Landmarks visited on Comprehensive Birding Tour
Day 1 - The adventure begins!
Arrive Addis Ababa, the diplomatic capital of Africa, situated on the flanks of the Entoto Mountains at an altitude of 2400m. Yellow-billed Kites and Hooded Vultures are likely to be amongst the first birds we see. Drive over the Entoto Mountains, admiring the spectacular views of Addis that the road affords, and then out onto the high moorland en route to Debre Libanos for a two night stay. En route, in the marshy areas or amongst the drier grasslands, we'll have our first chances to see such endemics as Wattled Ibis and Blue-winged Goose (whose nearest relative and ecological counterpart is the Andean Goose of South America) feeding along the water’s edge. These are likely to be joined by Rouget’s Rails and Abyssinian Longclaws skulking in the wet grass, whilst flocks of White-collared Pigeons and Black-headed Siskins decorate the telegraph wires.
Other interesting species are likely to include Erlanger’s Lark (split from Red-capped), Short-crested Lark, Red-breasted Wheatear, Moorland (or Alpine) Chat, the endemic Ethiopian Cisticola and Brown-rumped Seedeater.
Our lodge is situated not far from the monastery of Debre Libanos, perched on the lip of a massive and spectacular gorge (a branch of the Blue Nile drainage system). The precipitous cliffs are home to the impressive Gelada Baboon and we should encounter a large troop of these handsome primates as they forage along the cliff tops. Amongst the birds we can expect to see here are endemics such as Erckel’s Francolin (often to be found in the lodge garden!), Black-winged Lovebird, Banded Barbet, Rüppell’s Black Chat, White-winged Cliff Chat, White-billed Starling and Abyssinian (or Abyssinian Black-headed) Oriole, as well as the near-endemic White-cheeked Turaco.
Today we must be up early in order to stand a good chance of finding the exceedingly localized endemic Harwood’s Francolin, in the Jemma River Valley. The birds call at first light, which will give us our best chance of finding them, but they can still be difficult to see. Also in the valley we will be looking for the attractively coloured, localized Foxy Cisticola and the rather dowdy near-endemic White-throated (or Yellow-rumped) Seedeater.
Other birds we can expect to see here are Dark Chanting Goshawk, Senegal Thick-knee, Spur-winged Plover, Vinaceous, Namaqua and Laughing Doves, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Abyssinian Roller, Black-billed Wood- Hoopoe, Black-billed Barbet, Blue Saw-wing (split from Black), Wire-tailed Swallow, African Pied Wagtail, Familiar (or Red-tailed) Chat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Abyssinian White-eye, Grey-backed Fiscal, Black-crowned Tchagra, the restricted-range Ethiopian Boubou, Lesser Blue-eared Starling, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Bush Petronia, Speckle-fronted, Vitelline Masked and Yellow-backed (or Black-headed) Weavers, Black-winged Red Bishop, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Cut-throat Finch and Yellow-fronted Canary. Overnight Ethio-German Lodge. (Driving time around 1-2 hours )
After some final birding at Debre Libanos and Jemma Valley we will travel to Debre Birhan for a two nights stay. We may have our first chance to encounter Ankober Serin this afternoon. Overnight Eva hotel (Driving time around 3 hours)
Today we will explore the Ankober escarpment. The Ankober escarpment provides truly spectacular views over the Awash valley and the Danakil Desert far below. Here at 3000m (9843ft) the cliffs are broken by vegetated slopes and terraces covered in tree heaths and other Afro-alpine plants. At times clouds swirl up from the valley below to envelop the cliff tops where we will look for the endemic Ankober Serin, first described in 1976. This small seedeater has a very restricted distribution but we have a good chance of encountering a flock feeding on the cliff edges against some stunning scenery. We shall also descend the escarpment to Melka Ghebdu, a reliable site for the endemic Yellow-throated Seedeater. Overnight Eva Hotel (5 hours for round trip)
Today we will head for Awash National Park for a three nights stay (spending the first two nights at Awash Falls Lodge and the second at Animalia Lodge) via Addis Ababa and the Express Way, stopping at Adama for lunch, and then en route to Awash at Lake Besekawhere we will see many waterbirds, often including Striated (or Green-backed) and Black-headed Herons, Red-billed Teal, White-backed and Maccoa Ducks, and Common Crane. We should arrive in Awash late afternoon, and from the road to the lodge we can expect to see some mammals, such as Beisa Oryx, Klipspringer, Hamadryads and Anubis baboons, salt Dikidik, Grivet Monkey and others. Overnight Awash Falls Lodge (driving time5- 6 hours)
We will spend all the day exploring Awash Par. Over 400 species of birds have been recorded in Awash National Park. The terrain is mostly a mosaic of grassland and acacia scrub but the Awash River flows through the area and supports some riverine forest in places. The nearby Fantalle volcano is bordered by a hot springs oasis where luxuriant vegetation flourishes in the midst of a lava desert that is home to the rare, restricted-range Sombre Rock Chat, which favours old lava flows. Other specialties of Awash include the stately Arabian Bustard, Yellow-breasted Barbet, the little-known and restricted-range Gillett’s Lark and Nile Valley Sunbird. A distinct advantage of Awash compared to many other African parks is that one is allowed to go birding on foot due to the virtual absence of dangerous mammals.
