Natural Beauty of EthiopiaWritten by Super User
Ethiopia is a land of natural contrasts, from the tops of the rugged Simien Mountains to the depths of the Danakil Depression, at 120 meters below sea level and one of the lowest dry land points on earth. The cornucopia of natural beauty that blesses Ethiopia offers an astonishing variety of attractions.
Afro-Alpine highlands soaring to around 4,300 meters, moors and mountains, the splendor of the Great Rift Valley, whitewater rivers, savannah teeming with game, giant waterfalls, dense and lush jungle — the variety of landscapes in Ethiopia is vast.
Ethiopia's many national parks enable the visitor to enjoy the country's scenery and wildlife, conserved in natural habitats, and offer opportunities for travel adventure unparalleled in Africa.
With 14 major wildlife reserves, Ethiopia provides a microcosm of the entire sub-Saharan ecosystem. Birdlife abounds, and indigenous animals from the rare walia ibex to the shy wild ass roam free, just as nature intended. Ethiopia, after the rains, is a land decked with flowers and with many more native plants than most countries in Africa. Among the many natural tourist attractions, only the principal ones are briefly listed below.
The Simien Mountains
The Simien Mountains present the most dramatic mountain scenery in Africa: Great volcanic plugs, formed some 40 million years ago and eroded over the aeons into fantastic crags, pinnacles, and flat-topped mountains, "the chess pieces of the Gods" as one writer described them, tower over precipitous gorges, river valleys, and plains stretching all the way to Eritrea. There are many peaks over 4000 meters, and Ras Dashen at 4620 meters is the highest in the country and the fourth highest in Africa. While trekking in the Simien Mountains, visitors can see the endemic Gelada Babboon (or "Bleeding Heart" Baboon), the Walia Ibex, the Simien Wolf, and the Rock Hyrax as well as endemic birds such as the Thick-billed Raven, Black-headed Siskin, White-collared Pigeon, Wattled Ibis, White-billed Starling, Spot-breasted Lapwing, White-backed Black Tit, Cruising Lammergeyers with their 3-meter wingspan, and Afro-Alpine meadows carpeted with flowers and punctuated by Giant Lobelia and the tall, spiky Kniphophia or "red hot pokers".
You can go in for a day, or go the whole hog and climb Ras Dashen. It is not a technical climb and no special climbing ability is needed. Mules can carry you and your luggage. The itinerary is for a longer expedition, but Grand Holidays Ethiopia Tours can easily arrange a shorter historic extension for those whose main interest is trekking.
The Blue Nile Falls (Tis Isat Falls)
The river Nile, over 800 km in length within Ethiopia and the longest river in Africa, holds part of its heart in Ethiopia. From Lake Tana, the Blue Nile, known locally as Abbay, flows for 800 km within Ethiopia to meet the White Nile in Khartoum to form the great river that gives life to Egypt and the Sudan. It has been said that the Blue Nile contributes up to 80% of the Nile's flow. The Blue Nile Falls are about an hour by tour bus from Bahar Dar. Known locally as Tis Isat "Smoking Water", the falls are over 400 m (1312 ft.) wide and 45 m (148 ft.) deep. Because of a series of dams near Bahar Dar, they aren't as impressive as they used to be. Nowhere, are the falls more spectacular than where they thunder over the cliff near Bahar Dar. Here millions of gallons of water cascade over the cliff face and into a gorge, creating spectacular rainbows, in one of the most awe-inspiring displays in Africa.
The Blue Nile Falls can be easily reached from Bahir Dar, and the Blue Nile Gorge, 225 km from Addis Ababa, can be enjoyed as part of an excursion from the capital.
The Sof Omar Cave
Sof Omar, a tiny Muslim village in Bale, is the site of an amazing complex of natural caves, cut by the Wab River as it found its way from the nearby mountains. The settlement, which is a religious site, is named after a local sheikh.
