SEMIEN MOUNTAINS - 10 Days : Camping/Hiking

Addis Ababa -> Gondar -> Semien National Park: -> Sankabar Camp -> Geech Camp -> Chenek Camp -> Ambikwa Camp -> Ras Dashen -> Gondar -> Addis Ababa

The Semien Mountains National Park promises to be a highlight of any trip to Africa, but potential travelers should be aware of the physical challenges of this tour package. Only experienced hikers who have previously done high-altitude climbs over a period of days, who can easily traverse several miles of up and downhill trails, and who understand the requirements of rough camping with minimal amenities should attempt this trip. In addition, any foods that cannot be found in remote African settings (e.g., power bars), must be brought from home.

1 Addis Ababa

Arrive in Addis at the Bole International Airport to be met by tour staff for transport to your hotel. Sightseeing in Addis Ababa (e.g., the National Museum, the Ethnological Museum of Ethiopian Studies, and the Holy Trinity Cathedral) is possible, depending on your arrival time.

Overnight in Addis.

2 Addis to Gondar to Semien Mountains National Park

An early morning flight out of Addis (1 hr) gets you to Gondar, followed by a drive into town for food and supplies. Cooks may be hired in Gondar or Debark to prepare your meals at camp. Travel by vehicle from Gondar to Debark (75.6 miles/122 kms/2.5 hrs), to the Semien Mountains National Park office to pick up permits and the guide and guard who must accompany all visiting groups. Camping equipment is available for rent from the National Park office if you do not provide your own. After a short drive to the Sankabar campsite (21.7 miles/35 kms/30 mins), you can take a quick look around before setting up for the first night of camping.

Overnight in Sankabar.

3 Sankabar Camp to Geech Camp

Tour staff will arrange for pack mules and drivers for this part of the trek. One hour into the hike and we will arrive at a viewpoint to see the Jinnbar River Falls. After crossing upriver in the shallows, we ascend for about two hours to reach Geech Camp, which is characterized by the giant lobelia trees. The scenery is extraordinary, and herds of endemic Gelada baboons can be seen and heard in the near distance. Camp overnight at an altitude of 11,800 feet (3600 m).

Overnight at Geech Camp.

4 Geech Camp to Imet Gogo to Seha to Quedadit, back to Geech Camp

The first destination on Day 4 is Imet Gogo, one of the best views in the Semien Mountains National Park. There you have a 360 degree outlook over the entire park. After a short rest, the next stop is Seha, another spectacular viewpoint. Following a picnic lunch, we continue to the last viewpoint, Quedadit. After a rest, we walk back to the Geech campsite. This is a very relaxed hike of 5 to 6 hours and it offers the opportunity to see the rare Abyssinian wolf, the Walia ibex, and the small klipspringer antelope.

Overnight at Geech Camp.

5 Geech Camp to Chenek Camp

The eight-mile (13 km), eight-hour hike back to Chenek Camp runs through a field of giant lobelia trees. This is where you might spot the Lammergeyer vulture or the thick-billed raven. After a picnic lunch, the trek continues on the edge of the Elate Escarpments (13,200 feet high/4000 m), and offers another breath-taking view of the park. On the descent to Chenek Camp, one can see more baboons and ibex.

Overnight at Chenek Camp.

6 Chenek Camp to Bwahit Ras to Ambikwa Camp

The eight-mile (14 km) trek from Chenek Camp to Ambikwa Camp may take over eleven hours, making it one of the longest days of the tour. It begins with a two-hour ascent to the pass at the top of Bwahit Ras. At 13,780 feet (4200 m), the view east is across the Mesheba Valley to the Dashen Mountains. The steep path down to the valley and the Mesheba River at 9186 feet (2800 m) is accompanied by a rise in temperature. There is a slight ascent to reach the Ambikwa Camp (10,170 ft/3100 m).

Overnight at Ambikwa Camp.

7 Ambikwa Camp to Ras Dashen back to Ambikwa

The day begins very early to climb Ras Dashen at 14,905 feet (4543 m). The nine- to ten-hour trip begins with a steep climb through barley fields and fallow land before reaching the mountain plateau at about 12,139 feet (3700 m). From this point the path flattens out as it traverses ridges in the shadow of Ras Dashen. Just below Dashen Pass (13,944 feet/4250 m), there is an impressive moraine (a glacial deposit of boulders and debris). The final stretch to the summit involves an exciting climb over large boulders. From the top of Ras Dashen you will be mesmerized by the far-ranging vistas, which span more than 3860 square miles (10,000 sq kms). In one direction are the craggy, steep faces of peaks in the park, and in another direction is the Tekeze Valley. The hike back to camp retraces the same steps.

Overnight at Ambikwa Camp.

8 Trek from Ambikwa to Bawhit Ras to Chenek Camp

( See Day 6 and reverse travel.)

Overnight at Chenek Camp.

9 Chenek to Gondar

Early morning drive to Gondar (102 miles/165 km/4 hrs).

A visit (optional) to the Emperor Fasiladas Castle in the afternoon, followed by dinner at the Four Sisters Restaurant.

Overnight in Gondar.

10 Flight from Gondar to Addis Ababa

Post-breakfast, you take a one-hour flight from Gondar to Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. Tour staff will transport you to your hotel and arrange sightseeing to the Merkato (the largest open-air market in Africa), the St. George Gallery, and various souvenir shops if desired.

Depart in the evening or remain at the hotel until the next-day flight.

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