Small herds of Beisa Oryx roam the grasslands and Black-backed Jackal, Lesser Kudu, Salt’s Dikdik, Soemmering’s Gazelle, Gerenuk, Common Warthog, Sacred (or Hamadryas) and Olive Baboons, and Grivet Monkey also occur here. Overnight Awash Falls Lodge
After some early morning birding at Awash, we will drive to Bilen and see birds like Somali ostrich, Egyptian Vulture, Black- chested Snake Eagle, Scissor tailed kite, blak headed plover, Arabian Bustard, Chestnut- billed Sandgrouse, Lichtensteins Sandgrouse, African Callared Dove, Northern Carmine Bee- Eater, Yellow- breasted Barbet. We will take our lunch at Animalia Lodge and later in the afternoon, we will return to the main road and cross over to the Alledeghi Wildlife Reserve. The main attraction here, in addition to the species mentioned above found in Awash Park, are Grevy’s Zebra and Wild Ass, both listed as critically endangered species.Overnight Animalia Lodge
After some early morning birding around Bilen, we will drive through the Rift Valley to Lake Langano for a two night stay, stopping along the way for some birding at Lake Ziway. Here, Black Herons shade the water with their wings held in characteristic umbrella fashion, African Fish Eagles soar overhead or utter their distinctive yodelling calls from prominent perches, Pied Kingfishers hover over the surface and tiny Malachite Kingfishers cling to the papyrus stems, while the emergent vegetation provides suitable habitat for Black Crakes and African Jacanas balance on the floating lily pads. Where the local Oromo fishermen bring their catch ashore we can watch remarkably tame Marabou Storks and Hamerkops.
Other birds we may well find at Lake Ziway include Long-tailed Cormorant, African Darter, Squacco and Purple Herons, Little Egret, Fulvous and White-faced Whistling Ducks, Spur-winged Goose, the delightful African Pygmy-goose, Hottentot Teal, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Collared Pratincole, Heuglin’s and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Whiskered and White-winged Terns, and Sand Martin (or Bank Swallow).
This morning we will be birding around the Lodge, and in addition to the key birds mentioned above, will be on the look out for Bare-faced Go-away Bird, Black-winged Lovebird, Banded, Double-toothed, Balck-billed and Red-frontedBarbets, Red-thorated Wryneck, Little and Rupplell’s Weaver, Reichenow’s Seedeater and Heuglin’s Courser.
After lunch in the lodge, we will retrace our steps back to the main road, and enter the Abijatta-Shalla National Park.
In the morning we shall leave the Rift Valley and climb steadily upwards through the southeastern highlands to Goba for a three nights stay. Our journey will take us across the montane grassland, where we will keep a lookout for Red-chested and Grey-rumped Swallows, and then, as we climb higher, we enter juniper woodland before reaching the moorlands of the Bale Mountains. We shall break our journey to look for Mackinder’s Eagle Owl (sometimes split from Cape Eagle-Owl) and also at the park headquarters, where we will see our first Bale birds and mammals. At the latter we shall be searching in particular for roosting nightbirds, which may include the poorly-known Abyssinian Owl and, with luck, African Wood Owl or Montane Nightjar. Overnight Wabishebele hotel(driving time four hours). NB This is the cheaper option, much more expensive but very comfortable and in a wonderful setting is the Bale Mountains Lodge, located inside the park.
The magnificent Bale Mountains National Park was set up to protect two endemic mammals, the Mountain Nyala, which is found nowhere else, and the Ethiopian Wolf. The park is also home to fourteen of Ethiopia’s endemic birds and offers superb birding opportunities in the Afro-alpine moorlands and highland forests. We shall drive to Tullu Deemtu (4377m) on the Sanetti Plateau, by way of the highest all-weather road in Africa, where the spikes of giant lobelias punctuate the moorland like huge exclamation marks. Elsewhere the rolling grasslands are interspersed with patches of juniper and Hagenia woodland, whilst at the foot of a dramatic escarpment lies the once-extensive Harenna Forest. We have an excellent chance of seeing the beautiful Mountain Nyala, the last of the African big game species to be discovered, and of sighting the red coat of an Ethiopian Wolf against the grey moorlands.
In addition to the two large endemic mammals we may also find the strange endemic Giant Root-Rats cleaning out their burrows, as well as Bush Duiker, Ethiopian Klipspringer, the endemic Menelik’s Bushbuck, Bohor Reedbuck and the endemic Starck’s Hare. Overnight Wabe Shabelle Hotel or Bale Mountains Lodge.
On our second full day in the Goba region we will visit the valley of Sof Omar, famous for its extensive underground limestone cave system, now an important Islamic shrine, that has been carved out by the Web river. Although sometimes rather overrun by people, it is here that we shall search the bushy slopes of an attractive valley for the endemic Salvadori’s Seedeater.
