The 2400 sq km Bale Mountains National Park, 400 km south of Addis Ababa, is the largest area of Afro-alpine habitat in the whole of Africa. It is the best place to see Ethiopia's endemic mammals and birds and offers unbeatable mountain walking. Bale Mountain is a region of high-altitude plateau formed of old volcanic rocks and broken by dramatic volcanic plugs and peaks, limpid alpine lakes, and rivers and streams that have cut dramatic gorges over the millenia - an area of outstanding scenery.
Divided by the spectacular Harenna escarpment, Bale National Park contains a rich diversity of habitat, the result of the great variations in altitude and topography. Habitats include juniper and Hagenia woods around Dinsho and Goba, the bleak Sanetti Plateau for Afro-alpine moorlands and alpine meadows seasonally coloured with abundant wildflowers.
Among the endemic mammals present are Mountain Nyala and Simien or Ethiopian Wolf (the world's rarest canid). A visit to Gaysay or the Sanetti Plateau should ensure sightings of both these mammals. Other endemics are Menelik's Bushbuck and the Giant mole-rat. Serval, golden jackal and white-tailed mongoose are among the carnivores inhabiting the area. Three species of monkey may also be seen.
Bale National Park holds at least 14 of Ethiopia's endemic birds. Forest-dwelling endemic birds include Yellow-fronted parrot, Abyssinian catbird, Banded barbet and Abyssinian woodpecker. Up in the Sanetti moorlands are Blue-winged goose, Rouget's rail and Spotbreasted lapwing.The latter are easy to see during the standard excursions crossing the plateau on Africa's highest-lying road.
Bale Mountains National Park is a full day's drive south of Addis Ababa. There is accommodation at Goba. One of the halfway stops we use en route to Bale is Sodere, known for its hot springs at the Awash River.
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