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Ethiopia

National Parks

Ethiopia has been very forward-looking in its provision of national park areas and there are at present a dozen regions within the country that have been designated as protected areas for wildlife.

Abijatta-Shalla Lakes National Parks
Awash National Park
Mago National Park
Omo National Park
Nechi Sar National Park
Semien Mountains National Park

ABIJATTA - SHALLA LAKES NATIONAL PARKS

Situated in the Great Rift Valley, only 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Addis Ababa, and in the Lake Langano recreational areas, the Abijatta Shalla lakes National Park attracts numerous visitors. Using Lake Langano as your base, it is an easy trip to visit the National Park, which is 887 square kilometers in size, 482 of these being water.

The altitude of the park ranges from 1540 to 2075 meters, the highest peak being mount Fike, situated between the two lakes. The network of tracks in this park is always developing. At present you can enter at four different points, three of which are inter connected. Approaching from Addis you first reach the Horakello entrance, where the small Horakello stream flows between lakes Langano and Abijatta.

It was created primarily for its aquatic bird life, particularly those that feed and breed on lakes Abijatta and Shalla in Large numbers. The park compresses the two lakes, the isthmus between them and a thin strip of land along the shorelines of each. Developments have been limited to a number of tracks on land, and the construction of seven outposts. While attention is focused on the water birds, the land area does contain a reasonable amount of other wildlife.

Lake Abijatta
Two different lakes in one park, the two lakes are both terminal lakes and their beaches are unstable and saline, but they are very different in character. Abijatta is shallow at about 14 meters with a mysterious fluctuating water level. Fresh water flows into it trough the small Horakello stream. The steam mouth is a source of relatively fresh water, much frequented by water birds for drinking and bathing. The Lake is surrounded by gentle, grass covered slopes and acacia woodlands.

Lake Shalla
by contrast , surrounded as it is by steep, black cliffs and peaks that reflect in its waters, is the deepest lake of the Rift Valley (260 meters (853 feet). , It is exceptionally beautiful, with shores that give a scent of mystery with their hot sulphurous springs that bubble up and flow into the lake.

There are over 400 bird species recorded here, almost half the number recorded for the whole country. Although the islands in Lake Shalla are a real birds paradise, the birds fly to Lake Abijatta to feed. Abijatta itself is very alkaline but shallow, so flamingoes can be seen scattered over most of its surface, and especially along the windward edge where their algal food source concentrates. You can approach quite closely, but beware of treacherous deep and mud if the lake is low. Large numbers of flamingos gather here, together with great white pelicans and a wide variety of other water birds.

Besides of the rich Bird life, some mammals can be spotted at the Lake Abijatta-Shalla National Park, especially Grant’s gazelle, Oribi warthog and the Golden Jackal.

Hot springs: The headquarters houses a small museum, which gives an excellent idea of the wealth of bird life in the park. A further track leads on from Dole to the shores of Lake Shalla where hot steam, mud and water bubble to the earth’s surface. Revered locally for their medicinal properties, the hot springs have a sense of primeval mystery about hem, especially in the cooler early mornings. They are relics of the massive volcanic activity that has formed this amazing country and landscape

Other Attractions in the regions
Other Attractions In association with the Abijatta Shalla Lakes National Park is Senkello Swayne’s hartebeest Sanctuary, some 70 kilometers (43 miles) from the town of Shashemene, and close to the Chitu entrance of the park. The sanctuary was established for this endemic subspecies of the hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus swaynei) which once roamed the plans of Somalia and Ethiopia in thousands, but is now restricted to four small localities in Ethiopia. The sanctuary is small but well worth a visit. Set beneath a small rounded hill, over 2,000 of these rich, chocolate colored hartebeest are packed into this area of wooded grassland, along with bohor reedbuck (Redunca Redunca), Oribi Warthog and many different species of birds.

Access
Abijatta can best be reached by taking the turnoff directly across the Lake Langano. A further entrance to this park exists in the south, where a rough track leads to another small hot spring area at Chitu.

Accommodation
There is no Hotel accommodation in the park but lake Langano, which lies just over the main road marking the boundary, has two reasonable hotels on its shores, the Wabe Shebelle and the Bekelle Mola, from which all parts of the park are easily reached. It is possible to camp inside the Abijatta-Shalla National Park at the hot springs and further south of the track east of Shalla, leading to be the Dedaba River and outpost. Camping in the Langano park is more advisable due to the better Camping accommodations.

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AWASH NATIONAL PARK  -  click to view recommended Tours and Safaris

Located in the lowlands 225 km east of Addis Ababa, the south boundary of the park is formed by the Awash river which swings North soon after leaving the park and eventually disappears into the Afar (Danakil) region. The Park covers an area of 827 square kilometers, most of it lies at an altitude of 900 meters. In the middle of the park is the dormant volcano of Fantale, reaching a height of 2007 meters at its top.

