The Photogenic Wildlife Highlights of Ethiopia – With Oliver Smart

Tour Introduction

16 Days from $7,492 per adult. Prices based on rates applicable at the time of costing which may vary. Please ask for a definitive quote

This expert-led small group tour concentrates on the unique, unusual and photogenic wildlife and landscapes that set Ethiopia apart from the rest of Africa. Ethiopia is truly a photographer’s dream destination with many of its highlight mammal and bird species, surprisingly tolerant of people. There will be an emphasis in this group tour on photography and tuition in addition to observing Ethiopia’s magnificent and varied wildlife including its mammals, birds, reptiles and other fauna and flora.

The tour is suitable for those interested in observing wildlife at a leisurely pace as well as keen and amateur photographers.

It will be jointly led by award-winning wildlife photographer, ornithologist and naturalist Oliver Smart and local wildlife expert Daniel Million who will both help you make the most of the many photographic opportunities. Most of the pictures in this itinerary were taken by Oliver on his 2019 tour, which will give you some idea of his abilities and the sightings that are possible. His humour, knowledge and experience will help you gain maximum enjoyment and results from this exciting adventure.On the 2019 tour 35 species of mammal and 320 species of bird were recorded.

Highlights on the trip will include sitting among “herds” of gelada baboons (sometimes only a few feet away) as they feed and chatter on the montane grasslands of the Simien Mountains. We should also see the impressive Walia ibex, agile klipspringer and soaring lammergeiers and croaking thick-billed ravens here all against a backdrop of jaw-dropping scenery.

Next comes the Bale Mountains, inhabited by the world’s rarest canid and Africa’s most endangered carnivore; the beautiful Ethiopian wolf. Seeing this elegant predator hunting giant mole rats on the moonlike Sanetti Plateau is an experience to savour. The Afro-alpine moorlands and lush lichen-clad cloud forests of the Bale Mountains are also home to many other endemic species including the mountain nyala, Bale monkey, serval, crowned eagle, blue-winged goose and Bale horned chameleon to name just a few.

In the Great Rift Valley Lakes of Awassa and Langano we can enjoy excellent photography with the confiding water birds including vast flocks of flamingos, plus pelicans, kingfishers and hippos. While our final destination; the Awash Valley will give us a chance to experience a more typical East African savannah and wildlife. Here the highlights include the elegant Beisa oryx, Soemmerring’s gazelle, warthog, Olive baboons, spotted hyenas, five species of bustard, some exquisite bee-eaters, crocodiles and huge leopard tortoises. Ethiopia’s fascinating ancient and more recent history and unique cultures also combine with its wildlife to make for an unforgettable adventure in one of Africa’s most diverse countries.

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Full Itinerary

Price from $7,492 per adult. Based on sharing double / twin rooms
Day 1
Addis Ababa

Arrive Addis Ababa. On arrival we transfer to the hotel for breakfast, lunch and some time to freshen up and rest. Later we return to the airport to take our flight to Gondar. We then transfer north to the Simien Lodge for the night.

Staying at Simien Lodge . Includes All Meals.

Day 2
Simien Mountains

Today we can enjoy our first full day to explore the Simien Mountains National Park. In the morning we can perhaps enjoy our first encounters with geladas, highland birds and some magnificent scenery.

One of the highlights of the day will be spending more time with the habituated geladas (or bleeding-heart baboons) as they graze the montane grasslands of the park, offering exceptional photographic opportunities.

The volcanic Simien Mountains date back nearly 20 million years and offer some of the most rugged and dramatic mountain landscapes in all of Africa. The altitude of most areas we will visit will be around 3,300 and 3,500 meters above sea level.

Staying at Simien Lodge . Includes All Meals.

Day 3
Simien Mountains

Today we have another full day to explore the Simien Mountains National Park and visit the remote Chennek Valley.

Here we will hopefully find the agile endemic Walia ibex which are surprisingly at home on the craggy ledges of the mountains. We will also be on the lookout for the impressive lammergeier alongside numerous other species of birds of prey, croaking thick-billed ravens and nimble Ethiopian klipspringers.

Staying at Simien Lodge. Includes All Meals.

