Ethiopia Emerging
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Ethiopia Emerging: Community, Culture and Conservation

Ethiopia is an ancient and beautiful land, with cultural heritage and history dating back to the very origins of mankind. Situated on a high plateau in the Horn of Africa, any journey to Ethiopia is considered “off the grid” by most travelers. Those that do venture here tend to concentrate on a few highlight destinations in the north; the Simien Mountains, Gondar, Axum and rock churches of Lalībela.

On our Emerging Ethiopia tour, we are pleased to offer the curious traveler something different – an exploration of Ethiopia’s stunning Bale Mountains and the Central and Southern Rift Valley. While experiencing the beautiful frenzy of Addis Ababa, the unique wildlife of the Sanetti Plateau, the colorful weavings of the Dorze people and the serenity of a Lake Chamo sunrise, you’ll also engage in the themes of community, culture and conservation as they relate to sustainable tourism development in an emerging nation.

You’ll learn about conservation projects to counteract deforestation in Ethiopia, how youth are embracing a new sport at the Megabi Skate Park Project in Addis Ababa, what is being done to protect the wild treasures in Bale Mountains National Park and how traditional forms of Ethiopian jewelry are being integrated into the global fashion scene.


Meet your host

Adventure Highlights

  • Three days in Bale Mountains National Park, home of the endangered and endemic Ethiopian wolf
  • Meet with local conservation and development leaders, helping to shape Ethiopia into a model for home-grown development among African nations.
  • Cultural encounters with the Dorze, Konso and Zay people, just a handful of Ethiopia’s 94 distinct ethnic groups.
  • Megabi Skate Park in Addis Ababa, the passion project of Israel Dejene, helping to give impoverished street kids hope and self-confidence through skate boarding
  • Some of Africa’s best birding in Nech Sar National Park, Lake Ziway and the Lepis Forest
  • Early morning visits to spice markets and a private cooking lesson

Sunday, February 21:  Mid-day arrival into Ethiopia’s bustling capital, Addis Ababa. We’ll be met at the international airport and privately transferred to the Capital Hotel where rooms will be ready for immediate occupancy.  Relax from the long flight then enjoy a first taste of authentic Ethiopian cuisine over lunch with our guides at a local restaurant. In the afternoon we explore the first of many unique entrepreneurial Ethiopian-owned projects and businesses; the Megabi Skate Project and Entono Jewelry.

Megabi Skate was founded by in 2005 by Israel Dejene (one of our guides on this journey!) who wanted a way to engage, inspire and positively enhance the lives of kids in his neighborhood who were struggling with the impact of poverty. Through his own passion for skateboarding, Israel saw an opportunity to use skating as a tool to engage the kids, help them to develop self-esteem and confidence, and to present a healthier, alternative lifestyle to the troubles on the streets.  From this idea, Megabi Skate was born and has since grown from a grassroots movement to attracting the international attention and support* of pro-skaters such as Tony Hawk, Nyjah Huston, Derrick Wilson and Aaron “Jaws” Homoki.

*Evergreen Escapes will donate $50 per tour participant to the Megabi Skate Project.

Entono Jewelry or the Entoto Beth Artisans was started in response to the influx of people, particularly women, living with HIV/AIDS into Entoto, a region on the edge of Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa. Enabling this community to support itself through seemed a much better and more empowering form of assistance than simply handing out aid, so Entoto Jewelry was born. Here, over 100 women artisans create hand-crafted jewelry from local recycled materials and are paid a fair wage for their work.  They also receive adult literacy and math classes for artisans, as well as education on nutrition.  You can find Entono Beth Artisans jewelry at Ten Thousand Villages for 4 All Humanity Fair Trade Apparel.

Overnight at the Capital Hotel. Meals Included: Lunch

Monday, February 22: We’ll take advantage of jet lag today and rise with the sun for an insider’s look at Addis Ababa’s most authentic local markets. We’ll take public transportation from our hotel and join our culinary guide in the fruit and vegetable market of Piazza, Ethiopia’s largest produce market and an incredible sensory experience.  Recharge at the historic Tomoca coffee shop for an excellent macchiato, enjoy a traditional breakfast and finish with a tour of Shola Market, boasting clay earthenware, traditional textiles and spices.

