Special photography tour focused on the most emblematic birds and mammals of Ethiopia.

Wild Ethiopia Photography

Tuesday 26th October - Saturday 6th November 2021

Ethiopia is a country offering excellent opportunities for true bird and wildlife photography. By true, we mean approaching them by walking and stalking and not using specially designed hides for wildlife photographers. But more and more photographers are asking and turning an eye to the real hunt - find the animal get close by and shoot. Ethiopia is one of the right places for this type of photography for several reasons. First, there is a great variety of birds and mammals - 850 and 260 species respectively. And what birds and animals they are - some of the iconic wildlife species in the world. Moreover, they are found in very good numbers and even more importantly they are reasonably approachable as are not persecuted or hunted by the local people. In my time spent birding I have not seen more approachable birds than those I saw during my first visit to Ethiopia in 2015. Therefore, this tour was born. Still, we have chosen the sites we will visit carefully so they give us maximum chances for good results - abundant wildlife and/or being in remote places. Despite its 90 million people, Ethiopia, being a vast country is not so densely populated and there are still places where you can watch enjoy and photograph the wildlife without being surrounded by a crowd of children as in almost any other country on the continent. The great variety of birds will definitely help us but we will concentrate on fewer species in the right locations. Bee-eaters, rollers, hornbills, barbets, raptors, waterfowl, kingfishers, parrots, starlings will be our main targets, everything else that comes along will be welcomed. However, along with the birds, we are aiming at two iconic mammals. The endemic Ethiopian Wolf – the rarest canid in the world, with fewer than 500 animals left, is one of them. Mysterious, different, elegant, endangered and not as shy as the other wolves, it is very appealing challenge. His home range is also very impressive – the cold, wet and rough Sanetti Plateau. We will spend two full days here in order to have the best chance for really good photographs of the wolves, by being at the right place at the right moment. On the plateau can also be found other species - Spot-breasted Plover, Wattled Ibis, Blue-winged Goose as well as some raptors – Lanner Falcon, Imperial and Spotted eagles.
The other mammal is also endemic and even more appealing – the unique Gelada Baboon. We will be visiting (within the extension) their famous home range – the impressive Simien Mountains, which every naturalist will have seen in documentaries. We will hopefully take not only portraits of the Geladas, but also capture their interacting behaviour and social life. The Simien Mountain as well as Sanetti Plateau offers good options for landscape photography. Beside the mountains we will be visiting gorges, forests, semi-deserts and wetlands looking for our subjects. There will be also opportunities to take pictures of the local people in their traditional and colourful clothes and when they are in their duties in the beautiful and natural landscapes, it will result in memorable pictures. All the accommodation within the tour is carefully chosen - the lodges at Awash National Park and Langano Lake, as well as the hotel at Awasa Lake are very good quality, while the lodges at Bale and Simien mountains are upmarket, probably the best in Ethiopia.

ITINERARY

Day 1 Arrival in Addis Ababa and transfer to a hotel for the first night stay. Accommodation and dinner at hotel in Addis Ababa.

Day 2 Today we will drive to Langano, one of the Rift Valley lakes, surrounded by arid acacia savanna. En-route we will have a few stops, the main one will be at Lake Ziway and its surrounding where again we will find many species of wetland birds in big numbers. Among the species you'll find are: African Pygmy Geese, Yellow-billed and Marabou Storks, Lesser and Greater Jacanas, African Jacanas, White Pelicans, Fish Eagles, Crowned and Common Cranes are some of the species to be seen here in impressive numbers. Three nights at Bishangari Eco Lodge.

Days 3 to 5 We will explore the forest around the lodge and the lake shores – here will find again good numbers of species. The endemic Yellow-fronted Parrot and the Black-winged Lovebird are found around the lodge, also Broad-billed Roller, Narina Trogon, Red-shouldered and Emerald Cuckoos, Lemon, Blue-spotted and Tambourine Doves, different woodpeckers, Sharpe's Starling, Double-toothed Barbet, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Red-breasted Wryneck, Masked Weavers, Beautiful Sunbird and many more. It is home to a few mammals including the Bushbuck, Vervet and Black Colobus Monkeys, Olive Baboon and Golden-backed Jackal. In the afternoon of day 5, we shall drive to Lake Awassa, where we will overnight at Haile Resort hotel for two nights, which the gardens will provide easy photography early next morning.

Day  6 Photographing at Awassa Lake. Awassa is probably the single best locality for a diversity of birds and subjects to shoot. Here we can find and photograph many species as Goliath Heron, and Marabou and Saddle-billed storks, Hamerkops, Africa Fish-Eagle. The waterlilies often hide small groups of pretty African Pygmy-Goose while the reed beds are home to Black Crake and Blue-headed Coucal. Other birds which will see will be Northern Red Bishop, Abyssinian Waxbill, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Banded and Double-toothed Barbet and White-browed Robin-chat. Behind the birds we will see and the beautiful Gureza Colobus Monkeys.

Days 7 to 9 Drive to Bale Mountain where we will spend three days photographing its mammals and birds. The endemic Ethiopian Wolf and the Mountain Nyala will be our main targets here. Other species will be Menelik's Bushbuck, and the birds may be the elusive Wattled Crane and the endemic Spot-breasted Plover, Blue-winged Goose, Rouget‘s Rail and many other species. Overnight in the luxury Bale Mountain Lodge.

Day 10 If needed, we will spend the good part of the day photographing at the plateau again, if not needed there is an option to visit Harenna forest. The Harenna forest is the second largest forest in Ethiopia and the largest cloud forest in the country. Although avifauna is elusive here, it is the best place to find several forest specialists birds. The highlights of the forest include the Abyssinian Catbird, Abyssinian Oriole and Yellow-fronted Parrot, and various forest specialist birds including the White-cheeked Turaco, Sharpe’s Starling, Abyssinian Crimson-wing, Collared Sunbird, Yellow-bellied Sunbird, African Hill Babbler and Silvery-cheeked Hornbill. Other birds to look for include Lemon Dove, Tambourine Dove, Red- chested Cuckoo, Emerald Cuckoo, Narina Trogon and Grey Woodpecker. Here is the one that sustain a forest Lions population. Return to lake Awassa in the evening. One night at Haile Resort.

Day 11 After the morning session in the hotel gardens. We will drive to Senkelle Wildlife Sanctuary, 90 km from Awassa, well known for endemic and endangered subspecies of Swayne's Hartebeest as well as antelopes, warthogs, Olive Baboons, Vervet Monkeys and Bushbuck. Although the sanctuary was set aside to protect the largest population of Swayne's Hartebeest in Ethiopia, a mammal endemic to Ethiopia, the original herd of 3,000 animals has dwindled to a few hundred due to poaching. Overnight at a different lodge near Langano Lake.

Day 12 Morning photography around the lake, followed by a transfer to Addis Adaba for the return flight. For those of us who will attend the extension, afternoon flight to Gondar.

Extension for Gelada Baboons 

Days 13 and 14 Both days we will spend in Simien National Park - one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world and home to globally threatened species, including the iconic Gelada Gaboon, possibly the Walia Ibex, a wild mountain goat found nowhere else in the world, and again the Ethiopian Wolf. We will concentrate on these 3 species here, and whatever else comes along. Overnight at Simien Lodge.

Day 15 Morning photography and drive to Gondar for airport transfer to Addis Ababa. Fly home.


TOUR MAP:


Photo and video gallery