Top 10 reasons to visit the Bale Mountains
1. The Ethiopian Wolf
The Bale Mountains are the best place in Ethiopia to spot the majestic and enigmatic Ethiopian Wolf, which is sadly an endangered species due to the expansion of agriculture in the country, with less than 400 surviving in the wild. The wolf is endemic to Ethiopia, so found nowhere else in the world.
Approximately the same size as a coyote, this rare animal’s red and white fur coat and narrow, elongated face give it a very distinctive appearance. They can often be seen in the early morning patrolling the grassy plains of the Sanetti Plateau, alone or in a pack, looking for giant mole-rats to hunt.
2. Amazing Wildlife
African gold wolves, spotted hyenas, black-maned lions, olive baboons, colobus and bale monkeys, honey badgers, warthogs, nyala… these are just some of the incredible, and often endangered, species that can be seen in what is one of Ethiopia’s greatest wildlife destinations.
What’s more, thanks to the large population of rodents, the Bale Mountains is host to 283 of Ethiopia’s 860 species of bird, making it one of the best bird-watching spots in the world. Yellow-fronted parrots, black-winged lovebirds, Abyssinian catbirds, Rouget’s rails and Spot-breasted plovers are among the beautiful birds that can be seen in the park.
3. Stunning Rock Formations
The Bale Mountains were formed by volcanic eruptions, and the area consists of six volcanic cones that are all more than 4,000m high. Erosion by ice, water and wind has created the fascinating geological formations that can be seen in the park today.
The most intriguing formations are located in the ‘stone forest’ near to Rafu camp, which consists of a surreal collection of basalt pipes and granite boulders. The landscape here is quite otherworldly, and makes for some amazing photos!
4. Mountaintop Vistas
Unsurprisingly for such a mountainous area, there are some pretty spectacular views to be found in the park. A panorama of grassy plains and pyramid mountains can be seen from Mount Waaswma, while the hike up Ethiopia’s second-highest mountain, Mount Tuludimtu, is worth the effort for the truly mind-blowing 360-degree vista of the entire national park that can be taken in from the top (depending on the cloud coverage).
5. Beautiful Flora
Due to its varying altitudes, the Bale Mountain National Park has a wide variety of flora, with around 1,321 species of flowering plants, of which 14% are native to Bale alone.
The Helichrysum (‘everlasting’) flowers are the park’s most prominent, and make for a beautiful yellow backdrop to the park’s incredible wildlife. The southern part of the park is covered with wild forest coffee and medicinal plants like the hagenia, used to treat tapeworms among the local population.
6. Trekking Routes
Bale Mountains National Park has enough variety in the length and difficulty of its spectacular trekking routes to keep anyone from Sunday strollers to hardcore hikers happy.
The Mount Tulu Dimtu trek, which encompasses the Sanetti Plateau where the Ethiopian Wolves are to be spotted, is a challenging but particularly rewarding trek. A road leads in towards the Tulu Dimtu, so you don't need to trek the entire peak. You can even hitch a ride all the way to the summit!
7. Multi-day Adventures
If you want more than an introduction to the Bale Mountains and have an affinity for adventure, consider a multi-day trek in the park. You’ll get to traverse everything from thick jungle teeming with wildlife to craggy peaks, increasing your chances of spotting more of the park's animal species. You can even track forest hogs and lion with the help of specialist local guides, or take to horseback to give your legs a rest!
Most travellers choose to base themselves at the Bale Mountain Lodge, but those that choose to camp will be rewarded with a true wilderness experience, and the park (most likely) all to yourself.
8. The Starry Night Sky
With absolutely no light pollution, the night sky in this part of the country is stunning. Whether from the veranda at your lodge or around the campfire, looking up at the sky alight with thousands of stars shining and flickering is a wonderful experience. These are the moments you remember forever, chatting with your guides over a Saint George beer (recommended) surrounded by nothing but nature for miles around.
9. Bale Mountains Lodge
If camping isn’t for you, the Bale Mountain Lodge is the best alternative for those that want to adventure without sacrificing creature comforts. Tucked away in a remote part of Bale Mountains National Park, this charming lodge’s aesthetic, service, and character make it one of the best lodges in the country.
The cosy, well-designed rooms all have a wood-burning stove and an ensuite bathroom, as well as a balcony. The eco-friendly design of the lodge means the rooms blend seamlessly into the forest and are accessed through a maze of winding pathways.
10. Waterfalls and the Harenna Forest
The beautiful Harenna forest has two waterfalls located very near one another. They can be reached in around an hour from the park’s sub-HQ just south of the Bale Mountains Lodge. If you're coming directly from the lodge, it is a 5-6 hour trek, but gravel roads that run the park mean you can take sorties down to the forest and get out and hike from there.
One of the waterfalls has a pool at the bottom, whose cool, clean water is perfect for a dip! While in the Harenna forest, keep your eyes peeled for Colobus and Bale monkeys, as well as the numerous colourful bird species found here.
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