Nech Sar, which translates as “white grass”, is one of the most impressive parks in East Africa, which the town of Arba Minch overlooks. Various landscapes are within the park’s boundaries, with many activities available for visitors.
Visitors are able to explore Lake Chamo by boat, with an abundance of birdlife, Nile Crocodiles bathing in the sun, and hippopotami in their natural habitat.
Take your time on a unique walking safari through Nechsar’s savannah, after crossing Lake Chamo, getting up close to the local Burchell’s Zebra population as they graze or as they walk to fetch water from the lake.
If you are patient, you may also come across the Greater and Lesser Kudu, Grant’s gazelle, the Dik dik and the endemic Swayne’s Heartbeast. The park is also hosts over 200 species of birds, and is home to the Nechsar Nightjar, while other mammals include the bushback, bushpig, common baboon, colobus and vervet monkeys!
Daytime walks through the lush forest are available, anything between a quick one-hour visit to a whole day enjoying under the canopy! Picnic lunches can be provided as guests can enjoy the dense fig trees, abundant with birdlife, baboons, and monkeys and of course the natural hot and cold springs, whereby Arba Minch town gets its name!
Multiple day camping and trekking trips can be organised for those feeling more adventurous! This option allows visitors to explore all of Nechsar’s diverse ecosystems and landscapes, as well as the chance to see the legendary Nech Sar nightjar. This option involves taking the time to understand the local environment and wildlife and crossing the Bridge of God to venture into the Amaro Mountains if time allows!
In addition, guests are able to learn about traditional lake fishing and support the local livelihoods with a fresh lakeside fish lunch, prepared by the Chamo fishermen themselves!
The largest park in Ethiopia, yet the most remote and least visited, abundant in wildlife!
The park is spread over more than 400,000 hectares in the far south of Ethiopia, about 800km south of Addis Ababa. It is a true natural gem, allowing adventurous visitors to explore the almost untouched East African natural wilderness.
The major natural attractions within the Park are the Maji Mountains, several hot springs, Sharum, Sai and Lilibai Plains and of course the substantial Mui and Omo Rivers. The highest peak is 1,541m, while most of the park lies at around 800m above sea level. A tremendous diversity in native woodland, scrub and riverine vegetation are found across the Park.
Resident wildlife include: buffalo, giraffe, spotted hyena and elephant, as well as the topi and lelwel hartebeest, lion, leopard, Burchell's zebra, gerenuk, spurred tortoise, python, wart hog, gazelle, and greater and lesser kudu. This dry grassland habitat is also home to many of the 300+ bird species recorded in the area while within the rivers are typically hippopotamus and Nile crocodile.
Akin to many of the other park areas in Ethiopia, the local community are also traditional users of the parks natural ecosystems. The Surma, Mogudge, Dizi, Bume and Mursi peoples are frequent within the parks boundaries, mostly due to the nomadic or pastoralist livelihoods that these tribes lead. The ensuing competition over natural resources and impacts on wildlife conservation in the Omo’s case are in fact pressing.
For visitors who are interested to deepen their understandings of the Omo’s diverse indigenous groups in combination with exploring the Park, this region of the south does not fail to offer an opportune experience.
Vehicle routes are very minimal and relatively new, allowing curious travellers to spend time exploring the sanctuary mostly by foot. However it is possible to reach the park headquarters by 4wD coming from either Jimma or Omorate. The park is also accessible by boat from Omorate Town. In addition to the Omo National Park base camp, a newly established campsite has been set up on the Mui River.
Maze is a small and new National Park just west of Arba Minch, in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region of Ethiopia. It covers an area of about 2000 ha and was established recently, in 2003. It is most well known for its healthy population of Swayne’s hartebeest and buffalo, as well as 138 bird species recorded within the park. Conservation efforts in Maze are unique in that they are mostly focussed on the endemic yet endangered hartebeests, which are estimated at about 300 in number in the Park. The area was formerly a hunting ground for the animals.
The third highest peak in Ethiopia, Mount Guge at 4200 metres, also lies on the border of the park. This makes a visit to Maze an ideal addition for visitors interested in trekking the Gamo Highlands, as well as those most interested in Ethiopia’s wildlife protection efforts.
