Ethiopia is one of Africa’s most productive birding destinations.
Numerous endemics, a rich assemblage of forest and savanna species and an influx of Palaearctic migrants all add up to a truly bird-filled tour Over 850 species have been recorded in this country.
Fascinating cultures, both traditional and Christian, and friendly people ensure an enjoyable experience. Ethiopia is also one of Africa’s most rewarding photographic destinations.
Ethiopia has the second highest count of endemics on the continent. Depending on whose taxonomy you follow there are at least 30 endemics.
Sinclair & Ryan’s new treatment of Africa’s birds, however, suggest that the Ethiopian highlands region may hold up to 49 endemics, with another 100 species restricted to the North-east Arid Zone.
Most of Ethiopia’s endemics will be seen on our 14 day tour to the country, including the bold Rouget’s Rail, striking Spot-breasted Lapwing, monstrous Thick-billed Raven, and exquisite White-cheeked Turacos.
The southern extension will add the spectacular Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco and the most sought after of the endemics, the curious Stressman’s Bush Crow.
- Bale Mountains
- Debre Libanos
- Lakes Langano
- Wondo Genet
- Addis Ababa
The proposal trip will take a minimum of 13 days but we can organize a 10 days trip. You will see during the 10 days trip most of endemic birds and other bird species.
The best season for birdwatching is from the beginning of September up to February. Between November and February, migrants birds raise the bird population and widen species as well.
Day 1. Addis Ababa
Arrive at Bole International Airport (Addis Ababa) and transfer to the Hotel.
If possible city tour (depending on the time arrival of your flight). If you arrive early morning, your first visit in Addis Ababa will be the National Museum. It houses numerous antiquarian relics and archaeological artifacts (most famous exhibit is the 3.5 million year old skeleton of Lucy).
Then you will continue to visit Mount Entoto (3 200 m above sea level. The Church of St Mary (1885) and Emperor Menelik II Palace. The Entoto Museum, with its historical exhibits is well worth a visit. Lunch at Restaurant.
After lunch you will visit Trinity Cathedral. It was constructed by Emperor Haile Selassie in 1947 (ornamented with carvings and mosaic and other artistic works such as paintings of saints and the apostles on the stained glass) and visit Merkato, the largest open market in Africa. In the evening, you will have dinner at the hotel or external restaurant and you will rest.
O/N stay in Hotel.
Day 2. Addis Ababa – Debre Libanos – Addis Ababa (B-L-D)
Climbing over the Entotto Mountains will reveal wonderful views of Addis below. The mosaic of highland pastures, meadows, ripe grain fields, seeps and channels intermingled with a smattering of idyllic Ethiopian hamlets set the scene.
Crossing the colorful Sululta Plains we’ll search for Wattled and Sacred Ibis, Lammergeier, Common Crane, Black-winged Plover, Erlanger’s Lark (Ethiopian endemic split from Red-capped), Thekla Lark, Abyssinian Longclaw, White-collared Pigeon, Red-rumped Swallow, Moorland Chat, Red-collared Widowbird and Abyssinian Siskin.
Lunch at Debre Libanos Monastery may reveal the incomparable Gelada Baboon. Hard to believe that the terrifying grimaces we will be exposed to come from Africa’s only “vegan” baboon. Geladas, are highly adapted to the hardships of rain and high altitude thermal variations; their dense shaggy pelts testify this fact. Scuffles and chases are part of the daily ritual, but unlike other baboons, Geladas can swear at each other using all the consonants and four vowels in the human alphabet, thus showing a speech prowess unrivalled amongst primates.
The birding might reveal a host of specialties including Black-winged Lovebird, White-cheeked Turaco, Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher, White-backed Tit, Banded Barbet and Black-headed Forest Oriole.
Keeping an eye on both heavens and screes below we should soon rack up more raptors including Lammergeier and Verreaux’s Eagle. Mottled Swift, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Little Rock Thrush, Rüppell’s Robin-Chat, Fan-tailed Raven and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting are all found here and we should see several of these.
On route today you will also see the villages of Oromo people who are the biggest Cushitic language speakers after passing mount Entoto covered with non endeginous eucalyptus tree. Around Debre Libanos, you will spot the thorny bushes and flat acacia, the endeginous hegenia Abyssianica, Abyssinian wild rose, the sycamor fig, olive tree, solenioum Indica, etc and the Gelada baboon.
