A Wonderland for nature lovers
Apart from its historical sites, Ethiopia offers exceptional natural features and a rich bio-diversity. The country’s scenery varies from high mountain ranges with alpine flora and fauna, like the Simien and Bale Mountains, to deep gorges, wide valleys, volcanic lakes, savannahs, and semitropical forests, to the lowlands of the Omo Valley and the Danakil Depression (Dallol), one of the earth’s hottest places. Connected with Ethiopia’s extraordinary geography are its diverse ecosystems, placing the country among the foremost in the world for its numerous endemic mammals, birds and plants.
While the Rift Valley Lakes are famous for bird-watching, the Awash and Nechisar National Parks are fine places for game drives. Not far from its origin in Lake Tana, on the outskirts of the city of Bahirdar, the Blue Nile River turns into the spectacular Blue Nile Falls. A paradise for bird watching activites. Indulge in trekking or horse-back riding in the national parks, marvel at the fascinating endemic animals and revel in the breathtaking scenery! Please have brief hint about some of the National parks and nature conservations in Ethiopia here below.
National Parks & Wildlife Sanctuaries
In order to properly manage and utilize the wildlife in the country, the government has established protected areas at different levels and dedicated ca. 193,600 km2 of its land to wildlife protected areas.The protected areas in Ethiopia are kept aside to protect natural ecosystems particularly wildlife, with the principal uses being biodiversity conservation, tourism, research and education.
Semien Mountains National Park (SMNP) - The Park is relatively small in area and is situated in the SMNPs, north Gonder, and northwestern part of Ethiopia. It has an area of 136 km2 and altitudinal range of 1,900-4,430 m a.s.l. Because of its biodiversity, its high number of endemic species and its biophysical features, the SMNP represents one of the most outstanding natural areas and is a paramount specimen of world's natural heritage. It is of international significance and has been described as one of the first "world heritage sites" all over the world. Its unique landscape and rich biodiversity as well as many endemic species, make the Park as a great economic and educational center. In addition, the area is also important historical as Christians, Muslims and Jews lived for a long period of time in harmony. The terrain of Afroalpine Moorland, highland pasture and Giant heath is dominated by yawning chasms where the great Semien escarpment falls almost sheer to the valleys over 1,000 m below. As there are still relatively extended patches of undisturbed natural ecosystems which form a unique continuous altitudinal succession, there is a high number of endemic mammals, birds and plant species, such as Walia ibex, Ethiopian wolf, Gelada baboon and bird species like Abyssinian longclaw, Spot-breasted plover, Abyssinian catbird, Ankober serin, Black-headed siskin, and other 8 near-endemic species. A total of 33 species of mammals (10 endemic), 171 species of birds, 70 species of butterflies, and 26 species of aquatic invertebrates have been known from this park.
Awash National Park (ANP) - This area is the first national park of Ethiopia and one of the two gazetted protected areas in the country. It is located about 200 km east of Addis Ababa. The Park covers an area of 756 km2 with altitudinal range between 750 -2007 m a.s.l. It is situated in a region of semi-arid grassland and xerophilous scrubs. The area was originally designated as a National Park because of the abundance of game and from physio-geographical and geological point of view. It has extraordinarily attracting areas: the point where the Afar triangle joins with the Rift Valley, the Awash water fall and the hot springs, and Mount Fantalle, a dormant volcano with slopes that are thrown with the rubble of ancient lava flows, which still provides roosts for a large bat population.
The ANP has received more tourists than any other protected areas of the country. This is because the Park’s location, availability of accommodation with reasonable campsites. A total of 76 mammal species have so far been recorded in the park. The Park was once said to be a major habitat for one of the largest population of Beisa oryx in Africa. The area is quite rich in avian diversity. Of the total 453 species recorded, the endemic Abyssinian woodpecker and other 5 near-endemic birds are known from the park. Thirty-nine species of reptiles and some invertebrates are also recorded from the area. Some areas adjacent to the Awash National Park are well known for their paleontological importance. Sites like Hadar are places where one of the oldest Hominid remains was discovered. The resource uses in the area are grouped into three categories: agriculture, animal husbandry and tourism.
