Ethiopia is not only a historical and cultural wonder, but also a land of diverse and unique natural attractions, among which the following are the attractive features.
Afar and Danakil Depression
Afar and Danakil Depression is a desert basin which lies in the Danakil Desert in north-eastern Ethiopia. It is the hottest place on earth with an average temperature of 35-50°c and much of its vast region lies below sea level of 116m at Dallol near Lake Asale which is the lowest terra firma on the African continent. Danakil is one of the inhospitable, driest and tectonically very active areas on the planet. This geologically fascinating depression is formed due to the rifting process that formed Red sea and African Great Rift Valley. Danakil depression can be accessed from Mekele or Semera and the Afar people, who are famous and experienced in caravans to bring salt, are the only inhabitants at nearby. Among the one quarter of African volcanoes which are shared between Ethiopia and Eritrea, the most extensive volcanic range is Danakil Alps with a height of 2,129 m and Erta Ale is its focal striking volcanic range. Erta Ale is a remarkable volcanic range in Danakil Depression with seven active volcanic peaks covering an area of 2,350 km². It is a unique volcanic site for it has a large inactive volcano in the north and a small oval shape but active volcano in the south which is the world’s only permanent lava lake with a diameter of 60m long and 100m length. Erta Ale is the only prominent longest existing lava lake in the world that present since the early years of the twentieth century. The spectacular peaks of Borale (815m) and Afrera (1256m) which go up colorfully isolating from the hollow beach of Lake Afrera, are the other glorious features of Danakil depression. There is also a caked lake of salt and malodorous sulfur with solidified black lava flowing on the surface of Danakil Depression. Danakil Depression is a heroic site for thrilling and tough adventurous travel enclosed with bare land of a temperature rising over 35°c and a volcano lake whose lava glide and drop like waterfall.
Semien Mountains National Park
Semien Mountains National Park is one of the National Parks of Ethiopia. Located in the North Gondar Zone of the Amhara Region, Its territory includes many summits above 4,000m. (13,000feet), and the highest point in Ethiopia. Ras Dashen is also the fourth highest mountain in Africa. The park is 179 km2.It is in Afro Alpine zone and the temperature falls below freezing at night. It is home to a number of extremely rare species, including the Ethiopian wolf, Gelada Baboon, and the Walia Ibex, a wild goat found nowhere else in the world. The Caracal also occurs within the Semien Mountains. More than 50 species of birds inhabit the park, including the impressive Bearded Vulture, or Lammergeyer, with its 13m wingspan. The park is crossed by an unpaved road which runs from Debarq, where the administrative headquarters of the park is located, east through a number of villages to the Buahit Pass, where the road turns south to end at Mekane Berhan 10 kilometers beyond the park boundary. This scenically beautiful national park is registered by UNESCO as world heritage.
Bale Mountain National Park
Bale mountain national park, which is found in south eastern Ethiopia, is an area of high altitude plateau, that is broken by numerous spectacular volcanic peaks beautiful alpine lakes and rushing mountain streams that descend into deep rocky gorges. Within its boundaries are some of the highest points in Ethiopia, which include Mount Batu. Bale Mountains contains three distinct Eco regions: the northern plains, bush and woods; the central Sanetti Plateau with an average elevation of over 4000 meters; and the southern Harenna Forest, known for its mammals, amphibians and birds including many endemic species. The mountains are most famous as home and refuge of the endemic mountain Nyala and Red fox. Both these mammals exist in reasonable numbers, and visits to the Gaysay area, and the Sanetti plateau will enable visitors to see beautiful animals. Meneliks bushbuck is found on the high plateau and could easily be seen from Dinsho and Gaysay park stations.
Awash national park
Awash national park was established in 1966. It is the oldest and comparatively the only well developed wildlife reserve in Ethiopia. Located at the southern tip of the Afar Region, this park is 225 kilometers east of Addis Ababa (and a few kilometers west of Awash), with its southern boundary along the Awash River, and covers at least 756 square kilometers of Acacia woodland and grassland. The Addis Ababa – Dire Dawa highway passes through this park, separating the Illala Saha Plains to the south from the Kudu Valley to the north. Wildlife in this park includes the East African Oryx, Soemmerring’s Gazelle, Dik-dik, and the lesser and greater Kudus, as well as over 400 species of native birds. Previously there were packs of the African Wild Dog, Lycaon pictus, but this species may now be locally extirpated. In the upper Kudu Valley at Filwoha are hot springs amid groves of palm trees. The park can be visited at all times of the year and has accommodation and camping sites.
