Ethiopia’s National Parks

With a landscape that ranges from rainforests to grassy savannas, mountains, and deserts, Ethiopia boasts scenery that is as diverse and fascinating as its people.  Splitting the country in two, the Great Rift Valley provides breath-taking views that rival those of the Grand Canyon.  At 4,620 meters, Ras Dashen is the fourth highest peak in Africa while the Danakil Depression is the lowest point on the continent.  Near Lake Tana, the Blue Nile begins its voyage to Egypt and a string of Rift Valley lakes and rivers belie Ethiopia’s image as a dry and parched land.  Deserts are an important part of Ethiopia’s ecosystem, but so are the indigenous forests which are the most extensive in all of east Africa.   This variety of habitat has resulted in an impressive array of wildlife including over 850 species of birds, many extremely beautiful and exotic.

Simien Mountains National Park

The Simien Mountains National Park is located in northern Ethiopia and includes the fourth highest peak in Africa – Ras Dashen – at 4,550 meters (14,928 feet.)  The park is home to several animals found only in Ethiopia including the Walia Ibex, the Ethiopian Wolf, and the Gelada (a species of monkey.)  The park offers spectacular trekking opportunities including ascents of Ras Dashen.  Africa’s highest lodge is located inside the park and a new lodge has recently opened nearby.  The unique beauty and dramatic landscapes in the Park have earned it recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Awaze Tours’ treks into the park include all camping equipment and supplies and are accompanied by a mountain guide, camp cook, park scout, and pack animals.

Bale Mountains National Park

Bale Mountains National Park has one of the highest numbers of endemic animals of any land habitat in the world. The park is approximately 2,150 km2 and is divided into five distinct and unique habitats: the Northern Grasslands, Northern Woodlands, Afro-alpine Meadows (Sanetti Plateau), Erica Moorlands, and the Harenna Forest. The park is known for being home to the largest populations of both the endemic and endangered Ethiopian Wolf and Mountain Nyala, as well as the endemic Bale monkey. 
Home to over 260 species of birds, the African Bird Club ranks the Bale Mountains at the number four birding site on the continent.

The variety of terrain and ecosystems make for fantastic trekking.  Trekking in the Bale Mountains is not as physically demanding as Simien Mountain treks.  

Awash National Park

Only a three-hour drive from Addis Ababa, the Awash National Park takes its name from the river which forms the park’s southern boundary.  Covering an area of 756 square kilometers, the park is comprised mainly of a dry savanna but also other interesting features such as hot springs, volcanic landscapes, and a fantastic waterfall.  In the open areas and grass plains, you should see zebra, oryx, kudu, Soemmerring’s gazelle, and Swayne’s hartebeest.  Baboons and colobus and grivet monkeys can be seen near the river. Occasionally, cheetahs, servals, leopards, and lions are seen. Incredibly, over four hundred species of birds have been spotted in the park, ranging from the great ostrich to the Abyssinian Roller.

There are nine National Parks in Ethiopia, each with unique offerings for the visitor.  While Mago, Gambella, and Omo are best for viewing African wildlife,  the Bale Mountain and Simien Mountain Parks are the most accessible destination for trekking and outdoor adventure.


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