Lost Tribes of Ethiopia Trip Notes
At Imaginative Traveller we always aim to provide accurate information for our travellers. Unfortunately information such as the price of optional activities is occasionally subject to change, and this means that we are constantly revising our trip notes. In order to ensure that you have the most up to date information for your trip we suggest that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure.
Trip code : PFLT
Trip length : 14
Trip starts in : Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Trip ends in : Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Maximum group size : maximum 15
- The clay lip discs of the Mursi Tribe
The Karo tribe lives along the east banks of the Omo River in southern Ethiopia. One of the most striking features of this tribe is the spectacular face and body paint they adorn for ceremonies. It is made from a combination of white chalk, black charcoal, yellow ochre and red earth. They insert feather plumes into their clay hair buns to imitate the guinea fowl’s spotted plumage. Elaborate clay hair buns can take up to three days to construct and need to be re-made every three months.
- On arrival in Addis Ababa, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. You will be taken on an afternoon city tour which includes the Ethnographic Museum and St George Church.
- Addis Ababa is a bustling city, dotted with Italian architecture, interesting churches and friendly inhabitants. It is also a city of immense contrasts – the Addis Sheraton, with its ‘singing fountain’ is one of the most luxurious in all of Africa, yet you only need to travel a few streets away to find yourself among busy markets, dirt roads and the odd goat or two wandering the streets.
- The city is relatively new– established by the Emperor Menelik II in 1887, and at 2,400m has the distinction of being the third highest capital in the world. Although Ethiopia was the only African nation never to be colonised, parts of it, including Addis, were briefly occupied by the Italians in the twentieth century, and in many parts of the city their legacy lives on in the form of old art deco buildings and coffee shops, particularly in the area known as the Piazza.
- Addis can seem daunting at times, but even the briefest foray into the busy streets can reveal interesting new insights.
Bale Mountain National Park
- This morning you will depart Addis Ababa for your next stop - the Bale Mountains. On the way you'll stop off at Dinsho, headquarters of the National Park for some game viewing before reaching the lodge in the afternoon.
- Enjoy a full day game drive to the plateau of the Bale Mountains on Day 3, as well as the opportunity to get out and stretch your legs on a nature walk in the Harenna Forest.
- More than any other park in Ethiopia, the Bale Mountains National Park is known for its wildlife. There are over 60 mammal species and 260 bird species within the park, including dozens of endemic species.
- Today you will start by travelling to the south of Ethiopia, a region noted for its enormous variety of peoples and cultures. Many of these populations are nomadic or semi-nomadic and, far from the influence of the modern world, their ancient traditions have remained intact. Set in dramatic surroundings, Arba Minch is a small southern Ethiopian town lying at an altitude of 1,300m above sea level, on a cliff overlooking Lake Chamo and Lake Abaya. To the west, mountains form a backdrop rising to 4,000m. Although there's not much to do in town, it is the gateway to Nechisar National Park.
- Stop along the way to visit the local villages, before arriving at your hotel in the early evening.
- With some of the most dramatic scenery in Africa, Nechisar National Park lies at the heart of the Rift Valley, covering Lakes Chamo and Abaya and the mountainous causeway between them known as the 'Bridge of God'.
- The Nechisar Plain offers the best game viewing, with Burchellis zebra, gazelle and kudu. Lions are also found in the park but are rarely seen. Waterbuck are found near the lake shore, and there are many smaller species of buck found in the forest areas.
- Today you will visit Nechisar, to view the wide variety of wildlife and take a boat trip on Lake Chamo, inhabited by hippo and crocodile.
- You will pass through the territories of several different tribes on your way to Jinka including the Dorze, who are famous for their beehive huts. Jinka is a small mountain town set apart from the country. It’s both remote and rustic, accentuated by the grass airstrip in the middle of town.
- People come from across South Omo to visit the local markets, particularly Ari, Bana, Besheda and Besketo people. Probably the best known tribe in Ethiopia, the Mursi people are most famous for their practices of extending their lower lips with clay discs, and stick fighting. You will visit a Mursi village to learn more about this fascinating group.
- When a Mursi woman reaches 20 years old, a slit is made beneath the lower lip and a clay plate inserted. Each year a larger plate is added, stretching the lower lip until it juts out so far that a 15cm plate can be worn and the woman can pull her lip right over her head. This is considered the height of attractiveness.
- Mursi men do not escape entirely unscathed, as they take part in stick fights which in the past sometimes ended in the death of one of the participants. Decorated with white clay, they whack each other with 2 metre long poles. There are consolations; the winner is carried off by a group of eligible girls who then decide which one of them will marry him.
- Today you will visit a colourful local market and mingle with different tribes like the Karo, Hamer and Benna. There are many interesting handicrafts to be found too - don’t forget to bargain. Hopefully you will also be invited into a couple of homes. Dimeka and Turmi are the principal towns in Hamer country, with an impressive market on Saturday and Monday respectively, Hamer villagers make their way to it from miles around. You are likely to encounter several different tribes mingling together in the marketplace. A visit to one of the villages in the area is also rewarding; made entirely of mud, the small thatched huts are tidily arranged with very few outside influences to be seen, offering a glimpse into another way of life.
- The highlight of the year in the Hamer calendar is the Bull Jumping Ceremony. This is the culmination of a three day initiation ceremony, where 15 bulls are lined up and the initiate has to jump onto each one, all the way down the line, before turning round and coming back the same way. The ceremony is usually held around December/January and August, right after the harvest season.
