In recent years, Ethiopia has become one of Africa’s leading birding destinations. Its bird life represents an interesting mixture of East and West African, migrant and some unusual endemic components.

Highlights

  • Experience 3 completely different ecosystems of Ethiopia with its varied bird life
  • Visit two UNESCO Biosphere Reserves and interchange with the local staff
  • English speaking guide of SimienEcoTours & separate birdwatching guide

Overview

In addition to more than 800 bird species (of which 29 are endemic), Ethiopia has a number of peculiar mammals and a diverse landscape and culture. Experience three completely different ecosystems of Ethiopia with its varied bird life:

  1. The green mountains of Kaffa with wild coffee forests
  2. The tropical landscapes on Lake Tana with its islands
  3. The rugged high mountains of the Simien National Park

Route map

Overview map
Route map of "Birdwatching in Ethiopia - 14-Day Itinerary"

Detailed itinerary

Day 1: Arrival and drive to the craters of Debre Zeit

Arrive early in the morning and transfer to Debre Zeit about 45 km south of Addis Ababa. In the city, there are seven crater lakes, which are not only a nice resting place after the journey but also a bird paradise along the steep crater walls. In the afternoon, we hire a paddleboat and explore the Babogaya Crater Lake with its colorful world of water birds including herons and cormorants.

Day 2: Debre Zeit - Wolisso

Today's car trip is quite short, so that in Debre Zeit still remains some time to watch the ibises during their morning flights. At noon you drive via Addis Ababa to Wolisso and check in at your lodge. Birds and monkeys can be seen from the house terrace. Travel: approx. 165 km.

Day 3: Day excursion to Wenchi Crater Lake

Today there is an excursion to Wenchi, precisely to the northern crater lake. There you can take a four to five-hour hike (optional as a riding trip) through the beautiful nature: from the crater's edge down to the lake and after a short boat trip through a lovely valley with some old-fashioned mills, numerous clear small rivers, and some hot springs. With a bit of luck, you will meet the mighty lammergeyer for the first time. Travel: approx. 110 km.

Day 4: Wolisso - Jimma

Early morning drive to Jimma in Western Ethiopia. Between September and October, it’s harvesting season and there are always opportunities to visit picturesque sceneries. On the Gibe river, there is a good possibility to walk along the water banks and spot some birds. Travel: around 245 km.

Day 5: Jimma - Bonga: the Biosphere Reserve Kaffa

Today's travel is quite short. In the provincial capital Jimma, there is time to have a walk and look at the market which has great quality coffee. On the way to the mountainous landscape of Kaffa, the area is becoming more and more densely wooded. The Gojeb river marks the border to the Kaffa Biosphere Reserve. You walk a bit through the woods and stop along the route at a cave that you can visit. In the late afternoon, you reach the small town Bonga surrounded by the mountain rain forests. Travel: approx. 120 km.

Day 6: Day trip in the Reserve to Alem Gonna & Barta Waterfall

You start the day in the Alem Gonna wetland area. The early morning visit is worthwhile not only because of the numerous birds and the Da Brazza monkeys, which can be seen here, but also because of the mystical mood, which often lies with the fog on the green plain. To strengthen yourself you have a freshly prepared breakfast snack. Back in Bonga you walk into the woods to the Barta waterfall (about 1 hour). The 70-meter-deep waterfall is surrounded by steep basalt walls and lies in the middle of the rainforest. On the way back you will meet some beekeeper and learn about traditional honey production. Travel: about 30 km.

Day 7: Return to Jimma and flight to Addis Ababa

You leave the biosphere reserve in the morning and drive back to Jimma. From here, take your plane to Addis Ababa, where you will arrive in the late afternoon. There is still time for an individual program point in the capital. Travel: approx. 120 km plus 0:55 min flight.

Day 8: Flight Addis Ababa - Bahir Dar: the Biosphere Reserve Lake Tana

After this short stopover in Ethiopia's capital, you head to the airport for your flight to Bahir Dar. Here you meet a staff member of NABU (German nature conservation organization) who gives you a brief introduction to the work of NABU in the biosphere reserve of Lake Tana. After that, there is still time to enjoy the city on the banks of the largest lake of Ethiopia. A leisurely walk along the bird-filled promenade will take you to the next days in the Biosphere Reserve. Flight time: approx. 0:45 min.

Day 9: Nature and Culture at Lake Tana

Depending on the water level, Lake Tana has over 30 different islands only in the southern part of the lake. Many of these islands are very remote, making them an ideal retreat for various bird species. On some islands are also medieval Christian Orthodox monasteries which we visit.

Day 10: Nature and Culture at Lake Tana

Also on our second day in the Biosphere Reserve, we mainly spend our time on boat trips to some monastery islands and remote birdwatching sites. Particularly in the winter months, you can see cranes, which end their journey from Europe here, before they start again in spring flying north.

Day 11: Bahir Dar - Gondar - Kossoye

Today's travel day brings you to a new ecosystem at the end of the journey. You leave the tropical areas at Lake Tana and drive into the African-alpine highlands of Ethiopia above 2,700 meters. The journey takes you first to the old capital, Gondar, where you can visit the ancient palaces of the kings. Then you continue north to Kosober, a viewpoint with a beautiful mountain panorama. Right here, on the edge of the cliff, your lodge is located. Travel: about 210 km.

Day 12: Simien National Park: Hiking in the national park

You continue to Debark, where a rough road leads into the Simien National Park. The high plateau, with its partially 2 km deep gorges, always reveals astonishing long-distance views. There are numerous raptors such as, for example, the endemic lammergeyer. The thick-billed raven is also found here. The steep rock faces are the habitat of the Walia Ibex. Today you picnic on the way and early in the evening return to your lodge, the Simien Lodge, known as the highest hotel in Africa. Travel: approx. 100 km.

Day 13: Simien National Park - Gondar

Today's excursion takes you deep into the Simien National Park. You drive along the gravel road to a plateau near to the viewpoint Inatye (4,070 m). Not far from the road, the Jinbar Waterfall can be seen, which falls more than 500 meters deep. Again and again, the endemic Gelada baboons can be observed while they are nibbling along the way. You also have plenty of opportunities for small walks. In the late afternoon, return to the much warmer city of Gondar. Travel: approx. 130 km.

Day 14: Flight Gondar – Addis Ababa, market and departure

Today's morning is for relaxation. Then transfer to the Gondar airport for your flight to Addis Ababa. The afternoon in the capital is also good for souvenir shopping before a traditional Ethiopian dinner concludes the trip and you leave for your return flight. Flight time: approx. 0:55 min.