Landmarks visited on Best of Birding
Day 1 - The adventure begins!
The diplomatic capital of Africa, situated on the flanks of the Entoto Mountains at an altitude of 2400m, and Yellow-billed Kites and Hooded Vultures are likely to be amongst the first birds we see.
We shall first 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 DebreLibanos for a one night stay, along the route, in the marshy areas or amongst the drier grasslands, we should have our first chances to see such endemics as Wattled Ibis and Blue-winged Goose 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.
Additional species we are likely to see today include Little Grebe, Grey Heron, Sacred Ibis, Egyptian Goose, African Black and Yellow-billed Ducks, White-backed Vulture, Augur and Common Buzzards, Red-knobbed Coot, Three-banded and Black-winged Plovers, Speckled Pigeon, Dusky Turtle and Red-eyed Doves, Nyanza Swift, Speckled Mousebird, European Bee-eater, Blue-headed Wagtail, Grassland Pipit, Brown-throated (or African Sand) Martin, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, Red-throated Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Common Bulbul, Northern, Pied, Isabelline Wheatears, Mountain Thrush (split from Olive), Groundscraper Thrush, Pectoral-patch Cisticola, Common Fiscal, Pied Crow, Cape Rook, Red-billed Oxpecker, Greater Blue-eared Starling, Tacazze Sunbird, Swainson’s Sparrow, Baglafecht Weaver, Yellow Bishop, Red-collared Widowbird, Common Waxbill, Streaky Seedeater, African Citril and Ortolan Bunting.
Our lodge is situated not far from the monastery of DebreLibanos, 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.
More widespread birds that we can expect are Lammergeier (or Bearded Vulture, often sailing past at close range), Rüppell’s Griffon Vulture, Steppe, Tawny and Verreaux’s Eagles, Common Kestrel, Lanner, Peregrine Falcon, Mottled Swift, Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Hemprich’s Hornbill, Common House and Rock Martins, Long-billed and Tree Pipits, Little Rock Thrush, Rüppell’s Robin-Chat, Mocking Cliff Chat, Singing and Stout Cisticolas, African Paradise Flycatcher, Montane White-eye, Northern Puffback, Fan-tailed Raven, Red-winged Starling, Village Indigobird, Pin-tailed Whydah, Red-billed Firefinch and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting. O/n Ethio- German lodge. (Driving time 2 hours)
Today we will head for Awash National Park for a two nights at Awash Falls Lodge, viaAddis Ababa and the new 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 time 5- 6 hours)
Full day in Awash National park, we will spend all the day exploring Awash. Over 400 species of birds have been recorded in Awash National Park, ranging from the huge Somali Ostrich to the diminutive Mouse-colouredPenduline Tit. 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 specialities 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.
Other species we may well encounter during our visit include Western Cattle Egret, Black-shouldered and African Swallow-tailed Kites, Egyptian and Lappet-faced Vultures, Short-toed, Black-chested and Brown Snake Eagles, Bateleur, Pallid and Montagu’s Harriers, Gabar Goshawk, Grasshopper Buzzard, Pygmy Falcon, Harlequin Quail, Crested Francolin, Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Helmeted Guineafowl, Kori buff Crested, White-bellied and Hartlaub’s Bustards, Heuglin’s Courser, Chestnut-bellied and Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, African Mourning and Ring-necked Doves, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, White-bellied Go-away-bird, White-browed Coucal, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Plain and Slender-tailed Nightjars, African Palm Swift, Blue-napedMousebird, Striped Kingfisher,Abyssinian and Rufous-crowned (or Purple) Rollers, Eurasian Hoopoe, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, African Grey, Northern Red-billed, Von der Decken’s and Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbills, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Greater Honeyguide, Nubian, Bearded and Cardinal Woodpeckers, Red-winged and Singing Bush Larks, Chestnut-backed Sparrow Lark, Ethiopian and Lesser Striped Swallows, Rufous Chatterer, Common Nightingale, White-browed and Black Scrub Robins, Blackstart, Eastern Olivaceous, Red-fronted and Buff-bellied Warblers, Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Rattling, Ashy and Desert Cisticolas, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Northern Crombec, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Grey Wren- Warbler, African Grey and Spotted Flycatchers, Grey-headed Batis, White-crested Helmet-Shrike, Northern White-crowned, Woodchat, Red-backed, Isabelline and Southern Grey Shrikes, Somali Fiscal, Brubru, Rosy-patched and Sulphur-breasted Bush Shrikes, Fork-tailed (or Common) Drongo, Eastern Violet-backed, Marico, Beautiful and Shining Sunbirds, Green-winged Pytilia, Crimson-rumped Waxbill, African Silverbill, Red-headed, Rüppell’s and Spectacled Weavers, Red-billed Quelea, Red-billed and White-headed Buffalo Weavers, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver, Yellow-spotted Petronia, Northern Red Bishop, Long-taileds (or Eastern) Paradise and Straw-tailed Whydahs, Rüppell’s (or Rüppell’s Long-tailed), Superb and Wattled Starlings, and House Bunting.
