Bird watching in Ethiopia – Bale Mountains National Park
Bird watching in Ethiopia – Bale Mountains National Park
Bird Watching information
Birdlife in Ethiopia: for birders interested in the country to plan a visit
Why would a birder want to visit Ethiopia?
Ethiopia is a vibrant & exciting bird-rich country that has become one of Africa`s leading birding destinations since in recent years. More than 800 species of birds, of which 29 are endemic to Ethiopia. Ethiopia has a number of peculiar mammals, a scenic diversity and cultural uniqueness.
For birders, the most popular access to really high altitude is the Bale Mountains National Park, situated in the southern part of the south-eastern highlands. Here the highest all-weather road in Africa crosses the Sanetti plateau (Tulu Demtu: 4377m), allowing easy access to alpine moorlands, grasslands and lakes.
Endemic Birds in Bale Mountains: wild ibis, Blue winged goose, Rouget’s Rail, Spot-breasted Plover, white-collared pigeon, yellow-fronted parrot, Black-winged Lovebird, Banded barbet, Golden-Back Woodpecker, Abyssinian Long claw, White-Backed black tit, Black-headed forest Oriole, Thick-Billed Raven, Black Headed Siskin….
Bird watching in Ethiopia – Bale Mountains National Park
Ethiopia -a must-visit destination for birdwatchers!
Program: Bird Watching
Tour Code: Birdlife 01
Duration: 19 Nights (20 Days)
Transportation: Land (4WD)
Tour starts: Addis Ababa
Tour Ends: Addis Ababa
Day1: Arrival/ Addis Ababa: Arrive in the evening & transfer to Ghion Hotel, situated in the centre of Addis Ababa – Addis Ababa
Day2: Debre Libanos: By sunrise birding in the extensive gardens of the hotel. The Garden of Ghion Hotel is a great bird sighting area. Breakfast after birding and then drive north in 4WD. first birding stop on the Sululta Plains where a number of species including the endemic Erlanger’s Lark and Ethiopian Siskin, Red-breasted Wheatear, Red-throated Pipit … could be seen. Then we will be headed up to Debre Libanos, famous for its monastery. On the way, around a large fig tree is particularly good yielding Banded Barbet, Black- winged Lovebird and Rüppell’s Black Chat, (all endemics), African Paradise-Flycatcher (with the long white tail feathers) Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Red billed Firefinch and Yellow-bellied Waxbill.
In the late afternoon continue to the Ethio-Germany Park Hotel. Here you can relax on the edge of the escarpment & while enjoying, see the spectacular views and the many Fan-tailed Ravens, Rüppells, Hooded and Griffon Vultures and Lanner Falcon. Overnight – at Ethio-Germany Park Hotel – nearby Debre Libanos
Day3: Debre Libanos Debre Birhan– Ankober: On the road, heading south via Maka Turi (Muketuri) and then east and north onto the escarpment above the hot and dry Jemma Valley. Targeting bird on the escarpment is the rare Harwood’s Francolin, Erckel’s Francolin, Fox Kestrel, Abyssinian Black Wheatear, Woodchat Shrike, Black-billed Wood-hoopoe, Variable Sunbird, Woolly-necked Stork, Somali and Greater Blue-eared Starling, Speckle-fronted Weaver and Tawny Eagle. Lunch in Debre Birhan and drive to Ankober for endemic Ankober Serin. Overnight – Lodge – Ankober
