GVET 015 Lake Awassa - 2 days

Day 1: Pick up from the hotel is at 7.30, and we then head south down the Rift Valley, passing through Debre Zeit, and by the lakes of Koka, Zwai Langano, Abiata and Shalla.  We start to climb after passing Langano, leaving the drier acacia forest for the greener areas around Shashamene.

A short distance from Shashamene is the town of Awassa, capital of the southern region.   We will check into the new Haile Resort (owned by the famous runner, Haile Gebre Selassie), situated on the shores of the lake.  Lake Awassa with its mountainous background, is one of Ethiopia’s most beautiful lakes and is home to a huge population of birds, and walking along the shores one can also see hippo.  Colobus and cervet monkeys and baboons are common in the hotel grounds.  (The distance is about 280 km, the journey taking about 4 hours.)

Boats can be hired on the lake, and it is a great way to spend an afternoon, among the fishermen and watching the antics of the malakite king fisher and other water birds. There is a swimming pool in the grounds of the hotel, or visitors may like to walk along the shores of the lake or in the nearby Black Forest. Lunch and dinner will be in the hotel.

Day 2: Bird watchers may like to take an early morning trip to the fish market, and get really close to a variety of species that are very used to human company.  Otherwise we will spend the morning relaxing in the hotel grounds, along the shores of the lake or on a boat.  We will take lunch in the hotel, and set back to Addis Ababa mid-afternoon.

GVET 014 Wondo Genet - 2 days

Day 1: We set off early down the Rift Valley, passing through Debre Zeit, and by the lakes of Koka, Zwai Langano, Abiata and Shalla.  We start to climb after passing Langano, leaving the drier acacia forest for the greener areas around Shashamene.

Shashamene is situated at a cross roads, with roads north south and east west.  It is also home to a Rastafarian community from the Caribbean.  The late Emperor Haile Selassie I granted them land here in perpetuity in recognition of the support and solidarity of the people of African origin in the Caribbean for Ethiopia at the time of the Fascist aggression in 1935, when Mussolini’s Italian forces invaded the country.

From Shasmene we turn east for about 13 km for the mountain and spa resort of Wondo Genet - or “place of heaven”.

Haile Selassie had a lodge here, now part of the hotel, and the waters are reputed to have curative properties.  The hot water comes gushing out of the rocks and one can stand underneath, getting a natural hydro massage.  There is also a naturally heated swimming pool.  The scenery around the lodge is hilly and Juniper forested.  While most visitors may prefer to relax around the spa, there are some very good walks in the hills, with plenty of bird life - the endemic Yellow-fronted Parrot, the Black-headed Forest Oriole and the Golden-backed Woodpecker can easily be seen, along with the Redwing Starling, Grosbeak Weaver, Mountain Wagtail and Black Roughwing Swallow - and wildlife -  colobus and vervet monkeys, anubis baboon and bushbuck.

Spectacular sunsets can be seen from the terrace outside the bar, with a great view of Lake Awassa.

Day 2: More relaxation, or forest walks.  After taking lunch in the hotel, we return to Addis Ababa.  We will take a stop at the Bekele Molla hotel on the shores of Lake Langano, and arrive in Addis Ababa late afternoon.

GVET 012 Awash National Park and Bilen Lodge - 2 days

Day 1: Pick up is at 7.30.  Heading south down the Rift Valley we turn east at Mojo for Awash and the Afar Region.  We pass Lake Beseka (which has grown over the last decade, causing the Djibouti – Addis Ababa railway line to be raised on several occasions), and enter the Awash National Park to take a picnic lunch at the Awash River Falls.  Leaving the park we come to the town of Awash. Just outside the town we get to the junction where the road forks, straight ahead for Dire Dawa and Harer, and left for Djibouti and the Red Sea.  Some 60 km down this road, 40 km after the town of Awash Arba, you approach some new buildings, the new District Council Offices at Andido  The exit is at the edge of Andido – there is a large sign post - and 10 km on a good gravel road brings you to Bilen Lodge, which is situated on Elalaytu, a hill overlooking the vast hot springs of Bilen and the sea of reeds which fringes them.

The lodge consists of 15 self contained, double units for visitors, with a restaurant bar and staff housing.

The units’ design reflects local cultural building traditions, are thatched on the outside and covered with reed mats on the inside.  The units are situated at intervals along the hill overlooking the sea of reeds, each has its own thatched patio, a bedroom with two twin beds with mosquito nets, a bathroom, with shower, flush toilet and hand basin.

The restaurant serves western and Ethiopian food, along with local specialties such as barbecued goat. Vegetarians are well provided for.  The bar is well stocked with local and imported beers, wines and spirits.

