Simien Mountains Trekking and Tours
Omo Valley Adventure– 11 Days
Omo Valley Adventure – 11 Days
Immerse yourself in the traditions and culture of the Lower Omo Valley. Meet some of the 88 tribes in the region and discover their way of life. The Omo has been a cultural crossroads for millennia, and our expert local guides will ensure everything runs smoothly and your visit to the Omo Valley is considered and respectful.
The adventure begins!
Arrive in Addis Ababa and transfer to hotel. First we drive north up to Mount Entoto. In 1881 Emperor Menelik II made his permanent camp here after remains of an old town (believed to have been the capital of 16th century monarch Lebna Dengel) were discovered. Menelik took this discovery as a divine and auspicious sign.
Addis Ababa at between 2300-2500 meters, is the third highest capital in the world and Entoto is a few hundred meters higher. As we drive up the hill there is an appreciable drop in temperature and the air is filled with the scent of the Eucalyptus trees which line the road.
From the top, there is a panoramic view of the capital and surrounding countryside. Our guide will point out the city’s major landmarks. Entoto is an important watershed; to the north, water flows to the Blue Nile and the Mediterranean Sea, to the south, to the Awash River and on to Djibouti.
Entoto was soon abandoned as a site for the capital. It was cold, difficult to provision and there was a shortage of wood. Empress Taytu was said to have led the move down to the plain of Finfine, and to have named the new capital Addis Ababa, or New Flower. However, two important structures remain within the old imperial compound on Entoto, the churches of Mariam and the Archangel Raguel. It was in the church of Mariam that Menelik was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia in 1889, and in the small museum in the compound there are various clothes, court and household implements and weapons dating from the period. The church of Raguel is unusual in that it is octagonal, rather than round. There is a first story balustrade around which Menelik liked to stroll.
Leaving the churches we descend to Addis Ababa, stopping off at the National Archaeological Museum. Here visitors can see exhibits ranging from the 3.5 million-year-old bones of Lucy, from the Axumite and Gondarene periods through to the period of the monarchs Tewodros and Menelik II.
This completes our city tour, and we return to the hotel for some well-deserved rest.
Drive to Arba Minch via Butajira
An early start around 07:00 and we then head down the western side of the Rift Valley passing through Butajira, Hossana and Sodo.
It’s a long day’s drive, about 9 hours with lunch and coffee stops, but it is on a good asphalt road. The scenery is stunning all around. There are interesting places to visit en route – the Neolithic site and museum at Melka Kunture, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Tiya.
After Sodo we skirt the western shores of Lakes Abaya and Chamo, the southernmost of Ethiopia’s Rift Valley Lakes, before arriving in Arba Minch, or “40 springs”, and check into Paradise Lodge. The Lodge is situated on a hill overlooking the narrow stretch of forested land, known locally as “the bridge of heaven”, which separates the two lakes. Philip Briggs once described the views here as “one of the best views in Africa”.
Note – there are two routes to Arba Minch from Addis Ababa, the one described above, and the slightly longer and busier route through Shashamene and past the Rift Valley Lakes of Langano, Abijatta and Shalla, and Ziway. There are more attractive places to overnight on this route.
Drive to Jinka
We drive south to Konso, whose people are known for their intricately terraced hillsides, fine woven materials and the carved totems with which they decorate their graves. Konso is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Note that market days in Konso are Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
We pass the Weyto river where we will see a great variety of pelicans and other aquatic birds. On Thursdays there is a very attractive market at Key Afer, frequented by the Bena and Ari people. In Jinka itself the markets are on Saturdays and Tuesdays. This afternoon or on the following day we could visit the museum in Jinka, which along with various artefacts has a lot of ethnographical information about the people of the Omo. We will spend the night at the Eco Omo Lodge.
Drive to Mursi and back to Jinka
We leave Jinka and drive to the Mago National Park. The park has a variety of mammals and birds, but the animals tend to stay away from the roads and sightings cannot be guaranteed. There is the option to camp in the park, and this gives you the opportunity to see all sorts of wildlife: elephant, buffalo, Grant’s Gazelle, Topi and Burchill’s Zebra.
In the Mago National Park are the Mursi people, so we drive to Shembel, the nearest Mursi village. If we want to go further, we can drive up the escarpment to the Mursi villages there. The Mursi are known for body scarification and – among the women – the wearing of lip plates.
We return to Jinka for another night in the Eco Omo Lodge.
Drive to Turmi
We retrace our steps towards Key Afar (market on Thursdays, the people of Key Afar are mainly Ari and Bena), and then drive south towards Dimeke (market on Tuesdays and Saturdays), and Turmi, where we will stay at the Buska Lodge. We will use Turmi as our base for visiting other communities in the Omo.
Drive to Omorate
We drive to Murule, and visit the Dus, Korcho and Dassenech villages of the Karo people. Among the people living along the Omo, the Karo excel in face and body painting.
Return to Buska Lodge in Turmi for overnight.
Drive to Karo villages
We head towards the Omo River, passing Kangate and the villages of the Bume people, going on to visit the Galeb villages. We will cross the river in a local boat and visit villages on the other side.
Return to Buska Lodge in Turmi for overnight
Visit the Hamer
Today we visit the Hamer villages around Turmi. The Hamer take great pride in their appearance, shaving and colouring their hair, oiling their bodies and decorating themselves with beads and bracelets worn around arms and legs.
If this day is a Saturday or a Tuesday, we would visit the market at Dimeke, which is one of the most colourful and interesting in the area (market days in Turmi are on Mondays). During our time in Turmi, we will check whether there is a bull jumping ceremony in the vicinity. This is a rite of passage ceremony for young men, marking their transition to adulthood. We will also check for Evangadi, or Hamer dancing ceremonies.
Return to Buska Lodge in Turmi for overnight
Drive back to Arba Minch
Today we set off on the return journey to Arba Minch, passing the northern end of Chew Bahir, and through Erbore (market day Saturday) and Tsemay. We will arrive at Arba Minch in the late afternoon.
Spend the evening relaxing around Paradise Lodge.
Drive to Hawassa
Leaving after breakfast, some 40km north of Arba Minch we will make a short detour to Chencha, the home of the Dorze people, known for their bamboo, bee-hive shaped houses and their fine quality cotton “shamma”. The market day in Chencha is Thursday afternoon.
We’ll have lunch in Sodo, and then press on to Lake Awassa. Tonight we’ll stay in the Haile Resort, situated on the shores of the lake. The owner is the famous athlete, Haile Gebre Selassie.
Hawassa is a boom town, and for those interested, has a lively night-life.
Back to Addis Ababa
As our adventure draws to a close, we head back to Addis Ababa. For those interested in birds, we can take an early morning visit to the fish market in Awassa, and get really close to pelicans, storks and other birds very much used to human company. The fish market also serves the best fish soup anywhere in the world!
After breakfast, we set off back to Addis Ababa, arriving in time for some souvenir shopping. We will have a farewell dinner at the Yod Abyssinia (or another traditional restaurant), where we will have national food and see national dancing from Ethiopia’s different regions.
Transfer to airport for evening flight home.
Price will depend on your final itinerary, group size, accommodation choices, and time of year.