Abijatta Shalla National Park
Abijatta Shalla National Park is one of the National Parks of Ethiopia. Located in the Oromia Region 200 kilometers south of Addis Ababa to the east of the Ziway Shashamane highway, it contains 887 square kilometers including the Rift Valley lakes of Abijatta and Shalla. The two lakes are separated by three kilometers of hilly land. The altitude of the park ranges from 1540 to 2075 meters, the highest peak being Mount Fike, which is situated between the two lakes. Besides the two lakes, the primary attraction of this national park are a number of hot springs on the northeast corner of Lake Abijatta, and large numbers of flamingoes on the lake. Care must be exercised in driving vehicles out to the edge of this lake, as the thin crust of dried mud on the surface can give way without warning.
Mago National Park
The Mago National Park was established in 1979, making it the newest of Ethiopia’s several National Parks. Its highest point is Mount Mago (2528 meters). Indigenous bird life include the extremely uncommon Turdoides tenebrosus especially at Lake Dipa, Estrilda troglodytes in the rank grass along streams and swamp edges, Phoeniculus damarensis, Porphyrio alleni, Butorides striatus also at Lake Dipa, and in riverine contexts Pluvianus aegypticus, Scotopelia peli and Cossypha niveicapilla. The 2162 square kilometers of this park are divided by the Mago River, a tributary of the Omo, into two parts. To the west is the Tama Wildlife Reserve, with the Tama River defining the boundary between the two. To the south is the Murle Controlled Hunting Area, distinguished by Lake Dipa which stretches along the left side of the lower Omo. The park office is 115 kilometers north of Omorate and 26 kilometers southwest of Jinka. All roads to and from the park are unpaved. The major environments in and around the Park are the rivers and riverine forest, the wetlands along the lower Mago and around Lake Dipa, the various grasslands on the more level areas, and scrub on the sides of the hills. Open grassland comprises about 9% of the park’s area. The largest trees are found in the riverine forest beside the Omo, Mago and Neri. Areas along the lower Omo (within the park) are populated with a rich diversity of ethnic groups, including the Aari, Banna, Bongoso, Hamer, Karo, Kwegu, Male and Mursi peoples.
Nechisar National Park
Netchsar in Amharic means, ’white grasses’’ and refers to the central grassy plains which was established as a sanctuary for the domestic Swayne hartebeest, an endangered sub species throughout Ethiopia. Located in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region (SNNPR) immediately to the east of Arba Minch, its 514 square kilometers of territory include the “Bridge of God” (an isthmus between Lakes Abaya and Chamo), and the Nechisar plains east of the lakes. Park elevations range between 1108 and 1650 meters above sea level. Nechisar National Park was established in 1974. Under the management of African Parks Network (APN since 2005, it is reportedly scheduled to hand over management to the Ethiopian government in June 2008. Other wildlife in the park includes hippo, zebra, buffalo, crocodile, lion, and leopard.
Omo National Park
Stretching along a vast expanse of land adjacent to the Omo River, the Omo national park is situated in a true wilderness of south-west Ethiopia and is declared to be one the richest wild life sanctuaries in east Africa. The park is the home of big game animals like lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, buffalo, zebra and giraffe. The Omo valley is virtually free from human interference and hence the natural habitat has remained relatively intact. The most notable animal species are Eland and Tiang, the former being the only species unique to the park not being found elsewhere in the country. Over three hundred species of birds, both aquatic and terrestrial have been recorded, including the endemic black-winged lovebird. There is virtually no tourist infrastructure within the park and little support for travellers. The Lonely Planet guide Ethiopia and Eritrea describes Omo National Park as “Ethiopia’s most remote park. The lower reaches of the Omo River were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, after the discovery of the earliest known fossil fragments of Homo sapiens that have been dated circa 195,000 years old.
