At a Glance
Dates: October 28th - November 10th, 2024
Extension: We do not currently offer any extensions to this itinerary.
Prices: £5,895 pp sharing (with no single supplement), excluding international flights.
In a sentence: Ethiopia offers and extraordinary level of diversity, in terms of landscape, culture and wildlife. An incredible mix of endemic megafauna and valuable populations of Africa's most charismatic predators make this a must-do tour.
Ethiopia has long been a must-visit for any serious wildlife-watcher. It seems that every region of this diverse country offers different and exciting opportunities for safari-goers. The arid north holds populations of African Wild Ass and Walia Ibex, and the east is dominated by scrubland where rarities including dibatag can be located. The far west, bordering South Sudan, hosts one of the largest seasonal migrations of mammals in the world, as White-Eared Kob and Nile Lechwe stream across from the Sudd. But, perhaps most impressively, the centre and south of the country still holds a delightful array of classic African fauna, as well as a rich tapestry of endemic mammals to boot. Famously, Ethiopian Wolves are a huge draw for many visitors, but we should also value sightings of the beautiful Mountain Nyala and Menelik's Bushbuck. Grevy's Zebra, Gelada Baboon and Soemmering's Gazelle are also stars, and mention should be made of the fragmented populations still found here of Africa's rarest predators. The central plains of Ethiopia still host black-maned Lions. Leopard and Cheetah are still seen frequently in Awash and Aledeghi. Serval and Caracal are found here more easily than in most better-known safari destinations. And, incredibly, packs of African Wild Dog still roam the Harenna Forest, an area that is also home to melanistic Leopards and the endemic Bale Monkey.
On arrival into Addis Ababa, you will be met by your Pictus Safaris representative and transferred to a local hotel. The remainder of your day is set aside for you to rest after your inbound flight, and a pre-tour briefing will precede dinner in the hotel this evening.
This morning the group will transfer back to Addis Ababa airport for the 45-minute flight south to the town of Arba Minch, where we will meet our local guiding team. From here, it is a four-hour drive on roads of variable quality before we reach the little-visited national park of Maze, where a basic camp will be set up for us. After a few hours to have something to eat and settle in to our new surrounds, we will begin exploring with our first game drive of the tour in our closed 4x4 vehicle.
Maze is very rarely included on 'typical' itineraries for those visiting Ethiopia, and as a result this park is not well-explored. It was set aside for the hunting of Swayne's hartebeest, and now it is a national park it is a vital refuge for this threatened antelope. Other than hartebeest, generic game species including waterbuck, bushbuck, oribi and Bohor reedbuck do well here although, like most Ethiopian parks Maze, cows and goats are the most common mammals we are likely to see. The real prizes here, though, are the rare large predators that still persist here - lion, leopard and cheetah are rare in the park, but are still sometimes seen, and we will make a special effort to locate them as the light fades. Before darkness falls, we return to our campsite for dinner and some rest.
We have a full day today to explore Maze in search of its rare mammals. We will head out at first light to get in several hours of game-viewing before herdsmen make their way in from neighbouring villages - our focus can be tailored to the group's interests today, and we may choose to seek out lion, leopard or cheetah, or instead focus on the area's smaller cats. We'll return to our camp during the heat of the day, but will again enjoy an extended afternoon drive into Maze's wilderness.
Much of today is spent on the road, with eight hours spent traversing the southern reaches of the country, pausing for lunch in Arba Minch and any photographic opportunities en route. We will reach our accommodation in Yabelo town, just outside Yabello Wildlife Sanctuary, before nightfall.
Days Five to Six
The next two days are spent exploring the vast Yabello Wildlife Sanctuary for rare mammals and birdlife. Morning and afternoon drives will focus on bird species including Stresemann's bushcrow and mammals including cheetah, lesser kudu and Ethiopian hare. Yabello forms part of a vast cross-border wilderness area extending deep into Northern Kenya and, excitingly, this means that a vast range of wildlife might appear here, albeit at low densities. Wild dogs, lion, leopard, cheetah and even elephant and giraffe are occasionally seen here, meaning that every game drive has the potential to reveal very special sightings indeed. We lobby the local eco-guards on each visit to permit night drives, with mixed results, but if granted permission we will head out with a spotlight at night in an effort to locate rare mammals including caracal, aardvark and more.
Bale Mountains NP
Today will be primarily a driving day, taking us from Yabello to the other-worldly landscapes of the world-famous Bale Mountains NP. Our base will be at a lovely lodge, ideally located near Harenna Forest, the Sanetti Plateau and the little-known Gaysay grasslands. We should arrive at the lodge by late afternoon and, depending on how the group is feeling, we may head out to spotlight the nearby forest - there is little telling what we might locate here, but previous groups have been rewarded with excellent sightings of Serval and Caracal.