You will see the 16th century Portuguese bridge which is built using eggs and the powder of wheat instead of cement. In this period as there was a war between the muslims and christians to control the trade route not for religious purpose; two European countries; Portugal and Turk came to Ethiopia.
The afternoon may be spent birding a main tributary of the Blue Nile, the Jemma River, which winds its way down the plains, flanked by impressive gorges. The riverbed is lined with Acacia woodland, the perfect habitat for such localized specials such as Erckel’s Francolin, Abyssinian Black Wheatear, the localised endemic Rüppell’s Chat and White-winged Cliff-Chat, White-billed Starling and the tricky Yellow-rumped Serin.
Return to Addis Ababa for an overnight.
Day 3. Addis Ababa – Awash National Park (B-L-D)
We move towards Awash National Park The increasingly arid landscape is a haven for dry country resident and migrant species.
Around the plains we will search for Martial and Short-toed Eagle, Yellow-necked Francolin, the rare Arabian Bustard, Black-headed Lapwing, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse and Chestnut-headed Sparrow-Lark.
Watercourses and rocky outcrops harbour Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Eurasian Turtle-Dove, the range-restricted Yellow-breasted Barbet, Wahlberg’s Honeyguide, Common Nightingale, Blue Rock-Thrush, the rare Sombre Chat (its world distribution restricted to only three known sites), African and Black Scrub-Robin, Boran Cisticola, skulking Upcher’s Warbler, family groups of Red-faced Apalis, Rufous Chatterer, Shining Sunbird, Black-crowned Tchagra, Southern Gray Shrike, Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver, Chestnut-crowned and White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, the rare Red-winged Pytilia (the Ethiopian endemic form often split as Lineated Pytilia) and African
This land is inhabited by nomadic Afar tribesmen, who we will see dressed in their fine white cotton tunics, bedecked with traditional jewellery, daggers and spears. The men sport a unique bushy hairstyle, and women and girls are also extravagantly attired and adorned. They adhere strictly to their ancestral ways of tending their camel and goat-herds and roaming throughout this inhospitable land.
As you are driving through the Ethiopian part of the great east African rift valley region, you will see the rift valley Lakes and one of the volcanic lakes around the town of Debre Zeit.
The land in this region is covered mostly with acacia bush and some giant trees like ficus,sycamore fig, umbrella thorn, simpile thorned torch wood, etc.
O/N at Awash Falls lodge.
Day 4 & Day 5. Awash National Park (B-L-D)
These two days will be spent exploring the magnificent Awash National Park.
We will bird around the Fantalle Crater, Fulhowa Hotsprings, the Awash River, and Kirayawa Gorge, exploring riverine forests, wetlands, thorn woodlands, savanna grasslands, rocky hills, cliffs and escarpments.
The park boasts a bird list of 460 species and we will make an effort to find, amongst many other species: Egyptian Vulture, Bateleur, Tawny and Greater Spotted Eagle, African Harrier-Hawk, Eastern Chanting-Goshawk, Scissor-tailed Kite, Pygmy Falcon,Shikra, Helmeted Guineafowl, Small Buttonquail, the nocturnal Three-banded Courser, Eurasian Turtle-Dove, Eastern Plantain-eater, Bare-faced Go-away-bird White-browed Coucal, the diminutive Pearl-spotted Owlet and giant Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Plain Nightjar, Blue-naped Mousebird, gaudy Rufous-crowned, Lilac-breasted and Abyssinian Rollers, Abyssinian Scimitar-bill, Eurasian Hoopoe, Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Red-and-yellow Barbet, Greater Honeyguide, Wire-tailed Swallow, Red-winged and the rare and enigmatic Gillett’s Lark, Singing Bushlark, Blackstart, Red-backed Scrub-Robin, ventriloqual Spotted Mourning-Thrush, over-wintering Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush, the localised Ashy Cisticola, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Gray Wren-Warbler, Green-backed Camaroptera, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Gray-headed Batis, Pale Flycatcher, Mouse-coloured Penduline-Tit, Slate-coloured Boubou, White-rumped Shrike, Northern Puffback, Somali Fiscal, Nile Valley and Marico Sunbird, Gray-headed, Sulphur-breasted and Rosy-patched Bushshrike, Fan-tailed Raven, Red-billed Quelea and Red-rumped Waxbill.
