23-Day Tour

Birding Ecotours Ethiopia – 23-Day Tour

      

Prices on Request

Background

Ethiopia, “the Roof of Africa”, is an absolutely unique and spectacular birding destination. It is one of Africa’s most scenically beautiful countries, boasting some of the continent’s highest mountains and plateaus (but also contains a depression that reaches slightly below sea level), impressive escarpments, Great Rift Valley lakes and volcanoes and very varied vegetation from juniper forests to arid savannah dotted with monstrous red termite mounds. Descending from the highlands to the deep valleys far below can seem like entering a completely different world, all within the same day – it is an amazingly varied country.

Ethiopia’s unique mountain topography situated in the middle of “the Horn of Africa” is not just stunningly scenic, but has produced a staggering number of endemic birds (about 30 species) found in no other country, in addition to quite a lot of birds that are most easily found in Ethiopia – especially since other countries in north-east Africa are currently considered unsafe to visit. The list of Ethiopian endemics includes two awesome turaco species, the striking, bizarre and taxonomically puzzling Streseman’s (Ethiopian) Bush-crow and Liben (Sidamo) Lark which is sadly considered the next bird to probably go extinct in Africa. Ethiopia is also one of the best places to see birds such as Arabian Bustard, with luck having Northern Carmine Bee-eaters riding on their backs. Ethiopia’s birds are generally easy to find, and in addition to the plethora of endemics, it is not too difficult to end up with an impressive bird list of well over 500 species after a 3-week trip to this country.

Ethiopia of course also boasts such fabulous mammals as Ethiopian wolf, some awesome primates and many others. The country also has a spectacularly rich and ancient history and all in all is a wonderful country to travel in.

The itinerary for our 23-day tour follows below, but please note that some details may well change due to availability of accommodation and various other factors.

                                

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Addis Ababa

Our 23-day tour starts in the fascinating high-altitude city of Addis Ababa, which has a population of about 3.5 million people. Here, we can already find many of Ethiopia’s more common endemics, such as the oddly-proportioned Thick-billed Raven, White-collared Pigeon, beautiful Abyssinian Longclaw, pretty Abyssinian (Black-headed) Siskin, Abyssinian Slaty-Flycatcher, Black-winged Lovebird and others. Depending on flight arrival time, we either overnight at the Ghion Hotel in Addis, or we already begin our journey northwards to Debre Libanos. We stay at the Ethio-German Hotel situated on the edge of the awe-inspiring Jemma Valley, where Egyptian Vulture, griffon vultures and Lammergeyer gracefully sail by, and Little Rock Thrush and many other mountain birds lurk. Before reaching Debre Libanos, we cross the famed Sululta Plains, which are a brilliant place to find beautiful Spot-breasted Lapwing, the taxonomically strange Blue-winged Goose and other endemics. We also hope to find our first Gelada (Bleeding-heart) Baboons – these ferocious-looking but vegetarian baboons have huge vocabularies and complex social systems.

Overnight (depending on arrival time): Ghion Hotel

Day 2: Debre Libanos

Today we enter a truly different world. We descend from dizzying heights to the Jemma River so far below us. We enter an arid land where we look for a very different suite of birds compared to those of Debre Libanos. We look for species such as Speckle-fronted Weaver, Fox Kestrel, Foxy Cisticola and many others characteristic of East Africa’s arid areas. In this area, we’ll also continue to look for some of Ethiopia’s localized endemics such as Harwood’s Francolin, White-throated Seedeater and others.

Overnight: TBA

Day 3: Ankober

Among many other things, today we go to dizzying heights for a spectacularly localized bird, Ankober Serin. The scenery is a lot more spectacular than our main target bird, which some people just call a “little brown job”, while others are kinder and call it a “subtly beautiful bird” – but whichever way you look at it, the bird is unlikely to dazzle you (but it certainly takes you to marvelously beautiful mountains overlooking distant valleys).

Overnight: TBA

Day 4: Ankober

We continue birding the strikingly varied altitudes between Ankober and the low valleys.

Overnight: TBA

Day 5: Awash National Park

We have a fairly long drive to one of Ethiopia’s premier national parks, which has a rich diversity of birds as well as mammals. We’ll look for African Swallow-tailed Kite, a host of bustards including Arabian, Buff-crested, Hartlaub’s, Black-bellied and White-bellied (sometimes split from the southern African “Barrow’s Korhaan”), Bruce’s Green Pigeon, bush-shrikes and tons more. As always, raptor-watching is spectacular – we can easily find 40-50 species on our 3-week tour and many of these are in Awash National Park.

Overnight: TBA

                                 

Day 6: Awash National Park

A full day in the fabulous Awash National Park.

Overnight: TBA

Day 7: Awash National Park

A full day in the fabulous Awash National Park.

