings and artwork. Lalibela boasts 11 main rock-hewn churches divided into three groups. The depth of history is unbelievable. If we are lucky, we may witness an ancient ceremony of chanting priests. Overnight in a local hotel with an intimate frankincense and coffee ceremony (green coffee beans are roasted and ground by locals in traditional clothes). Dinner in a local restaurant.
Day 3: In the morning visit the church of Neakuto Leab and the monastry of Asheten Mariam, which are built in natural caves and home to incredible, 800 year old icons and ancient pictorial depictions of bible scenes. Around lunchtime, we transfer to the airport for a flight to Axum.
We have lunch, then explore Axum’s famous carved obelisks, the Queen of Sheba’s Bath (which supplies water to Axum year-round), King Bazen’s tomb, and the ruined Queen of Sheba’s Palace. We can also visit the St. Mary of Zion church, where the original Ark of the Covenant is still kept in a small chapel (according to local tradition). Overnight in a local hotel in Axum and dinner in a local restaurant.
Day 4: After breakfast, we transfer into vehicles and drive southward to Debark, our base for visiting the famous Simien Mountains National Park. The road takes us through the Simien Mountains Range, the biggest range in Africa and we pass some of the most spectacular landscapes in all of Africa. Along the way, we visit local villages, observe ancient farming activities, and (depending upon the day) attend colourful local markets (that often attract thousands of local people). Overnight in a local hotel in Debark and dinner in a local restaurant.
Day 5: Today we explore the amazing Simien Mountains National Park. We drive from Debark to approximately 4,000 m and along the way see jagged panoramas, spectacular landscapes, unique “afro-alpine” vegetation (with extremely diverse and colourful wildflowers), fascinating traditional local houses (thatched huts) and spectacular wildlife. We are virtually guaranteed to see troops of the gelada baboons (usually hundreds are seen during each visit), and we may see the Walia ibex and the rare Ethiopian wolf. We often see the bizarre thick billed raven and a plethora of other birdlife (we have a good chance to see Wahlberg’s, Verreaux’s and martial eagle, the African hawk eagle, the rufous-breasted sparrow-hawk, fox kestrel, Cape eagle owl, Abyssinian owl and black stork, as well as several species of vultures). We can visit a view point looking out on the spectacular, 500 m tall Jimbar Falls and explore bizarre forests of giant Lobelia trees.
The Simien Mountains really are one of the great wildlife locations in Africa! The Gelada baboons are perhaps the star of the show. troops of up to 800 individuals can be seen grazing the grassy meadows at around 3,000 m. if we approach quietly, we may sit and watch the baboons, and often the baboons approach us in search of grass (totally ignoring our presence), allowing for amazing photograph opportunities!
In the afternoon, we drive to Gondar, and stay overnight in a local hotel and dine in a local restaurant Along the way, we can visit Weleka, a Village founded and settled by the Felasha or the Black Jewish community who are believed to have immigrated from Israel and lived in Ethiopia for over a thousands of years.
Day 6: After breakfast, we explore tHe fascinating historic sites of Gondar. We can visit the Royal Compound, where enchanting 17th century castles stand, as well as Debre Berhan Selassie Church (home to ancient mural paintings) and the Bath of Emperor Fasilodas.
After lunch, we drive to Bahirdar for an overnight stay. Dinner in a local restaurant, overnight in a local hotel.
Day 7: In the morning, we embark on a boat for a trip on Lake Tana to explore some of the monasteries hidden on the shores and islands in the middle of the lake. Dating from the 13th and 14th centuries, these ancient monasteries are decorated with beautiful paintings depicting stories from religious books. We then cruise in our boat across Lake Tana. Hippos are regularly seen, along with a plethora of birds! The lake is a key location for birds migrating between Europe, Asia and Africa and more than 300 bird species have been recorded. Highlights include flocks of great white pelicans, the black-crowned crane, wattled crane, half-collared kingfisher, African Fish Eagles, the elusive yellow-fronted parrot, and the endemic white-throated seedeater.
After our trip on the lake, we drive south and trek about 1 km along an easy path to view the thundering Blue Nile Falls (approx 30 km south of its source). Along the way, we cross a picturesque 17th century stone bridge. In the afternoon, we return to Bahirdar for an evening flight to Addis Ababa. Dinner in a local restaurant, overnight in a local hotel.
Day 8: After breakfast, we drive to Arba Minch (Forty Springs), located at 1,300m in the foothills of the Rift Valley wall. The drive takes 7-8 hours with frequent stops and a lunch break. Along the way, we can visit villages of the Dorze people near Chencha. They are famous for their huge beehive huts which are among the most distinctive traditional structures to been seen anywhere in Africa. Every Dorze compound is surrounded by enset (false banana) and other crops. The Dorze produce the country’s best-woven cotton cloths. Overnight in a local hotel in Arba Minch and dinner in a local restaurant.
Day 9: After breakfast, we begin a boat trip on Lake Chamo for the chance to sight hippos and crocodiles at close range. Often large numbers of crocodiles can be viewed at a place known as “Azo-Gebeya” meaning Crocodile Market (this is one of Africa’s most impressive crocodile gatherings). After lunch, we stop at Karat town to visit the traditional villages of the Konso people. The Konso are a tribe renowned for their terraces built by human labour (and so scenic are their lands and ancient culture, that they have been registered by UNESCO as the 9th World Heritage Site of Ethiopia). We then drive to Jinka and overnight in a local restaurant and dine in a local restaurant.
