The birds are pretty special in Ethiopia and with a bird list of over 800 species with many of them found nowhere else in the world, it is no surprise that Ethiopia is high on many a birder’s bucket list! This tour is primarily focused on the endemic and speciality birds of Ethiopia and therefore follows the well known birding trail, but at the same time where there are special mammals to see, we will of course take time to look for these too. How can you not be excited by a country that has Ethiopian Wolves & Gelada Baboons or if you’d rather Simien Wolves and Bleeding Heart Baboons!
Quite simply, Ethiopia has to be one of the most exciting African wildlife destinations. It has fabulous birds with many endemics, some highly sought after mammals and all set against incredibly beautiful landscapes and intriguing local people with interesting history & culture.
As with most Ethiopian birding itineraries there is a lot of travelling on this tour in order to cover all the key sites and to give us the best chance of connecting with all the key species. To try and balance the travel we have included numerous 2 night stays where possible. The long journeys are very much part
of the tour as the ever changing scenery has to be some of the most spectacular in the whole of Africa!
DAY 1: Arrival
Arrive Addis Ababa and transfer to nearby Hotel. Overnight Addis Ababa
DAY 2: Addis to Debre Libanos
Today we travel north to Debre Libanos through the Sululta Plain and to the spectacular cliffs near Debre Libanos. Here we may find species such as the localised Erckel’s Francolin, White-winged Cliff Chat and Ruppell’s Black Chat. We should also find our first endemic mammal, the Gelada Baboon or Bleeding Heart Baboon. Overnight Debre Libanos
DAY 3: Debre Libanos to Debre Birhan
We begin our tour travelling around 130Km east to the town of Debre Birhan. We will stop at the Aleltu Falls, where we can expect to find White-billed Starling, Ruppell’s Chat, Bearded Vulture, Verreaux’s Eagle, Lanner and Peregrine Falcon. We will then cross some high-altitude habitats where we should find our first endemics such as Blue-winged Geese, Wattled Ibis, Spot-breasted Plover as well as Abyssinian Longclaw and Abyssinian Catbird. We will then visit the edge of the mighty Rift Valley with some spectacular views into the valley below. Overnight Debre Birhan
DAY 4: Jemma Valley
We will leave Debre Birhan and head for Ankober which is the best site for the Ankober Serin. This species was only discovered in 1976 and is found on the steep cliffs of the dramatic escarpment. We will arrive at the Jemma Valley early in the morning and whilst travelling through relatively flat terrain we will soon be faced with the impressive Jemma Gorge. The Jemma and Jara River valleys hold a good population of the rare Harwood’s Francolin and we will also look out for another speciality, the Ruppell’s Chat. We then continue our journey searching for Francolin, Yellow-throated Serin, White-billed Starling, Black-winged Lovebird, Bearded Vulture, Mountain Buzzard, Peregrine, Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin and Blue Rock Thrush. The Jemma river is one of the tributaries of the Blue Nile and here at the gorge, and in the forest around the church we can expect to see the Banded Barbet, Black-headed Forest Oriole, White-billed starling, Red-billed starling, White-winged Cliff Chat, White-backed Black Tit, White-cheeked Turaco, Montane White-eye, Abyssinian Longclaw, Abyssinian Catbird and Hemprich’s Hornbill. Mammals that we shall be looking our for may include Leopard, Colobus and Vervet Monkeys, Gelada Baboon, Menelik’s Bushbuck, Ethiopian Klipsringer and Ethiopian Rock Hyrax.
Overnight Debre Birhan
DAY 5: Awash NP to the Aldeghi Plain
Today we will leave early as the temperature in this region begins to rise very quickly. We will try for the endemic Sombre Chat. Other species in the area may include Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse, Yellow-breasted Barbet, Ethiopian Swallow, Black Scrub Robin, Northern Crombec, and Nile Valley Sunbird and with luck, the Arabian Bustard. We’ll also search the open scrub for wintering migrants from the north. These may include Black-eared Wheatear and numerous warblers such as Upcher’s Warbler and Ménétries’s Warbler. We should also find some good mammals like the tiny Salt’s Dik-dik, the long necked Northern Gerenuk and Lesser Kudu. At dusk Slender-tailed Nightjars should be easy to find.
During the evening we will do some spotlighting in the forest where we may get lucky with species such as Serval and White-tailed Mongoose.
Overnight at Aledeghi Wildlife Reserve
DAY 6: Aledeghi to Awash NP
We travel a short distance to Awash where where we will check in to our hotel and then leave for Awash National Park where we will spend the next 2 nights. Over 460 species of bird have been recorded in this area including many key species that we will look for and these will include, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, the endemic White-tailed Swallow, Buff-crested Bustard, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Pygmy Falcon, Arabian Bustard, Rosy-patched Bush Shrike, Northern Carmine Bee Eater, Orange-billed Parrot, Lilac Breasted Roller, Lappet-faced and Ruppell’s Vulture. We should also see a good selection of mammals such as Greater and Lesser Kudu, Common Warthog, Northern Gerenuk, Menelik’s Bushbuck, Soemmerring’s Gazelle, Hamadryas (Sacred) Baboons, Spotted Hyaena and with luck, possibly Lions too. Overnight Awash Falls Lodge
DAY 7: Full day exploring Awash NP
We will spend a full day in the park targeting the species that we have yet to find!