Day4: Ankober – Addis Ababa- Nazret: Early Moring, seeable birds from the lodge to the downwards include Fan-tailed Raven, Tropical Boubou, Brown Woodland-Warbler, Red-rumped Swallow, White-cheeked Turaco… then drive down into the beautiful rift valley below the Ankober escarpment, stopping to watch possible birds: Blackcap, African Grey-headed Woodpecker, Hemprich’s Hornbill, Eurasian Golden Oriole, endemic Yellow throated Seed-eater, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver, Yellow-breasted Barbet, Boran Cisticola, Little Rock Thrush, Whinchat, White-bellied Go-away-Bird, Vitelline Masked Weaver, Abyssinian White-eye…. Drive back to Addis Ababa and drive to Adama/ Nazret (East Ethiopia). Overnight – chosen hotel – Nazret
Day5: Nazret – Afar region: Breakfast and drive east along the main trucking route that takes traffic ultimately to Djibouti and the Gulf of Aden. Stop nearby Mount Fantalé for targeting bird – Sombre Rock-Chat, Shining Sunbird, Red-fronted Warbler. Bristle-crowned Starling …. walk down to the shore line of Lake Beseka for many water-birds – Marabou, Yellow-billed and Saddle-billed Stork, Pink-backed Pelican, Gull-billed and White-winged Tern, Spur-winged Lapwing, Kittlitz’s and Common Ringed Plover, Ruff, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Red-billed Oxpeckers on the back of animals, Orange-bellied Parrot nearby…
Continue driving to Bilen Lodge – sitting in the arid Afar country north-east of the Awash National Park. Birding in the close vicinity of Bilen Lodge & nearby included Abyssinian Roller, Superb Starling, White-headed Buffalo-Weaver, Dark-Chanting Goshawk, Shining, Nile Valley Sunbird, Rüppell’s Starling, White-browed Coucal, Four-banded and Chestnut-bellied Sand grouse , African Pygmy-Kingfisher….Overnight – Bile Lodge
Day 6: Around Bilen lodge: Walk along Awash River & seeable birds: Senegal Thick-Knee, Red-fronted Tinkerbird, Grey-headed Batis, Gabar Goshawk, Slender-tailed Nightjars, Red-billed Quelea, Cut throat Finch, Yellow-necked Spur fowl. Overnight – Bile Lodge
Day7: Awash National Park: drive to Awash National Park. Seeable birds in the park: White-bellied Bustard, Buff-crested and Kori Bustard, Northern White-crowned Shrike, Somali Fiscal, Tawny Eagle, Rosy-patched Bush shrike, ticked the Madagascar Bee-eater, Black-billed Barbet, Green Pigeon, Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill, throat Finch, Yellow-necked Spur fowl, birding & wildlife along the Filwuha Springs and Ilala/ Sala plains. Overnight – at Awash falls Lodge – Awash Park
Day8: Awash National Park – Koka – Shashemene – Wondo Genet: drive west back to Adama and south towards the Rift Valley lakes. Birding on route, we stop at Lake Koka. Here from White-faced Ducks and numerous other water birds are seeable. In Lake Koka, birds are relatively tame, probably because the people do not hunt them. Northern Pintail, Garganey, Northern Shoveller, Lesser Jacana, Black-tailed Godwit, Bruce’s Green Pigeon are on/nearby to name but a few…. Drive to Shashemene then to Wondo Gent. On the way, Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill, Thick-billed Raven …. Could be seen. Overnight at t the Wabi Shebelle Hotel – Wondo Genet, where the rooms are surrounded by pleasant gardens.
Day 9: Wondo Genet Forest – Dinsho – Bale Goba : We will set off at 6am on foot up the mountain behind the hotel to see some good birds such as Red-shouldered Cuckoo shrike, Doubled-toothed Barbet, Hooded Vulture, Spotted and African Dusky Flycatcher, Ethiopian Oriole, Spotted Creeper, African Cuckoo and Northern Puffback, the Yellow-fronted Parrot.