During our explorations, we hope to find dazzling Northern Carmine Bee-eaters perched atop the backs of striding Kori Bustards, a seldom observed phenomenon. In fact this is bustard kingdom deluxe and nowhere else on the planet can boast the chance of no less than six bustard species in one day (Kori, Arabian, Buff-crested, White-bellied, Black-bellied and Hartlaub’s!).
In addition to the lists of bird species above, you will have a chance to spot mammals like beisa Oryx, sommering Gazzelle, bat eared fox, the salt’s dickdick, anibus baboon, the colobus monkey, vervet monkey, lesser kudu and crocodile around the lodge.
O/N at Awash Falls lodge.
Day 6. Awash – Bilen (B-L-D)
On this day you will drive 60km to Bilen via the town of Awash and on the way you will have a chance to spot birds like Abyssinian roller, African gray horn bill, buff crested bustard, black billed barbet, white bellied go away bird, white ramped wabler, Nubian wood pecker, white helmet shrike, black shouldered kite, scissor tailed kite, white headed buffalo weaver, blue napped mouse bird, siffling cisticola, red headed weaver, Icterine warbler, gray backed fiscal, carmine bee eater, woodchat shrike, koori bustard, Somali fiscal, cut-throat finch, eastern chanting goshawk, red billed quilea, Somali bunting, white browed scrub robin, northern wheatear, lappet faced vulture, Egptian vulture and mammals like Gernuk, salt’s dickdick, and wahrthogs.
And up on arrival birding around Bilen to see Ethiopian swallow, shining sunbird, little bee-eater, African morning dove, white headed buffalo weaver, laughing dove, squaco heron, spur winged pullover, lesser jacana, gray heron, African jacana, yellow wagtail, lesser flamingo, northern crombec, Barn swallow, yellow breasted barbet, Kentish pullover, yellow billed eremomela, black throated barbet, Abyssinian scimitar bill, cardinal wood pecker, blue napped mouse bird, Eurasian hoopoe, black eared wheatear, Arabian bustard, black bellied bustard etc. the land is covered again by acacia wood and bush land in which white galled acacia and dead sea fruits are common to see on the road side.
Depending on the time we will have, you will have a chance to see the nomadic Afar village.
O/N Bilen Lodge.
Day 7. Bilen – Langano (B-L-D)
Today we drive to Lake Langano stopping in at several Rift Valley lakes and at Debre Zeit, a smattering of crater lakes that often hold African Fish Eagles, Red-billed and Hottentot Teals, Pygmy Goose, Knob-billed, White-backed and Maccoa Ducks, Black Crakes and African Jacanas, Pied and Malachite Kingfishers, Whinchat, Bruce’s Green Pigeon, and Marico and Beautiful Sunbirds.
We will be on the lookout for Chestnut Sparrow and Chestnut Weaver. The patches of woodland south of here hold exciting forest species such as Black-billed Woodhoopoe. Abyssinian Ground Hornbills can be commonly seen strutting on fields. Where the local Sidamo fishermen bring their catch ashore, we can watch remarkably tame Marabou Storks and Hamerkops. Other birds we may find at Lake Ziway include Squacco and Purple Herons, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Collared Pratincole and Heuglin’s and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
O/N in Savannah Resort.
Day 8. Lakes Langano – Abijatta and Shalla (B-L-D)
These three neighbouring lakes in the central Ethiopian Rift Valley could not be more different from each other. The medium depth reddish-brown Lake Langano, shallow, brackish Abijatta, and the extremely deep, blue Shalla, once a volcanic crater and now home to several bubbling sulphuric hotsprings, are all superb birding
We will spend today exploring the lake shores and surrounding woodlands of all three lakes, and hope to find Somali Ostrich, huge flocks of Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Northern Shoveler, Southern Pochard, Cape Teal, Dark Chanting-Goshawk, Imperial and Long-crested Eagle, Gray Kestrel, the rare Clapperton’s Francolin, Little Ringed, Common Ringed and Kittlitz’s Plover, many species of Palaearctic waders, Great Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gull amongst several other species of gulls and terns, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Little Bee-eater, Hemprich’s Hornbill, family groups of the wonderful Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill, Black Scimitar-bill, Gray Woodpecker, Bank Swallow, African Pipit, Isabelline, Pied and Mourning Wheatear, Little Rock-Thrush, African Thrush, Buff-bellied Warbler, Red-faced Crombec Beautiful Sunbird, Rüppell’s Glossy-Starling, Red-billed Oxpecker, Red-billed Firefinch and Northern Grosbeak-Canary. Mammals we may see here include Grant’s gazelle, Oribi and Spotted Hyena.
