Private Ethiopia Expedition
Africa’s best kept secret! A complete expedition to the north and south. Gelada Baboons, Simien Mountains, Source of the Blue Nile, Lalibela rock hewn churches, superb endemic birds and mammals.
Ethiopia, cradle of mankind and unique wildlife.
Africa’s best kept secret!
Ethiopia is one of the greatest travel destinations of our planet, due to its extremely diverse wildlife and culture. For those who have explored it already, it is hard to understand why so few western travelers have ventured into this fascinating land. Ethiopia is also a land of “firsts”: The first hominid, the first country to embrace Christianity, the origin of coffee, the first human group to develop agriculture, the lowest point on earth, the biggest number of endemic species in continental Africa, and the list goes on!
The Ethiopia Expedition, after exploring Addis Ababa, the most important city in Africa, will take you to northern Ethiopia, where you will visit multiple UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela (The Machu Picchu of Africa) and the medieval treasures of Gondar.
Then, you will climb to the Simien Mountains National Park where you will spend two nights. The primary objective of this leg is finding troops of Gelada Baboons. These troops are composed of hundreds of specimens who will allow you to walk among them. This is one of the greatest wildlife experiences one can have anywhere. Also, the Simien scenery is simply dramatic and is filled with several endemic bird species together with Walia Ibex and the elusive Ethiopian wolf.
After Simien, you will drive towards Bahirdar, located right beside Lake Tana, the origin of the Blue Nile. You will explore the lake islands and ancient monasteries, look for endemic bird life and enjoy beautiful views of the source of the Blue Nile.
You have two extensions available:
The Tribes of the Omo Valley: You will fly over the Rift Valley down to the Omo to meet no less than eight primitive tribes, including the Mursi, famous for their lip plates. This area is where men first developed agriculture, but due to multiple reasons that will be discussed during the expedition, they have remained in stone-age. Their uses, customs, and traditions are some of the most impressive that you can encounter anywhere in the world. You will also meet the Desanech, the most isolated of all tribes in Africa and explore two nature reserves.
The Wild Bale Mountains: This National Park is one the greatest wildlife destinations of the planet. Filled with endemics, you will enjoy some unique encounters with Mountain Nyalas, the largest population of Ethiopia Wolfs, Black and White Colobus Monkeys, Baboons, Bushbuck, Warthogs, among others. Also, it is recognized by Birdlife International as the foremost Important Bird Area (IBA) in Ethiopia and all of Africa with over 280 species recorded, including 7 of the species endemic to Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is a destination that should be high on every world explorer list. This expedition and extensions have been meticulously crafted using our 15 years of experience in the destination. Of course, the route can be customized to your needs and interests. Our guides are the best in the country, highly educated, and have been working with us for over a decade. No one does Ethiopia better.
Ethiopia Expedition Highlights
- Travel during good weather, but when there are few tourists.
- Northern route with Lalibela Saint Mary festivity (Even better than the other, better known by tourists, festivals)
- Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela in detail.
- We have reduced the driving times to the minimum possible.
- Spend two nights at the impressive Semien Mountains Park (UNESCO Biosphere Reserve)
- Walk among hundreds of Gelada Baboons, one of the greatest wildlife experiences of the planet.
- Lake Tana and Blue Nile Falls, the origin of the Blue Nile, with great birding.
- Chartered flight over the Rift Valley, directly to the heart of the Omo Valley (Avoiding very long drive days). These flights are a true highlight in themselves.
- Meet over eight tribes of the Omo Valley, including the Mursi.
- Escorted by an NPE Master Local Guide plus local guides at each destination.
- The best hotels and transport are available.
- Window seat guaranteed when using 4×4 (Omo Valley). 4×4’s are the most modern in the country and truly comfortable.
- Superb endemics wildlife extension at the Bale Mountains. A wildlife photographers dream.
Trip Grade: Moderate Expedition to Rigorous Touring
In Ethiopia, most services and facilities, including transportation and tourism, are relatively underdeveloped. As a result, you may encounter different situations along the way that you would not expect in other destinations. Ethiopia also has an extremely wide variety of cultures, which are unique — and to be an ethical tourist requires a certain sensitivity to the local customs, traditions and realities.
Although these factors make for a unique experience, they may, at times, conspire to create circumstances that may become frustrating. It is important that visitors to Ethiopia remain patient and keep an open mind. If you come to Ethiopia with a spirit of adventure and a positive and flexible attitude, you will surely have tons of good memories to take home with you.