Other birds we may find here are African Hawk Eagle, Northern Brownbul, the restricted-range Brown-tailed Rock Chat, Brown-tailed Apalis (split from Yellow-breasted), Slate-coloured Boubou, Grey-headed Bush Shrike and Bristle-crowned Starling. The temperatures rise quickly here and during the heat of the day when it can become blisteringly hot we will have the opportunity to explore the impressive caves. Overnight Wabishebele Hotel or Bale Mountains Lodge. (drivingtime 4 hours for round trip).
We shall return to the Sanetti Plateau today (if we are coming from Wabe Shabelle Hotel) and continue up over the highest all-weather road in Africa descending into what is left of the great Harenna forest and then on through the juniper and broad-leaved forest to Negelle for a two nights stay. As we near the town we enter prime habitat for the endangered endemic Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco. By carefully checking the large fruiting figs we should come across this stunning and charismatic creature. OvernightMaereg hotel (Driving time4 hours.)
Today we shall explore a vast open area of grassland surrounded by acacia and Commiphora bush and low stands of whistling thorn favoured by the localized Shelley’s and White-crowned Starlings, Shelley’s Rufous Sparrow and Speke’s Weaver. We shall make good use of the early morning as the larks will almost certainly only be active while it is still cool. The more common grassland species are Plain-backed Pipit and Somali Short-toed Lark but our main target, the rare and more skulking endemic Liben (or Sidamo) Lark, will take more searching for. We will also have another chance to look for the sometimes elusive Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco should we need to. Overnight Maareghotel. (Driving time 6 hours.)
Full day around Negele watching birds like Liben Lark, Somali short toed lark, Caspian plover,Somali crow, white crowned starling, Ethiopian Swallaw, Prince Ruspolis Turaco, Salvadori seedeater and others. Overnight Maareg hotel
During the day we will travel from Negelle to Yabello for a two nights stay. We should find African White-winged Doves and Juba Weavers along the banks of the Dawa river. Whilst in this dry southern region of the country, as well as many bush-country species already encountered, new species to look for include skulking shrikes like Three-streaked Tchagra, Red-naped Bush Shrike and Pringle’s Puffback, and also Northern Grosbeak- Canary, while if we are in luck we will come across Short-tailed Lark.
This interesting part of Ethiopia has an avifauna broadly similar to that of northern Kenya but in addition is home to two unique species that are found only here in Sidamo province. The discovery of the extraordinary Stresemann’s Bush-crow, described in 1938, represents one of the most remarkable ornithological events in Africa the last century and we shall be eagerly looking out for our first party of these strange birds that recall starlings as much as corvids. The other star attraction of the area is the enchanting White-tailed Swallow.
As well as these two prize endemics there are many other birds of interest in the area and we shall be looking out for White-headed Vulture, Coqui Francolin, Somali Courser, African Orange-bellied Parrot, D’Arnaud’s Barbet, Foxy (or Fawn-coloured) Lark, Tiny Cisticola, Banded Parisoma, Bare-eyed Thrush, Black-headed Oriole, the gorgeous Golden-breasted Starling, Grey-capped and Black-capped Social Weavers, Black-cheeked Waxbill and White-bellied Canary. Overnight Yabello motel or Borena Lodge
After some final birding in the Yabello area we will travel north to Lake Awassa for an overnight stay. Overnight United Africa hotel (driving 6- 7 Hours)
Lake Hawassa is a freshwater lake, quite different from the alkaline lakes to the north, surrounded by small patches of remnant forest. (A visit to the fish market is a must, to get really close to a variety of species that are very used to human company.)
The star attractions here are thevery localized African Spotted Creeper (now considered specifically distinct from Asian Spotted Creeper) and the near-endemic Abyssinian Waxbill (split from Fawn-breasted). In addition, the endemic and extraordinary-looking Thick-billed Raven is common here.
After morning bird watching atLake Hawassa we head to Welliso, Overnight Negash Lodge. (Driving time 4-5 hours.)
Early in the morning drive to Gibe Gorge to watch birds like Booted Eagle, Senegal thick-knee, African wattled Lapwing, Egyptian plover, yellow throated Sandgrouse, Four- banded Sandgrouse, Foxy Cisticola, Snow headed and Robin- chat.In the afternoon drive back to Addis Ababa, day use room at Ghion hotel and transfer to Air port for your final departure.
NB Road conditions south of the Bale Mountains National Park towards Negele do not allow us to use a Coaster bus, so we change to 4x4s on Day 12, and revert to the Coaster on Day 19. When the road to Negele and is improved, allowing us to use a Coaster bus for the entire journey, a considerable reduction in the price can be made.
In the Bale Mountains, there are only two possible places to stay, Wabe Shabelle Goba, which is relatively cheap, but poorly managed and badly maintained, and the very attractive and comfortable – but expensive Bale Mountain Lodge.
Transfer back to Addis to catch your international flight home.
Prices, Departures and Inclusions
Prices are per person for 4 pax.
All domestic transport via 4WD.
- All internal travel including tours and excursions by a 4WD vehicle.
- Accommodation on a twin/double bed on full board basis.
- Professional bird guide fee.
- Local guide’s, scout's fee and fees.
- Entrance fees.
- VAT and local taxes.
- International flights, visas, gratuities and any expenditure of a personal nature.