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BEST OF ETHIOPIA

The Roof of Africa

Birdquest’s Best of Ethiopia birding tour is a feast of birdwatching, wildlife and scenic experiences that is hard to rival in Africa. Our Best of Ethiopia tour takes in the great majority of Ethiopia’s endemic and other specialities, combining them with an unforgettable combination of a large bird list, magnificent scenery and an exploration of some decidedly remote and wild places.

Sunday 1st October — Thursday 12th October 2017
(12 days)


Leaders: Chris Kehoe and Merid Gabremichael

Group Size Limit: 9

Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and mostly comfortable accommodations

The Wattled Ibis is a common endemic to Ethiopia and Eritrea and can even be found in the middle of Addis Ababa! (Nik Borrow).

The Wattled Ibis is a common endemic to Ethiopia and Eritrea and can even be found in the middle of Addis Ababa! (Nik Borrow).

Ethiopia, the ‘Roof of Africa’, is a rugged and ancient land that is home to nearly 40 endemic and near-endemic bird species (the precise number depends on which taxonomic treatments you prefer and on whether or not one believes that ‘Nechisar Nightjar’, known only from a wing, is valid or not). Ethiopia is one of the most fascinating African countries for birding, with new and exciting discoveries being made every year, and is surely also one of the most enjoyable, what with its wonderful light, diverse habitats, amazing scenery and very rich and often colourful avifauna.

This special tour combines most of Ethiopia’s endemics and near endemics with wonderful scenery and a diversity of habitats. The perfect combination for those who would like a shorter tour to this wonderful country. Accommodations, and even some of the roads, are now much improved in Ethiopia, making for easier travelling conditions than was the case in the past.

Ethiopia is certainly a land of superlatives, unsurpassed in scenic grandeur by any other part of this ancient continent; a place where Lammergeiers soar over majestic gorges and robed horsemen gallop across the high plains. Here the Ethiopian Wolf hunts Giant Root-Rats among the grey cushion plants of the Afro-alpine moorlands, Gelada Baboons scramble up towering cliffs and graceful herds of Mountain Nyala browse along the edge of fragrant juniper forests.

Birds pass unmolested lives in Ethiopia, with the result that the birdlife is not only spectacularly abundant but also remarkably tame. During the northern winter large numbers of Palearctic migrants enrich an already impressive avifauna, with the result that over 840 species of birds have been recorded from the country.

Close to Addis Ababa, ringed by the peaks of the western highlands, we shall drive through the rolling grasslands of the high plateau where shimmering silver tarns are thronged with birds. Even on the doorstep of the capital we will find endemic birds, including Wattled Ibis, Blue-winged Goose, White-collared Pigeon, Ethiopian Cisticola and Ethiopian Siskin.

At Debre Libanos and in the Jemma Valley the landscape will be completely different as we gaze across a vast panorama of arid gorges and rugged mountain ranges that stretch endlessly away towards the horizon. Here we will search for such endemics as Harwood’s and Erckel’s Francolins, Black-winged Lovebird, Banded Barbet, Rüppell’s Black Chat, White-winged Cliff Chat, Abyssinian Oriole and White-billed Starling, as well as the near-endemic White-cheeked Turaco and White-throated Seedeater.

Around Debre Birhan we will explore the spectacular, cloud-wreathed Ankober escarpment, overlooking the forbidding Danakil Depression, where we shall hunt for two extremely localized endemics: Ankober Serin and Yellow-throated Seedeater.

Next we will descend into the Great Rift Valley, where we shall visit Lakes Zwai, Abiata and Awassa. Each of Ethiopia’s chain of Rift Valley lakes is different in character, but several are teeming with waterbirds. Specialities include the endemic Thick-billed Raven, the near-endemic Abyssinian Waxbill and the localized African Spotted Creeper.

From the Rift Valley we will climb up into the southeastern highlands to the Bale Mountains National Park. Here on Africa’s highest road we will marvel at the stark beauty of these wild uplands with their spectacular Afro-alpine vegetation and unique collection of endemic birds, including Rouget’s Rail, Spot-breasted Lapwing, Abyssinian Woodpecker, Abyssinian Catbird, Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher, White-backed Black Tit and Abyssinian Longclaw. Some star mammals are also likely to be encountered, including Ethiopian Wolf and Mountain Nyala, not to mention Giant Root-Rat.

We then head southwards through the wild and extensive Harenna Forest deep into the acacia bushland in the Boran region of Sidamo province. Here in this remote part of Ethiopia, around the town of Negelle, we will look for two of Africa’s least-known species, Archer’s Lark and in particular the enigmatic Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco, a rare relict species that was first collected by Prince Ruspoli between 1891-93, although he was unfortunately killed by an elephant shortly afterwards and the exact site of the type specimen remains unknown! Although rediscovered in the 1940s, it hasn’t been until recently that sightings have become more regular. We shall also be wanting to see the endemic Salvadori’s Seedeater.

Further west, around Yabello, our principal targets will be the strange Stresemann’s Bush-crow and the attractive White-tailed Swallow that nests in the towering termite nests that dot the landscape in this part of Ethiopia.

As we head back north we will break our journey at a beautiful forested area at Lake Langano where endemic Yellow-fronted Parrots screech at each other in the fruiting trees.