We ask you to please read the expedition details fully before booking. Ethiopia is one of the most diverse and spectacular destinations on our planet, remaining reserved for the open-minded and experienced traveler.
The highest sleeping altitudes are 7546 feet, in Addis; and 10696 feet in the Simien Mountains. The highest excursion altitude is almost 11,200 feet in the Simien Mountains. Even though we have designed the itinerary to help you acclimatize before exploring the Simien Mountains and we have had zero altitude sickness problems in previous expeditions, we do recommend that you consult with your physician to make sure you can safely manage the altitudes. Also, we highly recommend that you increase the amount of beans and beef you regularly eat, at least a month before the expedition so that you increase the amount of red blood cells in your body, which will be of much help when exploring high altitude destinations.
Many Ethiopian tourist facilities are extremely basic and not to be compared with Western standards. All travelers must be in good health and prepared for travel into regions without medical facilities. You must be able to climb into and out of small aircraft and 4×4 vehicles unaided, and to negotiate uneven, steep steps without handrails. You should be capable of walking moderate distances over rough terrain at an easy pace and be able to withstand long, bumpy rides in 4-wheel-drive vehicles. Per airline safety regulations, travelers over 220 pounds must purchase an extra seat on internal flights.
A release of liability is required from all expedition participants.
Itinerary in Brief
Day 1: Arrive Addis Ababa
Meet with our representative upon arrival at the Bole International Airport and transfer to the hotel.
Overnight at Radisson Blu or similar. (Dinner)
Day 2: Explore Addis Ababa
City tour including the Trinity Catedral and the National Museum where you will meet “Lucy”, the oldest hominid ever discovered. After lunch, you will drive to Mount Entoto that reaches 9600 ft from where you will enjoy stunning Panoramic View. Then visit the famous Saint Mary Church where Menelik II was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia in 1889.
Overnight at Radisson Blu or similar (B, L, D)
Day 3 & 4: Lalibela Rock-Hewn Churches
Fly to visit another World Heritage Site, the ancient rock-hewn churches of Lalibela.
While in Lalibela, you marvel at 9 of the 13 churches, which are grouped into 4 clusters. Among them is Bete Emanuel, a 36-foot-high monolith. You will also visit a local family to participate in a traditional coffee ceremony and share a very special moment with the family.
Overnight at Tukul Village Hotel or similar for 2 nights (B, L, D)
Day 5: Medival Gondar
Fly to Gondar. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Debre Birhan Selassie Church wich walls and ceilings have been decorated with scenes of Biblical lore and medieval Ethiopian history.
Overnight at Myleko Lodge or similar for 1 night. (B, L, D)
Day 6 & 7: Two full days exploring the beautiful Simien Mountains with truly close encounters with Gelada Baboons and other endemic wildlife.
The Simien Mountains are one of Africa’s largest ranges, with over a dozen peaks higher than 12,000 ft, including Ras Dashen, the highest peak in Ethiopia. The western side of the range was designated as a national park in 1969, and the entire range was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. You will look for the endemic and impressive Geladas and observe the Afro-Alpine flora, look for Walia Ibex and birds.
Overnight at Simien Mountain Lodge for 2 nights (B, L, D)
Day 8 & 9: Drive to the source of the Blue Nile, explore by boat Lake Tana and visit the Blue Nile Falls with birdwatching.
With a surface area of 2,282 square miles, Lake Tana is the largest lake in Ethiopia and is also the source of the Blue Nile, a connection that explains many of Ethiopia’s links with the ancient world. The lake is dotted with islands, many of which shelter isolated monasteries containing the remains of ancient Ethiopian emperors and treasures of the Ethiopian Church. You will also enjoy an incredible birding at the Blue Nile falls.
Overnight at Kuriftu Resort or similar for 2 nights. (B, L, D)
Day 10: Fly back to Addis. Free time. Day-use at your hotel. Fly back to the US. Or continue with the extensions to the Omo Valley and/or Bale Mountains.
Transfer to the airport according to your flight schedule.
Addis Ababa Radisson Blu for day use or overnight. (B, L, D)
The Omo Valley Extension Private
Day 1: Morning flight to Arbaminch, visit a Dorze Village.
You will take a flight to ArbaMinch, the door city to the Omo Valley. After lunch, visit the Dorze tribe, famous for their tall beehive-shaped dwellings that can measure until almost 10 ft!
