Wildlife and cultural tour to Ethiopia

“Abandoning the well-trodden trails of the north, this tour heads east and south to explore Ethiopia's little-known wildlife, remote tribes and beautiful Rift Valley lakes.”

Highlights

Addis Ababa | Dorze | Netch-Sar National Park | Lakes Abaya and Tchamo | Konso | Local tribal markets | Game drives in Mago National Park | Viits to Hamar, Mursi and Murle tribes | Yabelo Wildlife Sancutary | Bird watching | Wondo Genet hot springs | Lake Langano | Harar and hyena feeding | Great Rift Valley | Rimbaud's house | Awash

Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

01273 823 700

Departure information

This trip can be tailormade at a time to suit you and can be adapted to suit your interests, budget and requirements as necessary. Minimum 2 people
Our top tip:
Consider travelling during one of the vibrant festivals such as Timkat. The company can recommend when and where to see local celebrations.
Trip type:
Tailor made. Min age 7.
Activity level:
Leisurely/moderate, depending on choice of activities.
Accomm:
3-4*, locally owned accommodation. Option of camping in national parks.
Included:
Accomm., driver, tour leader, local guides, entrance fees, listed activities.
Meals:
Meals not included.
Vouchers
Accepted
Holiday type

Travelling with a local operator

This holiday is operated by a company based in the holiday destination and they will be able to provide expert local knowledge. They will be able to tailor make your holiday to suit your requirements not only concerning the dates of travel but also typically the standard of accommodation, and thus price. It is rare for local operators to be able to help with the booking of your flights.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Wildlife and cultural tour to Ethiopia

This trip creates an opportunity for an exchange of cultures between you and the local communities as there are various moments to discuss and interact. As you buy authentic souvenirs, arts and crafts you will support households and families to improve the quality of their life. The income they will earn as a result of your booking and further shopping will enable them to provide their children with their needs and learning materials.

As you visit the park you will stay in camping sites run by the park. All the guides except one throughout the trip are locals and the scouts are hired by the park. Also outside the park you will be staying in locally owned accommodations and will be served by staffs who are members of the community.

Accommodations have put in place policies of environmental conservation, water and energy usage and waste minimizations. They also have economic policies to employ their staff from the local communities and to use the local resources and markets for the services they provide. As part of an environmental responsibility, they participate in different initiatives like in '2 trees for 2000', a millennium initiative against the deforestation and land degradation in Ethiopia. Also to protect the environment, they give away some materials like plastic bags to recycling agencies.

For you to have better knowledge of the trip, we will provide you an accurate pre-trip information before the start of the tour. Also in order for you to have a good understanding of the places, the environment, and the local community; we will supply you with our Travelers' Code of Conduct which is also supplied to our staff and local suppliers.

As you tour the south we will also recommend a visit to a local based initiative in the Konso area which aims to protect Konso's biodiversity and preservation of its natural and cultural sites. In Ethiopia where technology has not kept pace with the demands for productivity, harmful environmental practices are common and people usually resort to exploiting land and other natural resources to meet their needs. As a consequence of this, climatic conditions are becoming erratic and soil quality is declining. We encourage initiatives like the 'Konso Parkas' through promoting their ideas and doing all we can. Perhaps you also might wish to share their concern for the environment and exchange ideas on how to protect and conserve the same. Such kind acts will motivate them to do more.

Reviews of Wildlife and cultural tour to Ethiopia

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 29 Jan 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Visiting the various tribes in the Omo Valley ... a disappearing world.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Much of Ethiopia can be seen/visited independently but if you are on a restricted time scale or not up to haggling prices with local guides and drivers then pre-booking a guide/driver makes for a less stressful holiday.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


I stayed in local hotels, used the services of local guides so much of the holiday costs benefited local people.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


A great holiday ... incredible sights and the chance to see several of the tribal groups in the Omo Valley. My driver was safe/careful and provided good companionship on the journey.