Yangudi Ras National Park
Yangudi rasa national park is located in the afar lowlands, between the towns of Gewane and mille, which is 500kms from Addis Ababa. The park was proposed specifically to protect the endangered African wild Ass, which is believed to be the ancestor of the domestic donkey. The park has some 36 species of mammals of which African wild Ass, Beisa Oryx, Sommerings Gazelle, Dorcas gazelle are found.
Gambella National Park
Gambella national park lies in the western part of the country along one of the Ethiopia’s important river, the Baro. The general topography of the Park is flat, with some areas of higher ground where deciduous woodland and savanna occur; these higher areas are often rocky with large termite mounds. About 66% of the area is considered shrub land, 15% is forest, while 17% has been modified by man. It also supports extensive areas of wet grassland and swamps where the native grasses grow over 3 meters in height. The natural environment of Gambella national park has contributed to the presence of wide variety of wild life, including big mammals and birds. Among the mammal species found are elephants, Lelwel hartebeest, African Buffalo, lion, roan antelope, Guereza Monkey and in particular hippos and crocodiles live along the Baro River. Several birds only found in this area include the shoebill stork, the Long-tailed Paradise Whydah and the Red-throated and Green Bee-eaters.
Chebera-Churchura National Park (CCNP)
CCNP is found within the western side of the central Omo Gibe basin and located about 330 & 460 km southwest of Hawassa & Addis Ababa, respectively. It covers an area of 1215 km2 that ranges in altitude form 700 to 2450 mills above sea level. The Park is fortunate in possessing numerous rivers and streams and four small creator lakes which are reason for the rich wildlife resources of the area. The prominent topographic features is unique & highly attractive and characterized by unique and highly heterogeneous and hilly terrain, few flat lands and highly undulating to rolling plains with incised river and perennial streams, valley and gorges. So far, 37 larger mammals and 237 species of birds have been recorded in the different habitats of the park. White-cliff chat, banded-barbet, wattled ibis, black-headed forest Oriole and thick billed Raven are endemic birds for the country. Common mammals include the African elephant, hippopotamus, Cape buffalo, lion, and leopard. Currently, CCNP appears to be the least disturbed and reliable ecosystem for the African elephant and Buffalo in the country. This park is one of the relatively untouched, recently discovered and rich wilderness areas but the list visited and known park in the country. The park comprises unique and attractive mountain closed forest, closed tall-grassed savannah habitat, thick woodland forest. The landscape very fascinating highly rugged, undulating to rolling plains there a number of hilly & mountainous land which the whole year covered by vegetation. A number of cold & hot springs, historical caves, the Meka Forest (which is always with African Elephants). The park is the best site to see the African Elephants, and Buffalo. The Park & surrounding area also has different natural and cultural attractions such as different hot and cold springs, lakes and caves.
The Omo valley is situated in the south & southwest of Addis Ababa, which passes through the Great Rift Valley and offers the most attractive and beautiful landscape scenery in the region. The Omo region is home for most nomadic and semi-nomadic people with different fascinating ethnic groups like the Hammer, Mursi, Karo,Dassenech, Surma, Bena, Ari, Tsemay, Bodi and others.
Senkelle Swaynes Hartebeest Sanctuary
The sanctuary is primarily established to protect Swaynes hartebeest, which is and endemic and endangered species. The site is located some 300kms on Addis Ababa-Arbamich road. Other wildlife types found here are orbi, greater kudu and warthog.
Erer Fafan Elephant Sanctuary
The east Harerge elephant sanctuary is the largest wildlife conservation area in the country. Here are found the diminishing endemic sub-species of African elephants. These elephants seasonally move north and south along the Erer Fafan valley.
Babile rock column and stone piles
Babile rock column and stone piles is unique sites where visitors are fascinated by nature’s arrangement of the rocks. These are found on either side of hara-jijiga road.
