Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details from our office!
Day 1: Overnight flight from London Heathrow - Addis Ababa
Relax in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, before boarding our evening scheduled flight from Heathrow to Addis Ababa, arrving the following morning.
Day 2: Addis Ababa to Awash national park via Debrezeith
After an early breakfast drive to Debrezeith (Bishoftu) town. Debrezeith is situated on the main high way to the eastern and southern parts of Ethiopia about 175 km from Debrebirhan. It is famous for its five craters and seasonal lake within and around the town. Three other lakes in the area have large congregations of water birds. Great and Long tailed Cormorants, Hammercop, African Fish Eagle, African Paradise Flycatcher are common at Hora Lake. Continue to Awash National park about 200 km from Debrezeith, via Methara town.
Day 3: Awash National Park
These two days will be spent exploring the magnificent Awash National Park. We will bird around the Bilen Plains, 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 others: Egyptian Vulture, Bateleur, Tawny and Greater Spotted Eagles, African Harrier-Hawk, Eastern Chanting Goshawk, Scissor-tailed Kite, Pygmy Falcon, Shikra, Kurrichane Buttonquail, the nocturnal Three-banded Courser, Eastern Plantain-eater, Bare-faced Go-away Bird, White-browed Coucal, the diminutive Pearl-spotted Owlet and giant Verreauxs' Eagle-Owl, the mega Star-spotted Nightjar, Blue-naped Mousebird, gaudy Rufous-crowned, Lilac-breasted and Abyssinian Rollers, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Eurasian Hoopoe, Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Red-and-yellow Barbet, Greater Honeyguide, Wire-tailed Swallow, Red-winged and the rare and enigmatic Gillett's Larks, Singing Bush Lark, White-browed Scrub Robin, over-wintering Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush and the localised Ashy Cisticola. During our explorations, we hope to find dazzling Northern Carmine Bee-eater perched atop the backs of striding Kori Bustard, a seldom observed phenomenon. In fact this is a wonderful area for bustards, with the chance of no less than six bustard species in one day (Kori, Arabian, Buff-crested, White-bellied, Black-bellied and Hartlaub's)!
Mammals are well represented and we may see Aardwolf, Lion, Leopard, Beisa Oryx, Aardvark, Soemmering's Gazelle, the elegant Gerenuk, the giraffe-proportioned relative of the widespread Impala, Abyssinian Hare, African Wild Cat, Black-backed Jackal, Spotted and Striped Hyenas, Greater and Lesser Kudus, Warthog and Salt's Dikdik. Overnight Awash Falls lodge inside the park.
Day 4: Awash River- Kereyu lodge- Ziway town
After breakfast we head for the Awash River, taking a good opportunity to walk inside the park while birding along the river and waterfalls with a ranger. Expect to see Senegal Thicknee, Woodland Kingfisher, Hadada Ibis, Blue-naped Mousebird, Tropical Boubou, Red and yellow-billed Hornbills as just a few. Lunch at Kereyu Lodge, with a great view over the Awash River gorge. Then we will drive towards Fentale Mountain situated some 50 km from Awash town, with a stop at Beseka Lake in search of near-endemic Sombre Rock Chat and water birds.
We will go birding at the Fentale slopes, and may see Yellow-breasted Barbet, Nile Valley Sunbird, White-throated and Little Bee-eaters, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Ruppell's Weaver, Pale Flycatcher, Chestnut-headed Sparrow Lark and Black-cheeked Waxbill, whilst Bush Petronia, Northern White-crowned Shrike and Common Redstart are also recorded.
The adjacent acacia forest at Fentale Mountain is also a great place for birding. We will bird here in the morning, leaving the site before it gets too hot, and continuing to Ziway for our overnight stay. Overnight by the lake in Ziway town.
Day 5: Wondo Genet
We will leave Awash early this morning in order to drive to the lakes of the Rift Valley and, in particular, to enable us to make short stops at Lakes Koka and Zwai, where we have a chance of seeing Hippopotamus, as well as numerous waterbirds. Lake Koka offers a great variety of waders, herons, spoonbills and egrets, patrolled overhead by harriers, vultures and Ethiopian and Wire-tailed Swallows. At Lake Zwai, as well as the huge numbers of waterbirds including pelicans and storks, we will be looking for the endearing Tree Hyrax which is generally uncommon in central Ethiopia. In the afternoon, time permitting, we will visit the Abiata-Shala Lakes National Park, taking a walk on the high ridge that separates Lakes Shala and Abiata. The afternoon/evening views over the two lakes are magnificent, and driving through the park we have a good chance of seeing Grant's Gazelles, and perhaps a Spotted Hyena or Golden Jackal. Then, continuing southwards to Wondo Genet Forest via the dusty and chaotic ‘crossroads town’ of Shashemene, we climb into lush green hills fed by hot springs. The Wabe Shabelle Hotel at Wondo Genet, set in beautiful tropical gardens, is of a very basic standard, but the rooms are large and en-suite and the gardens are a paradise for birds and plants. From this hillside retreat, the views of the fertile farmlands in the valley below and of Lake Awassa are quite beautiful (though our arrival here may be too late for us to be able to enjoy the views tonight!). It is easy to see why our guesthouse was once the favourite home of Haile Selassie's daughter. In the gardens, jacarandas, roses, amaryllis and bougainvillaeas provide abundant colour and a home for sunbirds, woodpeckers, Silvery-cheeked Hornbills, White-browed Robin Chats, Double-toothed Barbets, African Firefinches and a host of other species. In the adjacent forested valley four endemic birds may be found: Black-headed Oriole, Yellow-fronted Parrot, White-winged Cliff Chat and Golden-backed Woodpecker, whilst Half-collared Kingfisher, Spotted Creepes, African Hobby, Crowned Eagle and Olive Pigeon are amongst other specialities of the region. Birdwatching here can be as relaxing or exhausting as you choose it to be. You may prefer to enjoy the view and the birds from the terrace of the bar or to walk just as far as the natural hot shower, which cascades from a nearby stream. You may decide to scramble on precipitous slopes in search of elusive White-winged Cliff Chat, the choice is yours!
