Posted July 16, 2013 by Rahul Aggarwal

Since there was a lot of driving still ahead of me I opted for the easier and less tiring option of flying to Arba Minch in the south. There are only 3 flights a week so I got lucky that one happened to be leaving today. It was a fairly comfortable flight and I landed at 3pm, in time for my boat ride on Lake Chamo. My driver for this part of the trip was a charming chap by affectionately known as Kofi, because of his canny resemblance to the former UN Secretary General (except he smiled a lot more) and I soon noticed he also had a chuckle that sounded a lot like the doctor in the Simpsons.

As we made our way to the lake, I was immediately struck by how incredibly tropical this area felt. I had arrived during the rainy season, which started 3 months ago, so the whole region was a tapestry of various hues of green as far as the eye could see. The landscape was dramatically different to the north. The northern part of the country had all been about Ethiopia’s rich history, much of it intertwined with its religion. The South was all about raw nature and its tribal people.

The boatman navigated his way through the thick lakeside vegetation and once free, he tugged on the motor a few times to get the boat started and soon we were zipping our away across the lake. Ethiopia has been blessed with lakes harbouring all manner of bird and aquatic life, and Lake Chamo was to be no disappointment. It was not long before Kofi pointed out a black and white fish eagle perched atop a tree top scouring the waters with its piercing stare. Other birds in the meantime flitted in and out of the trees in the flocks and I had never heard such a cacophony of birdsong before. We cruised on along the water and then the boatman brought the boat to a halt. Not more than 5 metres in front of us was a family of hippos, some totally submerged bar the bulge of their backs and others with their jaws open and grunting the way hippos do. We watched on a while but they never swam in circles the way they do on the BBC. How do they make them do that!?

Not far from there we spotted the first of several crocodiles basking in the sun absolutely motionless. It would be a close contest in ugliness between the two animals, but I reckon the hippos would win it. We watched on for five minutes and there wasn’t even a blink or a flinch, when finally one of them decided it was time for a dip and slithered its way into the water. In the background there was a gathering of pelicans and in amongst them a few maribu storks. And just as I turned my head I saw another fish eagle swoop to the water clenching a fish in its claws before it made off to a secluded spot to enjoy its dinner.

As our boat made its way back to the shores, the first few drops of rain started to fall. We then sped off to Swaynes Lodge where I was staying the night. It was a great introduction to the south and I couldn’t wait for the rest of the action to come.

This blog is part of an Off-The-Beaten-Track Travel Diary. Click on the link below to navigate through this journey.


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