Reviewed on 25 Sep 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


This tour was the perfect way to expose my Ethiopian-born son to all that Ethiopia has to offer. Being only 7-years old we didn't want a tour that would be fast paced with long drives... we needed to give time for the kids to play and expend some energy. We worked with the holiday provider to customize an itinerary that had us visiting several tribal villages, but also spending time in game parks and lakes seeing animals we only dream of in Canada.
Our guide, Ayele, was very knowledgeable and found ways to make the trip extra special especially for the kids (my son loved playing the traditional Ethiopian board game with Ayele which was very sweet to watch). And our driver, Ahmed, was exceptional especially on some of the rougher terrain that we traveled to reach the more remote villages down dirt roads and across dry river beds. We felt completely safe and in good hands the entire time. Our children got to experience Ethiopia close up, got to interact with the people and even play with village children, and came away not only with an understanding of what Ethiopia is all about, but a pride in being from there. I truly believe this would not have been accomplished without the great care that was put into setting the
itinerary and then guiding us through all stops along the tour. I can't say enough about the great team at the holiday providers!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Don't over-pack! We spent 2 nights at most hotels, but it still meant moving bags in and out of the car frequently. Many hotels have rough sidewalks so wheeling suitcases isn't an option; the poor staff has to carry them and some of our bags were pretty heavy.
We definitely made sure to tip them well!
We gave ourselves one full day to adjust to the time change before heading out on the tour which worked out perfectly so I'd highly recommend doing that. The first day to Arba Minch is the longest drive, but the scenery is stunning along the way so you want to be awake to appreciate it. Be prepared to be without power (and a hot shower) when visiting Jinka; it's a fairly remote town and power
is unreliable... make sure you charge cameras etc before going there. Bring snacks for in the car and to share with kids you meet along the way; children are constantly running up to the car on the highways so we stopped often to give kids candy (it was amazing to watch them try their first Twizzlers!).

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


The local people were so warm and welcoming we truly felt like they were happy to have us in their villages and homes. We didn't feel like we were intruding and people were particularly happy to meet our kids. The locals took such pride in demonstrating how they make their wares, that we always made a point of buying things. They aren't as sophisticated in merchandising their wares as more tourism-driven economies so we never felt pressured to buy anything. Instead, they seemed as happy for us to have their creations as we were to buy them.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


This vacation was everything we hoped it would be, and much more. We saw everything we wanted to see, but what really made the difference was the wonderful guide and driver from the agency. We truly felt like a little family for the 11-day tour. Ayele and Ahmed had genuine kindness towards our kids and went well beyond the requirements to make the trip extra special for them. We liked that we got to visit a few tribes, but that the kids also had time to play and burn off some energy. They also got to see hippos, oryx', lots of camels, and baboons which was very exciting for them. Every day was something new
and different; it truly was an adventure for all of us. When we returned to Addis and the tour was over, the holiday providers again went above and beyond and took us around the city to the game arcade, the art gallery and even shopping for souvenirs. They had more than fulfilled their obligation to us, but in keeping with wanting us to have the best experience possible, they kept with us and made our time in Addis very special as well. I can't say how grateful we are to the team at Highway Tours for making our kids first trip back to Ethiopia an amazing experience for everyone. I recommend them without reservation
and will most definitely tour with the agency on our next visit back to Ethiopia!

Reviewed on 13 Sep 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


My holiday was to the southern part of Ethiopia, and included a diversity of amazing wildlife and cultural experiences. The Bale Mountains are a stunning wild place, and thanks to our local guide we saw many endemic animals and birds, including 12 Ethiopian wolves. A highlight was our 4 hour walk on the Sanetti plateau, seeing wolves walk by us not too far away in complete peace. Visiting the Harenna forest, a beautiful largely unexplored rainforest on the southside of Bale Mountains, was also unforgettable. Culturally, staying at Konso and Dorze villages were highlights, where our meeting with Ethiopian people, life and culture in these beautiful ancient places was real and inspiring. Last but definitely not least, the daily company and care of the guide and driver that accompanied my holiday were wonderful - I learned a lot and had a lot of fun.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