O/N in Savannah Resort
Day 9. Langano – Wondo Genet (B-L-D)
After another morning of birding around Langano, we will amble towards the serenity of the Wondo Genet Resort Hotel.
The rest of the afternoon will be spent birding in the gardens to see birds like gray wagtail, black headed forest oriole, white checked turaco, Abyssinian wood pecker, banded barbet, yellow fronted parrot, gray backed comaraptera, mountain wagtail, speckled weaver, tambourine dove, Emerald wood dove, blue breasted bee eater, mountain white eye, African pygmy king fisher, ruppell’s robin chat, African gray fly catcher, white ramped wabler, variable sun bird, Tekazze sun bird, black winged love bird, greater honey guide, red fronted thinker bird, puff back, Ayer’s hawk, long crested eagle, silver checked horn bill, hooded vulture, etc.
And relaxing at the resort’s natural hot springs.
O/N at Wondo Genet Resort.
Day 10. Wondo Genet – Goba (B-L-D)
We will spend this morning exploring our hotel gardens and in the nearby forests, and will enjoy our first taste of Ethiopian forest birding.
Species we may find include Ayre’s Hawk-Eagle, screeching flocks of endemic Yellow-fronted Parrots, White-cheeked Turaco, the endemic Banded Barbet, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Lesser and the elusive Green-backed Honeyguide, Little Spotted Woodpecker, Brown Sawwing, Mountain and Gray Wagtail, Olive Thrush, Brown Woodland-Warbler, Abyssinian Slaty-Flycatcher, White-rumped Babbler, Collared and Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Western Olive-Sunbird, Dark-headed Oriole, Slender-billed and the rare Sharpe’s Starling, Green-backed Twinspot and Black-and-white Mannikin.
The hotel grounds themselves support families of Grivet Monkey, but the regal Guereza Black-and-white Colobus monkeys will certainly steal our attention as they leap through the trees, their shaggy pelts and long tails trailing behind.
We will finally bid farewell to this pleasant oasis and wind our way upwards towards the world famous Bale Mountains National Park. At the park headquarters in Dinsho we will search the trails for the colourful Chestnut-naped Francolin, Groundscraper Thrush (of the distinctive, endemic race simensis), the secretive Abyssinian Ground-Thrush, vocal Abyssinian Catbird, and the endemic White-backed Black-Tit.
We also hope to see a variety of mammals, including Mountain Nyala, now entirely restricted to the Bale Mountain massif, Menelik’s Bushbuck and Warthog, unusual at this high altitude.
On the way you will see Afro alpine types of trees like podocarpus, conifers,juniper, pine tree, ebony, Mahogany, giant John’s wort, hagenia Abyssinica, Abyssinian wild rose, red hot pocker, sodom”s apple,solenioum, etc
O/N at Wabishebele Goba.
Day 11. Goba – Bale Mountains (B-L-D)
Today will be a day of great contrasts with amazing scenery and birding.
We will depart early, and ascend the Bale Mountain massif onto the Sanetti Plateau, which lies between 3800m and 4377m above sea level. As we ascend we will enter a Tid or Juniper forest zone and here we will search for African Goshawk, Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk, White-cheeked Turaco, the localized Abyssinian Woodpecker, Cinnamon Bracken-Warbler, African Hill Babbler, Broad-ringed White-eye and Yellow-bellied Waxbill.
Once we reach this unique plateau, we will be driving on Africa’s highest road, passing close to the summit of Ethiopia’s second highest mountain. This habitat is termed “Afro-alpine moorland”, and is characterised by Jibrra or Giant Lobelias, which tower like monolithic giants over the rich tussock grasslands and extensive cushions of yellow Everlasting flowers.
This site is an Important Bird Area of immense importance, supporting seven globally threatened species and nearly all of Ethiopia’s Highland biome species.
