- Look out for hippos and birdlife as you take a boat trip on Lake Hawassa
- Explore the natural beauty and wildlife of the Web Valley and Gaysay grasslands
- Keep an eye out for the endangered Ethiopian wolf as you cross the Sinetti Plateau
- Summit Tulu Dimtu (4,377m) the highest mountain in the park
- Experience stunning views from the Harenna escarpment to the tropical forests below
- Sample wild coffee and local honey from the Sankate Community Tourism Association
- Visit Emperor Haile Selassie's former palace, and one of his favourite retreats
- Enjoy a soak in the invigorating natural hot springs at Wendo Genet, meaning "heavenly place"
Bale Mountains National Park is an area of high-altitude plateau, broken by numerous spectacular volcanic plugs and peaks, beautiful alpine lakes and rushing mountain streams that descend into deep rocky gorges on their way to the lowlands below. As the largest area of Afro-alpine habitat in the whole of Africa, the park offers visitors unsurpassed opportunities for mountain walking, horse trekking and scenic driving. It also offers the chance to spot many of Ethiopia's endemic mammals, such as Mountain Nyala and the Ethiopian Wolf, and birds such as the Thick-billed Raven, Wattled Ibis, Blue-winged Goose and Rouget's Rail. As you ascend into the mountains, you'll experience changes in the vegetation with altitude, from juniper forests to heather moorlands and alpine meadows, which at various times of year exhibit an abundance of colourful wild flowers.
Day 1: Addis Ababa to Hawassa
The tour starts with a morning drive of around 3 hours, out of Addis Ababa and south through the green Rift Valley to the lakeside town of Ziway. Here, you’ll stop for lunch and have some time to explore the town and lakeside which is a great place to spot birds and watch the world go by. Leaving Ziway, you’ll then continue south and further into the rift valley to Hawassa, another pleasant lakeside town, where you’ll spend the night in a local hotel. Don’t miss out on the delicious fresh-caught local fish and a stroll along the shore to see the sunset.
Day 2: Hawassa to Dinsho
In the morning, you'll see Hawassa's famous fish market and take a boat trip on the lake, looking out for hippos! You’ll then continue on your journey to Dinsho - the gateway to the Bale Mountains National Park. Here, you’ll set up camp and have some time to explore the surrounding area and its wildlife. Sightings of Warthog, Mountain Nyala, Menelik’s Bushbuck, and Bohor Reedbuck are all common within this area, as well as many Ethiopian and Abyssinian endemic birds.
Day 3: The Web Valley and Gaysay Grasslands
In the morning, after a hearty breakfast and some local coffee, you’ll set out from camp, either by foot or 4x4, depending on your preference. You’ll follow a rough dirt track, firstly through farmland along the edge of the park, then into the park itself, where settlements and crops begin to thin out. The track continues parallel to the Web River, skirting an impressive gorge where Rock Hyraxes are often seen. Black eagles and giant eagle owls are occasionally seen along the edges of this gorge, as well as very rare sightings of Leopard. At the top of the gorge, the track crosses a stone bridge over the river, and then rises steeply and crosses back again. It is here that you enter the Afroalpine habitat, and are rewarded with magnificent views across the Bale landscape. Keep an eye out for sightings of the rare and endemic Ethiopian wolf, as well as hunting raptors. You will also see the Finch Habera waterfall , which means “woman’s urine” in the local language! In the afternoon, there should also be time for an excursion into the Gaysay Grasslands. Again, keep a look out for Warthog, Mountain Nyala, Menelik’s Bushbuck, Grey Duiker, Bohor Reedbuck and other mammals. Further exploration will take you to the woodlands where elusive animals such as the Serval, Spotted Hyena and Golden (Common) Jackal reside – the latter is commonly heard calling in early evening. Make sure to also listen for the finest songbird in Africa – the Abyssinian catbird. At the end of the day you’ll return to camp for some hard-earned rest!
Day 4: Sanetti Plateau and the Harenna Forest
Early in the morning, you’ll strike camp and head to the Sanetti plateau. As the sun rises, the most endangered canid in the world – the Ethiopian wolf – begins to hunt. The Sanetti plateau is the best place in Ethiopia to see this elegant animal, and the winding road atop the plateau, one of the highest all-weather roads in Africa, is an ideal spot for viewings. The plateau is also home to many rodents, the largest being the giant molerat, found only in the Bale Mountains. If rodents aren’t your thing, then there are plenty of rare lichens to marvel at too! Again, you are likely to see a variety of birds of prey soaring in the skies above: golden, tawny and Verreaux’s eagles as well as the bearded vulture (lammergeyer), lanner falcon, and augur buzzard. As you continue your journey, you will stop at Tulu Dimtu or “the Red Mountain”. At 4,377m, this is the highest mountain in the park. As you reach the end of the plateau and the Harenna escarpment, there are stunning views as the road winds its way down more than 2,000m and into the vast Harenna tropical forest. At the base of the escarpment is the small village of Rira, where you can either stop and relax with some local refreshments, or if you’re feeling more adventurous, stretch your legs on a short walk (around 2hrs round trip) through the forest to a bamboo-filled canyon and two waterfalls, stacked almost on top of each other. A large pool at the base of the second waterfall is a great spot for photos and offers a chance to soak your feet in the cool, clean water. Keep your eyes peeled for the black-and-white colobus monkey and the elusive Bale monkey as well as Menelik’s bushbuck. Birds in the area include the grey cuckoo shrike, Abyssinian catbird, Ruppell’s robin-chat, Abyssinian ground thrush, white-cheeked turaco and many more. Returning to Rira, you’ll camp nearby for the night.