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 around Awash, we will drive through the Rift Valley to Lake Langano for a two night stay, stopping along the way for some birding at Lake Zwai. 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 fishermen bring their catch ashore we can watch remarkably tame Marabou Storks and Hamerkops. Other birds we may well find at Lake Zwai 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).
To get to our lodge we turn east at the southern end of Lake Langano, and then drive a short distance north on the eastern shores of the Lake . There is quite well preserved natural forest here, with giant fig trees. Key birds: Scaly Francolin, Yellowbill, White-cheeked Turaco, Narina Trogon, Yellow Fronted Parrot, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Abyssinian and Grey-headed Woodpeckers, African Hill Babbler, Abyssinian Ground Thrush and GreenB-backed Twinspot. Overnight HaroLodge (Driving time 6-7 hours)
O/n Harolodge (Driving time 6-7 hours)
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-fronted Barbets, 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 Shalla and Abiata National Park.
Lake Abiata is a shallow soda lake surrounded by sparse acacia scrub.Abiata is always thronged with birds, including thousands of Greater and Lesser Flamingos, Great White and Pink-backed Pelicans, and a variety of cormorants (including White-breasted Cormorant), herons, egrets, storks, ibises, waterfowl and waders. Kittlitz’s Plovers race along the soda flats where Common Jackals scavenge for rich pickings, African Spoonbills feed in the shallows and Gull-billed Terns patrol methodically overhead. Other species we may find in this area include Black-necked Grebe, Great and Yellow-billed Egrets, Saddle-billed Stork, Glossy Ibis, Cape Teal, Southern Pochard, the superb Black Crowned Crane, Black-winged Stilt, Pied Avocet, Crowned Plover, Grey-headed Gull, Lilac-breasted Roller, the huge and grotesque Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Little and Lesser Masked Weavers, and Reichenow’s Seedeater. Overnight Haro Lodge
In the morning we shall leave the Rift Valley and climb steadily upwards through the southeastern highlands to Goba for a two nights stay. Our journey will take us across the montane grassland, where we will keep a lookout for Red-chested and Grey-rumpedSwallows, 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 particularly Mountain Nyala and Menelik’s Bushbuck. Around the Park HQ 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. O/n Wabishebele hotel/Bale Mountains Lodge (Driving time four hours)
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 TulluDeemtu (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 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
Among the avian endemics we shall be concentrating on here are Rouget’s Rail, the attractive Spot-breasted Lapwing, Abyssinian Woodpecker, Abyssinian Catbird, Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher, White-backed Black Tit and Abyssinian Longclaw, whilst other birds we shall be looking for include Rufous-breasted and Great Sparrowhawks, Mountain Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Moorland and Chestnut-naped Francolins, the stately Wattled Crane, African Snipe, African Olive Pigeon, African Stonechat, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, African Dusky Flycatcher, Cinnamon Bracken and Brown Woodland Warblers, Bale Parisoma (split from Brown), Dwarf Raven (or Somali Crow, split from Brown-necked Raven), Slender-billed Starling, Yellow-crowned Canary and Yellow-bellied Waxbill. Two mainly Palearctic species, Ruddy Shelduck and Red-billed Chough, breed here in their only Afrotropical outpost.
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. WabeShabelle Hotel/Bale Mountains Lodge.
After some final birding in the Bale area we will travel to Lake Awassa for an overnight stay. O/n United Africa hotel (driving 6- 7 Hours)
Lake Hawassais a freshwater lake, quite different from the alkaline lakes to the north, surrounded by small patches of remnant forest. 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.
Other species we may well come across at Awassa include Goliath Heron, Yellow-billed Stork, Hadada Ibis, Knob-billed Duck, Long-crested Eagle, Grey Kestrel, Common Moorhen, African Swamphen, Blue-spotted Wood Dove, Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Blue-headed Coucal, Woodland, Grey-headed and Giant Kingfishers, Northern Carmine and Little Bee-eaters, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Double-toothed Barbet, Red-throated Wryneck, Eastern Grey Woodpecker (split from African Grey), Red-shouldered Cuckoo-Shrike, White-browed Robin-Chat, Rufous-tailed (or Common) Rock Thrush, African Thrush, Sedge and Lesser Swamp Warblers, Red-faced Crombec, Brown-throated (or Common) Wattle-eye, Grosbeak Weaver, Bronze Mannikin and Violet-backed Starling. If we are fortunate we will see a Western Banded Snake Eagle or an Allen’s Gallinule.
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.
After our morning’s birding around the lake, we set off to Addis Ababa. We will have lunch somewhere en route, probably at Lake Zwai, and back in Addis Ababa we will have day room use atthe Ghion hotel and transferin the evening to the air port for your final departure.
In the Bale Mountains, there are only two possible places to stay, WabeShabelleGoba, which is relatively cheap, but poorly managed and badly maintained, and the very attractive and comfortable – but expensive Bale Mountain Lodge.
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. And Single room for 1 person. Wabeshebelle Hotel in Bale Mountains.
- 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.