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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.

Tuesday 1st October — Friday 11th October 2019
(11 days)


Leaders: Nik Borrow 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 around 50 endemic and near-endemic bird species (many shared with Eritrea, and the precise number depending 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.

Indeed Ethiopia is an absolutely ‘core’ birding destination for anyone wanting to see the birds of Africa, having two major advantages over many other destinations on the continent. In the first place it has a much greater concentration of regional specialities than almost any other part of Africa (only South Africa offers serious competition in this regard), and in the second place birding here is simply wonderful. Habitats are mostly open and there is no need to stay in the vehicles anywhere on the tour, so one can walk at will and follow any of the more secretive species.

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 and restricted-range birds, including Wattled Ibis, Blue-winged Goose, White-collared Pigeon, Erlanger’s Lark, Abyssinian Wheatear, Ethiopian Cisticola, Brown-rumped Seed-eater ands Ethiopian Siskin.

Around Debre Birhan 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 and near-endemics as Harwood’s and Erckel’s Francolins, White-cheeked Turaco, Black-winged Lovebird, Banded Barbet, Rüppell’s Black Chat, White-winged Cliff Chat, Ethiopian Boubou, Abyssinian Oriole, White-billed Starling, Red-billed (or Lineated) Pytilia, Ankober Serin and Yellow-rumped 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, where the remaining juniper forests and rocky valleys harbour Cape Eagle-Owl and Abyssinian Owl.

Later, 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. Other great birds here include the restricted-range Chestnut-naped Francolin, Moorland Francolin and the restricted-range Dwarf Raven.

Some star endemic mammals are also likely to be encountered in the Bale, including Ethiopian Wolf, Mountain Nyala, Menelik’s Bushbuck and Ethiopian Klipspringer, not to mention the strange 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. Here in this remote part of Ethiopia, around the town of Negelle, we will look for two of Africa’s least-known species, the near-endemic Archer’s Lark (the population here was formerly split as Sidamo or Liben Lark) and in particular the enigmatic Ruspoli’s Turaco, a rare relict endemic 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 and a suite of restricted-range species including African White-winged Dove, Somali Short-toed Lark, Dodson’s Bulbul, Boran Cisticola, Somali Crombec, Brown-tailed Rock Chat, Shelley’s, White-crowned and Bristle-crowned Starlings, Shelley’s Sparrow and Juba Weaver.

Further west, around Yabello and Mega, our principal targets will be the strange endemic Stresemann’s Bushcrow and the attractive endemic White-tailed Swallow that nests in the towering termite nests that dot the landscape in this part of Ethiopia, the extremely restricted-range Black-fronted Francolin, plus the restricted-range Somali Courser and Northern Grosbeak-Canary. Other good birds in this special area include Scaly Chatterer, Pringle’s Puffback and the smart Red-naped Bushshrike.

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.

Birdquest has operated tours to Ethiopia since 1987.

Lalibela Extension 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.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels/lodges are mostly of good standard. At Negelle the hotel is fairly simple, but most of the rooms have private bathrooms. Road transport is by small coach. 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.

BEST OF ETHIOPIA BIRDING TOUR: PRICE INFORMATION

Birdquest Inclusions: our tour prices include all tipping, including tips for local guides and drivers. Some bird tour operators do not do this, yet for participants these costs are an unavoidable part of the tour. The value of these inclusions on this Birdquest tour amounts to approximately: £100, €110, $140.

2019 confirmed prices

£2390, €2720, $3320 Addis Ababa/Addis Ababa. Deposit: 10%.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Single Room Supplement: £170, €193, $236.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in Pounds Sterling and Euros are based on £1 = $1.390 and €1 = $1.220.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

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 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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