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Ethiopia

Few nations, if any, can boast the historic splendour of Ethiopia, evidence of whose extraordinary past is everywhere, from its rock-hewn churches, still places of living worship, to its ancient historical traditions and magnificent cultures. Ethiopia is a nation of surprises, full of diversity and contrast, from the ancient to the modern. Legend has it that Emperor Menelik I, the son of the Queen of Sheba and king Solomon, brought the Ark of the Covenant from Jerusalem to Axum, where he settled and established one of the world's longest known, uninterrupted monarchical dynasties.

 
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Ethiopia

Awash National Park
Awash National Park is the oldest and most developed wildlife reserve in Ethiopia. Featuring the 1,800-metre Fantalle Volcano, extensive mineral hot-springs and extraordinary volcanic formations, this natural treasure is bordered to the south by the Awash River and lies 225 kilometers east of the capital, Addis Ababa. The wildlife consists mainly of East African plains animals, but there are now no giraffe or buffalo/ Kudu and 450 species of bird all live within the park's 720 square kilometers.

The Bale Mountains National Park
The Bale Mountains, with their vast moorlands - the lower reaches covered with St. John's wort and their extensive heathland, virgin woodlands, pristine mountain streams and alpine climate remain an untouched and beautiful world. Rising to a height of more than 4,000 meters, the range borders Ethiopia's southern highlands, whose highest peak, Mount Tullu Deemtu, stands at 4,377 meters.

The establishment of the 2,400-square-kilometre Bale Mountains National Park was crucial to the survival of the mountain nyala, Menelik's bushbuck and the Simien red fox. This fox is one of the most colorful members of the dog family and more abundant here than anywhere else in Ethiopia. All three endemic animals thrive in this environment, the nyala in particular often being seen in large numbers. The Bale Mountains offer some fine high-altitude horse and foot trekking, and the streams of the park which become important rivers further downstream are well-stocked with rainbow and brown trout.

Gambela National Park
The Baro River area, accessible by land or air through the western Ethiopian town of Gambela, remains a place of adventure and challenge. Traveling across the endless undulating plains of high Sudanese grass, visitors can enjoy a sense of achievement in just finding their way. This is Ethiopia's true tropical zone and here all the elements of the African safari are found, enhanced by a distinctly Ethiopian flavor.

Omo National Park
Far to the south-west lies Omo National Park, the largest in the country, with an area of 4,068 square kilometers. It is a vast expanse of true wilderness, adjacent to the Omo River, which flows southwards into Lake Turkana and is one of the richest and least-visited wildlife sanctuaries in eastern Africa.

Ethiopia is often referred to as the 'water tower' of eastern Africa because of the many rivers that pour off its high tableland, and a visit to this part of the Rift Valley, studded with lakes, volcanoes and savannah grassland, offers the visitor a true safari experience. Abundant wildlife, spirited rapids, innumerable side creeks and waterfalls, sheer inner canyons and hot springs all combine to make the Omo one of the world's classic river adventures. The season for rafting is between September and October, when the river is still high from the June to September rains but the weather is drier.

Mago National Park
East of the Omo River and stretching south towards the Chew Bahir basin lies the Mago National Park, rich in wildlife and with few human inhabitants. The vegetation is mainly savannah grassland and bush, extending across an area of 2,160 square kilometers. Mammal species total 81, including hartebeest, giraffe, roan antelope, elephant, lion, leopard and perhaps even a rare black rhino.

Simien Mountains National Park
The Simien Mountain massif is a broad plateau, cut off to the north and west by an enormous single crag over 60 kilometers long. To the south, the tableland slopes gently down to 2,200 meters, divided by gorges 1,000 meters deep which can take more than two days to cross. Twenty kilometers north-east of Gondar, the Simien Mountains National Park covers 179 square kilometers of highland area at an average elevation of 3,300 meters. Ras Dashen, at 4,620 meters the highest peak in Ethiopia, stands adjacent to the park. The Simien escarpments, which are often compared to the Grand Canyon in the United States of America, have been adopted by Unesco as a World Heritage Site.