Overnight at the Paradise Lodge (B, L, D)
Day 2: Cross the Southern Omo by 4×4 to Turmi and encounter the Bena and Hamer tribes.
Drive to Turmi visiting the Bena tribe on the way. The Benna incorporate rich cultural symbolism into their rituals and use ornate body art. After lunch, you will visit one of the close-to-town Hammar villages. Personal appearance is important to the Hamer, and they are striking indeed!
Overnight at Buska Lodge (B, L, D)
Day 3: Visit the Desanech tribe.
Visit the most remote of the Omo tribes in the Galeb (Dessanech) village.
The tribe is typical in that it is not strictly defined by ethnicity, anyone will be admitted, and this makes into a fascinating mix of traditions and beliefs.
Afternoon at the Turmi market. At night time, you will attend a unique Evangadi dance (Moonlight dance) of the Hamer.
Overnight at Buska Lodge (B, L, D)
Day 4: Drive to Jinka. Visit The Museum.
Drive to Jinka. Jinka is one of the larger outposts of the area.
In the afternoon, you will visit the South Omo Research Centre and Museum to inspect their collections of tribal artifacts and learn more about the interactions and history among tribes of the area.
Overnight at the Eco-Omo Lodge (B, L, D)
Day 5: Through The Mago National Park to Visit The Remote Mursi Tribe.
Early drive to the Mago National Park. Mago was founded in the 1960s, and it encloses dense acacia forests and open savanna and provides sanctuary to nearly one 100 mammal species and 300 hundred bird species though population densities are sparse these days.
Visit a Mursi village that lies along the Mago River in the heart of the park. The tribe is famed for fierce warrior disposition and wildly decorative appearance, with large circular clay labrets that the women wear in the lower lip.
After your return to Jinka, you will attend the Jinka weekly market.
Overnight at Eco-Omo Lodge. (B, L, D)
Day 6: Drive to Arbamich with Village Visits. Omo Nat. Park Boat Excursion.
You will drive back to Arbminch en-route you will visit different villages including the Tsemay and Konso.
In the afternoon, you will enjoy a boat cruise over Lake Chamo for some wildlife observation.Overnight: Paradise Lodge-Arbaminch. (B, L, D)
Overnight: Paradise Lodge-Arbaminch. (B, L, D)
Day 7: Addis Ababa – Fly Back Home
Fly to the capital city. Day-use at the comfortable hotel. Afternoon at leisure with your guide.
Transfer to the airport according to your flight schedule.
Addis Ababa Radisson Blu for day use or overnight. (B, L)
The Bale Mountain Extension
Day 1. Drive to the Bale Mountains National Park
Depart early in the morning on 4×4 vehicles with air conditioning and drive 240 miles to Bale Mountain National Park. Upon arrival spend your time in Dinsho, the headquarters of the park inhabited by the Oromo people, looking for three of the endemic mammals: Menelik’s Bush- buck, Semien Fox, and Mountain Nyala. Then transfer to the lodge for the overnight stay.
Overnight at Bale Mountain Lodge. (B, L, D)
Day 2. Sanetti Plateau
A full day looking for wildlife, with picnic lunch, at the 4000osl Sanetti Plateau, with its striking Afro-Alpine flora, such as the Giant Lobelia and Red Hot Poker. It is the best place in Ethiopia to see the Simien Wolf, the rarest canid in the world, while the huge rodent population, including the endemic Giant Mole Rat, supports a variety of raptors. The rare Wattled Crane is often seen while there is a good number of the Spot-breasted Plover.
Overnight at Bale Mountain Lodge. (B, L, D)
Day 3. Harenna Forest
Drive to the Harenna forest looking for olive baboons, gureza monkeys, bush buck, bush pig, leopard, lions, wild dogs and to birdwatch for more endemics.
Overnight at Bale Mountain Lodge. (B, L, D)
Day 4. Return to Addis Ababa
Early departure on our 4×4 vehicles back to Addis Ababa with panoramic stops along the way. Upon arrival check in at the Addis Ababa Radisson Blu.
Overnight at Radisson Blu. (B, L)
Day 5. Free Day in Addis Ababa. Fly back to the U.S.
A free day at Addis Ababa until the time of your international flight back to the US. We put at your disposal the services of your Master Guide with a vehicle for half a day so you can choose to continue discovering some hidden parts of Addis Ababa.
You will be transferred to the airport at the most convenient time.
Breakfast is included at the hotel. Lunch and dinner are on your own.