- We visit the Karo tribe, masters of body decoration, who use chalk to paint themselves. We will also visit the Hamer people, known for the remarkable hairstyles. Murulle (also spelled Murille and Murlie) lies on the banks of the Omo River, and is a popular base for exploring what is essentially a rugged area. There is a fair amount of wildlife in the area, and a good chance of seeing some form of antelope and possibly raptors overhead.
- The two main tribes who live in the area ate the Karo and the Hamer, both of whom practise scarification and have elaborate hairstyles.
- The highlight of the year in the Hamer calendar is the Bull Jumping Ceremony, the culmination of a 3 day initiation ceremony. 15 bulls are lined up, and the initiate must jump onto each one, all the way down the line, before turning around and coming back the same way.
- The ceremony is usually in December/January and in August, right after the harvest season.
- Today’s drive will offer spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding scenery including the terraced hills of Konso. Along the way, you may be lucky enough to see beisa oryx, dik-dik, and lesser kudu.
- You'll visit Gersale Village Nursery and Konso village where the people are known for their colourful, traditional dress and the unusual engraved wooden statues or totems they use as grave markers. Today you will be able to pay a donation of $20USD to plant a tree at Gersale - this covers the planting of one tree including water and care for two years, and a commemorative donor name tag displayed in the nursery. Drought has put pressure on natural resources leading to deforestation, soil erosion and a loss of native wildlife.
- All roads into South Omo pass through Konso, and this unprepossessing small town of 3000 inhabitants is a good base for exploring the hillside villages in the surrounding countryside. The Konso people themselves live in walled hilltop settlements with maze-like fences. There is a central communal building called a mora, the ground floor of which is used by the men and boys as a social area; women are excluded.
- Carved wooden grave markers are a Konso tradition, with the deceased warrior's features enhanced by using teeth made from animal bones.
- Today you will take a very scenic drive to El Sod village. Here you will take a short hike to visit 'the house of salt', on the edge of a deep crater lake. Enroute we stop at Dubluk to visit the 'singing wells'. The singing wells are named as such thanks to the chanting that occurs as people form human chains to pass buckets from hand to hand to when collecting water from wells in the area. This activity only ever takes place in the dry season, when herders will travel for several hours to ensure their livestock are watered.
- Some 20km further south of Dubluk, on the main road to Kenya, before turning left for another 15kms to El Sod - the site of Chew Bet, or the 'house of salt', a saline crater lake that lies at the bottom of a 200m deep crater. The lake is almost black in colour and has a vaguely sinister air as a result; villagers collect the salt formed by evaporation on a rota system to ensure levels are kept sustainable.
- Awasa is one of the largest cities in southern Ethiopia but manages to retain an easy-going feel, making it a pleasant place to spend some time. There is a bustling central market as well as a separate fish market. Tabor Hill offers good views across the lake, which is the main draw; it has an imposing mountainous backdrop with the lakeshore itself fringed with lush vegetation where monkeys are frequently seen.
- Hippos are found out in the lake itself - they emerge onto the shore to graze after dark. The lake has excellent birdlife, with many species of waders present, as well as heron, stork, and pygmy geese. Fish eagles are also found here, their haunting cry often heard at dusk.
- On the way to Awasa you will stop at Wenago to visit the Tutu Fella stelae field - an unusual collection of carved stones. You'll then continue to Lake Awasa, which is surrounded by mountains and populated by countless species of birds. On arrival, you will walk along the shores of the lake to see birds and possibly hippos.
- You will visit the fish market of Awasa before heading back to Addis Ababa today. The rest of the day will be free for you to explore or perhaps indulge in a bit of last minute shopping. You may like to enjoy an optional final dinner at a well known local Ethiopian restaurant. Here you will able to put your new-found dancing moves to the test by joining in with the traditional dancers.
- You tour will come to an end this morning in Addis Ababa after breakfast.
While the information presented here details our planned itinerary, including routes taken, activities included, accommodation and meeting times, please accept that unforseen changes may occur. We are constantly on the lookout to improve our program and further enhance your experience. Naturally, we will keep you up to date with any last minute amendments to your tour.
Journeys of freedom & discovery. Travelling in purpose-built trucks or 4x4s you’ll see all the highlights but also get far off the beaten track. Led by a professional crew or driver, groups consist of up to 22 adventurous passengers enjoying a real hands on experience.
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- Get off the tarmac road and explore the road less travelled
- Accommodation is a mix of simple hotels or guesthouses, campsites and local family homestays, with some wild camping in more remote areas
- Typical activities include horseriding, hiking, rafting, biking; you name it we do it somewhere in the world.
- Fully trained and experienced leader.
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On some trips we’ll push you out of your comfort zone to ensure an authentic experience, on other trips you will stay in amazing places where there is no ‘roughing it’ involved. There is plenty of choice so you can select a trip with as much activity or as little as you wish. Our small groups ensure a more intimate experience and that the impact on the local environment and community is kept to a minimum. Extra Comfort tours offer rich and rewarding adventures and are stress-free, safe and, most importantly, fun!
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This tour is operated by our partners Peregrine Adventures
An experienced English-speaking local leader, accommodation, meals, transportation, and sightseeing excursions as per itinerary, transfer to hotel on arrival, entrance fees
13 breakfasts, 9 lunches, 11 dinners
Most of our travellers like the thought of travelling with a few like-minded souls. There are NO compulsory single supplements on most tours as we simply arrange twin shared accommodation for you and another tour member of the same sex. But don't worry if that doesn't appeal. We do understand there are times when you just want a bit of privacy and 'me' time so we are more than happy to arrange a private room upon request when you book.