birds and mammals in Ethiopia's highlands



"We saw more species of birds than I had expected, and some good animals too, particularly the wolves and hyenas.

Many thank thanks to you and also Negussie for making it such a successful trip."......  Mr G, East Sussex, Feb 2013











click here for a pdf version of this destination write-up  -  easier to print  -  no photos





Ethiopia is unique among African countries in that it is the only one never to be colonised. The physical barriers that helped protect it also isolated the wildlife, resulting in a level of endemism unparalleled in mainland Africa. There are over fifty endemic or near-endemic birds and many more local races. The Simian Wolf is, of course, the most famous mammal here and we have excellent chances of seeing it.


We will visit at the height of the dry season. Just as temperatures are dropping to their coldest in Europe, Ethiopia is enjoying glorious sunshine with very little chance of rain, whilst the altitude keeps temperatures at a comfortable level. At this time many northern migrants join the resident birds of Ethiopia. Lakes and rivers become magnets for birds and other wildlife.


If your image of Ethiopia is of a dry, barren country with poor accommodation, think again. We will visit dry areas but we will also visit many wetlands and lakes, lush middle elevation woodlands and high mountains. Hotels and lodges have improved beyond recognition in recent years.


We begin in the Awash National Park which is savannah and scrubland with a very impressive gorge. Next we will visit the lush northern section of the Ethiopian Rift Valley and sample some of its lakes and woodlands. From here we travel to the Bale Mountains for Simian Wolf and many endemic birds. We then head over the Sanetti Plateau and into the rich Harrena Forest coming out into the deserts and grasslands of southern Ethiopia. We return through the Rift Valley, passing coffee plantations and woodland, to Lake Awassa and Welisso and then on to Addis Ababa. We also have a full day north of Addis looking for Gelada Baboons and more endemics.







After our daytime flight we will arrive in the evening and spend our first night at a hotel close to the airport. Driving out of Addis we will stop at a large wetland where we are likely to encounter flamingos, Common Cranes, White Pelicans, and Marabou and Abdim’s Storks. We will drive through the plains of the national park looking for Kori and Arabian Bustard. Buff-crested Bustard may be seen doing their spectacular rocketing display flight. Antelope here include the beautiful Beisa Oryx which is restricted to the Horn of Africa. Other large animals include Soemmering’s Gazelle, Salt’s Dik-dik and Olive and Hamadryas Baboons, Warthog, Vervet Monkey and Nile Crocodile. One of the spectacular birds we will be looking for is the Secretarybird. Other species include Black-winged Lovebird, Rosy-patched Shrike and Martial Eagle. On the second evening we plan to visit a cave where dozens of Spotted Hyenas may emerge before dispersing across the park. We will stay at the recently opened Awash Falls Lodge which is within the park.



After two nights at Awash we will drive south to the Great Rift Valley lakes. Birds may include Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Senegal Thick-knee, Black-crowned Crane, African Pygmy Goose, and African and Lesser Jacanas. After several birding stops we will arrive at Bishangari Lodge at Lake Langano. This is an excellent lodge and we will spend three nights here birding the grounds and surrounding area. Narina Trogon, Yellow-fronted Parrot, Tambourine Doves, Abyssinian Ground-thrush and Sharp’s Starling are just a few of the birds to be seen.



The drive from the rift valley into the mountains is spectacular and fascinating. On the way we will be looking out for the endemic Spot-breasted Lapwing, Abyssinian Longclaw and Erlanger’s Lark. At some small crags we have a good chance of seeing Cape Eagle-owl. We will drive to Goba which makes an excellent base for our three night stay. On the first full day we will visit the Sanetti Plateau. As we ascend the plateau slopes we will be looking for Abyssinian Woodpecker, White-cheeked Turaco and the Bale Parisoma. The Simian Wolf tends to emerge once the day has warmed up. The plateau is dramatic with a unique flora including Giant Lobelias. Small pools provide a home for Blue-winged Goose and Wattled Ibis. Rouget’s Rail can often be seen by the road. We will also look out for Moorland Francolin and Verreaux’s, Tawny, Eastern Imperial and Golden Eagle.


Ethiopia has a small population of Ruddy Shelduck; the only breeding population south of the Sahara. We should see some here along with Red-billed Chough, another species in this category of relict populations.


