Simien Mountains National Park

The Simien Mountain massif is a broad plateau, cut off to the north and west by an enormous single crag over 60 kilometers long. To the south, the tableland slopes gently down to 2,200 meters, divided by gorges 1,000 meters deep which can take more than two days to cross. Insufficient geological time has elapsed to smooth the contours of the crags and buttresses of hardened basalt.

Within this spectacular splendor live the Walia (Abyssinian) ibex, Simien red fox and Gelada baboon - all endemic to Ethiopia - as well as the Hamadryas baboon, klipspringer and bushbuck. Birds such as the lammergeyer, augur buzzard, Verreaux's eagle, kestrel and falcon also soar above this mountain retreat.

Twenty kilometers north-east of Gondar, the Simien Mountains National Park covers 179 square kilometers of highland area at an average elevation of 3,300 meters. Ras Dashen, at 4,620 meters the highest peak in Ethiopia, stands adjacent to the park.

The Simien escarpments, which are often compared to the Grand Canyon in the United States of America, have been adopted by Unesco as a World Heritage Site.

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Omo National Park

Far to the south-west lies Omo National Park, the largest in the country, with an area of 4,068 square kilometers. It is a vast expanse of true wilderness, adjacent to the Omo River, which flows southwards into Lake Turkana and is one of the richest and least-visited wildlife sanctuaries in eastern Africa. Eland, oryx, Burchell's zebra, Lelwel hartebeest, buffalo, giraffe, elephant, waterbuck, kudu, lion, leopard and cheetah roam within the park's boundaries. The Omo Valley is virtually free of human habitation but is rich in palaeo-anthro-pological remains. According to scientific research done in 1982 by the University of California at Berkeley, hominid remains from the Omo Valley probably date back more than 4 millionyears. Much of Africa's volcanic activity is concentrated along the immense 5,000-kilometre crack in the earth's surface known as the Rift Valley. It is the result of two roughly parallel faults, between which, in distant geological time, the crust was weakened and the land subsided. The valley walls - daunting blue-grey ridges of volcanic basalt and granite - rise sheer on either side to towering heights of 4,000 meters. The valley floor, 50 kilometers or more across, encompasses some of the world'slasttrue wildernesses. Ethiopia is often referred to as the 'water tower' of eastern Africa because of the many rivers that pour off its high tableland, and a visit to this part of the Rift Valley, studded with lakes, volcanoes and savannah grassland, offers the visitor a true safari experience. The Omo River tumbles its 350-kilometre way through a steep inaccessible valley before slowing its pace as it nears the lowlands and then meanders through flat, semi-desert bush, eventually running into Lake Turkana. Since 1973, the river has proved a major attraction for white-water rafters. The season for rafting is between September and October, when the river is still high from the June to September rains but the weather is drier. The river passes varied scenery, including an open gallery forest of tamarinds and figs, alive with colobus monkeys. Under the canopy along the riverbanks may be seen many colorful birds. Goliath herons, blue-breasted kingfishers, white-cheeked turacos, emerald-spotted wood doves and red-fronted bee-eaters are all rewarding sights, while monitor lizards may be glimpsed scuttling into the undergrowth. Beyond the forest, hippos graze on the savannah slopes against the mountain walls, and waterbuck, bushbuck and Abyssinian ground hornbills are sometimes to be seen. Abundant wildlife, spirited rapids, innumerable side creeks and waterfalls, sheer inner canyons and hot springs all combine to make the Omo one of the world's classic river adventures. , the rich in wildlife and with few human inhabitants. The vegetation is mainly savannah grassland East of Omo River and stretching south towards the Chew Bahir basin lies the Mago National Park and bush, extending across an area of 2,160 square kilometers. Mammal species total 81, including hartebeest giraffe roan antelope elephant and perhaps even a rare black rhino Abundant wildlife, spirited rapids, innumerable side creeks and waterfalls, sheer inner canyons and hot springs all combine to make the Omo one of the world's classic river adventures. The river passes varied scenery, including an open gallery forest of tamarinds and figs, alive with colobus monkeys. Under the canopy along the riverbanks may be seen many colorful birds. Goliath herons, blue-breasted kingfishers, white-cheeked turacos, emerald-spotted wood doves and red-fronted bee-eaters are all rewarding sights, while monitor lizards may be glimpsed scuttling into the undergrowth. Beyond the forest, hippos graze on the savannah slopes against the mountain walls, and waterbuck, bushbuck and Abyssinian ground hornbills are sometimes to be seen.

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Bale Mountain National Park

Bale Mountain National Park Bale Mountains, with their vast moorlands - the lower reaches covered with St. John's wort- and their extensive heathland, virgin woodlands, pristine mountain streams and alpine climate remain an untouched and beautiful world. Rising to a height of more than 4,000 meters, the range borders Ethiopia's southern highlands, whose highest peak, Mount Tullu Deemtu, stands at 4,377 meters. The establishment The of the 2,400-square-kilometre Bale Mountains National Park was crucial to the survival of the mountain nyala, Menelik's bushbuck and the Simien red fox. This fox is one of the most colorful members of the dog family and more abundant here than anywhere else in Ethiopia. All three endemic animals thrive in this environment, the nyala in particular often being seen in large numbers. The Bale Mountains offer some fine high-altitude horse and foot trekking, and the streams of the park - which become important rivers further downstream - are well-stocked with rainbow and brown trout.

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Gambela National Park

The Baro River area, accessible by land or air through the western Ethiopian town of Gambela, remains a place of adventure and challenge. Traveling across the endless undulating plains of high Sudanese grass, visitors can enjoy a sense of achievement in just finding their way. This is Ethiopia's true tropical zone and here are found all the elements of the African safari, enhanced by a distinctly Ethiopian flavor. Nile perch weighing 100 kilos can be caught in the waters of the Baro, snatched from the jaws of the huge crocodiles that thrive along the riverbank. The white-eared kob also haunts the Baro, along with other riverbank residents that include the Nile lechwe, buffalo, giraffe, tiang, waterbuck, roan antelope, zebra, bushbuck, Abyssinian reedbuck, warthog, hartebeest, lion, elephant and hippopotamus.

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National Parks

Ethiopia is also a land of natural contrasts, from the tops of the rugged Siemien mountains to the depths of the Danakil Depression, at 120 meters below sea level one of the lowest dry land points on earth. The cornucopia of natural beauty that blesses Ethiopia offers an astonishing variety of landscapes: Afro-Alpine highlands soaring to around 4,300 meters, deserts sprinkled with salt flats and yellow sulphur, lake lands with rare and beautiful birds, moors and mountains, the splendor of the Great Rift Valley, white-water rivers, savannah teeming with game, giant waterfalls, dense and lush jungle the list is endless. Ethiopia's many national parks enable the visitor to enjoy the country's scenery and its wildlife, conserved in natural habitats, and offer opportunities for travel adventure unparalleled in Africa. Awash national park Awash National Park is the oldest and most developed wildlife reserve in Ethiopia. Featuring the 1,800-metre Fantalle Volcano, extensive mineral hot-springs and extraordinary volcanic formations, this natural treasure is bordered to the south by the Awash River and lies 225 kilometers east of the capital, Addis Ababa.

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