We had been dreaming of this country for a long time especially the Bale Mountains,with their Ethiopia Wolves, their giant mole Rats, their giant Lobelias and other amazing endemic species. Moreover, we knew that in addition to these very particular mountains, Ethiopia is one of the countries with very diverse flora and fauna due to the great variety of climates (six distinct climatic zones) and its reliefs.
After some hesitation due to the regularly tense political situation in Ethiopia, we went for it. By cross-checking several travel reports, we found an excellent Ethiopian ornithologist guide Abiy Dagne, who will be with us during the whole trip with one of his driver colleagues, Sisay, who trains in ornithology ; two very nice people who did everything to make our trip as pleasant as possible.
It should be noted that this type of private trip, not a backpacker trip for a penny, implies a big budget which is worth it because it allows us to maximise the observations and minimise the time wasted in negotiating overnight stays and sometimes delicate passages at certain community checkpoints. In addition, a local guide is strongly recommended because very few Ethiopians speak a language other than Amharic and depending on the regions visited, the welcome is not always very warm.
The very high cost of traveling to East Africa is always disproportionate to the cost of living probably. The inflated prices or tourists are probably due to the safari trend.
Ethiopia is as unique in its history as it is in its flora and fauna. Considered one of the cradles of humanity, this country in the Horn of Africa is, along with Chad, Morocco and Kenya, one of the countries where the oldest hominids are found.
It is the only African nation that has not been colonised (except for the brief partial occupation of the country by the Italians from 1935 to 1941). It knew how to retain its sovereignty during the partition of Africa in the 19th century and therefore, its colors often symbolize Africa and have been adopted by several other African States, in different configurations.
Its constitution is secular but Ethiopia is a country where many beliefs coexist as best they can…After Armenia, it is the second oldest Christian nation in the world, Christianity having established itself in the year 330. Today there are Eastern Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants. In addition, a third of its inhabitants are Muslims and other religions minorities live there as well.
Culturally, it would seem that Ethiopians, of all religions, practice very little hunting and we can feel it as naturalists: the flight distance of the birds is very small, which allows observations of a unique quality and proximity.
We have experienced some negative situations that we have never found in other African countries. The country is experiencing exponential population growth with a popultion of around 110 million, making it the second most populous country in Africa after Nigeria. It is then difficult to find yourself alone even for a few minutes, even in natural reserves. It goes without saying that our origin, our photographic equipment and our wealth attract all the curious, in particular in rural places where tourists are rare. You have to get used to observing and photographing with sometimes a dozen people on your trail, which can quickly become oppressive.
The majority of wild areas, protected or not, that we visited are victims of overgrazing and it is very visible : the wildlife merges with domestic herds. It goes without saying that cows, sheeps and goats are very happy and free in these magnificent spaces, but they represent a real nuisance to the environment.
According to the FAO, it is estimated that 92 000 hectares of forests and woodlands (or 128 000 soccer fields !) and 2 billion tons of fertile soil are lost each year in Ethiopia dut to unsustainable land use, poor soil management practices, population pressure, overgrazing, deforestation and climate change.
In terms of security, we never felt threatened, but in some rural areas it is commun to see Kalashnikov on men's shoulders. It seems that these weapons are mainly used to protect the land but you have to get used to it..
Despite these few negative points, each place visited, each day brought us magnificent surprises, like a Caracal family in a piece of savannah without any protection.
In one month, we were able to observe some 500 species of Birds and about fifty Mammals, but the country being so big (twice the size of France!) and the travels so long and complicated that we were often frustrated by the little time spent on each site.
The regions visited :