Overnight Awash Falls Lodge
DAY 8: Awash NP to Lake Langano
Another early start today as we head south down the main Ethiopian Rift Valley. We will be birding along the main road and stopping off at Koka Dam and the Awash River and finally Lake Zwiay where we will have lunch. At the shore of the lake we should find huge numbers of waterbirds. Tame Great White Pelicans and Hamerkops, Grey-headed Gulls and White-winged Black Terns as well as Yellow-billed Storks, Squacco Herons, African Darters, African Jacanas, African Pygmy Geese and White-faced Whistling Ducks.
We’ll leave Lake Zwiay during the late afternoon and continue to Lake Langano where we will spend the night by the shores of this great lake. In the grounds of the lodge, the birding can be excellent and we will find species such as Von Der Decken’s, Northern Red-billed and Hemprich’s Hornbills, Red-fronted Barbet, Bearded Woodpecker, Little Rock Thrush, White-winged Black Tit, Buff-bellied Warbler, Rüppell’s Weaver and possibly Clapperton’s Francolin. Overnight Hara Langano Lodge
DAY 9: Lake Langano to Abiata-Shala NP
After breakfast we will drive to the Abiata-Shala National Park. Over 400 bird species have been recorded here, but sadly the lake is suffering from water extraction and the surrounding land from over-grazing. However, despite this it is still an excellent site and we should find great numbers of waterbirds, particularly waders such as Kittlitz’s Plover as well as Greater and Lesser Flamingos and sometimes even Wattled Cranes. The surrounding land can can be good for Black-billed Woodhoopoe and Black Scimitarbill. The Park is also one of the narrowest parts of the Rift Valley and therefore makes it a major flyway for both Palaearctic and African migrants. Overnight Hara Langano Lodge
DAY 10: Langano Lake to Bale Mountains
After breakfast we set off for the Bale Mountains National Park, an area of diverse habitats, rich in endemic birds, animals, trees and plants. It has the largest extent of Afro-Alpine habitat in Africa, and the road that crosses the Sanetti Plateau is the highest plateau on the continent reaching around 4,000M. We will stop at Dinsho, HQ of the park, for a picnic lunch and will spend some time exploring the area where we should find the main concentration of the endemic Mountain Nyala. We can also see the endemic Menelik’s Bushbuck, Grey Duiker and Common Warthog. Of course there will be many key birds that we will look for including some great specialities including Spot-breasted Plover, Rouget’s Rail, Thick-billed Raven, Blue-winged Goose, Abyssinian Longclaw and White-collared Pigeon.
Overnight Bale Mountains Lodge
DAY 11: Full day on the Sanetti Plateau
Today we spend a full day with picnic lunch on the 4,000M Sanetti Plateau, with its striking Afro-Alpine flora surrounded by Giant Lobelias and Red Hot Pokers. It is the best place in Ethiopia to see the Simien Wolf or Ethiopian Wolf. This endangered and regal looking canine is often seen hunting the Giant Mole Rat which are plentiful on the plateau. The rare Wattled Crane is often seen, while there are also good numbers of the Spot-breasted Plover and Blue-winged Goose and the remarkably tame Rouget’s Rails. In addition to Simien Wolves and Giant Mole Rats we should also find Ethiopian Highland Hares.
Later in the day we will descend the escarpment to the Harenna Forest, where at the southern boundary of the park the altitude is much lower at around 1,700M. The Forest supports numerous species including African Cuckoo Hawk, Yellow-fronted Parrot and Brown-backed Honeyguide. Mammals are well represent in this region too with Ethiopian Klipspringer, Giant Forest Hog, Grey Duiker, Colobus Monkey and even possibilities of Serval and Leopard. We will spend the night at the wonderful Bale Mountain Lodge situated in the heart of the Park within the Harenna Forest at around 2,380M within the beautiful Katcha clearing looking towards the ridgeline of the plateau. In the evening we will do some spotlighting in the forest for species such as Large Spotted Genet and Northern Lesser Galago. Overnight Bale Mountains Lodge
DAY 12 : Goba to Negelle
Today we travel south towards Negele. It will be a long journey but we will make various birding stops en route. Southeast of Negele is the area known as the Liben plains, the only known locality for the Sidamo Lark. Other species are plentiful and we will look for Somali Short-toed Lark, Tiny Cisticola, Heuglin’s Bustard, Hunter’s Sunbird, Golden Pipit, Pygmy Batis, Red-naped Bush-Shrike, White-crowned Starling, Rufous Sparrow and Coqui Francolin. West of the plains on the Negele-Arero Road lies the Mankubsa-Welenso Forest and a site for perhaps one of the most sought after birds in Ethiopia, the Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco. In 1893 an Italian man, Prince Ruspoli collected this stunning species somewhere in Ethiopia but due to the Prince’s unexpected death, it took until the 1940’s before anyone knew exactly where Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco could be seen! We have plenty of time and a number of different sites to try for this fabulous looking species. Other species recorded in this Juniper Forest include, Somali Short-toed Lark, Boran Cisticola, Banded Parisoma and Somali Long-billed Crombec, Ovambo Sparrowhawk and Red-chested Sunbird. Salvadori’s Seedeater and Brown-rumped Bunting. The forest and surroundings are home to many mammals too which include, Bushpig, Eastern Forest Hog, Common Duiker, Zorilla, African Civet, White-tailed Mongoose, Abyssinian Hare, Colobus and African Green or Grivet Monkeys, Bushbuck, Crested Porcupine, African Golden Wolf, Black-backed Jackal & Ethiopian Rock Hyrax.