We return to the hotel to rest and repack then transfer to the airport for our 1 hour flight to Arba Minch via Ethiopian Airlines. Located in southern Ethiopia’s Great Rift Valley, the surrounding environs of Nech Sar National Park are a rich, green environment, truly a hidden gem for travelers with a lush landscape of lakes, natural springs and grasslands teaming with wildlife such as crocodiles, hippopotamuses, baboons, the endangered Swaynes Hartebeast , zebra and more than 300 bird species. Our accommodations for the night are at Paradise Lodge, a sustainable development abutting the edge of Nech Sar National Park.  Settle into our private bamboo thatched huts and relax or opt to join our local naturalist guide for an early evening birding walk through the Forty Springs area, a natural oasis thought to have sacred healing properties.

Enjoy the sunset over the grasslands and Lake Chamo while sharing dinner at Paradise Lodge. Overnight at Paradise Lodge. Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Tuesday, February 23: After breakfast, board local boats for a morning of wildlife viewing on Lake Chamo.  Get close to Nile crocodile, hippopotamus, fish and various bird species (greater and lesser flamingos, along with white-necked cormorants several species of herons, storks, spoonbills, African ducks, gulls and Sterns) and check out what is fondly referred to as “the crocodile market”, a daily gathering spot on the banks of Lake Chamo where crocodiles seem to go to see and be seen.  We return to Paradise Lodge to collect our picnic lunch then drive approximately 45 minutes into the Guge Mountains and the community of Dorze, well known for their conical thatched huts that are supposed to resemble the heads of elephants that once roamed these plains.  Talented weavers, we’ll spend part of the afternoon on a ‘cultural hike’ through the Dorze community, pausing at the homes of various locals to learn how they produce artful baskets, scarves and pottery. You can even try your own hand at weaving if you choose!  A late picnic lunch will be enjoyed at a scenic overlook in the Gamo Highlands before we finish our day at the Ch’ench”a Market. Some of Ethiopia’s best cotton and woven goods come from this region. Return to Paradise Lodge after a full day for a well-earned dinner and restful overnight. Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Wednesday, February 24:  The rolling hills of Ethiopia’s Southern Rift Valley, dotted with bright green moringa trees and quaint thatched huts, are home to the Konso people – traditional farmers who cultivate cotton and rear cows and goats. With ties to the land dating back more than 400 years, the traditions of the Konso tribe, including their ancient walled settlements and stone waga sculptures, have been recognized as a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site.  We’ll enjoy a scenic picnic lunch and then learn about the tradition of carving and erecting stone waga statues to honor the deceased.  In the afternoon, we’ll take part in a tree planting project in Gersale, developed to tackle one of Ethiopia’s foremost environmental issues – deforestation.  Over centuries, a growing population turned to timber as their primary fuel source, gradually devastating Ethiopia’s once vital forests. Today, a generation of young conservationists is trying to turn this around with reforestation projects throughout the country.  The trees we plant today will not only reforest the land, but help the local economy in providing employment for nursery managers and caretakers among the Konso.

We’ll spend this evening at Kanta Lodge overlooking the Konso Village, a stunning location for photography in the evening light. This marks the southernmost point of our journey…from here we circle back north. Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Thursday, February 25:  Today we journey overland from Konso to Awassa, capital of the Southern Nations and arguably one of the most pleasant towns in Ethiopia. Our travels will take us through the Sidamo Region – a land of lush lowland forest where some of Ethiopia’s finest coffee is cultivated, alongside a cultural tradition of innate environmental conservation. We’ll stop for lunch and a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the coffee growing process – from bean to cup – then continue on to north to Awassa, arriving in the mid to late afternoon. Check-in at the Haile Resort for overnight then head out as a group to Dolce Vita, which specializes in delicious pizza with an Ethiopian twist. After dinner enjoy some free time to explore the vibrant nightlife of Awassa. Overnight at Haile Resort. Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Friday, February 26: Bale Mountains National Park beckons us today with its spectacularly diverse landscapes. The high altitude, afro-montane Sanetti Plateau rises to over 12,000′ and includes the highest peak in the southern Ethiopia highlands. This undulating plateau is marked by numerous glacial lakes and swamps and surrounded by higher volcanic ridges and peaks while the southern slopes are covered by the lush and largely unexplored Harenna Forest.  With such varied habitat, Bale Mountains National Park provides refuge to an array of species, including a number of threatened Ethiopian endemic species such as the Ethiopian wolf (rarest canine in the world), the mountain nyala, the wattled crane, the rock hyrax, the blue-winged goose and the Bale monkey. It is considered one of the top birding destinations in all of Africa, with residents and migrators accounting for nearly 500 individual species.

