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Ethiopia: A Journey into the Heart of Africa

Readers of a certain generation – including your writer – may have old memories of Ethiopia. A desperate, impoverished country of war and famine. Today, things are quite different. Regional politics still grumbles on but Ethiopia’s GDP puts it fifth on the list of Africa’s biggest economies. It has the largest water reserves in Africa (‘white oil’) and the biggest and most profitable airline on the continent.

Ethiopia: A Journey into the Heart of Africa

High altitude plateaus & mountains dominate much of the Ethiopian landscape.

Landlocked but dominating the eastern Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is a country forged by the Great Rift Valley. Towering jagged highlands and grassy plateaus dominate the interior; the surrounding lowlands are forested in the south but semi-arid to the north. Rivers run through the landscape and its lakes feed the Blue Nile, a tempting prize for invaders but Ethiopia – except for a brief five years under fascist Italy – has never been colonised.

Ethiopia: A Journey into the Heart of Africa

Unexpected pockets of forest support good populations of wildlife, especially primates & birds.

These days, travellers to Ethiopia fall into two broad groups: those coming for the country’s extraordinary human culture, and those with an eye for rare and endemic wildlife. Happily, the two interests can easily be combined, as the destinations for each overlap. Let’s see how.

Ethiopia: A Journey into the Heart of Africa

Diverse human histories combine in Ethiopia, making it a unique cultural destination.

If you’ve ever wondered where we – humans – come from, then Ethiopia is your answer. It’s where we find the first skeletons of Homo sapiens, some of the first crafted spear tips, and it’s the possible source of languages spoken today from Nigeria to Malta. A country of old kingdoms and no fewer than 88 different languages, Ethiopia’s ethnic and religious diversity is reflected in its great array of churches and monasteries as well as its traditional communities – immerse yourself in a cultural tour of Ethiopia and you’ll see why the country has Africa’s greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites!

Ethiopian wolves

Found only in a single reserve, the Ethiopian Wolf is the most sought-after sighting.

And then there’s the wildlife. But you don’t go to Ethiopia for lions and elephants. You go for animals and birds that you will only ever see in Ethiopia. Top of the list is the Ethiopian Wolf, rated as Africa’s most endangered carnivore, and then there are mammals ranging from the magnificent, mountain-dwelling Walia Ibex to forest primates. Birds are well represented in Ethiopia; the country has recorded over 850 species, and although you are unlikely to find the Nechisar Nightjar, allegedly the rarest bird in the world, you will see plenty of others, perhaps among them the Blue-winged Goose and Spot-breasted Plover.

Lales Camp in Ethiopia

Safari accommodation is as you’d expect it in the more familiar areas of Africa.

So how do you experience it all? The same as with all African destinations: you turn to established tour operators with accommodation, transfers and activities already planned for you. An Ethiopian tour will always begin with a flight into the capital Addis Ababa and its museums, and then to your destinations (national parks for instance) depending on your interests. But the beauty of these destinations is that culture and wildlife are woven together, enabling you to experience both. The Monastery of Asheton Maryam at Lalibela, for example, is a cultural highlight, and you can sit in the sun with Gelada Monkeys and watch for the Thick-billed Raven (the world’s biggest crow). An Omo River safari, as another example, introduces you to the cultures of several local communities – the Dasanech, Hamar and Kara tribes – as well as guided walks and boat rides to look for birds and primates. Omo’s forests are home to several types of monkey as well as olive baboons plus key bird species such as Pel’s fishing-owl.

Pel’s fishing-owl

A Pel’s Fishing-owl, one of the many feathered lures that attract birders to Ethiopia.

You’ll need to choose destinations carefully for the experience you want: Ethiopians wolves are found only in Bale National Park whereas the Walia Ibex lives only in the Siemien Mountains – but that’s what an operator is there for, getting you to the right places. And at the right time: Ethiopia is a big country with varied climate but most tourist destinations sit at quite high, temperate elevations with rain generally heaviest between May and September. Be prepared for the effect of altitude – Addis Ababa lies at 2,335 metres (7,726 feet) above sea level – the highest capital city in Africa.

But enough superlatives, go and see for yourself – Safari Online does not currently arrange Ethiopian tours but we have travel partners who specialise in the country and will tailor-make a tour for you: Ethiopia is open.

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Professional, quick and top of the edge service!!!

From the very first contact we’re very happy about the respond time and quality of information from safari-online.com. Based on the received first tailor-made quote, which is a weblink with all the details about the flights, photos of the lodges etc. we knew that this is “our” partner for this trip. Our expectations were excelled!!!

Lukas (Germany)
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Our experience with Safari Online was excellent. After becoming very frustrated trying to search for a safari destination on our own, we turned to Karina for help and she was a lifesaver.  We had an amazing safari adventure at the lodge–the experience of a lifetime–and are so grateful for her help. We literally couldn’t have done it without her!

Chris (USA)
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Ann and Mario (Canada)
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Excellent service and they supplied good suggestions for our holiday they also organised all internal flights and arranged check in for us so we had no worries while on holiday. We have had a most memorable holiday staying at wonderful places thanks to Sabrina and Safari Online. Would recommend Safari Online to organise your holiday.

Lorraine (UK)
Walter has always been an excellent communicator and has supported us fully

We have been to Africa for 24 of the last 27 years so know a bit about what is involved. Walter has arranged the details for the last couple of years, and has done a superb job. He is always quick to respond and comes up with answers immediately……..no evasive tactics, always head-on!

Roger (UK)
It was a safari of a lifetime and exceeded all of our expectations!

Our mom grew up in Central and South Africa so we had visited the continent many times. My sister and I wanted to take our teens and husbands to Africa to experience the magic. We had a limited budget but big and specific expectations and by some miracle Walter was able to manage both.

Heather (USA)
Safari Online made our fantastic family holiday dream come true!!

Safari Online have been nothing but professional and incredible from the time we made our first enquiry to the last day of our stunning holiday. Nothing was too much trouble for Walter. We are now starting to plan our next family Safari for 2019. Guess who we will be booking with??? Safari Online we hope you are ready!!!!!

Penni (AU)
Best trip I have ever been on. Highly recommend.

Would highly recommend. Safari online asked questions when booking and were efficient and knew exactly what we were looking for in terms of accommodation and animals were wanted to see. Gave advice on a few little extras with no pressure, which we did and am very grateful which make trip even more exciting. Would definitely recommend booking with them.

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Communication was excellent – I asked A LOT of questions and did a ton of research myself and Walter was extremely patient with me and very responsive. he was straight forward and extremely professional. Tour itself was excellent – an incredible experience and one never to be forgotten. Everything was spot on.

An incredibly well organised tour with no hassles whatsoever.

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