Bale Mountains National Park (BNP) - Bale is one of the two mountain national parks established in Ethiopia. It is found in the southeastern massive of the Ethiopian plateau with altitudinal ranges between 1,500 and 4,377 m a.s.l. The Park has an area of 2,471 km2 and composed of the extensive afroalpine woodland on the Sanetti plateau. It extends as far as the Harena forest in the southern slopes of the mountain. The Park was established in 1969 mainly to protect the endemic wild animal species such as Mountain nyala, Ethiopian wolf, subspecies Menillek's bushbuck and other small endemic mammals and amphibians. In general, among the 67 mammal species recorded so far about 17 are Ethiopia’s montane endemics. The Park area is also significant as a flyway and over wintering ground for large numbers of migrant birds from Europe, Asia and other parts of Africa. The Harenna Forest, the many small afroalpine lakes on the Saneti Plateau and the high density of rodents on the plateau are important areas for water birds to watch by tourists. Of the total 262 species of birds in the park, 10 and 6 are endemic and near endemic, respectively.
Yangudi-Rasa National Park (YNP) - YNP is located in the central part of the Afar Region, and is about 500 km southeast of Addis Ababa. The Park covers an area of 4,731 km2. It lies in the northern section of the Rift Valley, bordering the Awash River to the west. The various microhabitats provide optimum conditions for several migrant and resident species of birds. The major habitat types comprise the riverine forests along the Awash River, marshes, small lakes, dry riverbeds, rocky hills and the sandy semi-desert and the wooded grassland. The park harbours 36 species of mammals including Wild ass, Beisa oryx, Soemmerring's gazelle, Hamadryas baboon and Cheetah are the prominent ones. So far, more than 229 species of birds have been recorded. Lesser Kestrel and Pallid Harrier are among the globally threatened bird species. YNP is situated on an important flyway site for considerable number of birds especially migratory species. Besides its wildlife conservation service, the park is also important for safeguarding a 50 km strip of rich archaeological remains along the eroded hills near the Awash River.
Senkelle Swayne’s Hartebeest Sanctuary (SHS) - The smallest wildlife conservation area and it is situated on a gently undulating plain in the southern Ethiopia. The area was primarily designated for the protection of the globally threatened Swayne’s Hartebeest, an endemic subspecies. The Sanctuary consists of the only viable population of this subspecies in the country. Access to tourists is easy after driving 60 km from Shashemene Town on the way to Shashemene-Arba Minch main road, a total of 305 km from Addis to the south. The most common plain animals to be seen are Swayne’s hartebeests, Bohor reedbucks, Warthogs and Oribis. Over 37 mammals and 191 species of birds including two near-endemics (Thick-billed ravens and White-winged cliff-chats) have so far been known. Visitors can easily watch Hartebeests and other animals in the near distance. The area is very ideal for Bird watching.
Abijata-Shala Lakes National Park (ASLNP) - It is found about 200 km south of Addis Ababa within the Great Rift Valley system. The Park headquarter is by the main road between Zeway and Shashemene Towns. The area is best to viewing aquatic and terrestrial birds rather than large mammals. The Park was primarily established for the conservation of its important and spectacular waterfowls, especially Great white pelicans and Lesser flamingos and other terrestrial birds. It is possible to see Grant’s gazelles, Warthogs and Ostriches in about 2 km square compound at the entrance of the park. Three major lakes, namely Langano, Abijata and Shalla beautify the surrounding area. Lake Shalla is known as a breeding ground for Great white pelicans.
Nech Sar National Park (ANP) - This Park is situated about 505 km south of Addis, between the two lakes: Abaya and Chamo. The commonest and most important wild animals to be seen in open grassland strews with lava boulders predominates with tall riparian forest fringes along the Culfo and Sermale Rivers, extensive Acacia-Commiphora woodland and bush on slightly higher ground and dense thickets of Acacia scrub include Burchell’s Zebras, Swayne’s Hartebeests (highly threatened and endemic subspecies), Grant’s gazelles, and Crocodiles. Greater Kudus and Hippopotamuses are rarely seen. This conservation area is also rich in its avian composition with 332 species recorded so far. More than 40 springs streamed from the Park forest.
