Ethiopia has one of the highest concetrations of endemic birds and mammals of any African country. During this privately guided tour, you will have the chance to seek many of its 850+ species of birds, as well as a fair number of its unusual mammals which include some of the world's rarest species. In season, the country is also a excellent place in which to see vast numbers of passage migrants, on their way to or from Eurasia.
Please note that this tailor-made indiviual tour can be customized /adapted and extended for serious birders who wish to venture futher southwards to other birding sites such as Yabello which hold localised endemics such as Streseman' bush-crow, and also th Jemma Valley not too far from Addis Ababa, to seek the highly sought-after Harwood's francolin.
Depart from London Heathrow on the Ethiopian Airlines overnight flight to Addis Ababa.
Entoto National Park
On arrival, you will be met by your guide and driver and transfer to the Jupiter International Hotel for a 1 night stay with breakfast included.
After lunch in the hotel, you will be taken to the Entoto National Park in the hills overlooking the city. Between 2600 - 3200m above sea level, there are spectacular views. Entoto Park holds some 200 species in its diverse habitats (forest, bush, cultivated fields, grassy meadows, rocky slopes and cliffs, streams and marsh). Expect to see Wattled Ibis, Moorland Francolin, White-collared Pigeon, Black-winged Lovebird, White-cheeked Turaco, Mountain Nightjar, Banded Barbet, Abyssinian Woodpecker, Abyssinian Catbird, White-winged Cliff Chat, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, Brown Parisoma, White-backed Black Tit, Absyssinian Black-headed Oriole and White-billed Starling. The park also provides great opportunities to observe 5 species of vulture, including Lammergeyer can be seen. Various eagles and hawks are present, too.
Accommodation: Jupiter International Hotel
Travel south down the main Ethiopia Rift where you can look for birds along the main road, stopping off at Koka Dam and the Awash River and then at Lake Ziway for lunch. Continue to the lake shore where huge concentrations of waterbirds are often seen. Look out for African Pygmy Goose, Yellow-billed and Marabou Storks, Collared Pratincole, African and Lesser Jacanas, White Pelican, Fish Eagle and Black Crowned and Common Cranes, among others. Leave Ziway for Lake Langano.
Overnight at the Sabana Lodge, on the lake shore.
Shalla & Abiyata National Park
You will be taken to the Shalla & Abiyata National Park (SANP), west of the main road. Over 400 bird species were recorded here during the 1970s and 80s, but, by the 90s, the environment had become degraded by intense cultivation, overgrazing and bush clearance for charcoal. The soda ash plant on Lake Abiyata resulted in a fall in the water level, killing much of its fish life; nonetheless, Lake Abiyata remains a wetland of international importance.
You go to Shalla Lake, deepest of the Ethiopian Rift Valley lakes (270m in places). Four of the lake's nine islands support large numbers of breeding waterbirds. There are hot springs along the shores, some with water so hot that local people boil maize in them.
You continue to Abiyata Lake where thousands of Lesser and Greater Flamingos congregate along the shores. Other species usually seen include Avocet, Gull-billed Tern, Little Stint, Ruff and a variety of ducks including African Pochard.
The park's position at one of the narrowest sections of the Rift Valley makes it a major flyway for both Palaearctic and African migrants. You leave the park for the drive to Lake Awassa.
After lunch, explore the hotel's gardens and the lake shore. Fringed by mountains, Lake Awassa is one of Ethiopia's most beautiful lakes and supports a rich variety of birds. Along the shores and in the adjoining Black Forest, expect to see Saddlebill Stork, Malachite Kingfisher, Spurwinged Plover, Pygmy Goose, Brown Snake Eagle, Grey Kestrel, Green-backed Honeyguide, Blue-headed Coucal, Spotted Creeper, African Firefinch, Bruce's Green Pigeon, Red-breasted Wryneck, Bare-faced Go-away bird and endemics like Yellow-fronted Parrot, Black-winged Lovebird and Black-headed Forest Oriole. Hippos frequent the lake and Colobus and Vervet monkeys loiter in the garden.
Overnight at Lake Side Motel on the lake shore.
Bale Mountains National Park
Before breakfast, you visit the lakeside fish market for some great opportunities to photograph various birds accustomed to human company. After breakfast at the hotel, you will be taken to the Bale Mountains National Park, an area of diverse habitats, rich in endemic birds, mammals and plants. Bale holds the largest chunk of Afro-Alpine habitat in Africa, and the all-weather road that crosses the Sanetti Plateau is the highest on the continent.