Day 6: Wondo Genet to Goba
We will spend this morning exploring our hotel gardens and nearby forests, to enjoy our first taste of Ethiopian forest birding. The hotel grounds support families of Grivet Monkey, but the regal Guereza Colobus monkeys will certainly steal our attention as they leap through the trees, 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.
Day 7: Goba
Early start before breakfast, birding with a local guide in the area. After breakfast start driving 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. Overnight at Goba town Wabishebele Hotel.
Day 8 : Bale national park
Goba and excursion to the Bale Mountain National Park. Today will be a day of great contrasts and amazing scenery and birding. We will depart early, and ascend the Bale Mountain massif onto the Sanetti Plateau, which lies between 3800m and 4377m. As we ascend we will enter a 'Tid' or Juniper forest zone, and search for African Goshawk, Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk, White-cheeked Turaco, the localized Abyssinian Woodpecker, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, African Hill Babbler, Montane 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 significance, supporting seven globally threatened species and nearly all of Ethiopia's Highland biome species. The grasslands are estimated to support an incredible 4,000kg of rodents per hectare. This obviously attracts an array of raptors and we should see Steppe and Golden Eagles, Augur Buzzard and elegant Pallid Harrier foraging over this green sea of grass. 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 montane 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 place 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 last-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 African Olive Pigeon, Lemon and Tambourine Doves, Brown Parisoma (represented by a subspecies endemic to this National Park), Abyssinian Crimsonwing, African Citril and Cape Canary. In the afternoon, we will return across the Sanetti Plateau to our lodging in Goba. Overnight at Wabishebele Hotel.
Day 9: Lake Langano, Lake Abijataand Lake Shalla.
The three neighbouring lakes in the central Ethiopian Rift Valley could not be more different. We will spend today exploring the medium depth, reddish-brown Lake Langano, shallow Abijatta, and the extremely deep, blue Shalla, once a volcanic crater and now home to several bubbling sulphuric hotsprings.
These lake shores and their surrounding woodlands and forests hold Little Rock Thrush, African Thrush, Buff-bellied Warbler, Red-faced Crombec, Beautiful Sunbird, Rüppell’s Starling, Red-billed Oxpecker, Red-billed Firefinch, Bare-faced Go-away Bird, Hemprich’s Hornbill, Black-winged Lovebird, Abyssinian Wheatear, White-winged Black Tit, Black-billed Wood Hoopoe, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Bearded Woodpecker and Masked Shrike in dry acacia woodland surrounding the lodge, whilst Lemon Dove, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Black-billed, Banded and Double-toothed Barbet, African Grey Woodpecker, White-rumped Babbler, Ethiopian Boubou, Scaly Francolin and Abyssinian Ground Thrush are resident in forest areas. We will search the lake edge for the impressive Saddle-billed Stork and attractive White browed Coucal.
At Lake Abijata, we hope to find flocks of Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Northern Shoveler, Southern Pochard, Cape Teal, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Eastern Imperial and Long-crested Eagle, Grey Kestrel, 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, Little Bee-eater, family groups of the wonderful Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, African Pipit and Isabelline and Pied Wheatear.
We should also see Grant’s Gazelle, Oribi and Warthog, and leave the site before dark to travel to Bishangari eco-lodge where we stay overnight.
Day 10: Drive to Addis Ababa
After breakfast we drive to Amora Gedel lakeside fish market for some great opportunities to photograph various birds accustomed to humans in close proximity, before we continue birding along the shores of Lake Hawasa. This lake is particularly rich, and the fishermen gut their fish and discard the waste around the fish market. This attracts large numbers of Marabou Stork, Great White Pelican, cormorants and other birds. We will have roadside birding all the way to reach Addis Ababa. Preparation for your departure flight and dinner.
Arrive back into London Heathrow in the morning.