Day 4

This morning we will have a last morning of wildlife photography and viewing close to the lodge. Perhaps joining the geladas on the grasslands as they feed in the early morning sun light.

Later we will return to the historic town of Gondar to visit the seven castles of Fasil Ghebbi, built by Emperor Fasilides in the 17th Century and the nearby Fasilides Bath. This is also a good spot for birdlife perhaps revealing the greyish eagle owl.

Staying at Haile Resort Gondar. Includes All Meals.

Day 5
Gondar and Addis Ababa

This morning we will visit the impressive Debre Birhan Selassie Church; one of the most beautiful churches in all of Ethiopia with intricate ceiling and wall paintings dating back to the 17th Century.

Later we transfer to the airport to take our flight back to Addis Ababa. In the afternoon we visit the National Museum to see the Lucy exhibit which houses the remains of one of the oldest humans ever discovered. In the evening we will enjoy a special dinner at a traditional Ethiopian Folk Restaurant with live music and dance performances.

Staying at Getfam Hotel. Includes All Meals.

Day 6
Bale Mountains National Park

Today we will transfer to the airport for our flight to Goba on the edge of the Bale Mountain National Park. We will then transfer to our lodge enjoying the wildlife and landscapes as we travel. This may include our first sightings of Ethiopian wolf and giant mole rat on the Sanetti Plateau.

Staying at Bale Mountain Lodge. Includes All Meals.

Day 7
Bale Mountains National Park

Today we will explore the magical high-altitude moorlands of the Sanetti Plateau with a packed lunch.

During the day, we will explore this unique habitat on safari style drives along the highest all-weather road in Africa. This is the best place to see one of Ethiopia’s most charismatic species; the beautiful and iconic Ethiopian wolf.

With luck we will hopefully watch and photograph these highly endangered wolves hunting giant mole rats. The locally endemic Stark’s or Ethiopian highland hare and birds such as blue-winged geese, spot-breasted lapwing, Rouget's rail, ruddy shelduck and abundant birds of prey will be among the other highlights here.

In the late afternoon we can perhaps explore some of the dense Harenna Forest below the lodge in search of secretive forest dwelling mammals and reptiles like the Bale two-horned chameleon.

Staying at Bale Mountain Lodge. Includes All Meals.

Day 8
Bale Mountains National Park

Today we could perhaps start with a short walk or drive in the Harenna Forest, looking for the endemic Bale monkey, crowned eagles and giant forest hogs. We may then return to the Plateau for more wolf sightings and photography and continue to the eerie juniper forests and Gaysay grasslands of Dinsho.

Here we can enjoy close encounters with the magnificent mountain nyala and bohor reedbucks, duikers, olive baboons and warthogs feeding in the open grasslands. If lucky we could also spot a serval hunting rodents in the rough grassland and find the rare Abyssinian long-eared owl in the old trees.

Staying at Bale Mountain Lodge. Includes All Meals.

Day 9
Bale Mountains National Park

After a last morning walk in the local forest we will transfer back across the Sanetti Plateau and Gaysay Grasslands wildlife viewing as we go to Lake Awassa. The journey will take most of the day but passes through stunning scenery and different agricultural lands.

We will arrive at the hotel in the afternoon and can enjoy some birdwatching and photography in the lodge grounds.

Staying at Haile Resort Awassa. Includes All Meals.

Day 10
Lake Awassa

This morning we will visit the local fish market at Lake Awassa for the spectacle of hundreds of marabou storks gathering only a few feet from us as they wait for leftovers. African fish eagles, jacanas, hamerkops, red-knobbed coots and a variety of other exciting water birds join the storks.

We will then explore the fringes of Lake Awassa and its nearby woodland habitats for a range of birdlife and colobus and grivet monkeys.

Staying at Haile Resort Awassa. Includes All Meals.

Day 11
Lake Awassa and Abijatta-Shalla

Another morning for photography and wildlife viewing on the bird filled shores of Lake Awassa.

Later in the day we drive south and visit Abijatta-Shalla National Park for its huge flocks of flamingos, ostriches, Grant's gazelle and thermal springs among other highlights. In the evening we will drive on to our remote lodge on the shore of Lake Langano.

Staying at Hara Langano Lodge. Includes All Meals.

