Day 1: Addis Ababa to Lake Langano
In the morning we depart Addis Ababa for our journey south through the Rift Valley, making our way to Lake Langano for our stay at the well-situated Sabana Beach Hotel on the shores of the lake, with views of the 4,000m Arsi Mountains in the background. An evening excursion around the hotel may well produce Grayish and Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, African Scops-Owl, Northern White-faced Owl and Freckled Nightjar. The Sabana Beach Hotel is a comfortable lodge set on the cliffs overlooking Lake Langano. Bungalows with en suite bathrooms – with hot showers -- feature local materials and art, private verandas overlooking the lake and comfortable beds. Both Ethiopian and international cuisine is served in the unique, thatched restaurant with panoramic views of the lake. A lake-front bar is also available on the beach. Overnight at the Sabana Beach Hotel or upgrade to the more removed and tranquil eco-retreat of Bishangari Hotel*. [BLD]
*Upgrade cost of $185 per person
Day 2: bale Mountains
The three neighboring lakes in the central Ethiopian Rift Valley could not be more different from each other. The medium depth reddish-brown Lake Langano, shallow, brackish Abijatta, and the extremely deep, blue Shalla, once a volcanic crater and now home to several bubbling sulfuric hot springs, are all superb birding localities. Explore the lake shores and surrounding woodlands of all three lakes, and hope to find Somali Ostrich, huge flocks of Greater and Lesser Flamingo, Northern Shoveler, Southern Pochard, Cape Teal, Dark Chanting-Goshawk, Imperial and Long-crested Eagle, Gray Kestrel, the rare Clapperton’s Francolin.
Depart after breakfast to continue your expedition 3-4 hours to the Bale Mountains, passing through the Dragon’s Pass before reaching the park headquarters in Dinsho. At the park headquarters in Dinsho head out with a local guide to stretch your legs and search the trails for the colorful Chestnut-naped Francolin, Ground scraper Thrush (of the distinctive, endemic race simensis), the secretive Abyssinian Ground-Thrush, vocal Abyssinian Catbird, and the endemic White-backed Black-Tit. You may also see a variety of mammals, including Mountain Nyala- now entirely restricted to the Bale Mountain massif, Menelik’s Bushbuck and Warthog, unusual at this high altitude. The day’s travel is not over yet though, from Dinsho you’ll make your way to the town of Goba, over the Sanetti plateau and finally to the lodge which is located 6km south of the village of Rira, the only settlement on the road. Arrive at your home away from home for the next three nights, the newly constructed Bale Mountain Lodge in a private wilderness concession. Overnight at Bale Mountain Lodge. [BLD]
Day 3: Bale Mountain Lodge and Environs
Spend the day with local guides of the Bale Mountain Lodge, exploring this unique area and getting a better understanding of the local flora and fauna as well as the conservation and research efforts currently under way. Supported by the AWF – Bale Mountain Lodge is the first to be granted a private concession within an Ethiopian National Park. Owned and operated by Guy Levene and his wife Yvonne their mission is to assist with the husbandry of this magnificent and genuinely unique National Park through running an ethical, conservation related company with wider aims to provide employment and opportunity for rural Ethiopians. They believe that they can make a difference by raising the standards of service available in Ethiopia, highlighting the numbers of rare endemic species within the park and by reducing man's negative impact upon the environment through reducing illegal grazing, deforestation and cultivation. To that end they've built a research building and already have hosted teams from Utah and Oslo Universities studying Birds and the rare Bale Monkey. They have close links to Mississippi University through the study of reptiles (a tiny chameleon is only found within 10 km of the lodge) and they have a team from Munich coming to look at the Lepidoptera who, in their first trip, have discovered 22 new species of moth and butterflies in this highland 'island'.
Their onsite naturalist and guide, James, is a delightful Kenyan who brings nature to life and who has a great manner. A mountain stream runs through the property and there are a couple of waterfalls nearby (waist deep swim for adults if you can take the bracing cold temperatures). A massive variety of wildlife on show and they routinely have wart hogs, monkeys and baboons around the clearings. In addition to a tour around the premises, it’s possible to visit the nearby village of Rira to experience the local life ways of this nearby village. Overnight at Bale Mountain Lodge. [BLD]
Day 4: Sanetti Plateau
Today will be a day of great contrasts with amazing scenery and birding. depart early, and ascend the Bale massif onto the Sanetti Plateau, which is between 3800m and 4377m above sea level. As we ascend we will enter a Tid or Juniper forest zone, before arriving the “Afro-alpine moorland”, characterized by Jibrra or Giant Lobelias, which tower like monolithic giants over the rich tussock grasslands and extensive cushions of yellow Everlasting flowers. This site is an Important Bird Area of immense importance, supporting seven globally threatened species and nearly all of Ethiopia’s Highland biome species. This plateau holds the only Afro-tropical breeding populations of Ruddy Shelduck, Golden Eagle and Red-billed Chough.
The grasslands are estimated to support an incredible biomass of 4,000kg of rodents per hectare. This obviously attracts an array of raptors and we should see Steppe and Golden Eagle, Augur Buzzard and elegant Pallid Harriers courting over this green sea. They share this abundant food source with the plateau’s most celebrated resident, the Ethiopian or Simien Wolf, crowned with the unenviable title of “the world’s rarest canid.” Watching these vibrantly colored animals, most closely related to the European Timber Wolf, exhibiting their hunting prowess while pouncing on Giant Mole-rats (another endemic to the Sanetti Plateau), is surely among Africa’s most unique wildlife experiences. Enjoy a day full of excellent photographic opportunities in this pristine montane wonderland.
Day 5: Yirgalem
After breakfast, depart for Yirgalem. Either Ascend back over the Sanetti Plateau with more opportunities to see the Ethiopian wolf or perhaps take the southern route which travels around the Harenna Forest. This remarkable forest is the largest intact forest block in Ethiopia and the largest protected Afro-alpine forest on the continent. Arrive at a quite coffee plantation in Yirgalem and overnight at the Aregash Lodge. [BLD]
Day 6: lake Awassa / Addis Ababa and Departure
This morning explore fish market in Awassa before continuing on to Addis Ababa. End of Services.