All the good things people say about Eskinder and his travel company are true - friendly, efficient, reliable, good value, and above all, good quality. I enjoyed designing my itinerary with Eskinder by email, he always gets right back and is open to suggestions, so it is nice to do some internet research and actively take part in designing your trip. I travelled in the middle of the rainy season (July),which meant we had almost all places we visited to ourselves - a fantastic experience (particularly with the wolves). And there was little rain - the only price to pay is sometimes overcast rather than blue skies, but still plenty of sun. If you are interested in the Harenna Forest, stay overnight in the Harenna Forest Cultural Lodge in Rira village. Facilities are basic, but it is right in the forest and very beautiful and authentic. Finally, the Sanetti plateau is over 4000 meters high and cold - definitely take warm clothing and hats.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Generally yes. I think it is important that travellers book with an Ethiopian rather than foreign company, so that their money benefits Ethiopian guides, drivers, and their families. Eskinder's company also supports local environmental and cultural projects, further extending the positive impact of travellers' funds.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Fantastic, unforgettable. Ethiopia is such an interesting and beautiful country, with much to learn about its history, proud independence, and rich natural and culture diversity. I felt safe and cared-for throughout, and will certainly return, and ask Eskinder to arrange this. Highly recommended!

Reviewed on 23 Nov 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Seeing the tribes in the south of Ethiopia. It was like walking through the pages of the National Geographic.


2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Be prepared to be shaken about whilst travelling. The roads were appalling.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Hopefully Yes

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


It was a wonderful experience and adventure, being able to see and be present at places and situations that we had only read about. I have to add that Eskinder was a person of utmost integrity and organised a very good experience which was full of good surprises. The driver was very skilled and always cheerful and the guide was knowledgeable who did his best to accommodate our needs.

Reviewed on 04 May 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


In 2013 we spent over three weeks in Ethiopia visiting the extraordinary monolithic churches in the north and the wonderful Simien Mountains. We then travelled south, spending some days in the Bale Mountains, visiting the colorful local markets, birding in the great Rift Valley and experiencing something of the diverse cultures and communities of the south.

This visit was skillfully organized by Eskinder Hailu who patiently assisted us in devising an itinerary that fitted the interests of the four of us. He organized internal flights, guides, drivers and accommodation and it all went precisely as planned despite the complexity of flights and tight schedules. Accommodation was fine although the Bale Mountains was pretty basic but the best available. However, the area is wonderful and well worth spending time there despite the slightly less comfortable accommodation.

We had a wonderful time in Ethiopia and would commend Eskinder to anyone planning on touring in this remarkable country.


2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?




3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?




4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Reviewed on 11 Apr 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


While in Turmi, we were able to watch the Hamer festivity where the boy marks his passage from boy to adult by jumping the bulls. Not fixed, or touristy. For me, easily the highlight of the trip!

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


None really... anyone that is traveling here on this type of trip is probably an experienced traveler. Not everything is going to work the way your used to, there are power outages, no internet because the server is down, etc. Thatís what makes this type of travel interesting, for me anyway... expect the unexpected!

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Not really... how do you not impact local people when you are visiting tribes that are still somewhat living the way they have been for hundreds of years. We show up with cameras, go click, click, click... and pay money to do so?
I do feel the locals that live across the river from the Karo people (south of Turmi), are exploiting the tribe. Didn't get the impression they cared much about them. But we had to pay them in order to see them.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Very good, and i was very happy with the guide (Mr Ayele)and the driver... very professional and knowledgeable (speaking of Mr Ayele) on the areas we went. You could tell he was well respected by the locals as well.

Read the operator's response here:

Mr. Whetham has raised an important point that made us give more emphasis on trips we organize especially to the lower Omo valley. However, I donít think we should conclude that tourism would have a negative impact on the tribes neither said the tribes themselves. Done responsibly, it would rather help them value, learn, promote, and maintain their uniqueness.

Photos are not mandatory but visitors, should they feel to take a picture of a particular person, are required by the same to make small payments. The process can sometimes be a bit awkward. However, it can be managed if travelers are not too desperate for taking pictures as we always advise.

Regarding the positive economic impact the tourism makes, there is much reliance of the locals on it. They need it as they are benefited and better empowered than they use to be years back.

Entrance fee is paid for the local tourism office. The local tourism office hires scouts and guides from the same; contributions are always given for the village elders; markets are also among the highlights where visitors buy souvenir items.

I would like to thank Mr. Whetham for raising the issue which we will also do the same to all participants.

