NEW! Ethiopia

Focus
2023 Dates
  • 10 Apr - 21 Apr 2023
Duration12 Days
2023 Price
Price TBC
More Info


Max group size 12.
Departures from London Heathrow.

Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge are FREE.

 

 

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Full details shortly. If you wish to register an interest by email, we will inform you when the page is complete. 

 

Ethiopia is one of the most productive and rewarding birding destinations on the African continent, with over 850 species recorded. However, Ethiopia is most famous ornithologically for its large number of wonderful endemic species, with 30 birds found here yet nowhere else on the planet.  These endemics and near-endemics are complimented by a large number of forest and savanna specialist species and an influx of Palaearctic migrants, which combine to make for a bird-filled tour. There are also a good number of interesting mammals to see, and when combined with spectacular scenery, fascinating history and the experience of diverse cultures, Ethiopia is one of Africa's most rewarding holiday destinations for the wildlife enthusiast. 

We will explore huge Rift Valley lakes teeming with birdlife, moss-draped montane forests, the high altitude Bale Mountains National Park (home to a number of striking endemics including confiding Rouget's Rail), the expansive Sululta Plains, the impressive Jemma Valley, and Awash National Park, a mecca for game and bird watching where it is possible to see up to six species of bustard.

Travel though Ethiopia can be something of an adventure. The poor quality of roads and the agrarian nature of the countryside makes the design of a comfortable birdwatching tour a complex task, with long journeys inevitable. The logistical considerations are influenced by Ethiopia's difficult terrain, not least the huge Rift Valley, which bisects the country into vast plateaux associated with high mountains systems, creating an extremely beautiful succession of stunningly diverse landscapes. In view of this we have designed this tour as a rich and extremely rewarding experience of Ethiopian birdlife, without attempting to see every single endemic species on what might then be a long and arduous tour. About half of the endemics or near-endemics can be seen in our itinerary, where journeys are not too exhausting, and we stay for a few days in some of the best birding sites: Awash, Rift Valley wetlands and Wondo Genet to Goba where the famous Bale National Park holds a good number of endemic birds. We will visit many of the most important habitats, including wetlands, farmland, montane grassland, afro-alpine moorlands, forest and savanna with a rich diversity of birds.

During this holiday we have a good chance of seeing many of the following Ethiopian endemic or near-endemic: Wattled Ibis, Blue-winged Goose, Chestnut-naped Francolin, Rouget´s Rail, Arabian Bustard, Spot-breasted Plover, White-collared Pigeon, Black-winged Lovebird, Yellow-fronted Parrot, Abyssinian Owl, Banded Barbet, Gillett´s Lark, Abyssinian Longclaw, Abyssinian Black Wheatear, Sombre Chat, White-winged Cliff Chat, Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher, Abyssinian Catbird, White-backed Black Tit, Abyssinian Oriole, Thick-billed Raven, Black-headed Siskin and Brown-rumped Seedeater.

Not only can you expect a bounty of birds on this unbeatable tour but a wonderful selection of mammals too.

This itinerary has been designed to include unmistakable Ethiopian Wolf, our main mammal target. There are many other interesting large mammals, fewer in number and more localised than in other parts of Africa, though nonetheless well worth our time and a key part of our holiday. We look for Hippopotamus, Nile Crocodile, Golden Jackal, Olive Baboon, Guereza Colobus and Grivet Monkeys, Bush and Rock Hyrax, African Warthog, Giant Hog, many antelope including Menelik's Bushbuck, Lesser Kudu, Mountain Nyala, Salt's Dikdik, Guenther's Dikdik, Soemmerring's Gazelle, Grant's Gazelle, Beisa Oryx, Gerenuk and Klipspringer, Water Monitor Lizard and more.
 

Outline Itinerary

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.

Day 11:
Arrive back into London Heathrow in the morning.

 

More Holiday Information:

Accommodation Rooms are comfortable, clean, and en-suite, although lodges in Ethiopia can be quite basic and simple.
Transport in mini buses.
Food can be quite basic but adequate, and is a mix of western food or traditional Ethiopian food.
Health A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is no longer mandatory for those people travelling direct to Ethiopia from the UK, but a vaccination is still advised. Malaria precautions are essential. Please discuss your travel plans with your GP well in advance of travel.
Visa: You will need a tourist visa to enter Ethiopia. You can obtain a visa on arrival (recommended) at Addis Ababa airport, at a cost of approximately $25 (Euros, US dollars and Ethiopian birr are all accepted). Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Ethiopia. Make sure you have two blank pages in your passport on arrival.
Walking is generally light/moderate. An average level of fitness is required.
Weather we travel in the dry season, and rain is unlikely. Dry and hot weather with average daytime temperatures from from 20oC to 34oC.
Group size: is restricted to 12 clients maximum.
Flights: are by Ethiopian Airlines direct from London Heathrow - Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. We may be able to offer flight arrangements from another airport and/or or quote without flights so you can make your own arrangements. If you wish to add an extension either before or after your holiday, please contact us and we will be happy to arrange this for you.
Bird Photography: Opportunities are good.

 

What's included in your holiday price:

* return scheduled flight from London Heathrow, airport taxes, transfers from and to airports (where appropriate).
* full-board accommodation at lodges, picnic lunches
* ground transportation, National Park entry fees
* the services of your leaders.
* The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included subject to terms and conditions. Read more....

What's not included in your holiday price:

* holiday insurance, optional tips to local guides/other staff, drinks, and other personal expenses.
* Tourist Visa - You will need a visa to enter Ethiopia. You can get a visa on arrival at Addis Ababa (Bole) airport, at a cost of approximately $25 (Euros, US dollars and Ethiopian birr are all accepted). Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Ethiopia. Make sure you have two blank pages in your passport on arrival.


WHY CHOOSE HEATHERLEA?

Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.

Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.

The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;
* We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for 25 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
* Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
* Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
* All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
* Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.

Coming Soon

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

More information coming soon.

Why choose Heatherlea for your African wildlife holiday?

Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.

Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.

The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 30 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
  • All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
  • Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
  • Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).

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About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: 01479 821248

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