After breakfast at the hotel we will be heading back to Shashemene and then east to Dinsho – juniper forest at higher altitudes. On the way & in Dinsho Juniper Forest (headquarter of Bale Mountains National Park) birds would be: Red-billed Chough, water birds including Rouget’s Rail, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, Abyssinian Long-eared Owl, and mammals: Mountain Nyala , Menelik’s Bushbuck, Bohor, Reedbuck. Then continued to Bale Goba and birding on Gaysay open Plains. Overnight at Wabi Shebelle Hotel – Bale Goba
Day 10: Bale Mountains National Park: We will spend the day in the Bale Mountains National Park and along its access route, driving initially through plantations, then a steep climb through patches of indigenous forest until we entered the park. The terrain of the Sanetti Plateau is afro-alpine moorland, dotted with marshes and ponds. Seeable birds of the Bale Mountains National Park are Moorland Chat, the endemic Spot-breasted Lapwing, Chestnut-naped Francolin, Golden Eagle, Rouget’s Rail, Ruddy Shelduck, Augur Buzzard, Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle, Thekla Lark, and Lanner Falcon. Also Ethiopian Meadow Rat, Starck’s Rabbit, Abyssinian Wolves, Bale Monkey in Harenna Forest (endemic) are often to be seen. Overnight at Wabi Shebelle Hotel – Bale Goba
Day 11: Sof Omar Caves: Very early start before daybreak! We will drive to east of Bale Goba through vast agricultural lands to the valley containing the remote Sof Omar caves, one of the deepest caves in the world, formed by the Web River cutting through the limestone formations on its way to the Genale River east of the Bale Mountains. The caves are named after Sheikh Sof Omar, a 12th century Muslim leader who used them as a refuge, and they remain an important site of pilgrimage for Ethiopian Muslims. More importantly for birders is one of the most reliable sites for one of Ethiopia’s rarest endemics, Salvadori’s Seedeater (Serin). And Most of the birds to be seen in Sof Omar are Lesser Kestrel, Dwarf Ravens (Somali Crow), Brown-tailed Rock-Chat (one of the target species), Upcher’s Warbler, Lilac-breasted Roller, Rosy-patched Bush shrike, Slate-colored Boubou, African Citril, Bush Petronia, Pygmy Batis, Red-billed Hornbill. And mammal sightings included Ethiopian Rock Hyrax, Yellow-spotted Hyrax and Vervet Monkey.
On the return trip, we will stop and walk along the road, birding in the trees and shrubs: Irania (White-throated Robin), Marico Sunbird, Salvadori’s Seedeater. Overnight at Wabi Shebelle Hotel – Bale Goba
Day 12: On the way to Negelle: We will be heading south through the Bale Mountain National Park at dawn, seeing expected birds: Chestnut-naped and Moorland Francolins and Rouget’s Rail en route. As we descend from the Sanetti Plateau the vegetation becomes thicker and taller until the road bisected the Harenna Forest. We will stop on the way for breakfast. Bird species that can be seen include Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, African Dusky Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Kite, African Pygmy-Kingfisher, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Rufous-breasted Wryneck, Thrush Nightingale, Common Nightingale, Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Northern Black Flycatcher, Slate-colored Boubou, Black-billed Barbet, Double-toothed Barbet, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Grey-headed Batis, Bronze Mannikin, African Paradise-Flycatcher. Travelling again, along the roadside, possible birding includes: the Northern Carmine Bee Eater, the Northern White-crowned Shrike, Grey-headed Kingfisher, African Thrush, African Grey Hornbill, Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco. Overnight – at chosen hotel – Negelle
Day 13: Negelle – Yabello: Drive from Negelle to Yabello, birding nearby & on the way to Yabello: seeable birds are: Sidamo Lark, Somali Short-toed Lark, Plain-backed Pipit, , Shelley’s Starling, Shelley’s Rufous Sparrow, White-crowned Starling, Broad-billed Roller, Purple Roller, Grey Kestrel, Egyptian Vulture, African White-winged Dove, Vulturine Guinea fowl, Stesemann’s Bush-Crow, Purple Roller, White-crowned Starling. Overnight – at chosen hotel – Yabelo