Stop at Dinsho, HQ of the park for a picnic lunch. Spend some time exploring the area - the endemic Mountain Nyala is common here. Look also for the endemic Menelik's Bushbuck, Grey Duiker and Warthog. Exciting endemic birds here include the Spot-breasted Plover, Rouget's Rail, Thick-billed Raven, Blue-winged Goose, Abyssinian Longclaw, White-collared Pigeon and Black-winged Lovebird.
Dinsho has no tourist class hotels so unless visitors are prepared to camp or share space at the park barracks accommodation, you will be taken to Goba to overnight in the Goba Wabi Shabelle Hotel for a 3 night stay.
Upgrading to Bale Mountains Lodge is possible from £240 per person per night - ask us for details.
Full day excursion to the 4000m Sanetti Plateau, with its striking Afro-Alpine flora, such as the Giant Lobelia. This is the best place in which to see the Simien Wolf, rarest canid in all the world. The huge rodent population, which includes the robust Giant Mole-rat, supports an impressive variety and number of raptors. The globally endangered Wattled Crane is often seen up here, as is the endemic Spot-breasted lapwing /plover. You will be able to drive all the way to the top of the 4377m Tullu Dimtu, second highest mountain in Ethiopia.
Re-cross the Sanetti Plateau and descend the dramatic escarpment to the Harenna Forest. This beautiful forest supports a very Afro-tropical evergreen forest avifauna including the likes of African Cuckoo-hawk, the endemic Yellow-fronted Parrot and the Brown-backed Honeyguide. Mammals include Giant Forest hog, Grey Duiker, Colobus Monkey and leopard, although visitors are less likely to see the latter.
Travel back to the Lakes region via Dinsho. Arrive at Wondo Genet mid afternoon.
Wondo Genet is a hot spring resort with a naturally heated open-air pool, set among forested hills. The springs are said to have curative properties and the Emperor Haile Selassie had a lodge here, now part of the hotel. In the gardens of the hotel, look for Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, White-cheeked Turaco and Yellow-fronted Parrot, among others. Before dinner, you will be taken to explore the Juniper forest behind the hotel, which hold Black-headed Forest Oriole, Golden-backed Woodpecker, Redwing Starling, Grosbeak Weaver, Mountain Wagtail and Black-rough-wing Swallow. Mammals include Colobus monkey, Anubis baboon and bushbuck.
Overnight at the Wondo Genet Lodge.
Awash National Park
Travel via Addis towards Awash. You pass Lake Beseka, which has expanded over the last decade, requiring the Djibouti-Addis Ababa railway line to be raised on several occasions. Continue past the entrance to Awash National Park towards Assab and the lodge at Bilen. Outside the park, this habitat contains grassland, savannah and wetlands. Over 460 species of bird have been recorded here, including the amazing Abyssinian Ground hornbill and the extremely localised endemic White-tailed Swallow, plus Buff-crested, Kori and Arabian Bustards; Dark Chanting Goshawk, Pygmy Falcon, Woodland Kingfisher, White-crowned and Rosy-patch Shrikes, Carmine Bee-eater and Lilac Breasted and Abyssinian Rollers. It is a good site for Lappet-faced and Ruppell's vultures. Expect to see a mammals like Greater and Lesser Kudu, Warthog, Dik Dik, Gerenuk, Menelik's Bushbuck, Soemmering gazelle, Hamadryas baboon and with luck, Lions.
Spend 2 nights at the Awash Falls Lodge, located inside the Awash National Park.
Birding in the different habitats around Bilen: plains, cliffs, wetlands and riverine forest at the Awash. Adventurous travellers may arrange some camel trekking - birding from a camel allows one to get closer to many birds and mammals. The Afar community, with whom our local representatives work for local development, provides another focus of interest. At the end of the day, you can freshen up at the large hot spring near the lodge.
Return to Addis Ababa, with several birding stops and lunch at Nazret. Arrive in the late afternoon.
Overnight in the Jupiter International Hotel with breakfast included. (If your homeward flight departs after midnight, you will have use of a day room in the hotel and you will be transferred to the airport in the late evening for the Ethiopian Airlines check-in).
You will be collected from your hotel and driven to the airport for the Ethiopian Airlines flight back to London