We enter the park in the early afternoon and meet with a representative of the Frankfurt Zoological Society to learn about the various ecosystems within the park, the species we may encounter and challenges to conservation.  Up on the Sanetti Plateau, we’ll join rangers on a guided hike through the highlands, spotting for game such as the giant molerat (endemic to the Bale Mountains), rock hyrax and Starck’s hare. The plateau is also home to Ethiopian wolves and a trip to the plateau all but guarantees a sighting of this charismatic carnivore! The plateau also hosts a large number of raptors that feed on the sizeable rodent population, including Verreaux’s, tawny and steppe eagles; lanner falcons; kestrels; and golden eagles.

After sun downers on the plateau, we proceed to our home for the next three nights, the beautiful 8-room Bale Mountain Lodge, located within the Harenna Forest, one of the largest and most extensive remaining in Ethiopia.  We’ll share dinner with our lodge hosts and eagerly anticipate the next two days on safari in the Bale National Park. Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Saturday & Sunday, February 27 & 28:  Two full days of guided wildlife safari, exploring the various ecosystems of Bale Mountain National Park. Our explorations will focus on the Harenna Forest, which teems with wildlife of all types but of particular note are the endemic Bale Monkeys, which can routinely be seen in and around the lodge site, alongside the spectacular birdlife of the forest. Other primates, rare cats and unusual plants may be seen and every trip into the trees provides a different experience. Imperial Eagles and Wattled Cranes are also frequently seen here.  One afternoon we may also visit the Manyete Coffee Village which sustainably harvests wild coffee from within the forests, and share dinner with the locals.  Overnights at Bale Mountain Lodge. Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Monday, February 29:  As we make our way out of Bale Mountains National Park, we drive through the Sanetti Plateau and northern grasslands (Gaysay Grasslands), retracing our path of entrance.  This journey will provide one final chance to spot the Ethiopian wolf as well as grassland dwellers such as the Mountain nyala and Bohor reedbuck.   We’ll pause briefly in Shashamene, a town famous for the Rastafarian community which has settled there since the 1960s, considering the land to be sacred ground. In the afternoon we arrive at the pristine and secluded Lephis Forest, a haven for wildlife and also home to more than 5,000 individuals who depend on the forest for their livelihoods.   Local leaders in ecotourism and conservation developments will escort us on a horseback ride through the forest to a scenic waterfall; along the way we’ll spot for colobus monkeys and birds and learn about the various forest plants and their uses.  Late afternoon we depart for Lake Ziway, offering visitors an excellent blend of nature and culture.  Hippos and birdlife abound and the Lake is home to the culturally and linguistically unique Zay people, who are believed to have safeguarded the Ark of the Covenant on Tullo Guddo Island a millennium ago.  Dinner and overnight at the Haile Resort Ziway-Batu, situated near the water’s edge. Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Tuesday, March 1: Full day exploration of Lake Ziway. A boat ride to Tullu Guddo, Ziway’s “Big Island” is a step back in time; fisherman still ply the waters in papyrus boats and weavers still use wooden looms to create shawls, not to mention the Maryam Monastery’s collection of artifacts and relics dating back more than 1,000 years.  We’ll enjoy lunch on the island at an open-air seafood restaurant  and then spend part of the afternoon learning about the conservation efforts taking place on the island, including a fuel-saving stove project and the SEDA nursery, both designed to counteract the region’s deforestation issues.   Balance of the afternoon and evening is at your leisure; relax at the lodge, take an optional guided birding walk or train your camera lens on the lake at dusk to capture a spectacular sunset.  Dinner and overnight at Haile Resort Ziway-Batu. Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Wednesday, March 2: After a leisurely morning at Lake Ziway, we make our way back to Addis, stopping for lunch en route.  Check back in at the Capital Hotel and spend the afternoon exploring the city on your own, or joining your guides on a walk to some of Addis’ best markets and shops for purchasing last minute gifts and souvenirs.  We’ll meet as a group for a final farewell dinner at a local restaurant to celebrate and toast our time in Southern Ethiopia. Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinne

