Rift valley 2: Arba Minch, lake Chamo and Awassa, Lake Ziway

29 December 2019- 2 January 2020

On the way back up from the south towards Addis Ababa, we cross the Rift Valley again. This is an opportunity to pass by many large lakes and forests with a rich biodiversity. This part of the journey is quite tiring as there are hundreds of kilometres between each stop.

First stop, the town of Arba Minch, which is a starting point to explore Lake Chamo by boat.

Lake Chamo is separated from Lake Abaya by the Nech Sar National Park, which we were not able to visit as apparently some of the people inside are not very welcoming....

The attraction of Lake Chamo is its large population of Nile Crocodiles, some of which are huge. It is always a great moment to see these stoic but ever watchful reptiles.


On the way to the next lake, Lake Awassa, a stop at the Senkele sanctuary was a must. This sanctuary is dedicated to the protection of the Swayne's Hartebeest, an endemic mammal whose remaining population is estimated at only 600 individuals.


The hotel's lakeside garden at Awassa alone offers a festival of birds: Marabout Stork, African Sacred Ibis and Hadada Ibis, taking advantage of the well-preserved giant trees and the chance to spot the African Spotted creeper, which strongly resembles a creeper but is not one. These large trees are also home to Mantled Guereza and playful Grivet.

On the morning of the first day of the year 2020, we spent two hours along Lake Awassa, which is very popular with the locals to drink beers and eat fish in the evening. We found birds we saw before but it is possible to see them very closely from this ledge. Who can get tired of looking into the eyes of a Marabout?


About forty kilometers from Awassa is an unmissible ornithological hotspot: Wondo Genet. This city is known for its hot springs an das the former resort of Emperor Hailé Selassié 1st. His old residence has been transformed into a hotel, the same one where we stayed. Don’t worry, it is no longer a royal residence!

One of the target species was the very shy Half-collared Kingfisher which is mostly found around forested rivers. Its shyness gave us a hard time but finally, with the help of an excellent local guide, we found it. The other bird that kept us waiting for almost an hour was the Abyssinian Woodpecker, an endemic of Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Wondo Genet is also an "easy" place to observe the White-winged Cliff Chat, another endemic. Conclusion: the diversions is worthwhile for birdwatchers, a little less so for bath lovers looking for peace and quiet...


The last stop before Addis and the drive north was again the Lake Ziway described in the first chapter. 


Other visited regions:


-Rift Valley 1 (lakes and lots of birds)


Bale mountains


Harenna forest (tropical-style atmosphere)


The south: Negele, Yabello (endemics and savannahs)


Gibe gorge, Jema valley and Ankober (great rivers and Geladas)


Awash (beautiful savannah and heat)