This plateau holds the only Afrotropical breeding populations of Ruddy Shelduck, Golden Eagle and Red-billed Chough. If we are very fortunate, we will see a pair of the endangered Wattled Crane striding through the moist grassland or spot a Cape Eagle-Owl sunning on a rocky perch. We will also search for Black Stork, Wattled Ibis, Chestnut-naped and Moorland Francolin, Rouget’s Rail, which are particularly common and confiding here, the endemic Spot-breasted Lapwing, Thekla Lark, migratory flocks of Red-throated Pipit, Abyssinian Longclaw, Red-breasted Wheatear, dumpy Moorland Chats and vast flocks of endemic Abyssinian Siskin.
The grasslands are estimated to support an incredible biomass of 4,000kg of rodents per hectare. This obviously attracts an array of raptors and we should see Steppe and Golden Eagle, Augur Buzzard and elegant Pallid Harriers courting over this green sea. They share this abundant food source with the plateau’s most celebrated resident, the Ethiopian or Simien Wolf, crowned with the unenviable title of “the world’s rarest canid.”
Watching these vibrantly coloured animals, most closely related to the European Timber Wolf, exhibiting their hunting prowess whilst pouncing on Giant Mole-rats (another endemic to the Sanetti Plateau), is surely amongst Africa’s greatest wildlife experiences.
We should enjoy excellent photographic opportunities in this unique mountain wonderland.
Finally we will reach the escarpment of this elevated plateau and stare down, through the clouds, at the vast Harenna Forest below. This remarkable forest is the largest intact forest block in Ethiopia and the largest protected Afro-alpine forest on the continent. It still supports populations of Lion and the only surviving forest-dwelling
African Wild Dogs.
Although unlikely that we will see either of these species, the descent through this breathtakingly beautiful moss-draped forest is inspirational. Here we will search for the uncommon Mountain Buzzard, Rameron Pigeon, Lemon and Tambourine Dove, African Emerald Cuckoo, Narina Trogon, Brown Warbler, represented by a subspecies endemic to this National Park, Abyssinian Crimson-wing, African Citril and Cape Canary.
In the afternoon, we will return across the Sanetti Plateau to our lodging in Goba.
O/N at Wabishebele Goba Hotel.
Day 12. Goba – Awasa (B-L-D)
After some final birding at Goba we will depart for Lake Awassa for an overnight stay.
The freshwater shores of Lake Awassa are fringed by small remnant patches of forest which hold a suite of large and colourful species such as Woodland and African Pygmy Kingfisher, Black-billed Woodhoopoe, massive and noisy Silvery-cheeked Hornbills, Double-toothed Barbet, White-browed Robin-Chat, African Thrush, Black-headed Batis, the highly localized Spotted Creeper, Northern Puffback, Violet-backed Starling and Red-faced Crombec. Seeps and sedgy spots along the shore often hide Black Crake, Purple Swamphen and Blue-headed Coucal. A visit to the famous Awassa Fish Market ranks amongst one of the most authentic Ethiopian cultural experiences on offer as the endemic and well-endowed Thick-billed Raven frantically squabble over fish scraps.
The hardships of life in the lake are carved and tanned into the leathery faces of fishermen that gut and auction their catch in the early morning market. Right behind them throngs of Marabou Storks, Great White Pelican, Great and Long-tailed Cormorant, Hamerkop, Sacred Ibis, Black-headed, Gray-headed, Heuglin’s and Lesser Black-backed Gull are in attendance.
The birds here could not care less about yet another human figure, their senses are trained on whatever food is discarded, making this a unique photographic experience.
O/N at Awassa in Hailé Resort.
Day 13. Awassa – Addis Ababa (B-L-D)
After some final birding in the fishmarket, we drive back to Addis. You will be invited a fare well dinner party in one of the ethiopian traditional restaurant to taste the varieties of Ethiopian meal and enjoy a folkloric dances of different ethnic groups of Ethiopia.
Included in the tour package :
- Overnight accommodations in hotels as indicated (or comparable standard).
- For the camping comfortable tents and all necessary equipment is provided
- Boarding as indicated (B= Breakfast/ L=Lunch/ D= Dinner)
- Professional English-French German Italian Japan speaking guide
- All excursions and transports as indicated
- Boat excursions as indicated
- Entrance fees for all sights and visits as indicated
- Soft drinks and water
Services not included :
- International & internal flights
- Visa fees
- Not indicated meals
- No alcoholic drink
- Video camera- fees
- Not mentioned visits and excursions
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