Ethiopian Wolf (Dani Free)
Ethiopia is a magical land of myth and legend. It was perhaps the earliest home to man, and later to Prester John and a dynasty originating from Queen Sheba and concluding with the Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974. It is a land of mixed race and mixed religion, of countless elegant tribes and even more languages, mingled and matured by time and history. It contains Africa’s most magnificent mountain scenery and its wildlife is outstanding. Over 830 birds have been recorded — 29 of them endemic — whilst 80 species of larger mammals survive, albeit with mixed fortunes, seven of which are also endemic. This tour will focus on both the mammals and birds, with a special emphasis on the very rare Ethiopian Wolf. Regarded as one of the most endangered mammal species in Africa, this extremely handsome predator is under pressure in its Bale Mountains stronghold, from both disease and the loss of genetic integrity through interbreeding with village dogs as human settlements encroach into the montane habitats. Various conservation bodies are urgently attempting to safeguard the remaining population and thankfully it is still possible to observe these magnificent creatures hunting their favourite rodent prey on the mountain plateaux.
We begin our holiday with a flight to Addis Ababa and, on arrival, will immediately set out on the 4-hour drive eastwards to Awash National Park. Here we will stay for three nights in a comfortable tourist lodge, situated in an area holding an abundant birdlife and plenty of interesting mammals. Awash National Park itself spans 905 square kilometres, became Ethiopia’s first sanctuary in 1966 and, with its rolling grasslands, acacia scrub and the volcano Mount Fantalle, resembles a classical east African game reserve. Beisa Oryx, both Greater and Lesser Kudu, Waterbuck, Soemmering’s Gazelle, Warthog, Swayne’s Hartebeest and Salt’s Dik-dik all occur in small numbers, and graze the acacia dotted grasslands alongside Ostriches and both Kori and the rarer Arabian Bustards. Lion, Leopard, Caracal, Serval and other mammals have all been seen on our tours, but they are both infrequent and hard to find. Amongst the larger acacias along the Awash River, hornbills, parrots, finches and doves feed. During our stay in the area, we will spend a day exploring by vehicle, and in some places on foot; then, on our second day, we will enjoy the wildlife in the vicinity of our lodge.
Leaving Awash, we follow the Great Rift Valley southwards to the lush, forested hills of Wondo Guenet. Our lodge, with its nearby hot springs, was once a favourite home of Haile Selassie’s daughter, its garden still ablaze with flowering bougainvilleas, jacarandas and amaryllis, its large figs and acacias the homes of Colobus Monkeys and Silvery-cheeked Hornbills, plus a number of Ethiopia’s endemic birds. It is, indeed, a relaxing spot in which to stay and we will spend our time looking for birds and mammals in the surrounding forests.
A patchwork landscape unfolds before us as we drive to the beautiful Bale Mountains National Park, a huge and remote area of grassy uplands, towering outcrops, hanging forests, rocky peaks, and exposed moorlands dotted with giant lobelias, redhot pokers, and with peaty pools and lakes. This is the last refuge of the endemic Mountain Nyala, and of three other endemic mammals, Menelik’s Bushbuck, the peculiar Giant Molerat, and the magnificent Ethiopian Wolf. It is the latter species that we are particularly hoping to find and watch on this tour, for it is a critically endangered species that occurs only in a handful of isolated pockets of the Ethiopian highlands. Threatened by the loss of its high altitude habitat, disease and persecution, its numbers are now down to around 500, making it one of the most endangered of the world’s larger mammals. During two full days in the field, we will look for it in its strongholds, the Bale Mountains’s Web Valley and Sanetti Plateau. We will also hope to see some of the commoner mammal species of the area which include Klippspringer, Grey Duiker, Bohor Reedbuck, Warthog, Rock Hyrax and Olive Baboon, as well as a rich flora and special range of birds which includes a staggering 14 endemics!
Finally, we transfer our focus to the beautiful Rift Valley Lakes. These lie amongst acacia woods and farmland between the distant valley walls, each one with a different depth, salinity and character. Lake Awassa offers the greatest abundance of waterbirds, plus the colour and bustle of the local fishermen. At Lake Shalla the views are tremendous and the bushland birds and mammals often noteworthy; whilst Lake Abiata, a vast and shallow soda lake, is Ethiopia’s Nakuru — its margins thick with flamingoes, pelicans, cormorants, storks, herons and waders. Our last stop is Lake Langano, where we will spend two nights in a lakeside lodge. Here we have plenty of time to enjoy the tranquil surroundings and, with a very realistic chance of finding the elusive Aardvark by night, this lovely lodge makes a fitting finale to our holiday.
A good variety of general wildlife, which I like. Good amount of space on the bus, which gave good views and comfort. Our guide Abiy was always good humoured and patient, never minding requests for stops for photographs. An excellent knowledge of birds, and keen for us all to see them.
I would like to point out that our tour leader Abiy Dagne was excellent, very knowledgeable, with lots of patience.
Lots of memorable sightings for both birds and mammals, and good photo opportunities. Good range of sites - Bishangari was especially good. Both Rob and Yilma were very friendly, knowledgeable and helpful.
The local guide, Yilma Abebe, was superb, being helpful, courteous and exceedingly knowledgeable not only on ornithology, mammals, habitat, agriculture etc., but also on Ethiopian history.
Rob Mileto was a charming, considerate guide. Totally selfless.
Mr & Mrs A
An excellent trip. The itinerary was well thought out. The leader was helpful and informative, and generous with his time and knowledge, and the local guides were very good - Abiy and our driver contributed a lot to our enjoyment of the trip.
The Ethiopian Wolves trip was excellent. Both guides were extremely good and very well organised. They worked hard to make the most of the trip for all involved.
Mr & Mrs E.
Roy Taylor and the local guide were excellent and made sure we all saw everything wherever possible. The bus driver was also very friendly, helpful and drove safely. He kept a very clean, organised bus.
The diverse and unexpected scenery, the wildlife, particularly the birds, and the elegant and resillient people were all exceptional. I would recommend the holiday to anyone who is happy to get off the beaten track and rough it a bit in exchange for experiencing something unique, although the time to go is now. Both Roy and Abbi were exceptionally good spotters and extremely knowledgeable about the birds and animals we were seeing. Full marks to them; the sheer numbers of birds and mammals we saw is a testament to their skill and effort. Roy also led the group well, responding well to events and keeping us informed about what was planned.
Overall, I thought it was an excellent trip. We stayed at some fantastic locations, particularly Awash Falls Lodge for the first three nights and Bishan Gari Lodge for two nights. Roy was an excellent trip leader who worked well with the local guides. Given the challenges of roads in Ethiopia we were fortunate to have such a good driver. He really did play a key role in the success of the trip. I feel that the trip has given me an excellent insight into the diversity of wildlife in Ethiopia, and its vulnerability.
Angue & Dundee
Overall an excellent trip - more an adventure than a holiday.
Wonderful holiday, best yet. Ethiopia is great - full of surprises. Seeing the wolves was superb. Abbie's knowledge of birds was excellent. I would love to go back to Ethiopia.
(extract from her 2010 travel newsletter) For me one wolf encounter stands out from the rest. On sighting the wolf Andy suggested we get out of the bus and follow at a distance. After trailing it for a while the wolf stopped in one area where it started to listen for its underground rodent prey. Sitting down on a nearby rock, I quietly watched the wolf, which, although no doubt aware of our presence, continued its search for food unfazed by us, eventually digging out its rodent prey...To share such a moment with a wild animal is a privilege and was very special to me.
I very much enjoyed our trip to Ethiopia - wonderful mammals and birds, and friendly and hospitable people.