Bale Mountains NP
This morning we will make a beeline to the Sanetti Plateau, a real highlight of any visit to Ethiopia. Above the treeline, this rocky, exposed plateau is home to the largest remaining population of the gorgeous Ethiopian Wolf. Combing the plateau, we hope to locate these vanishingly rare canids as they are active, perhaps hunting mole-rats or playing with their pups. Any time spent with such an elusive mammals should be treasured, and we aim to spend several hours in their presence today.
After returning to camp for lunch, we will then head out once more, this time to the Gaysay grasslands. Whilst the Sanetti Plateau attracts visitors from across the world, Gaysay is hardly ever visited, but can be the site of fantastic sightings. Caracal and Serval are seen here on an almost daily basis and, with concerted effort, we are very hopeful of memorable sightings here. As night draws in, we are likely to spotlight the area before returning to camp for dinner.
Bale Mountains NP
This morning we will head to Gaysay once more at first light to track down any small cats we may have missed so far. By mid-morning, a further trip to the Sanetti Plateau will be the plan, although our movements are flexible.
After lunch, we will relocate to the Harenna Forest, another under-appreciated area of the national park. Densely forested and traversed by just a few trails and roads, this area is well-worth a visit for the scenery alone. We may not have time to explore the area tonight, although a spotlighting session can be arranged, in an effort to locate some of the unusual species that call this forest home. Recent sightings include Lion, melanistic Leopard and even packs of African Wild Dog. Our accommodation tonight will be a very basic camp in the area.
Days Ten to Twelve
We have three full days to explore this spectacular forest, alternating between hikes and drives to cover as much ground as possible. The endemic Bale Monkey is a key target here, as are the charismatic Giant Forest Hogs that forage in the undergrowth. Predators use the roads through the forest as arterial routes and these drives are our best chance of encountering Lion, Leopard and Wild Dog in particular.
If lucky, we may be able to arrange visits to salt licks within the forest, which are likely to attract a wide diversity of wildlife, making for great photographic opportunities.
After a final morning walk in Harenna, we will head west to Lake Awassa, one of the northernmost Great Rift Valley lakes. After many nights under canvass, we are sure our night at a resort on the lake shore will be most welcome. This afternoon, you can relax at the hotel, or we can arrange a boat trip onto the lake itself to view the local pod of Hippo.
This morning we head to Hawassa airport for your return flight to Addis Ababa, with many wonderful memories of Ethiopia in tow,
Please be aware that whilst we make every effort to follow the above itinerary as closely as possible, circumstances may
occasionally arise that mean the tour deviates from the itinerary.
Dates and Prices
This tour will run in November 2024, aiming to take advantage of the dry season when wildlife populations congregate around water sources, and when large predators are at their most mobile. The tour will run from October 28th to November 10th, 2024.
The cost of this trip is £5,895 per person excl. flights. This includes all meals, accommodation and wildlife-focussed activities. Drinks are not included. There is no single supplement for this trip. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £1,800 must be paid.
Flights and Visas
Pictus Safaris do not offer flight booking services. However, we do recommend the use of travel comparison websites such as skyscanner.net or momondo.com to identify the best fares, and then booking with the airline directly where possible. This will reduce the likelihood of complications and fees should any issues with your booking arise. If you wish to spend an additional night in Addis Ababa at the beginning or end of your tour, we can arrange this for you at an extra cost. We strongly recommend booking flights leaving Addis after 17.00 on your return, if leaving on the same day that we return to Addis to avoid disruption to your plans.
British nationals do require a visa to enter Ethiopia. Clients of other nationalities are advised to check well before travel whether they require an entry visa. Details of the process of obtaining a tourist visa for Ethiopia will be provided to you upon booking. The cost of a Ethiopia entry e-visa for UK citizens is $52 - these may be obtained online or on arrival into Ethiopia.
Weather and What to Bring
The weather in Ethiopia in November is hot and dry, with maximum temperatures of around 30 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 18 degrees Celsius.
A full packing list will be circulated at least two months prior to departure. Pictus Safaris will be able to provide one extra set of binoculars and two spotlights per group, and clients are welcome to bring additional camera, videography and scope equipment should they wish to. Please note that the use of drones is not permitted in many protected areas. We strongly recommend bringing comfortable, loose-fitting and neutral-coloured clothing on safari - please do not bring camouflage clothing. We recommend against dark coloured clothing (e.g. black or dark blue) as this attracts biting flies. Worn-in hiking boots with ankle support are a must, as are sunglasses, sun protection and a hat.
Do also remember to budget for any expenses not included in the cost of the trip, including for gratuities and additional activities. We recommend bringing US Dollars.
Safety and Security
There is currently an armed conflict causing issues in several regions of Ethiopia. Whilst the areas visited by this tour are not currently significantly impacted, there is the potential for this to change rapidly. We are in constant communication with our local partners to ensure this tour can run safely.