Tribes & Landscapes of South Ethiopia

Ethiopia

Culture | Tribal

Tribes of the Omo, Rift Valley Lakes & Bale Mountains

13 days £2,295 pp This is the per person group tour price, based on 2 sharing. The price is subject to change with exchange rate and flight cost fluctuations.
Dates & Prices

Intro

Witness living ancient history in South Ethiopia, where over 200,000 tribal people in the Omo Valley and Rift Valley Lakes still faithfully adhere to their ancestors` traditions. Be captivated by the clay lip-plates of the Mursi women, and join in the hustle and bustle of tribal market days. This tour is a treat for wildlife enthusiasts, with the Bale Mountains` mountain nyala and elusive Ethiopian wolf, and glistening Lake Chamo`s lurking crocodiles and hippos. Lose yourself in the Sof Omar Caves` labyrinth of caverns. Long after you arrive home, the colour, culture and customs of Southern Ethiopia will continue to move and inspire you.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Meet Lucy, the world’s oldest humanoid
  • Stunning Rift Valley Lakes
  • Awesome views from Bale Mountains
  • Naturally sculpted beauty of Sof Omar Caves
  • The coffee plantations of Yirge Cheffe
  • Tribes of the Omo Valley
  • Wildlife on Lake Chamo

Places Visited

Addis Ababa - Lake Langano - Bale Mountains - Sof Omar Caves - Awassa - Yabelo - Konso - Turmi - Jinka - Arba Minch

What's Included

Airport transfers
Ground transportation (4x4 jeep)
Accommodation
Meals: full-board (except Addis Ababa)
Mineral water - 1 bottle per day
All entrance fees
Activities as per itinerary
Boat ride on Lake Chamo
English speaking guide 
Itinerary & Map
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Day 1 : Addis Ababa

Upon arrival into Addis Ababa airport, you will be met by a Travel The Unknown representative and driven to your hotel to freshen up and rest before lunch. The day is free to do as you wish; some local attractions we recommend are St. George Church Museum, Ethnographical Museum, National Museum and Entoto Mountains. Dinner that evening will be held at a delicious traditional Ethiopian restaurant. Overnight stay in Addis Ababa. 

Meal plan: n/a

The National Museum in Addis Ababa holds an interesting collection of artefacts from Ethiopia's illustrious past but the undoubted star of the show is the remains of Lucy, a skeleton of a female Australopithecus afarensis, named from the Afar region of Ethiopia where she was found. Discovered in 1974, Lucy is 3.2 million years old and shares traits with apes (her skull) and with humans (walking upright), leading to claims of the 'missing link' having been discovered. Sometimes the museum exhibits a replica when Lucy is on tour at museums overseas.

Addis Ababa is Africa’s fourth largest city, with an area of 250sq/km, and is located at an altitude of 2,300m above sea level. It is a vast place with a thriving population of over 2,750,000 people. There is a wide range of visitor attractions, including many museums and educational institutions. It has most recently become known as the ‘spa city of Africa’.

The St. George Church was established in 1982 to preserve and promote Ethiopian Orthodox clergy. It is a small octagonal building that was the site of Emperor Hailie Selassie's coronation.

The two-storey Ethnological Museum is a great place to learn about the diversity of Ethiopia. It is structured like a story book, depicting the journey of life to death from different perspectives. 

Entoto Mountain, located to the north of Addis Ababa, offers a panoramic view of the capital. It is the highest part of the city and is historically covered in Eucalyptus trees, which are often referred to as the 'lungs of Addis Ababa'.

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Day 2 : Langano

In the morning, we'll drive you to Langano and, en-route, stop at the scenic national park to admire the crater-lake Abijata-Shala. You will arrive at Langano in the late afternoon with plenty of time to relax in the evening. Overnight stay in Langano. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Lake Langano is one of a series of lakes that run south down the Ethiopian Rift Valley and into Kenya. The eastern shore of Lake Langano is a delight to explore on foot or horseback, and is home to a variety of birds and mammals. The forests consist mainly of podocarpus and wild fig trees, are full of Colobus Monkeys and have over 300 species of birds, seven of which are native to Ethiopia. There are also numerous wild mammals there, although their populations are decreasing in size due to the traditional seasonal hunting of the local communities. 

Lake Abijata- Shala- is located in the Abijata Shala Lake National Park and is a joining river of the Gogessa, Bulbula and Hora Kelo which flow into Lake Abijata. At 14m deep, this lake is very shallow, whereas Lake Shala, which fills the crater of an old volcano, is 266m deep. Environmenal problems are beginning to plague the lake; with the water being extracted daily to feed power plants, there has been a drop in water levels and wildlife in and around the lake. 