On the second full day in the Bale Mountains we will head to Dinsho Lodge, the park headquarters. The woodland around the lodge is home to the endemic Mountain Nyala, a beautiful antelope. Bohor Reedbuck, Menelik’s Bushbuck, Klipspringer and Dik-dik are also regularly seen. This is probably the best place to see Abyssinian Catbird, White-backed Tit and Brown Woodland Warbler. The park guide may well know the location of roosting Abyssinian and African Wood Owls.



After three nights at Goba we will cross the plateau to reach the Harrena Forest where there is some excellent birding. As the forest opens up we will see an attractive landscape of scrub and isolated fig trees which is the prime habitat of one of Ethiopia’s most sought after birds, the attractive Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco. It is endemic to Ethiopia and has a tiny world range.


Driving on, we reach the hot southern plains. We are well off the tourist route here but a new hotel in Negelle provides clean, comfortable accommodation. A full day in the Negelle area will be spent looking for specialists of this dry habitat. A target bird is the Sidamo Lark, one of the most threatened birds in Africa. It is confined to the Liben Plain where its habitat is suffering from over-grazing and other agricultural pressures. In the early morning it sings as it hovers just a few metres above the ground. The rest of the time it is more likely to remain firmly on the ground scuttling mouse-like from one tussock to the next.



We will drive through camel country as we continue on our circuit round south-east Ethiopia. The highly localised White-tailed Swallow can be found here along with many other interesting species. We then head north looking for Vulturine Guineafowl and Streseman’s Bush-crow. The bush-crow is quite common within its range. A few kilometres before Yabello town we arrive at Borana Lodge for a two night stay. This is another new lodge and the accommodation is in very well appointed chalets. The extensive grounds hold a large number of species including Streseman’s Bush-crow, nesting Tawny Eagle, Bearded and Nubian Woodpeckers, African Scops Owl, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Crested Francolin and Orange-bellied Parrot. Various doves and small birds like the Purple Grenadier come down to drink at the swimming pool. 



We then cross the mountainous coffee-growing area and descend into the lower Rift Valley. Birding on the way, we will reach our hotel at Awassa in time for lunch. After resting we will birdwatch at several places along the lake shore looking for waterbirds such as Lesser Jacana, White-backed Duck, African Pygmy Goose and Hottentot Teal.


The next day we will continue to birdwatch around Lake Awassa and also may visit a local forestry college which is excellent for birds. On day 16 we will drive back to the capital where we will stay overnight. We  then have a full day birding the area north of Addis. We will drive through the plains up to the Jemma Gorge where we will look for Gelada Baboons, Ruppell’s Black Chat, Lammergeier, Spot-breasted Lapwing and many more species. We then drive back to Addis for our late evening flight back to the UK.



Breakfast will usually be around 7am. Basic fitness is all that is required. Full days will be spent in the field and short walks will be undertaken regularly. There is some uphill walking but at a sensible pace.



Full board accommodation is provided with one night at the Tazeze Hotel, Addis Ababa, two nights at Awash Falls Lodge, three nights at Bishangari Lodge, Lake Langano, three nights at Goba Wabe Shebelle Hotel, two nights at Turaco Hotel, Negelle, two nights at Borana Lodge, Yabello, two nights at the United Africa Hotel, Awassa, and the last night back at the Tazeze Hotel, Addis Ababa. All hotels are of a good standard and all rooms have en-suite facilities. Lunch will usually be at a restaurant, but may be a picnic.



All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local guide (starting with breakfast on 11th, ending with dinner on 26th), local transport by mini coach and Land Cruiser, reserve entrance fees, scout fees in the parks, soft drinks at meal times, international flights and airport taxes.



Travel insurance. Cost of a tourist visa (£14). Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.



Return flights from both Manchester and London Heathrow to Addis Ababa (via Frankfurt) using the scheduled services of Lufthansa. Outbound flight departs early morning; return flight arrives back mid-morning.





17 nights including

one overnight flight:


Principal leader:


Local guide:


Maximum group size:


Cost with discount

(if you book before

27th September 2013):


Full Cost:


Single supplement:






10th to 27th January 2014


Andrew Woodall


Negussie Toye


11 clients with one leader

and a local guide



£3730 per person sharing


£3880 per person sharing






A ground only price is available. Please contact our office.





Simian Wolf digging for its dinner

Blue-breasted Bee-eater

Stressman's Bush-Crow, one of many endemics

Red-and-Yellow Barbets like to sit on top of termite mounds.. and sometimes nest in them.

Hammerkops can be amazingly confiding in Ethiopia.

Mountain Nyala

Shelley's Starling





click here to see the photographs in our Ethiopia Album



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