The Rift Valley
Much of Africa’s volcanic activity is concentrated along the immense 6000 km long crack in the earth’s surface known as the Great Rift Valley. Great Rift Valley is great because it is extensive and it was formed by the sinking and tearing apart of the earth. The largest valley on the earth, the Great Rift Valley is one of the planet’s most outstanding features. The Great Rift Valley is not just a subject on the geographical maps. It has already entered into the history looks as it holds the key to our past and the existence of early man on the continent. It is in the Alluvial Gorge (Kenya). In Melka Kunture and Hadar (Afar region) that the bones of our earliest ancestors like “Lucy” were found. It is as if the land broke apart in a rift to display its riches. Ethiopia is often referred to as the “water tower” of eastern Africa because of the many rivers that pour of its high tableland. The Rift valley’s passage through Ethiopia marked by chain of seven lakes fed by different rivers. Each of the seven lakes has its own attractions. The lakes shelter different species of birds and many wild animals. The rift valley is also a habitat for a variety of flora and fauna.
The Blue Nile Falls
The breath taking Blue Nile falls is found about 32kms from Bahir dar.it is 400 meters wide during the flood season, drops to a depth of 45 meters, and sprays water droplets to visitors standing on the opposite edge of the gorge. Near the falls, visitors could also see the 17th century Portuguese bridge.
Sof omar Cave
Sof omar natural cave located about 557kms from Addis Ababa, is the longest caves in Ethiopia as well as the longest system cave in Africa with 16 km length and 42 doors. It has crude and attractive pillars of 20 m long. This cave is carved out by Weyb River which drains downward from Bale highlands to the flat arid plains of the Somali border. The cave is considered as one of the world’s most extensive underground caverns and had served as the ceremonial sites by the earliest animist before it was used by sheikh sof omer as a refuge place in 13th century. It is regularly visited by adventures tourists and bird watchers who want to see salvadori’s serin endemic bird. The surrounding acacia scrubs is also home for orange-bellied parrot, blue-naped mouse bird, brown tailed chat, somali titi and others. Boat trip inside the dark sofomer cave is very adventures and valiant. The caves currently constitute an important Islamic shrines named after the saintly Sheikh Sof Omar, who is said to have taken refuge here many centuries ago. The site has a religious history of thousands of years, which predates the arrival of the Muslims in Bale.
Menagesha suba forest
It is sited at 80 km distance from Addis Abeba at an altitude ranging from 2,200 to 3,385m above sea level. It dates back to the reign of Emperor Zerea yacob, in 15th century, that he first designated it as a “crown forest.” At that time, the area was planted with seedlings of junipers taken from the Wef-Washa forest found around Ankober and Debre Sina, about 190km north of Addis Abeba. It is the oldest park in Africa with an age of more than 500 years and covers an area of 9,248 ha. The forest is mostly made up of African Juniper that grows up to about 30 meters and its valleys have many exotic plants. The natural forest is dominated by Juniperus procera that grows to 30 m, and forms a relatively open canopy. The forest is home for numerous endemic as well as common natural trees and flowers. Black and white Colobus monkey, Menelik’s bushbuck, duiker, Anubis baboon, Bush pig, warthog, leopard, and serval cat are among the animals of the park. Today it offers to the visitor a wide variety of tree species, some are as old as 400yrs.There are also several endemic wild animals and birds in this thick forest. Abyssinian Catbird Rougets’ rail, blue-winged goose and black-headed siskin are among Ethiopian endemics to be noted while trekking in the park.
