Southern Ethiopia is certainly 'off the beaten path,' but in the most fascinating, beautiful and friendly manner imaginable. Those who describe its beauty and its people as surreal or other wordly have chosen their adjectives well. Ethiopia's less visited south will provide a visual and sensory feast, with amazing people, interesting wildlife, dramatic landscape, some unique lodges, and exceptional experiences every day. The vibe of the south is 'end of the world' amazing, with friendly people and bizarre and beautiful sights, and thanks to our great local guides we have access to places most visitors do not see. We begin our journey by driving south from Addis Ababa, with stops at the most interesting places along the way, to eventually arrive in the Omo Valley. A journey to the Omo Valley provides a glimpse into the lives of several of Ethiopia's diverse ethnic groups. The villages, markets and people here are fascinating to observe, and rightly so, with striking appearances brought about my intricate body painting, scarification and and elaborate hair fashion. While the idea of foreigners come to gaze upon these people might appear voyeuristic, the fact is that in their changing society, tourists tend to be respectful and interested in these various ethnic groups, and tourism is seen as a stabilizing influence. The natural landscape is diverse and fascinating, different from other parts of Ethiopia, but equally as compelling.
In addition to our guide who will accompany us from Addis Ababa, will have another guide who is from the Omo Valley and speaks several Omo languages. Additionally we use local guide in each village, these guides are friends of ours and make your visit even richer and more rewarding. These guides and their rapport with local people ensure that we will be welcomed and enjoy experiences unknown to many visitors to the Omo Valley.
As this is one of the least developed parts of Ethiopia, hotels are more modest than elsewhere, though we are using the best hotels in each of the areas we visit. Two of the hotels are among the best in Ethiopia, the others provide comfort and amenities (clean rooms, flush toilets, hot and cold running water), and lots of atmosphere. Participants need to be willing to camp for 2 nights of this journey, the most interesting area in the Omo Valley has no hotel, tents, sleeping bags, and a cook to make meals are what is necessary to visit this magnificent part of the Omo Valley.
DAY 1: FRIDAY, June 23
Arriving participants will be met at airport for transfer to hotel, and have day to rest and meet other participants. For those already in Addis we have a day of sightseeing, visiting a few of the most interesting places in the city. Get acquainted dinner for everyone this evening.
Overnight at Best Western Hotel.
DAY 2: SATURDAY, June 24
Addis Ababa to Hawassa
Morning departure from Addis Ababa by vehicle for the scenic 4-hour drive to Hawassa, on the shores of Lake Hawassa, one of the largest and most scenic of Ethiopia's lakes. We'll visit some of the interesting areas close to Hawassa in the afternoon. Late afternoon to relax by the pool and enjoy the sunset.
Overnight at Haile Resort.
DAY 3: SUNDAY, June 25
Hawassa to Yirga Alem
We visit the local fish market, where you can observe fishermen who catch a vast array of fish from the lake. The market is both interesting and colorful, making for great photo opportunities. Large marabou storks, prehistoric looking 4 foot birds patrol the market, looking for fish scraps to eat. Nearby is a forest reserve with many black and white colobus monkeys, an increasingly rare species of beautiful monkey easily observed here, making them great photography subjects. A 90-minute drive takes us to one of the most enchanting places in Ethiopia, Aregash Lodge on a coffee estate in the forested highlands. We'll have the chance to tour the plantation, hike in the forest, or just relax on the beautiful grounds of the lodge. The lodge is known for its superb organic food, the bird life found on the grounds, its comfortable feel and great atmosphere.
Overnight at Aregash Lodge.
DAY 4: MONDAY, June 26
Yirga Alem to Arba Minch
Today another drive through beautiful forest scenery brings us to Arba Minch, one of the largest towns in southern Ethiopia and the jumping off point to the Omo Valley. We visit a Dorze village; the Dorze people are famed for their tall beehive shaped homes, built of bamboo and false banana leaves. Our visit to this village will be coordinated by local Dorze villagers who curate this unique welcome experience as they share food, tradition and entertainment with our group.
Overnight at Haile Resort.