There will also be the option to visit Lalibela, to see its extraordinary underground rock churches, either before or after the tour.

Birdquest has operated tours to Ethiopia since 1987.

Lalibela Option: It is easy for us to arrange a two or three days pre-tour or post-tour excursion for you to Lalibela in northern Ethiopia with its incredible underground rock churches, accompanied by a local guide. This will be much less expensive than an ‘official’ group tour extension, and there are no additional birds of note to be seen at Lalibela. Please contact us if you are interested.

Important: The Birdquest group size limit is significantly lower than for some other Ethiopia tours.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges are mostly of good standard. At Debre Birhan and Negelle the hotels are fairly simple, but most of the rooms have private bathrooms. Road transport is by 4x4 vehicles (Toyota Landcruisers or similar). Roads vary from good to bad.

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but there are a few longer walks, sometimes at fairly high altitude.

Climate: Predominantly warm or hot, dry and sunny. It can be quite cool in the early morning, especially at higher altitudes, and in the Bale Mountains it may be distinctly cold. It may be overcast at times but rain is infrequent at this season (except in the Bale Mountains where it can rain at any time of year).

Bird/Mammal Photography: Opportunities are good.

Ethiopia Tour Prices: There is a big variation in birding tour prices to Ethiopia. Part of this variation is simply owing to companies opting for smaller or larger group size limits (there is not much choice of accommodation in the country, so pretty much every tour stays in the same places), but by far the major cause of variation is the choice of transport used. Basically the choice is down to using a bus with around 20 seats or 4x4 vehicles such as Toyota Landcruisers. Those companies that offer the least expensive tours use a bus, those that charge considerably more, like ourselves, use 4x4s. It is as simple as that. So why use vehicles that cost so much more per person? The answer lies in Ethiopia’s roads, which for long stretches are in poor condition (even more so after the recent El Niño induced rainfall caused very extensive damage). With a bus travel is slower and birding time reduced, and there is always the risk of having to make a huge detour, but with 4x4s you travel faster and more reliably, with more time for birding. So, the choice is yours.

Important Information for Pound Payers: Kindly note that the Pound prices shown here are based on post-EU-referendum exchange rate reality, unlike the website prices of most UK bird tour operators which are still based on outdated and hugely higher pre-referendum exchange rates. Consequently you can rest assured that we will not have to adjust these prices upwards at invoicing, unless the Pound falls significantly further, and if there is any recovery by the Pound you will receive the full benefit of the cost-saving by way of a price reduction at invoicing.

These are confirmed prices

Tour Price: £2890, €3410, $3790 Addis Ababa/Addis Ababa.

Price includes all transportation, all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.

Base prices for this tour are determined in US Dollars, the currency in which we pay for most tour services. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110. For those not paying us in US Dollars, prices may be adjusted (either downwards or upwards) at the time of invoicing should there be a change in the exchange rate. See booking information.

Single Room Supplement: £253, €298, $331.

Deposit: £300, €400, $450.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.

Stands of kniphofia cover swathes of the magnificent Bale Mountains (Nik Borrow)

Stands of kniphofia cover swathes of the magnificent Bale Mountains (Nik Borrow)

The endangered endemic Ethiopian Wolf is the world’s rarest canid with perhaps no more than 400 animals left. A sighting is always a highlight of the trip! (Nik Borrow)

The endangered endemic Ethiopian Wolf is the world’s rarest canid with perhaps no more than 400 animals left. A sighting is always a highlight of the trip! (Nik Borrow)

Of all Ethiopia's many endemic birds, the smart Spot-breasted Plover must rank highly  (Nik Borrow)

Of all Ethiopia's many endemic birds, the smart Spot-breasted Plover must rank highly (Nik Borrow)

Stresemann’s Bush Crow is a strange endemic of ‘uncertain affinities’ that has been recently reclassified as a starling (János Oláh)

Stresemann’s Bush Crow is a strange endemic of ‘uncertain affinities’ that has been recently reclassified as a starling (János Oláh)

The rare Wattled Crane has a northern outpost in Ethiopia, far from its main range in Southern Africa  (Nik Borrow)

The rare Wattled Crane has a northern outpost in Ethiopia, far from its main range in Southern Africa (Nik Borrow)

Down in the arid plains, Somali Coursers inhabit the stony desert  (János Oláh)

Down in the arid plains, Somali Coursers inhabit the stony desert (János Oláh)

The attractive endemic Abyssinian Longclaw can be found throughout the highlands (Nik Borrow)

The attractive endemic Abyssinian Longclaw can be found throughout the highlands (Nik Borrow)

Black Crowned Cranes can usually be found in small numbers in the Rift Valley (Nik Borrow)

Black Crowned Cranes can usually be found in small numbers in the Rift Valley (Nik Borrow)

The endemic Harwood’s Francolin although threatened still seems to be reasonably common within its restricted range (Nik Borrow)

The endemic Harwood’s Francolin although threatened still seems to be reasonably common within its restricted range (Nik Borrow)

The Red-naped Bush-shrike is a stunning and often showy inhabitant of the dense thorn bush in the south of the country (Nik Borrow)

The Red-naped Bush-shrike is a stunning and often showy inhabitant of the dense thorn bush in the south of the country (Nik Borrow)

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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