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Ethiopian Rift Valley Safaris
P.O. Box 3658, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Ethiopia is famous for having the most unparalleled riches and historical legacy in Sub-Saharan Africa. Referring to the classic historic travel circuit followed to the north and east, one commonly visits 5 key destinations: Axum, Lalibela, Gondar, Bahir Dar and Harar.
Daily scheduled Ethiopian Airlines flights on Fokker 50 aircraft make these cities conveniently accessible.
Excursions to be taken in a variety of directions from each destination only serve to enhance the historic, mystical allure.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church comes in the forefront of this aspect with its priceless treasures and relics: old parchments, manuscripts, paintings, chalices, crosses and icons. Annual Church festivals are very colorful and without doubt provide an exhilarating spiritual experience. They are heavily attended by not only foreign visitors and film crews, but by enthusiastic national pilgrims. If the intention is to experience the magnificent rock churches in a more private, serene manner (yours being the only pair of shoes outside each church and having full attention of the priest) then it is wise to come on a different occasion. The Islamic religion widely followed by more than a third of the country's population and has it's certain events and holy days that are observed annually.
CULTURAL, ETHNIC ETHIOPIA
Each part of the country has it's own distinct cultural interest but the southern route is famous for it's remote ethnic group experience. Interaction with the people is a highlight, and consensus is that Ethiopia offers a positively authentic experience, as compared to other countries. For the privilege of taking a photograph of an individual, monetary compensation is expected almost everywhere. The weekly markets are a must, so one or more of these are worked into the itinerary where they fit most conveniently. At the Southern markets there is not a great deal of variety in what is available to purchase (eg handicrafts, commodities.) Rather, these venues serve as grand gatherings where differences among the people groups can be noticed. Given the restricted geographical location of these groups that number more than 11 (excluding the dialects,) this possibly forms the largest heterogeneous ethnic diversity in the whole of Africa.
NATURAL, SCENIC ETHIOPIA
Suitably dubbed as "The Roof of Africa," Ethiopia's topography is wonderful everywhere. Outside Bahir Dar is the impressive Blue Nile Falls. Outside Gondar is the magnificent Simien Mountain range. The Rift Valley has its beautifully scenic lakes. The Bale Mountains has richly dense highland forest. The southern corner of Ethiopia has one of the least affected and unspoiled wilderness areas remaining on the Continent. Outside of Harar in the East, are intriguing natural rock formations. Ethiopia is so extremely scenic that it is difficult to limit the scope and magnitude of the term. This is a land of contrasts, having one of the hottest AND lowest places on Earth, as well as the highest stretch of moorland on the Continent. The country's vast, green terrain and obvious abundance of natural resources, often catch first-time visitors by surprise.
WILD, ENDEMIC ETHIOPIA
The list is extensive and the wildlife habitat diverse, ranging from plains, to forests, to mountaintops. Isolated for millennia, the Ethiopian highlands have evolved and sheltered some of the rarest animals in the world including many endemic species: 31 of 277 mammals; 24 of 63 amphibians; 9 of 210 reptile; and 4 of 150 fish. Even so, Ethiopia should not be thought of as a wildlife-viewing destination to be compared with other countries in Africa. Rather, it is totally unique in it's natural habitat and wildlife population. It is possible to structure programs concentrating on species found only in Ethiopia. Inhabiting the Simien Mountains of the northern highlands are endemic species: Ethiopian wolf, rarest canid in the world, walia ibex and gelada baboon. In the Bale Mountains, endemic fauna include: Ethiopian wolf, mountain nyala, Menelik bushbuck and a number of birds, most relatively easy to spot. Slightly further South lives the Swayne's hartebeest. Although there are numerous other species to be seen in the South, this is a vast wilderness area without fences so the list of species to be noted on a given day cannot be guaranteed. In our programs we suggest an extra day or two at Murulle Omo Lodge, which is the natural turn-around point on the Southern route. It is then we can dedicate a morning or afternoon to serious wildlife-viewing and birdwatching. We can abandon the covered 4WD for this specific event and instead make use of open safari vehicles which provide a much desired feeling "to be one with nature." A tracker may be arranged to accompany so opportunities for spotting animals are enhanced, but generally a long camera lens is necessary for photography.
BIRDWATCHING - Having one of the richest ecosystems on the planet, Ethiopia displays an impressive array of endemic species that include 16 of 861 birds. There are varieties of birds at every turn of the head, which makes a birding program in Ethiopia an ultimate pleasure.
FLORA - The flora count is extremely interesting in that at least 1000 of the 7000 plant species are restricted to Ethiopia.
BUTTERFLIES - For entomology enthusiasts, 324 butterflies are recognized of which 7 are said to be endemic.
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