Ethiopia’s greatly diversified ecosystem makes it one of the richest habitats in Africa for birds and mammals. With more than 860 species of birds, Ethiopia possesses about 10% of the world’s bird species, and about 40% of all African birds are found here. Among these, 16 species are found only in Ethiopia. That is the reason why we say Ethiopia is a must for bird enthusiasts.
This birding holiday will enable you to view a significant number of Ethiopian birds. On this tour, will have the chance to spot some of Ethiopia's endemic birds and mammals as we explore some of the breathtaking landscapes including Jemma River Gorge, the Sululta Plains, the Rift Valley lakes, Wondo Guenet Forest, and the magnificent Bale Mountains, where more than 10 of these endemic birds are found. Although this is a bird watching tour, we will also have the opportunity to spot different endemic mammals.
Day 1: Addis Ababa, Debre Libanos
After arrival, your tour guide will welcome you at the airport. First we will have Ethiopian coffee and breakfast before heading towards Debre Libanos. Flocks of Hooded Vultures and Black Kites will be wheeling overhead and we should see Dusky Turtledoves the endemic White-Collared Pigeon, Tacazze Sunbirds, Baglafecht Weavers, and Streaky Seedeaters. After breakfast this morning, we will cross the Sululta Plains. These high-altitude plateau grasslands provide superb birding, despite intensive cultivation.
Resident birds we may find here include the Secretary Bird, White-Backed Vulture, African Hobby, Erckel's Francolin, Red-Chested Swallow, Cape Crow, Pectoral-Patch Cisticola, and African Quail Finch. Suddenly, the seemingly endless plain dramatically drops off into the Blue Nile drainage system. Perched on the edge of the gorge is the Debre Libanos Monastery, one of Ethiopia's most sacred Christian sites. We will concentrate our search here for Rappel’s Vulture, Verreaux's Eagle, the African Hawk-Eagle, Augur Buzzard (dark-morph birds are commonly seen here), Lanner Falcon, Nyanza Swift, Hemprich's Hornbill, the three endemic birds — Rüppell's Chat, the White-winged Cliff-chat, and the White-Billed Starling — Mocking Cliff-Chat, the Yellow-Rumped Serin, and the Cinnamon-Breasted Bunting. You may also see the Lion-Headed Baboon in this area.
Overnight: Ethio German Lodge
Day 2: Debre Libanos, Sululta
We will leave early in the morning in order to look for the highly localized endemic Harwood’s Francolin.
We will likely spot it around dawn by Jemma Gorge. For the rest of the day, we will explore for terrestrial birding and drive to Sululta town for overnight.
Overnight: Yaya Village Resort or back Addis Jupiter Bole Hotel
Day 3: Sululta, Awash
Sululta Plain is known for its abundance of birds. This morning, we will look for Ethiopia's endemic species: the Abyssinian Longclaw, Erlanger’s Lark, Ethiopian Siskin, Wattled Ibis, Blue-Winged Geese, and Spot-Breasted Plover. We then head to Awash National Park, stopping to look for birds enroute.
Overnight: Awash Lodge
Day 4: Awash
Today will be spent exploring the superb Awash National Park. We will bird around the Alleghedi Reserve and Doho Lodge with its hot springs, the Awash River, and Kirayawa Gorge, exploring riverine forests, wetlands, thorn woodlands, savanna grasslands, rocky hills, cliffs, and escarpments.
The park boasts a bird list of 460 species and we will make an effort to find, amongst many others, the Egyptian Vulture, Greater Spotted Eagle, Scissor-Tailed Kite, Shikra, Arabian, Buff-Crested, Hartlaub's and White-Bellied Bustards, Three-Banded Courser, Helmeted Guinea Fowl, Small Buttonquail, Eastern Grey Plantain-Eater, White-Browed Coucal, Plain Nightjar, Northern Carmine Bee-Eater, Greater Honeyguide, Wire-Tailed Swallow, Red-Winged Lark, Singing Bush Lark, Blackstar, Red-Backed Scrub-Robin, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Green-Backed Camaroptera, Grey-Headed Batis, Pale Flycatcher, Slate-Colored Boubou, White-Rumped Shrike, Somali Fiscal, Nile Valley and Marico Sunbirds, Grey-Headed and Sulphur-Breasted Bush Shrikes, Fan-Tailed Raven, Red-Billed Quelea, and Red-Rumped Waxbill.
Mammals we may see include the Aardwolf, Lion, Leopard, Beisa Oryx, Aardvark, Soemmering's Gazelle, Hamadryas Baboon, Abyssinian Hare, African Wild Cat, Black-Backed Jackal, Spotted Hyena, and Greater and Lesser Kudu. We will also take a night drive to look for the more elusive nocturnal species.