In a shorter trip, returning to Addis Ababa on the second day, on arrival we could take a stroll passing through the patch of natural forest at the northern end of Elalaytu hill, down past the some agricultural project buildings and on to the hot springs. On our way, we may bump into a family of wart hog, scurrying past with their tails erect like antennae, nervous dik dik, vervet monkeys (particularly around the project buildings) and mongoose.  Less frequently seen are oryx, gerenuk and lesser kudu. You don’t have to worry about chance encounters with Bilen’s resident lions – if you’re lucky you may see them in the early mornings, emerging from the reeds to survey the world, and you may well hear them at night – they sometimes stroll through the compound of the lodge in the early hours of the morning , but they’re rather reticent and we don’t guarantee sightings.

There’ll be plenty of birds on the way, you may well see the following species: Black Scrub Robin, Somali Golden Breasted Robin, Nile Valley Sunbird, Lineated Pytilia, Yellow Throated Serin, Sombre Chat and Arabian Bustard.  (If you are a keen ornithologist, ask for the Bilen Lodge Bird List.)

Entering the springs and advancing to the middle it is possible to stand on top of the springs and have a kind of gravel Jacuzzi, as the hot (but not uncomfortably hot) water swirls around your legs.  From there we can cut back to the lodge.

The next day we could do an early morning game drive - returning to the main road and proceeding north for a couple of kilometers, we turn right and approach the Alledeghi Plains, where at the right time of day (early morning or late afternoon) a variety of plains animals can be seen, including zebra, gerenuk, ostrich etc.

After breakfast at the lodge we can go and visit some Afar villages – most of the lodge’s workers come from the nearby village and we can wander round there, taking photos and seeing how the Afar people live.

A 10 minute car ride will bring us to the Awash River, and here we can arrange to have camels ready on which we can load cool boxes with soft drinks and a picnic lunch.  There is a well preserved riverine forest, and you can trek here in the shade, and stop at a picturesque spot by the river for lunch.

If it’s a 2 day trip we should leave after lunch back to Addis Ababa.

We could easily extend to another day.  (The owners of Ethiopian Quadrants are share holders in Bilen Lodge.)

NB There is now a new lodge inside the Awash Park, Fuafuate Awash Lodge, located near the Awash River Falls.

GVET 013 The Rift Valley Lakes - Zwai, Langano, Shalla and Abiata - 2 days

Day 1:  We set off early down the Rift Valley, passing through Debre Zeit, and by the lakes of Koka and Zwai -  if there are birders in the party, we will stop at Lake Zwai and head down to the lake shore where huge numbers of water birds are congregated.  African Pygmy Geese, Yellow-billed Storks, Collared Pratincoles, Lesser and greater Jacanas, African Jacanas, White Pelicans, Fish Eagles, crowned and common cranes are some of the species to be seen here in impressive numbers.

At Lake Langano visitors now have a choice of hotels.   There is the Abule Basuma Lodge at the northern end of the Lake, Wabe Shabelle a bit further south, Bekele Molla towards the southern end, opposite the entrance to Shalla and Abiata Park, and on the eastern shores, Wenney Lodge and Bishangari Lodge.

The last two are more expensive, but the eco-system on the eastern shores is more interesting and varied than the western, and there are more birds and wild life.

Lake Langano is bilharzia and crocodile free, and visitors can go for a swim, walk along the shores of the lake or go bird watching in the forests along the lake shores.

Later in the afternoon around 4.00 PM we could visit Shalla and Abiata National Park, very near to Bekele Molla, but further if we stay at Wenney or Bishangari, and after passing the tame ostriches at the gate, head first towards Shalla Lake which with a maximum depth of 300 meters is the deepest of the Rift Valley Lakes.  We can stop at a look out point over the two lakes before heading down to the lake shore where there are a number of springs so hot that locals boil maize in them.   We then head towards Abiata Lake, where by this time of day the lakes shores will be pink from the thousands of both lesser and greater Flamingo’s which feed in the shallows.  African Pochard, Avocet, Gull billed Tern and Pintail, Ruff and a variety of ducks are among other species to be seen.

Day 2: We will spend the morning relaxing by the lake, take our lunch in the hotel and leave for Addis Ababa mid afternoon, arriving early evening.

GVET 011 Sodere hot springs - 1 day

Pick up from the hotel is at 7.30, and we then set off on the south east road, turning east at Mojo.  We turn off the main road before Nazereth for the host springs resort of Sodere, which lies along theAwash River.

There is a large naturally heated swimming pool, and a number of smaller pools throughout the grounds of the resort.  Vervet monkeys and baboons are common in the resort, and visitors can see crocodiles basking along the banks of the Awash River.  The forests which fringe the river are also good for birds – there are about 9 or 10 endemics to be seen, including Black Winged Love Bird, White Collared Pigeon, Abyssinian Woodpecker, Abyssinian Cat Bird, Yellow Fronted Parrot, Abyssinian Wax Bill.

Lunch will be taken at the resort, and we will set off back to Addis Ababa around 4.00 PM, arriving early evening.

Sodere gets rather noisy at the weekends – so be warned!