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Day 3 : Bale Mountains

We will drive you to Goba in the beautiful Bale Mountains, enjoying an early picnic lunch on the way. Upon arrival there will be an opportunity to walk around Dinsho, where you can spot nyala (African antelopes), and take in the beauty of the mountain and enjoy the panoramic views below. Leaving for Sanetti Plateau in the afternoon, you will embark on a wildlife adventure, looking for the elusive Ethiopian wolf, the Bale monkey and the giant mole rat. In the early evening, you will return to the lodge, where you can unwind after an exciting day. Overnight stay at Bale Mountains. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Grassland areas, waist-high wildflowers and juniper trees make up much of the landscape of Bale Mountains National Park, along with dazzling alpine lakes and streams. The Harenna Forest covers almost half of the park, and offers gorgeous lichen-draped giant trees. More endemic animals live in the Bale Mountains than any other terrestrial habitat in the world. The Ethiopian wolf makes his home here, as well as the mountain nyala (a spiral-horned antelope), the Bale monkey and the giant mole rat. Look down from the second highest point in Ethiopia, Tulu Dimtu at 4,377m above sea level, take a deep breath, and smile at all that Ethiopia’s unbelievable landscape has to offer. 

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Day 4 : Sof Omar Caves

In the morning, we'll drive you to the stunning Sof Omar caves. You will be able to explore the sacred underground cave system, before lunch at a restaurant on your way back to the Bale Mountains. You will be returned to the lodge late afternoon, with plenty of time to enjoy your evening. Overnight stay at Bale Mountains. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Sof Omar Caves – one of the most remarkable underground cave systems in the world. The labyrinth of caverns extends 120 kilometres (74 miles) eastward from Gobba. The caves are a natural phenomenon sitting in a low valley filled with thorn trees and termite hills. They are formed by the River Web, which vanishes into the colossal cave system.  Named after the Sheikh Sof Omar who allegedly took refuge here hundreds of years ago, the caves are currently an important Islamic shrine. The site has always been very sacred to the people of Bale and has a religious history dating back before the arrival of Muslims.

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Day 5 : Awasa

The lakeside town of Awasa is the days first destination, with a stop in Shashemene on the way for lunch. In the afternoon, you will have plenty of time to explore the splendour and natural beauty of Awasa and the lake. After you driven back to your accommodation in the evening, dinner will be served at the excellent Pinna restaurant, with the evening free to spend as you wish. Overnight in Awasa. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Awassa is the capital of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region. Awassa is a beautiful Ethiopian town located on the shores of Lake Awassa, with a pleasant climate and a variety of wildlife to see. The shores of the lake are alive with coffee plantations, fruit groves and the Bale Mountains rising in the east. The Sidama people who live here are recognised by their beautiful beehive-shaped, woven houses that are built out of bamboo and later covered in enset leaves for the rainy season.

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Day 6 : Yabelo

During the early-morning drive to Yabelo, you will get an opportunity to stop on the way for lunch at the Yirge Cheffe coffee plantations: the place where the coffee bean was allegedly first discovered. After you are driven to Borana Lodge later that afternoon, you are free to explore Yabelo at your own pace in the evening. Overnight in Yabelo.  

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Yabelo –is sometimes referred to as Obda, which is also the name of a nearby mountain. Yabelo is located northwest of Moyale in the Guji Zone of the Oromia Region.

Yirge Cheffe – is situated in the Sidamo area of Ethiopia and stands about 1,900 metres above sea level. The town is considered to be the centre of Ethiopia’s huge coffee farming district with coffee being the main export. Coffee is a native plant of Yirge Cheffe and is controversially believed to be the place where coffee was first discovered. 

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Day 7 : Konso

You will spend a relaxed morning visiting singing wells in Borena, where we will also have lunch. After you will be driven to Konso, where you will have most of the afternoon and evening to enjoy Konso's unique charms, such as the Generation Pole that is raised every 18 years to mark the start of a new generation. Overnight in Konso. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Konso is a World Heritage Site protected by UNESCO. The people of Konso are known for their wooden statues with phallic symbols, which they erect over the graves of the dead. They have numerous cults based around the breeding and veneration of serpents. The cornerstone of Konso culture is a highly specialized and successful agricultural economy that, through terracing buttressed with stone, enables them to make a living from the none-too-fertile hills and valleys that surround them. 

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Day 8 : Konso - Turmi

There is a morning visit to a Konso village, Machekie, where you can freely explore the stone walkways. After the village stop, it is aboard the bus for a drive to Turmi with a picnic lunch en-route. During the journey you will stop at Hamer village to meet and learn about the Hamer tribe. You will reach Turmi mid-afternoon, check into your lodge and have the rest of the day free. Overnight in Turmi. 