DAY 13: Full day exploring the Negelle Birding Sites
Full day exploring the habitats around Negelle. This will maximise our chances of finding Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco and many other specialities such as Erlanger’s Lark. Overnight Negelle
DAY 14: Negelle to Yabello
Leaving Negelle we continue to the the town of Yabello and spend time at the Dawa River. Biding along the river here should produce a number of good birds including, Black-bellied Sunbird, Hunter’s Sunbird, Golden Pipit, Pringle’s Puffback, Red-naped Bush Shrike, Bare-eyed Thrush, Tiny Cisticola and Pygmy Batis. We will make a special effort to find two species in particular, the African White-winged Dove and the Juba Weaver which though not endemic they both have a very restricted range.
We will then continue onto Yabello where we should soon find our first Stresemann’s Bush-Crow, another of Ethiopia’s most sought-after endemics. The rare Salvadori’s Seedeater has also recently been found breeding in this area and we will keep an eye out for White-tailed Swallow. We will make a number of stops for species such as Bare-eyed Thrush, Boran Cistocola, Banded Parisoma, Scaly Chatterer, Northern Grey Tit, Pringle’s Puffback, Bristle-crowned Starling, Shelley’s Starling, Grey-headed Social Weaver and Black-capped Social Weaver. We should arrive at our accommodation in good time to try for Donaldson Smiths and Plain Nightjars and also a chance of Somali Galago too. Overnight Yabello
DAY 15: Full Day Yabello Sanctuary
The habitat in this region is mostly Acacia Savannah and thorn scrub and we should find a number of new species in this area. These will include Short-tailed Lark, Magpie Starlings, Golden-breasted Starlings, D’arnaud’s Barbet, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Banded Parisoma, Black-fronted Francolin, Little Spotted Woodpecker, White-bellied Canary and Northern Grosbeak Canary. We will also see more of the iconic Stresemann’s Bush-Crows and at dusk we have more chances of Donaldson-Smith’s and Star-spotted Nightjars. Overnight Yabello
DAY 16: Yabello to Lake Awassa
We leave Yabello for Awassa where we will check into our hotel situated on the lake shore by lunchtime. After lunch, we will explore the hotel’s gardens and make our way to the shores of the lake. Lake Awassa, is one of Ethiopia’s most beautiful lakes in Ethiopia and is very rich in birdlife. Along the shores of the lake and in the adjoining Black Forest we can expect to see Saddlebill and Maribou Storks, Spur-winged Plover, Pygmy Goose, Grey Kestrel, Green-backed Honeyguide, Blue-headed Coucal, African Spotted Creeper, African Firefinch, Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Red-breasted Wryneck, Bare-faced Go-away bird and the endemic Yellow-fronted Parrot. There are Hippos in the lake and Colobus and Vervet Monkeys in the gardens of the lakeside hotels. Overnight Lake Awassa
DAY 17: Lake Awassa to Waliso
Drive to Wolliso making a number of birding stops en route. Overnight Waliso
Day 18: Gibe Gorge
Today will be our last day in Ethiopia, but it is sure to be packed full of birds once again as we take an excursion to Gibe Gorge. Here, the special bird of the day will be the endemic Red-billed Pytilla but also Egyptian Plover and both great birds to end the tour. Of course, these won’t be the only birds on offer as there will also be opportunities to see Exclamatory Paradise-Whydah, Foxy Cisticola, Gambaga Flycatcher, Lesser Blue-eared Starling, Abyssinian Waxbill, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse and Four-banded Sandgrouse, Little Rock Thrush, Moustached Grass Warbler, White-throated Seedeater, Black-faced Firefinch, Snowy-headed Robin-chat and more! We will then take the 3 hour drive back to Addis Ababa where we will have day rooms to freshen up before an evening flight back to the UK.
Day rooms in Addis Ababa