Reviewed on 13 Jan 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


All very exciting: churches on Lake Tana & in Lalibela, the castle of Gondar, stelae in Axum + visiting the Karo, Dorze, Mursi tribes and witnessing the bull-jumping ceremony of the Hamer people.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Be prepared for long, bumpy and dusty drives in South Omo

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes - Eating in local restaurants & take up local guides when visiting the tribes in the South certainly benefited the local community economically.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Very fascinating and worth the effort.

Reviewed on 26 Jan 2012 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


We went for the Timkent Festival which was fantastic and well worth while. The tribes in the south have barbaric cultures of which we saw by chance, the whipping of the Hammer women until they bleed, the Muri tribes and their plate women - who by the way just sit around waiting for the tourist to come to take their photo for a fee - I would rather stay single!! But all was a new experience and different from the other 20 or so African countries we have visited. The most amazing thing was that it was not a dry dessert but wonderful farmlands!?

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Don't give gifts or money to these people as we are converting them into beggars and dependents, there is heaps of fertile land and water to provide for all - maybe a little more education wouldn't go astray but the government seems to be self centred and forgets what it's job is in some locations?

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


The local people have already been ruined by the International Funds that give them money and the tourist who are seen as a purse so they don't need to work their land anymore. I urge you not to donate to these fundraisers and let the people revert back to what they know best ie agriculture - not sitting around for hand outs.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


It was a completely different experience, some marvellous some horrifying depending on the cultures of this fertile land.

Reviewed on 11 Dec 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The experience across the entire holiday was very diverse from the rift valley and the lakes to the Omo Valley and the tribes. Visiting the tribes was definitely the highlight for us. The experience of the drive as well as meeting & interacting with the different tribes was great and the driver/guide were very helpful. Without them it would not have been possible to have had the same experience.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


We extended the standard trip with a couple of days and the agency was very good in tailoring the trip to our needs. This allowed us to tour in a more relaxed manner and spend more time at each location or tribe which made it a more enjoyable holiday. Everything was very well organised and was run very well.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


The way the holiday was organised and the way the tribes were visited felt like the local community was benefitting from this and that any fees paid went back into the community.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


We had an amazing holiday and will definitely go back to Ethiopia to visit another part of the country. The country is going through a development phase and this is definitely the right time to visit and have authentic experiences.

The operator is run very well and everything was well organised. The driver and guide were very good and we enjoyed their company. The entire experience from booking the trip (with a very quick turnaround on the changes we asked for the itinerary) to the holiday was very positive.

I would strongly recommend this holiday!

Reviewed on 05 Feb 2010 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


The Simien Mountains, Axum - not just the Steles but the town itself. Harar. Some excellent guides, especially Semma and Gurma; great drivers.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Take a hot water bottle if camping in the Simiens. Take some dried fruit and cured sausage and a bottle of booze.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Probably yes to the first in that Eskinder employs 15 full time staff and has a knock on effect of employing 45. Cannot see that four internal flights and travelling up to 10 hours a day in a 4 wheel drive could be anything but harmful, necessary, yes, but environmentally friendly, no.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


A challenging journey of great interest and fabulous scenery. Many hotels left much to be desired, small things which would not be difficult to improve, like bedside lights, hot water which actually comes out of the shower, an attention to the drainage - terrible smell of sewage even in the nicest places like the Tokal Village. Better service in restaurants - 14 staff in one place and it took an hour to get breakfast. Huge problems in Ethiopia, but not beyond the wit of man to improve some of them.

Reviewed on 06 Dec 2009 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


We were really excited to see the Ethiopian wolf! Bisangari lodge was beautiful... watching the sunset over the lake, watching the sea eagles and pied kingfishers fish and playing cards with our guides in the tree bar.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Don't try to do too much. Travelling on hot dusty bumpy roads is really tiring so trying to cover large areas of Ethiopia is really ambitious. Be aware that some visits to some villages are all about taking that photo not learning about the culture of the tribe. If you do not want this, discuss with the tour guide the best places to visit! (We really liked the Dorze, Konso and Ari village tours).

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Tourism is beneficial to the development of the country as it provides work and stimulation to the economy. The guides were local to the area, we ate at local places and bought from local shops.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


It was a good holiday, one of those holidays that the more you look back on it, the more amazing you realise the country is. However, it was really tiring and the facilities are not always the best, therefore if we did it again we would have travelled less and spent more time in specific areas. I have to say though that our guide and driver were great and really looked after us.

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