Overnight: TBA

Day 8: Lake Langano

After final Awash birding, today we drive to Lake Langano where we will spend the night. We will bird this and other lakes of the Great Rift Valley.

Overnight: TBA

Day 9: Wondo Genet

After further birding around the lakes, we drive up the eastern escarpment of the Rift Valley to the hot springs of Wondo Genet. Here we look for awesome forest birds such as Yellow-fronted Parrot, Black-winged Lovebird, Abyssinian Ground-thrush, Abyssinian Woodpecker, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Brown Woodland-warbler and as always many others.

Overnight: TBA

Day 10: Wondo Genet

A full day at Wondo Genet.

Overnight: TBA

Day 11: Dinsho

We drive to Dinsho, which is the gateway to the fabled Bale Mountains, which reach an altitude of around 4500 meters (more than 14000 feet). Here we spend the next few days birding varied habitats for such sought-after species as Abyssinian (African) Long-eared Owl, Cape (Mackinder’s) Eagle Owl (the most massive of three subspecies, this one endemic to Ethiopia), Spot-breasted Lapwing, Chestnut-naped Francolin, Moorland Francolin, Wattled Crane, White-backed Black Tit, Abyssinian Catbird, Narina Trogon, African Emerald Cuckoo, Abyssinian Crimsonwing and as always a long list of other birds. The highland desert atop the Sanetti Plateau is home to the world’s rarest canid, the red-colored Ethiopian Wolf, which feeds largely on the intriguing Giant Mole-rat. The few days in this area is a botanical treat, with vegetation ranging from Hygenia-dominated forest, to giant Erica woods, to high-altitude moorlands sometimes with fabulous Giant Lobelias.

Overnight: TBA

Day 12: Bale Mountains

Full day in Bale Mountains.

Overnight: TBA

Day 13: Sof Omar

Today we visit Sof Omar, one of the deepest caves in the world and with a fascinating human history, to find some localized birds such as Salvadori’s Serin and Bristle-crowned Starling.

Overnight: TBA

Day 14: En Route to Yirgalem

We drive to Yirgalem (Aregash Lodge), birding en route.

Overnight: Aregash Lodge

Day 15: Negele

We head for the Negele area which is one of Ethiopia’s great endemic hotspots, including the only place for Sidamo (Liben) Lark which sadly could be Africa’s next bird to go extinct.

Overnight: Accommodation in this area is very rustic indeed!

Day 16: Negele

A full day in the Negele area seeking endemics and dry land birds.

Overnight: Accommodation in this area is very rustic indeed!

Day 17: Dilla via Aleta Wondo

We drive to Dilla via Aleta Wondo, expecting to add many new birds to our burgeoning list.

Overnight: TBA

Day 18: Dilla

To many people, today is the highlight of the tour, when we first encounter Streseman’s Bush-crow. This incredibly characterful species might be related to Middle Eastern ground jays, although its taxonomy is puzzling and it looks very similar to Clark’s Nutcracker. Of course, there are a host of other AWESOME birds to find as well and this area keeps us as busy as ever.

Overnight: TBA

Day 19: Dilla

A full day in bush crow area – but we’ll also look for tons of other birds such as White-tailed Swallow, Somali Courser, Somali Fiscal, Taita Fiscal and so many others. As always throughout this epic tour, we should stumble across a plethora of Eurasian migrants which could include White-throated Robin (Irania), many different warblers, buntings and all the others.

Overnight: TBA

Day 20: Awassa

We drive to Awassa where we visit the absolutely fascinating Awassa Fish Market – here tons of Hamerkops, terns, Marabou Storks and many others feed on the scraps within meters of people. We also look for woodland birds such as both wryneck species, Northern White-faced Owl and others.

Overnight: TBA

Day 21: Debre Zeit

We stay on the rim of a beautiful crater lake at Debre Zeit, hopefully adding further new birds to our list. We may have some time to relax a little this afternoon, enjoying breathtaking scenery from the comfort of our hotel, and getting close views super birds on the cliffs in front of us, as well as scope views of waterbirds on the lake

Overnight: TBA

Day 22: Gibe Gorge

We do a day trip to Gibe Gorge (extremely early departure) – this is a beautifully scenic area which hosts some fabulous and sought-after birds including Red-billed Pytilia. Then stay at Welliso.

Overnight: Welliso

Day 23: Welliso to Airport

Flight leaves Addis Ababa. We will bird or relax on the hotel grounds at Welliso, going straight to airport from here.

Price includes: Good quality accommodation in Addis Ababa. Outside Addis Ababa the rooms are basic but clean with (mostly) en suite facilities. Guiding, meals, Bottled Water & transport.

Price does not include: International air transport & embarkation fee, telephone, laundry, any payable drink and porters for luggage, tips and any other personal interest, which is not specified in the itinerary, permits for video or taking pictures.

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