Day 12
Lake Langano

Early morning birdwatching and photography around the lodge grounds where specialities such as blue-cheeked bee-eater, yellow-fronted parrot, silvery-cheeked hornbill and bare-faced go-away birds can be seen. The lake itself supports many water birds and a group of hippos can also be seen wallowing in front of the lodge each morning.

In the afternoon we will take a leisurely boat trip around Lake Langano for a different perspective on the Lake and some close sightings of water birds. In the evening we could take a night walk for nocturnal species.

Staying at Hara Langano Lodge. Includes All Meals.

Day 13
Lake Langano

Another morning for leisurely wildlife viewing and photography from the lodge. Later in the day we will transfer to the Awash National Park, stopping at various habitats along the way such as Lake Ziway for pelicans and black crowned cranes and maybe roosting sites for owls and nightjars. We will arrive at the lodge in the late afternoon with time for a short walk.

Staying at Awash Falls Lodge . Includes All Meals.

Day 14
Awash National Park

Today we can explore the very different landscapes and fauna and flora of the Awash National Park. Here we can find a more typical East African savannah landscape and enjoy morning and afternoon safari drives to the Illala Sala Plains.

This area of semi-arid bush and grassland supports a small but important population of the elegant beisa oryx as well as small herds of Soemmerring’s gazelle, shy lesser kudu, Salt’s dik dik, bat-eared fox, scrub hare, warthog, olive baboon and a staggering diversity of birds.

Among the bird highlights are the Arabian and kori bustards and dark-chanting goshawk. Some very large Leopard tortoises are also a regular sight on the dry plains and there are great views to be had of the Awash Gorge too. In the evening we will visit the base of Mount Fentale to watch spotted hyenas emerge at sun set and rock hyraxes den for the night.

Staying at Awash Falls Lodge . Includes All Meals.

Day 15
Awash National Park

This morning we could perhaps take a pre-breakfast walk around the lodge grounds next to the thundering Awash waterfall.

Nile crocodiles and monitor lizards sun themselves on the riverbanks here and inquisitive grivet and Guereza colobus monkeys frequent the fig trees nearby.
We have a final morning and early afternoon to enjoy the wildlife of this little visited National Park on gentle walks and safaris.

In the late afternoon we will return to Addis Ababa and to our hotel for day use of a room and a farewell dinner. Later we transfer to the airport for departure.

Staying at Getfam Hotel. Includes All Meals.

Day 16
Depart Addis Ababa

Today depart Addis Ababa on your internatiional flight home.

Includes No Meals.

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Tour Accommodation

Simien Lodge

Haile Resort Hawassa

Haile Resort Gondar

Getfam Hotel

Route Map

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Getfam Hotel: 8.905084, 38.781889
Awash Falls Lodge: 8.842747, 40.012845
Bale Mountain Lodge: 6.717658, 39.727922
Hara Langano Lodge: 7.527194, 38.791105
Haile Resort Hawassa: 7.079606, 38.479095
Simien Lodge: 13.211777, 37.977824
Haile Resort Gondar: 12.618533, 37.469930

Departure Dates

Tour Dates
Adult Price
Single Supp

Travel Information

Are International Flights Included?

No. Please contact us for a quote if required.

Flight Info:

There are direct flights from London Heathrow with Ethiopian Airlines. Flights are 7 hours 45 minutes.

Best Visited:

November to December

Ian Loyd

Area Specialist

Add a visit to Lalibela’s incredible rock hewn churches at the beginning or end of the tour. There are daily flights from Addis Ababa direct to Lalibela.

With the majority of the key wildlife species that could be encountered there should be good opportunities for photography, although please note that some patience, perseverance and luck will always be a factor with any photography. For most of the wildlife on this trip a full-frame DSLR or mirrorless camera with a telephoto lens between 300-600 mm or a powerful zoom or bridge camera will produce the best results. Ethiopia has some superb panoramic landscapes so a wide-angle lens is also ideal if you have one and there will also be smaller wildlife that a macro lens will be most useful for too. A tripod can be very useful in some situations but is not that necessary for most wildlife photography on the tour.

If you have any questions regarding this tour, please feel free to contact me on +44 (0)1803 866965