15 days in search of Ethiopia's birds and mammals
Sunday 20th October - Sunday 3rd November 2013
Ethiopia is situated in the north-eastern Africa and is predominantly a mountainous country. It has the amazing 830 bird species of which at least are 30 endemic (some are shared with its neighbor Eritrea). There is also a great diversity of mammals and other wildlife – main one we will look for is the endangered Ethiopian Wolf. Our tour will coincide with the bird migration period so besides seeing over a four hundred birds species many of them shall be in considerable numbers too.
We will be visiting various habitats in order to record all this variety – the remote and beautiful Bale Mountains, the Rift Valley, one of the most impressive caves in the world – the Sof Omar cave system and many more.
Arrival in Addis Ababa and transfer to a hotel for a two nights stay. Around it we can find many birds – Ruppell's and Hooded vultures, as well as the peculiar endemic Thick-billed Raven, also Brown-rumped Seed-eater, Grey-headed Sparrow, Baglafecht's Weaver, Dusky Flycatcher, Africa Rock Martin, Tacazze Sunbird, Red-eyed and Dusky Turtle doves, Wattled Ibis and White-collared Pigeon.
Drive on to a gorge carved deeply by a tributary of the Blue Nile, where we will explore the forested escarpment above the monastery of Debre Libanos. Here we will look for the endemic Rappel’s chat, then walk along the gorge till we reach a good picnic spot with a spectacular view where Lammergeyers, Rappel’s Griffons, Lanner Falcons, Fan-tailed Ravens and Black Kites soar. Here we can also find the endemic White-billed Starling. Lower down, we will look for the splendid Gelada Baboon, found in no other part of the world, and the endemic White-winged Clift Chat.
Today we will drive to Langano, one of the Rift Valley lakes, surrounded by arid acacia savanna. En route birding at Chelelka Marsh and Lake Hora for White-backed and Maccoa ducks and latter at Lake Ziway for Black Heron, African Pygmy Goose, Lesser Moorhen, Lesser Jacana and many more.In the late evening we will look for Slender-tailed Nightjar.Overnight at Sabanna beach resort.
Today we set off to Bale Mountain, an area of high altitude plateau, with volcanic crags and lakes, forests, alpine moor land, trout filled streams and a striking variety of fauna and flora. Over 60 species of mammals and 260 birds have been recored here – Blue-winged Goose, Rouget’s Rail, Spot-breasted Lapwing, White-collared Pigeon. At higher elevation and the foothills of the national park several endemic mammals occur, including the Mountain Nyala, Simien Wolf and Menelik’s Bushbuck, as well as 16 endemic bird species have been recorded. Two nights at Goba.
Today’s drive will take you to the Afro-Alpine grasslands of the Sanetti plateau. It is eau is cited as the world’s largest expanse of Afro–Alpine moorland, a habitat confined to altitudes of 3,500m to 4,500 m on east Africa’s tallest mountains. Here we will find the endemic Ethiopian Wolf and the Giant Mole rat and walking on the plateau will enjoying the awe-inspiring landscape and its’ birds Wattled Crane, Golden Eagle, Abyssinian siskin and many more.
Afternoon transfer to Harenna Escarpment - quite amazing scenery and the most extensive and intact forest in Ethiopia. Here we will look for Mountain Buzzard, Abyssinian Crimson-wing, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler as well as flocks of migrating European Bee-eaters.
After an early departure and drive through a low valley filled with thorn trees and funnels of termite hills, we will come across one of the most spectacular and extensive underground caverns in the world – the Sof Omar cave system. Formed by the Web River as it changed its course in the distant past and carved a new channel through lime stone foot hills, the Sof Omar system is an extraordinary natural phenomena of breathtaking beauty. Birding around shall provide the endemic Salvador’s Serine Brown-tailed Rock-chat and Bristle-crowned Starling.
Today we will have a long journey as we will drive to Negele by crossing Sanetti plateau. We will of course break the journey with several stops and our main target today will be the Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco, also a Gray-headed Kingfisher. Stay overnight for two nights.
Birding in the area as we will visit Wadera and the Liben Plains in search of Coqui Francolin – a rare and localized bird in Ethiopia. Its powers of concealment rival those of the Sidamo Lark. At dusk the savanna will come alive with starlings and we can see flocks comprised of at least three species streaming overhead.
Between Negele and Yabello lies a rugged swatch of savanna punctuated by the slightly lush vegetation of the Dawa River valley. En route we shall encounter flocks of Magpie Starlings, White-winged Dove, Black-bellied Sunbird and Salvadori’s Weaver, Bare-eyed Thrushes and eventually we may be lucky to spot a male Black Cuckoo Shrike.
As we approach Yabello we will enter the area of two of Ethiopia’s most sought-after species: the Stresemann’s Bush-crow and the White-tailed Swallow. First we expect to see a small flock of Bush-crows and as we move closer to Yabello - small group of White-tailed swallows – the last sighting of an excellent day in the wilds of southern Ethiopia. Two nights at Yabello.
Today we will drive to Mega where we will see many species including Red-napped Bush-Shrikes, D’Arnaud’s Barbet, Rufous Chatterer, White-bellied Canary, White-tailed swallows and Shelley’s Rufous Sparrow. We may also have a night drive which will reveal large numbers of Donaldson-Smith’s nightjars and several African Scops Owls.
Drive to Arba Minch with a stop at a large local lake that holds Black Egret, White-headed Vulture, and African Cuckoo-Hawk. Arba Minch (Forty Springs) is the largest town in Southern Region of Ethiopia. Enjoy the boat trip Over Lake Chamo which offers the chance to see hippos and crocodiles at a close range. Two nights stay.
Visit to the Nech Sar (White grass) National Park in which 342 bird species have been recorded.
Drive to Lake Awassa where amongst the lilies and great reed beds that encompass the lake we will find Black, Goliath and other herons and egrets, Marabou Stork, Hamerkops, Hadada Ibis, Dainty Pygmy Geese, Fulvous and White-faced Whistling Duck, Knob-billed Duck, Black Crakes, African Jacans, Three-banded plovers; Pied, Malachite, Grey-headed and Woodland kingfishers; Red-breasted Wrynecks, Green Wood-hoopoes, Sulphur-breasted Bush Shrinkes, White-browed Robin-chats, African Thrushes, Rufous Chatters, Swamp Warblers, Red-faced crombeces, Wattle-eyes, Puffbacks, Spoted Creepers and many other. Two nights in Awassa.
Explore the lake again and visit the Sidamo fisherman as they land their catches of tilapia and catfish and fillet them by the lake. Here the air is alive with birds, their relationship with these fishermen being entirely harmonious.
Long drive to Addis Ababa airport, with several stops on the way, where we take our return flight home.
Ethiopian roads are good to poor and most transfers will take few good hours. Accommodation varies from good to basic. Food is also good but outside of Addis Ababa the variety of choices is not great. Some of the days – in the Bale Mountains and around Addis Ababa we will be at altitude of over 2,000 meters above the sea level. Terrain will be uneven on many sites so good walking boots are recommended.