Day 10: This morning we drive from to Mago National Park to visit the Mursi tribe. The Mursi are famed for their lip plates, earlobes and stick fights (called “Donga” - a form of initiation). After lunch, the drive will continue deeper into the Omo Valley to Turmi. Along the way, we can visit villages of the Benna tribe, and with luck, we may witness a Bull Jumping ceremony (an initiation of the Hamer tribe in which a man must run on the back of lines of cattle). We overnight in a local hotel and dine in a local restaurant.
Day 11: Today we visit the famous Omo River and villages of the Dassenech tribe. The Dassenech craft unique jewellery and decorations and we aim to have an intimate insight into traditional life in their villages. We can travel in one of their traditional canoes and enjoy the traditional way of crossing the Omo River. Afterwards, we continue the drive to Konso where we overnight in a local hotel and dine in a local restaurant.
Day 12: Today we leave the Omo Valley and drive to Hawassa. Along the way, we will visit the villages of the Halaba people and see their vast cattle herds waiting for water at wells, and we can stop by the Senkele Wildlife Sanctuary. The open acacia woodland of the reserve is quite scenic and some of the animals are easily spotted, especially the Swayne’s hartebeests (a spectacular species of antelope), the population of which is currently estimated at between 600 and 800. The sanctuary also harbours Bohor, reedbucks, greater kudus, orbis antelopes, spotted hyenas, serval and civet cats, caracals, warthogs, common jackals as well as 91 species of bird. We drive to Hawassa where we overnight in a local hotel and dine in a local restaurant.
Day 13: Early this morning, we drive to Dinsho, our base for visiting the Bale Mountains National Park. Along the way, we pass spectacular scenery through the provinces of Arsi and Bale. These highlands are renowned for the best production of wheat in Ethiopia. On reaching the Bale National Park, we take ample time to spot the most rare endemic animal; the Ethiopian wolf (Bale is our best chance to see this species during our trip (sightings are usually made here)). We may also see the endemic Menelik’s bushbuck, Bohor reedbuck, klipspringer, grey duiker, warthog, African golden wolf, spotted hyena, serval, colobus monkey, lion, leopard, and African wild dog. The Bale Mountains are home to at least 282 species of birds, including nine species endemic to Ethiopia and a further 170 migratory species. Ethiopian endemic birds found here include: blue-winged goose, spot-breasted lapwing, yellow-fronted parrot, Abyssinian longclaw, Abyssinian catbird, Bale parisoma, Ethiopian siskin, fawn-breasted waxbill and the Abyssinian owl. We have a good chance to see a wide diversity of Bale’s bird life, then we drive to Bale Goba, where we overnight in a local hotel and dine in a local restaurant.
Day 14: After breakfast, we proceed to the Awash National Park, which is also one of Ethiopia’s wildlife highlights. Here, we have a chance to see many large mammals, including Beisa oryx, Soemmering’s gazzelle, Salt’s dik-dik, lesser and greater kudu, Deffassa waterbuck, warthog, vervet monkey, colobus monkey, Hamadryas baboon, Anubis baboon and klipspringer. and some predators who can be seen only infrequently. The park is an excellent site for birdlife too, with over 453 species of native birds present, including North African ostriches. We overnight at the park in a local hotel and dine in a local restaurant.
Day 15: Today, we visit one of the most incredible historic sites in Ethiopia. We drive to the city of Harar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The drive takes us from the Rift Valley to the South East Highlands. Harar is an ancient walled city with a maze of old streets, bazaars and fascinating buildings. Exploring is like stepping back in time.
Besides the stone wall surrounding the city, the old town is home to 110 mosques and many more shrines, centered on Feres Magala square. Notable buildings include Medhane Alem Cathedral, the house of Ras Mekonnen, the house of Arthur Rimbaud, the sixteenth century Jami Mosque and historic Great Five Gates of Harar. One can also visit the ancient market.
Harar is a photographers dream. It is full of ancient charm and character, and it is one of the most interesting ancient cities of the world. It is actually the fourth holist Islamic center in the world next to Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem (and deserves as much attention as these cities).
In the evening, we take part in a local tradition. We visit the city walls where locals feed wild hyenas with bones and meat. We can sit on the ground with the locals and watch as the hyenas approach and take the food from their hands and mouths. It is an incredible experience to see the hyenas up close. We overnight in Harar, and have dinner in a local restaurant and sleep in a local hotel.
Day 16: Today, we proceed to Aweday, home to the largest open air market of Chat (Kat) in the world (and one of the most colorful markets in Ethiopia). We then drive to Drie Dawa, a big town born by the French built railway which connects Djibouti with Addis Ababa. If time permits, we visit the railway station built 100 years ago. This compound is full of old locomotives and cargos. After lunch, we fly back to Addis Ababa.
In the capital, we have the opportunity to spend the rest of the afternoon shopping in markets for souvenirs, or we can visit any of the museums and sites that we missed on Day 1.
In the evening, we enjoy a farewell dinner party with traditional special buffet and local drinks accompanied with a live cultural dance show from the different ethnic groups of Ethiopia. We then transfer for drop off either at your hotel (if you are staying longer in Ethiopia), or Bole international airport for departing flights.
This expedition begins in XYZ, which is served by various airlines including X, Y and Z. Flights can be easily booked through all major airline websites.
Adventure Rating: Relaxing
We can customise add on itineraries to Erta Ale and Dallol. To get a quote for any extensions, simply mention which extension(s) you are interested in when you apply to Join this Adventure!