Day 5: Harenna Forest and Manyete Coffee Village
In the morning, you’ll take a short drive south from Rira to the southern edge of the National Park. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a lion on this road! Here, you will find an area known for its massive fern pine and fig trees, now rare in Ethiopia, and in the shade of these trees grows wild forest coffee (Arabica sp.). A 6km nature trail takes you through this wild coffee forest and leads to a natural spring. In the nearby village of Manyete, the Sankate Community Tourism Association runs a coffee house where you can sample the wild coffee as well as local honey and other produce. Returning towards Rira, there is again the opportunity either to relax or take in yet another local highlight – the Gushuralle Peak Forest Trail. This route, which takes around 2-3 hours, takes you through dense bamboo forest to the summit of Gushuralle, where you will be rewarded with stunning views across the Harenna Forest. As ever, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife such as Bale monkeys, Menelik’s bushbuck, warthog, colobus monkeys, mountain nyala, giant forest hogs or (very rarely) leopards or lions. At the end of the day, you’ll return once more to camp near Rira.
Day 6: Rira to Wendo Genet
From Rira, you’ll make your way back over the Harenna escarpment and over the Sinetti plateau once more, passing through Dinsho again as you leave the Bale Mountains behind and head westwards towards Wendo Genet. In 1962, Princess Tegnanwork visited this lush mountain area and decided to have a resort built for the royal family here. Her father, Emperor Haile Selassie, was so impressed that he named the area Wendo Genet, meaning "heavenly place". Here, after four nights of camping, you can take an invigorating soak in the thermal waters, heated by natural springs, and stay in the former palace of Emperor Haile Selassie. This building retains much of its original furniture and there’s even a small museum of the Emperor's personal belongings, housed in the old Princess Bar.
Day 7: Wendo Genet to Addis Ababa
From Wendo Genet, you’ll make your way back north through the Rift Valley towards Addis Ababa, stopping off on the way to visit Abiyata-Shala National Park. This park is named after the two large lakes that make up most of its area, but which have very contrasting characters. Lake Abiyata is shallow and highly alkaline, whilst Lake Shala is Ethiopia’s deepest lake, containing eight volcanic islands. You'll get a guided tour of the park and see how the local residents live in this relatively harsh and dry environment. Finally, you will arrive back in Addis Ababa and the tour ends with dinner at a cultural restaurant, where you can sample local dishes as you watch energetic traditional dances from across the country.
An experienced professional English-speaking guide
All meals from lunch on day 1 to dinner on day 7
All land transport involved in the itinerary
2 nights accommodation in hotels, plus 4 nights camping
Entrance fees and local guides for all excursions described
Services Not Included
Tips for staff
Miscellaneous expenses – alcoholic drinks, souvenirs etc.
This trip includes 2 nights' accommodation in hotels. All accommodation is based on two people sharing a room. If you are travelling by yourself, we can pair you with another client of the same gender or, depending on availability, it may be possible to book a single room (additional charges may apply).
The trip also includes 4 nights' camping. Please bring your own sleeping bag, but all other camping equipment (tents, mattresses, cooking equipment etc.) will be provided.
Group Leader & Support Staff
The group will be accompanied by an experienced English-speaking guide plus a driver and various local support staff.
Guidance On Tipping
Tipping should not be seen as something you have to do but in Ethiopia, as in many parts of the world, it is an appropriate way of saying thank you for a service well done. For each of your drivers on this trip we would recommend around £5 per day from the group, and for each of your guides around £10 per day from the group.
Upcoming group tour dates:
- Saturday 30th November - Friday 6th December 2019 (open for bookings)
- Sunday 18th - Saturday 24th October 2020 (open for bookings)
Interested in this tour but can't make those dates? We can arrange dates to suit you so please contact us.
The cost of this tour is 27,552 ETB (1,002 USD / 851 EUR / 744 GBP) per person for groups of 3 or more people.
It is possible to arrange this tour for 1 or 2 people, but a surcharge may apply. Please contact us to find out more.
Please see the further details tab for information about services included.