You Cannot visit the ‘Roof of Africa’ i.e. Ethiopia, and not be moved by the stunning visuals of the country. The rustic yet charmingly beautiful African country is teeming with wildlife of every kind, counted today amongst the finest birding destinations in the world. A fact our author corroborates through his experience below.
It is difficult to not be captivated by the picturesque landscape of Ethiopia that has the power to fascinate you at every turn. This was my first visit to the continent of Africa. Instead of opting to go to the more popular destinations of South Africa, Zambia, Kenya or Tanzania, I zeroed down on Ethiopia – a country that is establishing itself as a regular feature on birdwatcher’s itineraries worldwide. A barren country where people still feed on birds and bushmeat is the image that comes to mind when one hears the name, Ethiopia. The reality, though, couldn’t be further from the truth.
We planned to start our tour for the Great Rift Valley from Addis Ababa, early in the morning. We set out just when the sun rises, greeted by the Mount Entoto chains and fresh blooms and foliage; the amount of sunshine indicating how close I was to the equator. Situated at an altitude of 2,300 m, Addis Ababa is blessed with pleasant weather all through the year.
FLAGGING OFF: Our first destination was Lake Awasa, and our car rode through the Expressway towards Mojo that lay in the midst of the Savanna woodlands. Situated in the Rift valley, this freshwater lake is a well-known birding spot where around 150+ resident and migratory bird species can be found. Visitors can also take a boat ride to Bird Island that lies in Lake Zway (around 114 kms from Lake Awasa) for catching glimpses of the Hippopotamuses there. A 250 km drive from Awasa will take you to Bale National Park, the only refuge of the dainty and endangered Ethiopian wolf and the exquisite Gelada baboon, along with 200+ species of birds.
THE VISITOR HIDING: Our next stop was the Abijatta-Shala National park where 300+ bird species have were chirping and flying around. To my mind, birds are beyond borders; they can make you feel at home even in a country 6,000 km away from yours. The entire day spent in birdwatching, I fell asleep dreaming of Lake Zway, our destination for the morrow. A marshy grassland is located in the middle of Lake Zway that is home to kingfishers, pelicans, storks, Hamerkops and many other birds. I sighted the Bird Foot Delta of River Omo, surrounded by green field tracts besides the creamcoloured Lake Abaya while on our flight to Arba Minch from Addis. Birds such as the Secretarybird and Northern Ground-hornbill are the main attractions around Netchsar National Park, while Lake Chamo is known for its Nile Crocodiles, Hippopotamus and a large variety of wetland birds. Darkness had fallen upon the denizens of Ethiopia when we returned to Addis and there is a lot more I’d like to take back from this place. The images of the birds and nature of this place are means to recreate the magic; just as the journey amidst the Savanna woodlands on our first day remind me of why this is travel at its best! been recorded.
I was on the look-out for elusive birds, such as the Ostrich, Superb Starling, Helmeted Guineafowl and Northern Red-billed Hornbill, when suddenly my guide noticed a Common warthog watching us from the grassland intently. Adding to this spine-chilling moment was the appearance of its entire family! We spent quite some time with the birds, warthogs, Ostriches and African gazelles, after which we proceeded towards Lake Abijatta and Lake Shala – the only deep saline water lakes inside this landlocked country; where the sun sets behind the hills by spraying its last rays over the colossal flock of Greater and Lesser Flamingos.
WANDERING THROUGH BIRD-LAND: We continued our journey through the lakes of the Rift Valley, our next stops being Lakes Longano and Zway. The mountains are encased in an ethereal mist at dawn in a charming place like Lake Longano – the sun’s probing rays gently revealing the thick forests around. Several bird species, such as the sunbirds, lovebirds, weavers, turacos, flycatchers and whydahs.