Omo National Park (ONP) - Access is also possible to one of the continent’s most spectacular wilderness areas and is found in the Lower Omo Valley of southwest Ethiopia. The Park supports significant composition of larger mammals typical of the east African savanna fauna. These include the huge herds of Common elands, Savanna elephants, Giraffes, Burchell’s zebras, Lelwel hartebeests, Tiangs and Buffalos. In general, the park consists of more than 80 mammal and 300 bird species. In order to reach to this place a long trip needs to be arranged via Jimma-Maji in the southwest and return along the Rift Valley. The area demonstrates immeasurable conservation significance due to its Rift Valley habitats containing several species of endemic plants.
The dry season concentrations of antelopes on the Illilbai and Sai plains rank the Park to be the best in the region. The large herds of Common elands with 1000 or more animals, Tiangs from 3000 to 4000, and contains the world’s largest population of Lesser kudus and Grant’s gazelles, as a result of which the area is globally significant. Moderate numbers of big cats (Lions, Leopards, Caracal and Servals) are found here. The opportunities for visitors in Omo consist of wildlife viewing, camping, hiking and visiting the surrounding ethnic groups of Mursi, Surma, Dizi, and Bume.
Mago National Park (MNP) - When travelling to visit Mursi tribe one crosses Mago Park in south Ethiopia. The Park is endowed with about 81 species of mammals with particular interest to Savanna elephants, Buffaloes, Lions, Leopards, Lesser kudus, De Brazza’s monkeys, African hunting dogs, Gerenuks, Common waterbucks, and Lelwel hartebeests. Out of 237 bird species, 4 are near-endemics: Thick-billed raven, Wattled ibis, White-winged cliff-chat and Black-headed forest oriole. Fourteen fish and 22 reptile species are recorded. Because of hunting pressures, only few large mammals can be seen. However, the Park is wealthy with adjacent ethnic groups like Mursi, Hamer, Bena, Caro, Mugji, Bume and Ari and all are accessible to tourists. The Park headquarter is located at 35 km south from Jinka, South Omo town, and it is situated for 750 km from Addis. Riverside tent at luxurious camps nearby Neri River is unforgettable memory inthis Park.
Yabello Wildlife Sanctuary (YS) - This conservation area is located to the east of Yabello Town in south Ethiopia, at 570 km from Addis Ababa. Forty-three species of mammals have been recorded from the area. The main ones are Burchell´s Zebra, Bushbuck, Reedbuck, Anubis Baboon, Aardvark and Swayne´s hartebeest. Bird species so far recorded from the area number 280. Out of this, 2 are endemic (White-tailed swallow and Abyssinian bush crow) and one near endemic. The former two are globally threatened as vulnerable and are also restricted in their range.
Gambela National Park (GNP) - Mammals that are so far recorded in the Park are 43 species, among these the Nile Lechwes and the White-eared Kobs occur nowhere else in Ethiopia. Other mammals that occur here are Savanna elephants, Buffalos, Giraffes, Lelwel hartebeests, Tiangs and Roan antelopes. One hundred and fifty-four bird species have been recorded including the threatened Whale-headed Stork. Herds of these animals migrate between Gambella are and Sudan to the west in extensive wetland environs. This part of the country which has potential for tourism opportunity at it is the most unassessed area.
Babile Elephant Sanctuary (BES) - It is located some 560 km from Addis Ababa, southeast Ethiopia. It has an area of 6,700 km2 with altitudes ranging from 1,000 to over 1,750 m a.s.l. The Sanctuary was set up to provide protection to the relic elephant population Loxodonta africana Africana and other large mammals such as Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Lesser and Greater Kudus and Soemmerring´s Gazelle. The area holds as many as 22 species of mammals. So far, 227 species of birds have been recorded in the area. The ancient Harer Town, the Dakata Rock Valley and Liji Iyasu prison at Girwa Gara Muleta Mts are nearby the Sanctuary, which maximize tourist’s interest. Recently, some elephants of Babile have been tracked hourly using GPS satellite collars which tourists can also see them.