Day 14.Birding nearby Yabello: We go birding nearby Yabello for full day: Grey-headed Silverbill, Speke’s Weaver, Dodson’s Bulbul, Little Bee-eater, D’Arnaud’s Barbet, Red-and-yellow and Red-fronted Barbets, Foxy Lark, Grey-headed Social Weaver, Little Rock-Thrush, Levaillant’s Cuckoo, Magpie Starling, Tree Pipit, Shelley’s Starling, Bare-faced Go-Away-Bird, Variable Sunbird, Crimson-rumped Waxbill, Pale Prinia, Greater and Lesser Honey guide, Rey-headed Social Weaver, Red-billed Buffalo Weaver, Somali Crombec, Thrush Nightingale, Long-billed Pipit and Eurasian Reed-Warbler, Red-and-yellow Barbet…. Overnight – at chosen hotel – Yabelo
Day 15: Yabello – Dilla : We will be heading south to Dilla in search of birds: Pygmy Falcon, Pringle’s Puffback, Jacobin Cuckoo, Nubian Woodpecker, White-browed Scrub-Robin, Golden-breasted Starling, Scaly Chatterer, Bare-faced Thrush, Barred Warbler, Wood Warbler, Little Weaver, Crimson-rumped Waxbill and Little Sparrow hawk, Purple Grenadier, Somali Bunting, Levant Sparrow hawk harassing a Tawny Eagle overhead, Tiny Cisticola, Stresemann’s Bush-Crow, Short-tailed Lark. Overnight – chosen hotel – Dilla
Day 16: Awassa: Our next destination will be the lakeside town of Awassa. We will look for birds on the way : Double-toothed Barbet, Bronze Mannikin and a ‘lifer’ – the Black-and-white Mannikin….in Awassa , through the grounds to the shoreline of Lake Awassa, sightings for Western Banded Snake-Eagle , batis (Black-headed), Malachite Kingfisher, Pygmy Goose, White-backed Duck, Greenshank, Ruff, Pied Kingfisher, Greater Painted-Snipe, Gull-billed Tern, Yellow Wagtail, Red-billed Oxpeckers, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, the Blue-headed Coucal, the Spotted Creeper, Black-tailed Godwit. Another great sighting opportunity in Awassa is Gureza – White Columbus monkeys.………… Overnight – chosen hotel – Awassa
Day 17: Awassa – Addis Ababa: On route, we will stop to bird along the jetty at Lake Ziway: Marabou Stork, Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, African and Lesser Jacana, White-faced Duck, Hamerkop, Long-crested Eagle, African Fish Eagle, Red-billed Fire finch, Speckled Mouse bird, Klaas’s Cuckoo. We will stop in Debre Zeith (Bishoftu) for Bishoftu crater-lake (42km to Addis Ababa).
Back to Addis Ababa and enjoy a “cultural evening” at one of traditional Ethiopian restaurants with live songs and dances of the entertainers on stage. Overnight – at Ghion Hotel – Addis Ababa
Day 18: Fly to Lalibela: An early morning plane to Lalibela, 701 km north-west of Addis Ababa. The town, with its labyrinth of rock-hewn churches carved from compacted volcanic rock, is perched on a hillside at an altitude of 2630 meters in the Lasta province, and is a UNESCO world heritage site.
We will stay at the Seven Olives Hotel, the oldest hotel in Lalibela, which although situated in the centre of town, is surrounded by a woodland garden. The rooms are basic but good to watch birds: Village Weaver, Baglafetch Weaver, Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Greater Blue-eared Starling, Common Bulbul, Fan-tailed Raven, Hemprich’s Hornbill, Dusky Turtle-Dove, African Dusky Flycatcher, Tacazze Sunbird, Variable Sunbird, Red-billed Firefinch, Blue-cheeked Cordon-bleu, Eurasian Hoopoe……
After lunch, visit the North-western cluster of the rock-hewn churches. There are a number of theories as to when and how long it took to build all the churches in Lalibela, but local people claim they were all built in the 12th century during the rule of King Lalibela who had a vision to build the “new Jerusalem”. It is also noteworthy that all churches are still used as places of Ethiopian orthodox worship. These churches were built with tools like hammers and chisels. Again people around says they were built by an angel after a try by King Lalibela. No one has the proof how and within how long they were all done! Overnight – at Seven Olives Hotel – Lalibela
Day 19: Asheten Maryam
In the morning, climb the mountain to the Asheten Maryam monastery, which lies at an altitude of 4000m overlooking Lalibela and good sight for birding. Just above you will enjoy 360° views of the surrounding area.
Afternoon, visit the remaining churches at Lalibela, starting with the south-eastern cluster. Walking from here to the last and the most famous of the 11 rock-hewn churches in the town, the Bet Giyorgis (St. George’s Church), which stands discrete from the two main clusters, some of the group spotted. The target bird for the area, the White-billed Starling. Bet Giyorgis is a photographers’ dream. Overnight – at Seven Olives Hotel – Lalibela
Day 20: Addis Ababa – Departure
Morning, fly from Lalibela to Addis. Shopping in Addis and departure home in the evening (end of the tour)
Notice: This itinerary can be amended upon request