Using decades of experience and with the help of our local partners we have crafted this itinerary in detail and have created a program that maximizes the opportunities for exploring sites, for deep cultural interaction, and that facilitates wildlife encounters while using the best accommodations available. However, unpredictable circumstances such as weather, flight delays or cancelations, labor strikes, road conditions, traffic, road construction, and other factors may force adjusting the program on site. These events or realities are out of our control and an inherent risk when traveling, especially on expeditions to such remote and raw destinations as Ethiopia. Your NPE Head Guides might also decide to alter the program in case opportunities to improve the cultural or wildlife experiences are found. Please note that no refunds will be given for program changes beyond the control of New Paths Expeditions.
This expedition can depart on the day of your preference, between the last week of May to mid-September. Because we use the best ger camps and hotels, booking in advance is highly recommended.
Note: All prices are in US$, per person, and based on double occupancy. All departures are dependent on hotel availability, and prices may change during special holidays, or if hotels or room categories change.
Domestic Flights: Several domestic flights are needed and are not included in your expedition package. If you purchase your International flights with Air Ethiopia, considerable discounts will apply to the domestic flights.
Included in Land Cost:
- Services of New Paths Expeditions in-house support team.
- 24/7 services of a Senior Expedition Leader during the expedition.
- Services of English-speaking local guides.
- All ground transportation (including airport transfers) in 1 to 3-year-old vehicles with professional drivers.
- Window seats guaranteed when using 4×4.
- Accommodations as noted.
- All sightseeing, entrance fees, and visits as noted.
- Group photography fees.
- Meals as noted.
- Bottled water at included meals, transfers and tours.
- Services of transfer assistants, drivers, and local staff.
- Gratuities for luggage porters, transfer assistants and restaurant staff.
- International flights.
- Passport and visa fees.
- Excess baggage charges.
- Gratuity for Local Guides; Driver and Expedition Leader.
- Personal expenses and incidentals, such as, but not limited to, phone calls, e-mail, and laundry.
- Trip cancellation, travel delay, and baggage loss insurance.
- Charges incurred as a result of delays beyond the control of New Paths Expeditions.
Deposits and final payments:
To guarantee your space on this expedition a deposit of US$ 500.00 is required at the time of booking. The remaining expedition cost will be charged 90 days before the expedition begins.
The Addis Ababa Radisson Blu is a large five-star international hotel with reliable hot water, backup electric generator, and an array of upscale restaurants and amenities.
Standards deviate substantially outside Addis: Guests must be prepared for developing-world conditions, where electricity and hot water in rooms is subject to frequent outages, and fixtures are cheap and often poorly installed and maintained.
In the north, our hotels have modest, basic rooms with en-suite bathroom (flush toilet, basin, and shower or shower bath).
In the south, at Turmi, our lodge has very basic, small rooms with en-suite bathroom (flush toilet, basin, and shower corner, usually without a tub or enclosure). Hot water and electricity can be erratic.
In the Jinka area, our tented camp lodge is on a private campsite, with simple private walk-in canvas tents setup under solid roofs. Each tented room has its own veranda and small en-suite bathroom with shower (Hot water is available though sometimes erratic or could fail completely). The tented lodge has electricity from town and also has its own generator. Despite the last, it is possible that electricity becomes erratic, or that is provided during limited hours. The lodge also has a decent restaurant and bar and the gardens are beautiful.
The Bale Mountain lodge is situated at 7808 feet within a stunning cloud forest which offers access to the Rift Valley and other local attractions. Nestled into the hillside in order to minimize the visual impact on the surrounding area, the lodge was made using local stone. The attached dining room features a thatched roof and a central sunken fireplace, making a cozy area in which to relax in the evenings. All guest rooms are equipped with a wood burning stove to provide warmth and a cosy atmosphere. The furniture has been created locally using sustainable wood and other high-quality, locally-sourced materials.
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“After 20 years of traveling, we never learned so much and had as much fun as with you guys!”
Jack N. Douglas-CO
“Our three expeditions with you were spectacular! We’ve just never had such wonderful travel experiences as with New Paths. We will get around praising you!”
Harriet T. Saugerties-NY
“NPE always provides excellent expedition guiding services where ever in the world we go. They attend to every detail, and NPE always has surprising added elements that are delightful. The best!”
Charlene P. La Jolla-CA
“Well planned, good local guides, top expedition leader. The trip far exceeded all expeditions.”
Frederic K. Orange-CA