Note:  if this day falls on a Saturday, you can visit the nearby colourful Dimeka market where local tribespeople sell their wares and socialise.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Turmi is a market town in south-west Ethiopia. It is home to many of the Hamer tribes and has a weekly market on Mondays where you can explore and find unusual items such as incised gourds, used by local women as shopping baskets. Turmi is known for its traditional dances and the Jumping of the Bulls ceremony.

The Hamers are a large group of agro-pastoralists with a population of more than 40,000 people that are also fine potters. The Hamer people enjoy body decoration and wear colourful beads. The Hamers are famous for their traditional bull-jumping ceremony, which must be done for a boy to pass into early adulthood. Hamer men wear clay hair buns if they have killed an enemy or any dangerous animals.

Machekie – is a traditional hilltop Konso village that offers wonderful views of the land below. One highlight of the Machekie village experience is walking through its lovely network of stone walkways. The village hosts over a century- old wagas (anthropomorphic statues made of wood) made in memory of the dead. 

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Day 9 : Omorate - Murelle - Turmi

A visit to the Omorate (Dassanech tribe) is scheduled for the morning where you will have the opportunity to meet the tribe's colourful people. Take a boat ride in a dug-out canoe on the Omorate river. After lunch you will be taken to Murelle to visit the Karo tribe, known for their painted bodies. Return to Turmi in the evening. Overnight in Turmi. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

 The Dassanach tribe, also known as Merille, have a population of over 48,000 people that are primarily agro-pastoralist, meaning they place a high value on cattle. These people reside on the northern shore of Lake Turkana and are considered inhabitants of both Kenya and Ethiopia. Their main source of income is cattle rearing, but they are also accustomed to fishing and cultivating crops. Young girls are identified by their colorful goatskin skirts decorated with beads. The men have unique hair patterns that display the age grade system.

The Karo People have a rather small population of around 1,500 people and are considered endangered. Previously a rich tribe, the Karo people lost the majority of their population due to the Tsetse Fly, a large biting insect. They are related to and look like the Hamer tribe, and often paint their faces with chalk to resemble guinea fowl feathers.

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Day 10 : Turmi - Jinka

Leisurely start to the day and then drive to Jinka. The scenery is breathtaking so there will be plenty of time to stop en-route for photos. Check into the lodge and evening at leisure. Overnight in Jinka. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

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Day 11 : Jinka

After a short drive through the Mago National Park early in the day, you will be introduced to the Mursi tribe and be taught about their traditions. After the tribe visit, there will be a lunch stop at a charming traditional restaurant in Jinka. Later in the afternoon, you will meet and spend time with another Ethiopian tribe, the Ari tribe. When back at your accommodation in the evening, you are free to relax and reflect on the colourful people and sights seen that day.Overnight in Jinka. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The Ari People live close to Jinka. With a population of around 120,000 people, they are one of the largest tribes that you will encounter on the tour. With their large population, they are required to keep a large number of livestock and produce their own honey for trade. Their land is also very well maintained allowing them to grow a range of crops and root vegetables. 

The Mursi people are perhaps the most renowned of the tribes in the Omo Valley, famous for their insertion of lip-plates. Their population exceeds 3,900 people and their remote location is surrounded by mountains and lakes, making them one of the more isolated tribes that you will visit. 

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Day 12 : Arba Minch

Today involves a spectacular drive through to Arba Minch, where you will get a chance to check out the Key Afar market (subject to the market schedule) on the way. Lunch will be eaten in Konso, before arriving in Arba Minch in the afternoon, where you will have the rest of the day at leisure. Overnight stay in Arba Minch. 

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Key Afar Market – is a popular event happening on Thursday. As well as tourists, the market also attracts the local Banna, Hamer and Ari people. 

Arba Minch, also known as Ganta Garo, is the largest town in the Gamo Gofa Zone of Southern Ethiopia. The town is well-positioned with some of the most fertile land in Ethiopia, where an abundance of fruit is able to grow. Not only this, but with sights overlooking the Rift Valley and Bridge of God, you are sure to have a memorable experience. 

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Day 13 : Lake Chamo - Departure

There will a morning boat ride on Lake Chamo where you can admire the scenery and maybe spot a hippo or crocodile. After the boat ride, a delicious lunch will be served back at Swaynes. The tour comes to an end in the afternoon, with a flight back to Addis. In the evening, a farewell meal will be served at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant, giving you a chance to look back at your amazing trip, and the many memories you will take home with you.

Meal plan: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

The northern end of Lake Chamo is located within part of the Nechisar National Park and is separated from Lake Abaya by the 'Bridge of God'. The scale of the lake is debatable, however it is believed to have a surface area of 317sq/km with an estimated depth of 14m. At over 1,000m above sea level, you will be able to get up close to crocodiles and hippos that inhabit the waters. Notable birds include fish eagles, pelicans and maribu storks, among others. 