Overnight: Awash Falls Lodge
Day 5: Awash, Langano
We will depart early and head south, towards the Great Rift Valley lakes, and make our first birding stop around the Lake Beseka crater, then at the artificial Lake Koka. We will have lunch and birding stop at Lake Ziway where the surrounding lake teems with birds, and we will look for flocks of approachable Black-Winged Lovebirds, Blue-Breasted Bee-Eaters, White-Faced Whistling Ducks, Hottentot Teals, Great White Pelicans, Black Herons, Black-Billed Barbet, Rufous-Necked Wryneck, African Yellow Warbler, Rüppell’s Robin Chat, Black-Headed Batis, Beautiful Sunbirds, and Rüppell’s Weaver.
We will also visit Koka Dam and Lake Ziway. Here we will search for the Pink-Backed Pelican, Great White Pelican, Intermediate Egret, African Darter, Goliath Heron, Hamerkop, Yellow-Billed Stork, Saddle-Billed Stork, Spur-Winged Goose, Egyptian Goose, Comb Duck, African Pygmy Goose, African Fish Eagle, Black-Crowned Crane, African Jacana, Lesser Jacana, Senegal Thick-Knee, Spur-Winged Lapwing, Pied and Malachite Kingfishers, and Winding Cisticola. After lunch, we proceed to Lake Langano and to our lodge.
Overnight: Bihsangari Lodge
Day 6: Langano
We explore the ecolodge grounds all day for Sulfur-Breasted Bush Shrike, Northern Puff Back, Black Shrike, Yellow-Shouldered Shrike, Common Red Start, Slender-Tailed Night Jar, Senegal Thick Knees, Abyssinian Ground Trush, etc.
Overnight: Lake Langano
Day 7: Langano, Bale
In the morning, we head towards the world-famous Bale Mountains National Park. At the park headquarters in Dinsho, we will search for Chestnut-Napped Francolin, Ground Scraper Thrush (endemic race simensis), Abyssinian Ground-Thrush, Abyssinian Catbird, and the endemic White-Backed Black-Tit. We also hope to see a variety of mammals including Mountain Nyala, Menelik's Bushbuck and Desert Warthog.
Overnight: Goba Shebele Hotel
Day 8: Bale (Senettie Plateua), Harenna Forest
We will drive up the Bale Mountain massif onto the Senetti Plateau, which lies between 3800 m and 4377 m above sea level. As we ascend, we will enter a tid, or juniper forest zone. Here we will search for the African Goshawk, Rufous-Chested Sparrow Hawk, African Hill Babbler, Abyssinian Woodpecker, Cinnamon Bracken-Warbler, Montane White-Eye, and Yellow-Bellied Waxbill. Once we reach this unique plateau, we will be driving on Africa’s highest road, passing close to the summit of Ethiopia’s second-highest mountain. This habitat is termed 'Afro-Alpine moorland' and is characterized by jibrra, or giant lobelias, which tower over the rich tussock grasslands. This site is an important bird area of immense significance, supporting seven globally threatened species and nearly all of Ethiopia’s highland biome species.
If we are very fortunate, we will see a pair of endangered Wattled Cranes striding through the moist grassland, or spot a Cape Eagle-Owl sunning on a rocky perch. We will also search for the Black Stork, Wattled Ibis, Lammergeyer, Chestnut-Naped Francolin, Moorland Francolin, Rouget's Rail, Spot-Breasted Lapwing, Thekla Lark, Red-throated Pipit, Red-Breasted Wheatear, and Moorland Chat. The grasslands are estimated to support an amazing biomass of 4000 kg of rodents per hectare.
This obviously attracts raptors, and we should see Steppe Eagles, Golden Eagles, and 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, the world's rarest canid. Finally, we will reach the escarpment of this elevated plateau and stare down through the clouds at the vast Harenna Forest below. This is the largest intact forest block in Ethiopia and the largest protected Afro-Alpine forest on the continent. It still supports populations of Lion and the only surviving forest-dwelling African Wild Dogs. Here, we will search for the uncommon Mountain Buzzard, Rameron Pigeon, Lemon Dove, Tambourine Dove, African Emerald Cuckoo, Narina Trogon, Brown Woodland-Warbler (a subspecies endemic to this national park), Abyssinian Crimson-Wing, African Citril, and Cape Canary. In the afternoon, we will return across the Senetti Plateau to Goba.
Overnight: Goba Shebele Hotel
Day 9: Bale, Awassa
Today we descend 1500 m to enjoy the dry, warm central Rift Valley. Here we will be exploring for aquatic bird species along Lake Awassa.
Overnight: United Africa Hotel
Day 10: Awassa, Addis Ababa
This morning we scan the ground of United Africa Hotel for the Spotted Creeper, Red-Throated Wryneck, Eurasian Wryneck, African Pigmy Goose, White-Backed Duck, and Blue-Headed Coucal, and we take a short drive to a fish market on the shore of Lake Awassa. We return to Jupiter Hotel in Addis Ababa stopping enroute to look for birds. In the evening, transfer to the airport. End of tour.