DAY 5: TUESDAY, June 27
Arba Minch to Konso
A pre breakfast boat excursion to Lake Chamo provides the opportunity to see crocodiles, interesting bird life and spectacular scenery as both sides of the Rift Valley walls rise up above the glassy water of the lake. Return for breakfast and then we drive 3-hours to Konso, known for its people of the same name. The architecturally inspiring ancient stone villages have led the area to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A highland people, the Konso are known for the ancient and intricate terraces that encircle their well-planned villages, we explore the local cultural center and museum to gain an understanding of their society. You will then have the opportunity to wander with a local guides, ask questions and take photographs.
Overnight at Kanta Lodge.
DAY 6: WEDNESDAY, June 28
Konso to Turmi
This morning we make a visit to the bizarre eroded towers that dominate some of the terrain surrounding Konso. Continuing south from Konso we descend into the beautiful landscape of the lower Omo Valley and on to Turmi where we spend the next 3 nights.
Overnight at Buska Lodge.
DAY 7: THURSDAY, June 29
Turmi, Omorate excursion
Morning drive to Omorate to visit the Dassanech people, and explore their market and town (with local Dassanech guide). Our next stop will be to a Hamer village, the Hamer are masters of hair decoration, using clay to shape their hairstyles, and the young men prior to the marriage must succeed at 'bull jumping'; if we are fortunate we may witness such a ceremony. En route back to Turmi, we'll have the opportunity to visit the Benna tribe.
Overnight at Buska Lodge.
DAY 8: FRIDAY, June 30
Northwest of Turmi live the Karo people, experts in body painting. Again we have local guide to help us explore the village and market, late afternoon we return to Turmi.
Overnight at Buska Lodge.
DAY 9: SATURDAY, July 1
Turmi to Jinka
Today's excursion takes us to the village of Arbore tribe and the market town of Key Afer. The market sells cattle, food, clothing, has restaurants and bars, and the array of goods on display is fascinating. Locals bring artifacts to sell, items you can purchase here are not manufactured for the tourist trade, but genuinely local. We continue on to Jinka, where we spend the night. Overnight at Eco Omo Lodge.
DAY 10: SUNDAY, July 2
We depart Jinka early and drive through Mago National Park en route to a Mursi village. Our local Mursi guide will explain the customs of his people, perhaps the best known of which is the giant lip plates worn by the women. Afternoon visit to Aari village where our Aari friends will arrange a special welcome ceremony for us.
Overnight at Eco Omo Lodge.
DAY 11: MONDAY, July 3
Jinka to Surma
Today we make the long drive to Surma, and have the next 2 nights to become acquainted with the Suri tribe, one of the most remote ethnic groups in the Omo Valley.
DAY 12: TUESDAY, July 4
This morning we drive to Kibish, the town where the Surma tribe is centered. The Surma are known for elaborate body painting and adorning their bodies with plants and flowers. Our guides are well acquainted with the villagers and will introduce us to their local friends. Depending on the day we may be able to participate in painting ceremonies, or view a traditional stick fighting competition.
DAY 13: WEDNESDAY, July 5
Surma to Mizan
A beautiful 4-hour drive through some of the lushest landscape in Ethiopia takes us to Mizan Tefari.
Overnight at Kashinin Hotel.
DAY 14: THURSDAY, July 6
Mizan to Jimma, flight to Addis Ababa
Another drive from Mizan Tefari to Jimma, center of coffee production in Ethiopia. Here we catch late afternoon flight to Addis. Farewell dinner this evening.
Overnight in Best Western Hotel.
DAY 15: THURSDAY, July 7
Relax in hotel until time to depart for airport for onward flight.
PRICES & REGISTRATION INFORMATION
(Inclusive of 14 nights in Ethiopia, all meals, bottled water in the vehicle, 1 domestic flight, ground transportation; entrance fees; services of licensed Ethiopian guides and driver; services of USA-based trip leader.)
$5600. (Based on double occupancy)
$6100. (Based on single occupancy)
NOTE: International airfare, gratuities, alcoholic beverages, laundry, souvenirs, items of a personal nature and travel insurance are NOT included.
Participants are responsible for their own air transportation to Addis Ababa airport where the journey begins. Many airlines serve this airport, including ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES, a highly regarded carrier with high marks for both safety and service. Ethiopian Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance. The 1 internal flight on this journey is also with Ethiopian Airlines and is included in the cost of the journey IF you travel to Ethiopia with Ethiopian Airlines (if not there is a surcharge of $40).
For those arriving before start of journey, we can arrange additional nights in hotel.
Ethiopian visa is easily available on arrival (for most nationalities) for $50.