Armed with torches and an official map, visitors to Sof Omar make their way underground, far into the bowels of the earth, beside a subterranean stream, and there can see an extraordinary number of arched portals, high eroded ceilings, and deep echoing chambers.
Lake Abiata, Shalla National Park
The Rift Valley Lakes National Park, about 215 km south of Addis Ababa, is an ornithologist's paradise. As would be expected in a park surrounding two Rift Valley lakes, waterbirds predominate. Over 150 different species have been recorded here, including large numbers of great white pelicans, great and lesser flamingos, and sacred ibis. The forests are especially good for seeing unusual weavers and turacos.
The Yangudi, Rassa National Park
Although this park has little development and no tourist facilities, its dry grasslands are home to herds of the endangered Somali wild ass, as well as Grévy's Zebra, Hamadrya's Baboon and the Beisa Oryx. The park lies astride the Addis-Assab road, and consists of 4,730 sq. km of semi-desert and dry scrub. Grand Holidays Ethiopia Tours can arrange safari, birdwathcing and trekking programs to any of the above attractions in combination with other sites and attractions within the country, if desired.
The Awash National Park
Lying in the lowlands east of Addis Ababa and astride the Awash River, the Awash National Park is one of the finest reserves in Ethiopia. The Awash River, one of the major rivers of the horn of Africa, waters important agricultural lands in the north of Ethiopia and eventually flows into the wilderness of the Danakil Depression. The dramatic Awash Falls, where the river tumbles into a gorge, is a sight not to be missed. Awash National Park, surrounding the dormant volcano of Fantale, is a reserve of arid and semi-arid woodland and savannah, with riverain forests along the Awash River. Forty-six species of animals have been identified here, including the Beisa Oryx and Swayne's Heartebeest. The birdlife is prolific — many of the 392 species are endemic to Ethiopia — especially along the river and at nearby Lake Basaka. A special attraction is the beautiful clear pools of the Filwoha hot springs.
The Rift Valley
The Ethiopian Rift Valley, which is part of the famous East African Rift Valley, comprises numerous hot springs, beautiful lakes, and a variety of wildlife. The valley is the result of two parallel faults in the earth's surface between which, in distant geological time, the crust was weakened and the land subsided. Ethiopia is often referred to as the "water tower" of Eastern Africa because of the many rivers that pour off the high tableland. The Great Rift Valley's passage through Ethiopia is marked by a chain of seven lakes. Each of the seven lakes has its own special life and character and provides ideal habitats for the exuberant variety of flora and fauna that make the region a beautiful and exotic destination for tourists. Most of the lakes are suitable and safe for swimming and other water sports. Additionally, Lake Abiata and Lake Shalla are ideal places for bird watchers.
Most of the Rift Valley lakes are not fully exploited for touristic purposes except Lake Langano, where tourist-class hotels are built. The Rift Valley is also the site of numerous natural hot springs. These hot springs are highly valued for their chemical contents that produce therapeutic benefits. However, they are currently not fully utilized. In short, the Rift Valley is endowed with many beautiful lakes, numerous hot springs, a warm and pleasant climate, and a variety of wildlife. It is considered as one of the most ideal areas for the development of international tourism in Ethiopia.
The Omo National Park
The Omo National Park, one of the most beautiful national parks in Ethiopia with its 4,068 square kilometers of wilderness, is bordered by the Omo River and home to an amazing range of wildlife. Eland, buffalo, elephants, giraffes, cheetahs, lions, leopards, and Burchell's zebras are quite common, and 306 species of birds have been identified here.
The Nech Sar National Park
The broad grass plains of Nech Sar National Park lie 510 km south of Addis Ababa near the town of Arba Minch, between the lakes Abaya and Chamo. A wide variety of plain game roams freely amongst 514 square miles of savannah, dry bush, and groundwater forest, which are also the habitat of 188 recorded species of birds. In the far eastern part of the park, hot springs bubble to the surface. A backdrop of hills and mountains combine to make Nech Sar one of the most attractive national parks in Ethiopia.
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