BALE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK - 8-12 Days : Camping/Hiking

Addis Ababa -> Dinsho: -> Geysay Valley -> Sodota -> Keyrensa -> Rafu -> Gebre Guracha  -> Sanetti Plateau -> Hawassa ->Addis Ababa

The Bale Mountains National Park covers 1500 square miles of high-altitude plateau with volcanic peaks, alpine lakes and streams, and tropical forests. With four different ecosystems within its borders, the park offers unparalleled hiking trails for every level of traveler, as well as options for specific adventures, depending on your particular interests--birding tours, wild animal safaris, and others.

The Sanetti Plateau in the Bale Mountains can be reached by foot, by mule, or by vehicle and is home to animal, plant, and bird species found nowhere else in the world. Its relative remoteness has contributed to its biodiversity and to the conservation of rare and endemic species. With its spectacular variations in landscape, habitat, and species, the Bale Mountains National Park has unusual and unique treasures for every tourist.

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 Dinsho

After breakfast, we begin a full day’s drive (5.5 hours/231 miles/373 km) to Dinsho, to the Bale Mountain National Park headquarters. There we obtain the necessary permits and then check into the Dinsho Lodge. The following day we will begin a five-day trek through stunning scenery, exotic animal habitats, and everywhere nowhere-else-seen birds.

Overnight in Dinsho Lodge.

3 Dinsho to Geysay Valley

Our day will be spent exploring the area around Dinsho and the Geysay Valley. The surrounding habitat is home to Menelik’s bushbuck, the mountain nyala, and the Ethiopian (or Abyssinian) wolf--all rare endemic species. Tour staff will arrange for guides and equipment for the trek to follow.

Overnight in Dinsho Lodge.

4 Dinsho to Sodota

The Bale Mountain National Park is the largest area of Afro-alpine habitat in all of Africa. Coupled with the incredible scale of the Bale Mountains, the next five days promise a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

We begin with a five- to six-hour trek through lush highland terrain. We pause to see the Abbera waterfall. This area has a high density of unique bird species, such as the wattled ibis, Rouget’s rail, the black-winged lovebird, the thick-billed raven, the white-collared pigeon, the Abyssinian long claw, the Abyssinian catbird, the white-backed black tit, the black-headed forest oriole, the black kite, the augur-buzzard, and the Lammergeyer vulture.

Overnight at Sodota Camp.

5 Sodota to Keyrensa Valley

The trek to Keyrensa Valley should take about five to six hours of fast walking. It is imperative to bring drinking water from Sodota, as no potable water is available along the trek. This part of the hike offers the opportunity to glimpse the common rock hyrax and the highly endangered Ethiopian wolf as it hunts mole rats.

Our is hardened climb over lava flows that divide the Keyrensa Valley, and you will pass through many small villages. You can meet local people herding cattle and going to market on foot or horseback.

Overnight at Keyrensa Camp.

6 Keyrensa to Rafu

Following breakfast, you spend the day trekking to the Rafu campsite. This 12.5 mile (20 km) trip will take the entire day, but scenery becomes more impressive with each passing mile. There are spectacular views and bizarre rock formations to see before you reach the desolate landscape of the Sanetti Plateau.

Overnight at Rafu Camp.

7 Rafu to Gebre Guaracha

The next morning we begin with a six-hour hiking day by climbing to the top of Mount Batu (13,789 ft/4203 m) and then descending to the beautifully sited camp at Garba Guracha (“Black Lake” in the Oromo language). This trek takes us into Afro-alpine meadows with indigenous plants, such as the giant lobelia. Also evident are several birds of prey, such as the Lammergeyer vulture, Vereaux’s eagle, and the harrier hawk.

Overnight at Garba Guracha.

8 Gebre Guaracha to Sanetti Plateau to Hawassa

Today’s trek is to the Sanetti Plateau to see the high-altitude moorland and great vistas. After three hours of hiking, a vehicle picks you up for the journey to Hawassa (158 mls / 254 kms), which is followed by an excellent dinner at the fish market.

Overnight at a hotel in Hawassa.

9 Hawassa to Addis Ababa (169 mls / 272 kms)

Spend the day in Addis Ababa visiting the St. George Galley or shopping at the Merkato (the largest open-air market in Africa) and various souvenir shops on Churchill Road, keeping in mind your time of departure.

Note: For those wishing to spend more time in the Bale Mountains, the following destinations are recommended after the Sanetti Plateau:

8 Gebre Guaracha to Sanetti Plateau to Herena Forest to Delo Mena

(Sanetti Plateau > Delo Mena 57mls / 92 kms)

Today’s trek is to the Sanetti Plateau to see the high-altitude moorland and great vistas. After an hour of hiking, a vehicle picks you up for the journey to Tullu Demtu (“Red”) Mountain, the second highest mountain in Ethiopia (14,032 ft/4377 m). You can climb or be driven to the top in under an hour.

At the end of the Sanetti Plateau is the Herena Escarpment, which descends 6562 feet (2,000 m) in just 5 miles (8 km). At the bottom, reached via a long switchback road, is a vast tropical forest. The views are spectacular on the way down and you pass through forests of giant heather. Along the way is the village of Rira, which is in the center of a bamboo thicket and a path that leads to a waterfall in the amazing Herena Forest.

Continuing on the road south to Delo Mena—famous for its coffee—you may see lions, leopards, Ethiopian wolves, or the elusive Bale monkey. Also evident are many rare birds: the Abyssinian Hill Babbler, Ayre’s hawk eagle, silvery-cheeked hornbill, yellow-fronted parrot, Narina’s Trogon, as well as several migrant birds.

Overnight in Delo Mena.

9 Delo Mena to Sof Omar Cave

We drive from Delo Mena to the Sof Omar Cave, a distance of 150 miles (245 km). The cave is the longest underground cave in Africa, over a mile in length (1.7 km). The Web River runs through the cave and is responsible for the erosion of the limestone walls into domed chambers and ornate pillars decorated with fossilized mollusks. A walk through the cave requires a guide with a flashlight and about three to four hours; some passages are a challenge and the river must be crossed at some points.

Overnight at Sof Omar Camp.

10 Sof Omar to Wabe Shebele Gorge to Gasera Gorge to Hawassa

(139 mls / 225kms)

Said to be one of the most dramatic gorges in Ethiopia, Wabe Shebele offers breath-taking views as it winds down to a vast, uninhabited lowland. At the road at the edge of the gorge, you can look down a half mile (1,000 m) as you travel to the Wabe Shebele Bridge. During this trip, you pass through three eco-zones with their own distinctive flora and fauna. Wildlife in this area includes the rock hyrax, the klipspringer (antelope), and the leopard.

The next stop is the Gasera Gorge, carved out by the Wabe Shebele River over eons of time. Occasionally, Lammergeyer vultures can be seen at close range soaring through the gorge. This is the home of the Werdube people who are good swimmers and fruit farmers.

Overnight in Hawassa.

11 Hawassa to Addis Ababa (167 mls / 270 kms)

The city of Hawassa is located on the shores of Lake Hawassa in the Great Rift Valley. Following a tour of the city, we will lunch at the fish market in the company of shrieking Colobus monkeys, swinging from tree branch to tree branch. You can be entertained by children who will dance for a nominal tip.

Overnight in Addis Ababa.

12 Addis Ababa

Spend the day in Addis Ababa visiting the St. George Galley or shopping at the Merkato (the largest open-air market in Africa) and various souvenir shops on Churchill Road, keeping in mind your time of departure.

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