Geography of the lake

Lake Ziway is the largest of the northern Rift Valley lakes, with a surface area of over440 square kilometres.

Dotted along the lake a range of islands, all varying in size, can be found.

One of the most famous is Tulu Gudo, the largest island and is famed for once acting as the hiding place of the Ark of the Convenant, Gudo’s Maryan Tsion monastery boasts a number of manuscripts dating back over 1,000 years.

Lake Ziway

The Ark of the Covenant

Despite featuring in multiple Hollywood blockbusters, the truth behind the Ark of the Covenant is steeped in a thick layer of mystery, thicker than the hippos living upon the island's shore. According to local folklore, a distant king summoned the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon to show the power of the ark. After seeing it’s destructive powers, they agreed to keep it as far away from humans hands as possible. The location chosen was the Island of Tulu Gudo was chosen, and there it was laid to rest for over 70 years, before it was finally transferred to Axum.

You can still see the very place it was held; a modest small tomb, with a small indentation where the Ark was kept. The monastery still treasures over 80 manuscripts and countless relics,some dating back well over 1000 years, which are said to have accompanied the Ark on its long journey to the island.

Lake Ziway, Ethiopia


Peaking above the shimmering surface, shy grey hippos often retreat to the lake to cool off, and can be seen splashing in the waves on the various boat trips through the area.

Fishermen trawl the waters in search for tilapia fish, a local delicacy found amongst the wide  variety of aquatic life swimming deep within the lake.

On dry land, indigenous bird species nest upon the lakes various islands, shoreline, and neighbouring forests, some the more popular include brightly feathered Yellow Fronted Parrot, almost luminous Black-winged Lovebird, and Thick-billed Raven.

Other more reclusive animals include the Sacred Ibis and Hammer Kop.

Lake Ziway, Ethiopia

Things to do

Once thought of as a stop gap for tours through the National Park, the lakes scenic location and retaliative lack of tourists, has attracted a range of lodges and hotels, offering boat trips, water sports activities and nature walks, all with excellent amenities, making it one of Ethiopia's emerging travel destinations. 

Lake Ziway, Ethiopia