Thursday, March 3: After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight back to the US or, extend your time in Ethiopia with a journey north to the Simien Mountains or elsewhere in Ethiopia.

Paradise Lodge, Nech Sar National Park: An extension of the land around it, Paradise Lodge represents a new style of hotel in East Africa—sustainable and connected to the community.  Located in Arba Minch, the gateway to the Omo Valley and nearby Nechisar National Park, amid the lush greenery leading to Lake Chamo, Paradise Lodge surprises and delights while remaining true to its community-centered values.  Each individual suite is built in the traditional Gamo style, while the main building holds smaller single, twin, family and king suites suited to smaller groups.  Whatever the accommodation, all guests are invited to take advantage of the cool verandas and relaxing meeting spaces overlooking the glimmering lake.  On site, respected Chef Getachew broils, sears, and barbeques Ethiopian and international favorites.  Most important to the owners of the Paradise Lodge are the connections to local culture—the lodge employs locals at national wage levels, integrates traditional building structures, and works constantly at improving sustainability in water usage, energy conservation, and environmental protection.  Stay at Paradise and know that you are supporting local Ethiopians while still sipping an aperitif as the sun sets over the lake.

Bale Mountain Lodge, Bale Mountain National Park Tucked into the cloud forest of the Bale Mountain National Park, the Lodge offers maybe the greatest opportunity to snatch views of wolves, nyalas, bushbacks, and more, from the discreet and comfortable Lodge grounds.  Founded with sustainability at its core, the Bale Mountain Lodge operates as part of its environment.  Water comes from the local rivers, slow filtered through sand purification systems; waste is limited, and wood comes from sustainable plantations; and biogas powers much of the kitchen.  The buildings were built to conceal themselves and blend into the environment, thus leaving undisturbed the grassland and cloud forest.  This “camouflage” lets the visitor observe the stalkings and grazings of animals right in front of the lodge without disturbing the natural habitat.  Rooms are spacious and comfortable, with strong emphasis on local Ethiopian style.  The central dining room offers sweeping views of the mountains beyond the lodge, and the sunken fireplace keeps guests warm during chillier evenings.  And, just to sweeten the deal, recently lodge guests have spotted multiple Abyssinian lions traveling along the wildlife corridors near the lodge.

Haile Ziway/Batu, Lake Ziway: Haile Gebreselassie may be known worldwide for his marathon skills, but in his homeland he is a hero, philanthropist, and hotelier!  His line of Haile hotels are some of Ethiopia’s finest, featuring clean and inviting accommodations amid the natural splendor of wild Ethiopia.  While Haile’s rooms are simple, the Ziway/Batu is located on a canal of the Ziway Lake, where guests can soak in the sun and soft sound of lapping waves.  The hotel’s dock is a perfect location to capture a shot of Ethiopia’s famous birds, or listen to the occasional roar of hippos.  A large swimming pool is open for hot afternoons, while a large veranda ensures relaxing evenings.  The Ziway islands provide a scenic backdrop for the hotel, including the mysterious Tulu Gudu, where an ancient monastery may have housed the Ark of the Covenant centuries ago.

Itinerary Includes: All internal travel arrangements as noted, all entrance fees , internal flights from Addis Ababa to Arba Minch, luggage porterage at hotels, transportation and service of lead and local guides, accommodations and meals as noted, VAT and local taxes.  Once the final group size has been confirmed Evergreen Escapes will offer the option to pre-pay gratuities for traveler convenience.

Additional Costs:  International air, Visa on arrival, gratuities (amount to be advised), beers, wine and spirits, items of a personal nature.

To book this private itinerary or plan your perfect Ethiopia trip, please contact us for a consultation!