Ethiopia Wildlife Tours at a glance
Ethiopia is not your typical wildlife destination. Unlike the safari drives and quintessential safari experiences that might come to mind when you think East Africa, Ethiopia's wildlife experiences are about rarity, and biodiversity.
Ethiopia has an incredible number of endemic species, and many of these animals have gone on to iconify the regions in which they live. The bleeding heart monkey in the Simien Mountains, for example, has become the symbol of the Simien Mountains - and the love people have for these animals is an important motivator for continued conservation efforts.
Similarly, in the south, the Ethiopian Wolf patrols the Sanetti Plateau of the Bale Mountains. The Ethiopia Wolf is the rarest canid in the world, found only in Ethiopia.
Beyond these endemics, along a journey in Ethiopia you'll find hippos, crocs, flamingos, warthogs, hyenas, ostrich, monkeys, ibex, and even lions, leopards, buffalo, elephant and giraffe (if you're lucky).
The Monster Crocs of Lake Chamo
Simmering just below the surface, the green-scaled primeval crocodiles have thrived in the various lakes around the Rift Valley for centuries. Years unrestricted, unmoderated growth allowed these prehistoric killing machines to flourish, with reports of many growing up to 19 feet long.
However, of the lakes in the Valley, they are by far most active in Lake Chamo. According to the SCI trophy records, the top four largest crocodiles ever caught were found within these waters. Its northern shores of the lake fall within Nechisar National Park, known for its large herds of zebra which attract huge groups of the crocodiles, this shore is known as the crocodile market.
Nearby the park lies Arba Minch, home to Ethiopia’s first and only crocodile ranch. The ranch, run by the government, is reliant on the crocodiles of Lake Chamo for hatchling collection. Open to visitors throughout the year, this hatchery is the perfect place to learn more about these fascinating creatures, as old as time.
The Wolves & Baboons of Ethiopia’s Highlands
Found most commonly in the Simien Mountains, troops of curious Gelada baboons can often be seen foraging amongst the grasses, in search of nuts and fruit. Only found within the foothills of the mountain, tours of the area often cross paths with these friendly primates.
Continuing the odyssey, travel south in search of Walia Ibex in the Chenek area of the park, an extremely rare mammal only found within this area. A shy creature that prefers to stay well away from prying eyes.
Bird Watching in Ethiopia
Ethiopia's location along many of the migratory bird routes across Africa means that, at the right time, Ethiopia is one of the best bird watching destinations in the world.
From tracking down the endemic Harwood Francolin in the Jemma Valley to waiting for flocks of Ankober Seriens to fly up across the white cliffs that overlook the Danakil desert, every inch of Ethiopia’s clear blue skies has the potential to surprise.
Some of the most popular spots to bird watch in the country are around the Bale Mountains, the Rift Valley, and Lake Tana - but there are countless others to choose from. The Bale Mountains are home to the shy, seldom-seen Abyssinian Long-eared Owl. When seen, these dazzlingly beautiful birds are usually interweaving between the towering juniper trees.
Across Ethiopia countless lakes, flamingos often settle in search of fresh feeding lands. Most commonly seen on Lake Abijatta, they have been known to congregate in the thousands upon these waters, making it one of the few places in the world where they meet in such large numbers.
Hippos in the Rift Valley Lakes
The Rift Valley lakes are a chain of lakes in the East African Rift intersecting most of eastern Africa, cutting across Ethiopia in the north to Malawi.
Known as some of the world's oldest and deepest lakes, the wildlife sighting opportunities along the Great Ethiopian Rift are plentiful.
Home to countless species, none are more visible than the grey hippos often seen semi-submerged in water. Poking their Shrek-like ears just above the surface or basking in the ever-present sun, these gentle giants are known to be some of the most active creatures across the lakes.
Hyenas in Harar
In the medieval walled city of Harar in eastern Ethiopia, humans and hyenas have developed unusual codependency.
Written records indicate that spotted hyenas have been present in the walled Ethiopian city of Harar for at least 500 years, where they sanitise the city by feeding on its organic refuse. Local legends speak of stories involving long, bloody feuds between humans and hyenas, during a harsh famine. Desperate to stop the hungry hyenas raiding the city, a group of elders began to feed the animals a thick, buttery porridge.
The anniversary of this pact is celebrated every year on the Day of Ashura when the hyenas are provided with porridge prepared with pure butter. A prophetical affair, the manner in which the Hyenas approach and eat the porridge dictates the fortunes of the following year. If the bowl is left full, locals often increase their offerings, in an attempt to avert famine or pestilence.
The practice of regularly feeding these animals did not begin until the 1960s, when the first Hyena man began leaving food out for the animals to stop them eating his chickens. Since then, a lineage of men has taken the mantel and often feed the Hyenas, communicating "hyena dialect", a mixture of English and Oromo. The hyena men feed the hyenas by mouth, using pieces of raw meat provided by spectators.
Wildlife of Gambella
Straddling the Sudanese border, the Gambella National Park is home to one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in Ethiopia.
The months between April and October tend to see the most rainfall, making November to March the best time to visit. Dividing the sparse swamps, savannah landscapes dominate the park, spreading as far as the eye can see. A range of animals can be found living amongst the thinning grass, including the majority of the big 5 game animals; Buffalo, Elephants, Giraffes, and Lions.
There are no easy access routes to Gambella, and those that travel here have to fly in by charter flight, and stay overnight in exclusive frontier camps. You can learn more about this on our Luxury Adventures page.
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