The park’s other main attractions include the Bilbo hot springs, the Maze River, the Wonja Caves and the “Kaouwa Wella” sacred trees. Bilbo has geysers shooting hot water and steam high into the air, which is understood to have healing elements by the local community. Wonja, on the other hand, has the capacity to hold hundreds of people. Local legends explain that the caves were used to banish wrongdoers of the community. The “Kaouwa Wella”, meaning “King’s Tree”, are two of the oldest and largest trees in the park; the traditional legend says that they hold peace-building qualities.
Adjacent to the Omo National Park, and about half the size, Mago is spread along the banks of the Omo River, is mostly savannah, shrub land and thick-forested areas along the river. However the highest peak of Mount Mago is found at 2,528 metres above sea level.
The park was established in 1979 to assist in the protection of the various plains animals living in the Omo Valley. There are more than 80 reported mammal species in the Park. Alike Omo National Park, the resident wildlife include buffalo, giraffe, spotted hyena and elephant, as well as the topi and lelwel hartebeest, lion, leopard, Burchell's zebra, gerenuk, spurred tortoise, python, wart hog, gazelle, and greater and lesser kudu. This dry grassland habitat is also home to many of the 300+ bird species recorded in the area while within the rivers are typically hippopotamus and Nile crocodile.
The Park’s surroundings are home to the Mursi peoples, who are commonly known by their distinctive lip plates and pastoralist lifestyle. As well as this, the lower parts of the Omo River have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the discovery of some of our oldest remains in 1980, Homo Sapien fossils estimated at 195,000 years old.
The park is accessible by gravel road from Jinka. Infrastructure within the park is not very well established, making a trip to Mago and Omo National Parks an authentic adventure and a true exploration of nature. Camping and walking safaris are regular.
Also relatively new and untouched, established in 2005, Chebera Churchura is arguably the most underrated park in Ethiopia’s South. It is by far the easiest park to observe elephants, tracking by foot with local scouts prove to bring immense satisfaction for all those who venture here. Alike Maze, Chebera Churchura was established to help protect the African Elephant population, who have been traditionally hunted in the area.
Hiking trails through the lush Maka Forest, three crater lakes covered in lilies, waterfalls from the Bardo Riber, hot springs and a camping ground on the banks of the Shoshuma River provide an incredibly unique nature experience.
Spanning across 121,000 ha of mostly lowland vegetation, other wildlife in Chebera Churchura include hippos, antelope, giant forest hog, buffalo and the more reserved lions and black leopards – this is four of the big five!
The Park boasts the most reliable ecosystem with the least disruption for its wildlife than any other in Ethiopia. The first visitors from abroad visited the Park in 2010, highlighting the level of novelty that this park offers.
Spanning across 240,000 hectares, Bale National Park is a diverse natural wonderland split between high-altitude plateaus and gorges to the north of the Harenna escarpment and densely forested areas to the south. The Sanetti Plateau in the north lies at 4000 metres above sea level, the highest area in southern Ethiopia and is vegetated by afro-alpine plants. It’s peak, Tulhi Deemtu, is Ethiopia’s second highest mountain at 4,377 metres.
Largely unexplored, 78 mammal species are recorded within the Park and 300 bird varieties, however researchers recently recorded 22 previously unknown butterfly and moth species, proving just how much there is more to learn about Bale’s environment.
Waterfalls, alpine lakes, volcanic rock cliffs, streams and wildflowers are other natural attractions in the north of the Harenna, as well as the endemic Ethiopian Wolf, only found in Bale and the native mountain Nyala, usually spotted in large numbers, Menelik’s bushback and the African wild dog. The park hosts the giant mole rat, as well as sixteen endemic bird species that are easily found within the park, making bird watching a popular activity. A diverse natural
Harenna Forest is densely vegetated by wild bamboo and spectacularly large trees covered by ferns, lichen and moss varieties. Many pristine streams, rivers and gorges pave their way through the various Bale landscapes, also hosting a healthy population of Rainbow Trout.
For visitors looking to understand where coffee comes from and how it is produced traditionally in forests, tours can be arranged at the Manyate Coffee Village and Nature Trail in Bale.
Lastly, the Sof Omar Caves on the outskirts of Bale National Park longest network of underground caves in all of Africa, spanning 15 km is often described from the inside to replicate a cathedral.