Bishoftu Lakes and Zekuala Mountain
Zequala at 50km distance from Addis there is a town of Debreziet which is recommended for day excursion of bird watching and recreating activities on crater lakes. It is set at an altitude of 1900m and equipped with six crater lakes. It was after the invasion and destruction of Imam Ahmed Gragn in 15th century that the Oromo people occupied and reside in the area. Currently the name of the town is changed to ‘Bishoftu’ in oromifa language. Debreiziet is a recreation town with good facilities and attractive crater lakes that support a bird species. The Alkaline crater Lake Bishoftu is supports some interesting birds like a wintering population of ferruginous duck and breeding pairs of Ruppell’s griffin vulture. It has also a scenic view. Among the crater lakes of Bishoftu area, the saline Lake Hora is the largest and has 40m depth. It has a densely wooded slop stuffed with numerous bird species. Lake Hora is very significant for the Oromo population as they were celebrating their colorful annual ritual ceremonies for the past 1000 years. This thanks giving festival is named as Irrecha and every Oromo people gather around Lake Hora to attend the thanks giving ceremony. The excellent fishing site of Lake Kuriftu, the exciting bird watching site of Lake Chelekleka and Cuban-built dam are the other refreshing side of Bishoftu. In order to trek at an altitude of 2989 m and to see a tranquil crater lake with the 12th century monastery, you should have to drive 30 km further south of Bishoftu to Mount Zekuala. The mountain is an abode for different indigenous tree and variety of bird species as well as for the monastic church of St. Merry which was established by the Coptic saint Abune Gebre Menfes kidus in 12th century. If you trek up to the top, the scenic view of the mountain will award you to see Mount Entoto of Addis by far and the clean Zekuala Crater Lake which is used as the holy water by the monastery.
Wenchi Crate Lake
Wenchi Mountain and its surrounding refreshing natural gifts can be experienced by driving only 155 km from Addis Ababa to the west along the weliso or ambo road. The lake covers an area of 560 hectares with 78m depth. Its scenic beauty with islands and peninsulas, and the alpine nature of the climate makes your trip worthwhile. The area is famed for its beautiful mountainous landscape, used partly as farmland and partly covered by natural forest. Wonchi Mountain which is the result of a massive extinct volcano contains hot springs, waterfalls and breathtaking valleys and scenery. Among the four peninsulas in the island, an old monastery named Wenchi Cherkos is found and it is believed as it was established by King Zerea Yaecob in 15th century. Wonchi is a real paradise for trekkers and for anyone who appreciate nature. The fresh air, the green area and the blue floating Crater Lake with the welcoming peaceful people of the area is the unique feature of Wonchi Crater Lake.
The hot spring at Wendgogenet
Around 20 km south of Shashemene, the hot spring resort at Wendogenet supports different bird species and it has very silent fresh air. It is very captivating to appreciate the atmosphere and its gift of hot spring. Also 4km from the hot spring, there is Dabashi Lake which supports crocodile, hippos, water and forest birds.
The largest lake in Ethiopia (3600km2) is home to thirty-seven islands, of which twenty shelter churches of which significant historical and cultural interest. The islands are easily reached by boat. The nearest Monasries are Kibran Gabriel and Ura- Kidane Mihiret. Women are not allowed to enter Kibran Gabriel Monastery.
Lake Langano It covers 305 km² surface area and 45 m depth. There is a variety of wildlife and acacia associated species, around the lake which includes monkeys, baboons, warthogs, and a huge variety of birds. Enjoying the atmosphere, swimming and boat trip to see the hippos and crocodiles are among the preferable activities. There are also upscale lodges and hotels which makes your time luxurious.
It covers an area of 430 km²and has 5 islands at an altitude of 1636m above sea level. The Lake is loaded in Tilapia Nilotic fish which weights 1.5kg, hippos and different bird species. If you have to see different bird species at a distance of 160km from Addis, Lake Ziway is recommended. Among the birds white pelicans, hammer cops, sacred ibises, African fishing eagles, cormorants, kingfishers, and marabou stork can be seen easily. The oldest and the only active monastery in southern Ethiopia, Debre Tsion Mariam, is the other future of Lake Ziway. The monastery was the sanctuary for the ark of Covenant in 9th century and it covers 6km² which makes it the largest island among the five.
Abaya and Chamo
Abaya and Chamo lakes are splendor for Nechsar national park. They are set at an altitude of 1268 m and they cover extensive area of land. Next to Lake Tana, Lake Abaya is the extensive body of water in Ethiopia with a total area of 1160 km² and depth of 13m. AS opposed to Lake Chamo which is blue in color Lake Abaya has a rusty appearance resulting from the ferrous hydroxide in its water. Lake chamo covers an area of more than 560 km²and depth of 10 m. It is an abode of numerous hippos and crocodile and it is refreshing to make a bout trip on it.