Temperatures in the park are hot and can reach as high as 42 degrees Celsius. Nights are cooler with temperatures between 10 and 22 degrees Celsius. Rain falls between February and August with an average of 619 mm. The terrain is mainly acacia woodland and grassland.

The wildlife of Awash reflects its dry nature, at all places and all times it is possible to see its population of mammals such as the Beisa Oryx, Soemmerrings Gazelle and Wild Pigs are common. Slightly less frequent are the furry waterbuck which tend to appear near the river in the late afternoon. The tiny Salts Dik-Dik, not easy to spot in the speckled shade of the acacia thorn, Zebra grazing the plains to the west of Fantale, Cheetah, Serval and Leopard are also there but it is not easy to spot them; Baboons, both Anubis and Hamadryas, Kudus, lesser and greater, the Giant Tortoise, Reedbuck, Aardvark and Caracal are also represented. Klipspringer inhabit the higher slopes of the mountain and curious Hyrax peer at you curiously from behind their rocks. In the bottom of the gorge you can spot the black and white Colobus Monkey. Crocodile and Hippopotamus are seen both in the Awash river and in the cooler parts of the hot springs and rivers in the north.

The birds of Awash are numerous, over 350 species are recorded for the park: (The check list is available at the museum at park Head quarters). They range from the great ostrich, frequently and easily observed, and the less common Secretary Bird and Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, to the flashes of brilliant pink which are the Carmine Bee-eaters, and the Abyssinian Roller with turquoise and purple, wings. And between these two extremes, birds of the riverine forest, Coucal, Turaco, Go-away Birds; birds of prey; and birds of the savannah.

The park itself is traversed by a series of well-maintained tracks, which take in the most spectacular of the many scenic attractions. It is possible, and perhaps advisable, to hire a park guide. To the north at Filwoha lies the hot springs oasis in its groves of palm trees. It is reached by either one of two scenic tracks which start opposite the main gate on the far side of the road and bearing right, progress either along the floor of the Awash Falls lower Valley or along the top of the ridge. The Awash river gorge in the south of the park has some spectacular waterfalls near the park headquarters. Rafting is also a possibility, one or two days rafting trips can be organized on the Awash river, with its spirited rapids, wildlife, and impressive rugged cliffs and side canyons

Accommodation
In Awash National Park Camping is far out the best alternative, camping sites are located on the edge of the river above the falls, Large spreading trees provide not only shade but also they shelter a wonderful collection of birds. A museum is near the camping site.


MAGO NATIONAL PARK

2,162 sq km, 770km southwest of Addis Ababa, on east bank of Omo river. 450-2,528m. Highest point is Mount Mago

Mainly grass savannah, some forested areas around rivers. Conservation area for plains animals, 56 species of mammals: buffalo, giraffe, elephant, lelwel hartebeest, lion, cheetah, leopard, zebra, gerenuk, oryx.


OMO NATIONAL PARK
Located in the south-west on the west bank of Omo River, 870km south-west of Addis Ababa, covering an area of approx 4,068 sq km

Wildlife found in this park include, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, cheetah, lion, leopard, zebra, kudu, hartebeest, oryx, Anubis baboon and many other animals. Over 306 species of birds can be seen.

This is also a wonderful area for visiting local peoples and experiencing their cultures.

The park is not easily accessible. The park HQ is 75km from Kibish settlement. However, a new airstrip is available close to the HQ and to a pleasant campsite on the Mui River.


NECHI SAR NATIONAL PARK

Situated 510km south of Addis near the town of Arba Minch, in between Lakes Abaya and Chamo.

A wide variety of plains game roam freely amongst 514m2 of savannah, dry bush and groundwater forest, which are also the habitat of 188 recorded species of birds. Animals to be seen are Bushbuck, Swayne's Hartebeest, Burchell's Zebra, Grant's Gazelle, Guenther's Dik-dik, Greater Kudu, Crocodile, Anubis Baboon, Grey Duiker. Birds seen include Red-billed Hornbill, Grey Hornbil,l Fish Eagle, Kori Bustard, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill..

A backdrop of hills and mountains combine to make this one of the most attractive national parks in Ethiopia, and its location makes it very accessible. In the far eastern part of the park hot springs bubble to the surface

Accommodation
is available at Wendo Genet, Arba Minch and Awasa, while there are camping sites in the park.


SEMIEN MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK  -  click to view recommended Tours and Safaris

The Semien mountains are a must for all those interested in wildlife, scenery and spectacular landscapes, the Park has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The Semien Mountains constitute one of the major mountain massifs in Africa. The region includes many summits above 4000 meters and culminates in the highest point in Ethiopia, Ras Dejen, at 4620 meters, the fourth highest mountain in Africa.

It is home to the endemic mammals of Walia Ibex, Semien Fox, Gelada Baboons and many species of birds and plants apart from its spectacular scenic beauty.

Maximum temperatures during the day are about 15o Centigrade ( 60o Fahrenheit). At night the temperature usually drops to 3 - 5 o C (35o -40o F).

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