Ethiopia Safari in Context
When you think of safari in East Africa, you probably imagine vast savannah plains, open-top jeeps and elephants, giraffes, and big cats just a few hundred feet away. This is the quintessential Africa safari experience, and the reason thousands flock to the Maasai Mara and the Serengeti every year.
While there are fantastic wildlife experiences to be had in Ethiopia, for the most part, they don’t fit this typical safari mould.
You won’t find big cats, elephants and giraffes roaming the grasslands of Ethiopia (unless you're in a few very specific regions at the right time). What you will find is troops of Gelada Monkeys playing in the Simien Mountains, the endemic Ethiopian Wolf patrolling the Sanetti Plateau in the Bale Mountains, and charming, lo-fi wildlife experiences all across the country - crocodiles and hippos in the shallows as you explore the monasteries on Lake Tana, raptors soaring in the thermals of the Simiens, and hungry Hyenas outside the ancient walls of Harar.
Ethiopia Safari Experiences
These destinations have great wildlife densities with high chances of sightings.
While these are the best wildlife destination in the country, you’ll find charming wildlife encounters all over the country on your journey across Ethiopia.
Simien Mountains Safari
The Gelada Monkeys is the symbol of the Simien Mountains. Endemic to Ethiopia, these monkeys are known as ‘bleeding heart monkeys’ due to the distinct heart-shaped print on their chests. The Gelada’s in the Simiens are accustomed to humans, so you can stand amongst them as they roam and play around the plateaus.
Near the Chennek campsite in the Simiens, you have the best chances of spotting the Walia Ibex - another endemic species to Ethiopia. Walia Ibex are a threatened species, with population numbers only in the hundreds. Unlike the Gelada Monkeys, you have to be lucky to spot these beasts roaming the mountains (and it helps if you’re visiting on a clear day!).
Alongside the Gelada and Walia, the Simiens are home to a variety of birdlife, including raptors, Lammergeyer, and thick-billed ravens. The elusive and endemic Ethiopian Wolf also roams these highlands, but sightings in the Simiens are very rare.
Bale Mountains Safari
The Bale Mountains is the best place to find the Ethiopian Wolf, an endemic canid that is best found in the Sanetti Plateau at 4000 metres in the Bale Mountains. Sightings here are quite common, but of course never guaranteed.
The Bale Mountains are one of Ethiopia’s best wildlife destinations in terms of accessibility and wildlife densities. You’ll find baboons, Bale and Colobus monkeys, chameleons and warthogs.
Lions, hyenas and leopards also roam the forests, but sightings are extremely rare.
Gambella National Park
On the western edge of Ethiopia, Gambella has the highest concentrations of wildlife anywhere in Ethiopia, but due to poor management over the years, the park is rarely visited due to limited access routes and lodging options. Those that visit Gambella will be rewarded by a true wild Africa experience.
Gambella is famous for its huge antelope and buffalo migrations. Elephants, lions, giraffes, cheetahs, leopards and many other safari favourites can be found here. Birdlife in the park is also plentiful.
If you’re visiting Gambella, you will stay in tented camps run by specialist operators. Gambella can only be accessed via charter flight, which means costs are much higher than other national parks in the country.
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