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Accommodation

Accommodation Title

All accommodation subject to availability. Final accommodation choices will be confirmed after booking.

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Tizez Hotel

Tizez Hotel was opened in 2012 and possesses contemporary furnishings throughout the building. The hotel is a short distance from the centre of Addis Ababa and has a variety of amenities that include a 24 hour health club and spa.

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Wenney Eco-lodge

Wenney Eco-lodge is a natural paradise on the shores of Lake Langano. Completed in 2005, this modern lodge combines natural features with advanced modern technology. It is surrounded by beaches, trees and other natural beauty. The rooms are beautifully decorated with Ethiopian features and are spacious. The lodge has an open-air restaurant offering a selection of dishes from Ethiopia. The bar serves a selection of drinks from around the world.

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Goba Webe Shebelle

The Goba Webe Shebelle has large rooms with lovely views and is set in enclosed courtyards. The restaurant is highly recommended, serving both Ethiopian and European food.

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Pinna Hotel 2

Located next to its sibling (Pinna Hotel 1) the Pinna Hotel 2 is a lot smarter and modern offering wireless internet and showers that transform into a steam bath. The restaurant is popular, with cakes and pastries on the lower floor and the main restaurant offering a selection of mouth watering dishes on the top floor, you won’t be disappointed.

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Borana Lodge

The rooms of the Borana Lodge are very comfortable and spacious. It is furnished with a mini bar refrigerator, writing desk, and bathroom with solar panel hot water. The water in the rooms is drinkable. The restaurant chooses the best available food and fruit according to the seasons and climate offering full breakfast and a set three course meal of European cuisine for dinner.

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Kanta Lodge

Located in the heart of Southern Ethiopia, the Kanta Lodge has 56 large rooms with private bathrooms. All of the beds are modern and comfortable with mosquito nets. The lodge mingles with the natural environment of its surroundings. There is a restaurant serving European and Ethiopian cuisine, a lounge and a coffee shop.

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Buska Lodge

Located in the heart of Southern Ethiopia, the Buska Lodge has 20 large rooms with private bathrooms. All of the beds are modern and comfortable with mosquito nets. The lodge mingles with the natural environment of its surroundings and has fantastic views of the plains of Buska Mountain. There are two restaurants, one with a bar, serving European and Ethiopian cuisine.

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Eco-Omo Lodge

The Eco-Omo Lodge is a unique place to stay, which shows off the real beauty of Ethiopia. The lodge has 20 safari tent rooms with comfortable beds equipped with mosquito nets and an en-suite bathroom. The rooms also have regular electricity. The lodge is based on 4 hectares of green area which has its own coffee plantation, as well as plenty of fruit and vegetables. These can be found on the restaurant menu, supporting the local community.

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Paradise Lodge

Paradise Lodge is a stunning hotel. It has 50 spacious rooms with their own veranda or balcony. All the rooms are furnished with TV, mini bar, refrigerator and telephone. You can dine with views of the lake at the restaurant or sip a drink in the bar. The lodge also has a spa and beauty salon if you wish to relax.

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Reviews

The trip in the south was no less than an adventure, way beyond my anticipations. My guide was both helpful and knowledgeable.

Yngve Gausla , Tribes & Landscapes of Southern Ethiopia, Ethiopia

A different world and culture which we were privileged to experience. Welcomed by the warmth of locals who wanted to share a little of their time with us...and English is their second language!!!!!!

Mhairi McKechnie , Festivals of Ethiopia, Ethiopia

Ethiopia really blew me away. The rock-hewn churches were remarkable and I never knew Ethiopia had so much history. It was great to see the gelada baboons in the Simien Mountains. Our guide was always smiling and helpful, and I really enjoyed the coffee ceremonies. I hope to come back again some day.

Neha , Ethiopia's Historic North, Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a country everyone should visit. It has the perfect combination of spectacular scenery, stunning architecture, unique wildlife and a wonderful culture. Seeing it with Travel The Unknown means that you see all the highlights but don't miss the details and surprises between. The excellent local guides ensure that you experience its wonders through Ethiopian eyes. An overwhelming, eye opening, awe inspiring, emotional adventure.

Michael Russell , Festivals of Ethiopia, Ethiopia

A memorable experience in a lovely country. All aspects of the trip were impeccably handled. Highly recommended.

Richard & Margaret Haworth , Ethiopia's Historic North

Escaping from the comforting embrace of the big travel companies, Travel the Unknown`s `Ethiopia`s Historic North` programme gave us a window into a whole new world. The wildlife, the art, the food and the landscape were all unexpected and deeply memorable. The people were sometimes desperate, sometimes crazy, but nearly always smiling and ready to talk. One to treasure.

Philip & Mary , Ethiopia's Historic North, Ethiopia
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