Day 1 Addis Ababa
Arrive in any time and make your way to the joining point hotel. A brief departure meeting will be held in the hotel reception area on Day 1 of your tour. Upon arrival look for information from your tour leader on the hotel bulletin board from regarding meeting time. Addis Ababa, founded more than a century ago, means 'New Flower' in Amharic. At an elevation of 2400m, the third highest capital in the world, the climate is pleasantly cool. The city mixes past and present. Statues from the imperial times coexist with placards from the former Marxist Regime and huge billboards advertising current activities in the city, modern businesses, as well as development organizations' goodwill projects. The streets are a mesh of expensive cars, old Russian “Lada model” taxis, as well as donkeys, sheep, goats, stray dogs and cats, medieval looking priests and modern dressed working class with mobile phones. Traditional mud houses stand not far from austere Fascist buildings and private-sector banks. The National Museum contains a wide array of Ethiopian historical artifacts focusing on the pre- Aksumite, Aksumite, Solomonic, and Gonderine periods. It also has a wide array of Ethiopian art ranging from 14th century parchment to 20th century canvas oil paintings by leading modern Ethiopian artists. The museum houses anthropological and archaeological displays including Lucy, the fossilized hominid discovered in 1974. Entoto, about 3000m above sea level, is the highest point of the capital and the seat of Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia. Here you enjoy panoramic views of the capital and the museum adjacent to the church of St. Mary. Merkato is the largest open market in Africa where you can find a bit of everything. The spice market is very interesting for its colourful displays and aromas. For some travellers one of the highlights of the Merkato is the “recycling market” where old tires are turned into sandals, corrugated iron is made into metal buckets, and olive oil tins from Italy are made into coffee roasters and scoops. Also interesting is the section where the narcotic leaf “chat” is sold.
Days 2-3 Arba Minch/Dorze Village (2B, 2D)
Estimated Travel Time: Day 2: 10 hours ; Day 3: 2 hours Approximate Distance: Day 2: 450 km ; Day 3: 30 km Depart early on our journey to Arba Minch, which lies a hefty 450 km south of Addis Ababa. Our full day’s travel will take us through some fantastic scenery, including the Wolayta farmlands, with views of the lush green hills and valleys. Arba Minch is set on an escarpment overlooking the Rift Valley Lakes, with Lake Abaya to the north and Lake Chamo to the south. The town's name in Amharic literally means "forty springs" that are found around the town. In the morning of Day 3, we take a relaxing boat ride on Lake Chamo, in Nechisar National Park, where you will see crocodiles famous for their huge size, hippos and water birds. After lunch in Arba Minch, we drive high into the Guge Mountains to spend the night with the Dorze people. They are famous for their beehive-shaped bamboo houses and products produced from the Enset plant. The Dorze people use ingenious terracing and have a unique traditional lifestyle with their colourfully woven cotton products.
Days 4-5 Konso/Mursi (1B, 1D)
Estimated Travel Time: Day 4: 3 hours ; Day 5: 4 hours Approximate Distance: Day 4: 85 km ; Day 5: 205 km We continue further south to Konso - a crossroads of the region, for a visit of the area with a local guide, including a stop at the local museum, and even a visit to the Konso chief's compound - which includes the family graveyard and house of mummies. Learn about local conservation efforts at Gersale village nursery, where you can choose to participate in a tree planting and reforestation programme. Learn about local conservation efforts at Gersale village nursery, where you can choose to participate in a tree planting and reforestation programme. The Konso are a rich agrarian culture. They construct ingenious terraces and walls that encircle their fields and villages for protection against livestock damage and flooding. On Day 5, we cross through Weito, a village where we may encounter the Cushitic-speaking Tsemay people, and on to Jinka before settling for the night at Mursi Campsite in Mago National Park. Jinka is a frontier town with a mix of northerners and southerners. The Ari people are found around Jinka, and also inhabit the northern border of Mago National Park. Ari villages have neat compounds, fertile and scenic land with coffee plantations. Ari have large livestock herds and produce large quantities of honey. Traditionally, the women wore skirts from the banana like plant, called Enset.
Days 6-8 Turmi (3B, 3L, 3D)
Estimated Travel Time: Day 6: 4 hours ; Day 7: 7 hours ; Day 8: (day trip) 2 hours Approximate Distance: Day 6: 115 km ; Day 7: 110 km ; Day 8: (day trip) 60 km Tea and coffee will be ready at 6:30am for early risers. We will have breakfast at 7 am, after which we will have a short visit to say goodbye to the Mursi while our tents are being dismantled and the vehicles packed. We depart for Key Afar market by 8:30 am stopping briefly in Jinka for coffee. The Key Afar market is frequented mostly by the Benna, Ari and Tsemai people. Local town officials and business people are also doing their shopping there. Upon parking we will proceed to the market. Your CEO will be stocking up on food supplies in the market with the cook for the next nights camping in Turmi. Anyone who wishes to accompany the CEO is free to do so, or you can move around the market on your own. The local guide will assist you also with your market visit. We will meet back at the hotel for lunch and then drive on to our Hamer campsite near to Turmi to set up camp for the next 3 nights. On Day 7 we take an excursion to visit the Karo people. Breakfast at 7 am and depart for Karo at 8 am. We will visit a Karo village called Kolcho. Lunch is back at our campsite after which our afternoon activity will depend on what is happening in the Hamer region. We will either visit a village and attend an Evangadi dance or if there is a bull jumping ceremony, we will attend that. On Day 8 coffee/tea will be available at 6:30 am for early risers. Breakfast will be at 7:30 and we depart for Dimeka market at 9:30 so you have some leisure time to walk along the river or relax. We will have a packed lunch in Dimeka and will proceed from there if there is a bull jumping ceremony going on. Your CEO will be purchasing food supplies in the market and anyone is welcome to join. There will also be a local guide here who can show you around. We will have dinner back at our campsite.
Day 9 Konso (1B, 1L)
Estimated Travel Time: Day 9: 6 hours Approximate Distance: Day 9: 197 km Tea and coffee will be ready at 6:30 am for early risers. Breakfast at 7am. Today is our excursion to the Dassanech people. We'll depart for Omorate at 8am. You must bring your passports for this excursion as they will be checked. We will cross the Omo River in dugout canoes to visit a Dassanech camp. The same principles of photo taking with the Mursi apply with the Dassanech. We will be coming back to our campsite for lunch. Pack vehicles, and depart at at 2 pm for Konso where we spend the night at Strawberry Fields Ecolodge.
Days 10-11 Yabelo/Yirgalem
Estimated Travel Time: Day 10: 2 hours ; Day 11: 8 hours Approximate Distance: Day 10: 105 km ; Day 11: 255 km We head west across various landscapes to the historic region of Yabelo, for a well deserved night in a hotel. We visit a camel market, Borena village and then pay a visit to the Yabelo National park to search for various species of antelope, warthog and zebra. On Day 11 we start our journey back north to Yirgalem. This is a driving day to make it to our traditional Sidamo style lodge. We'll be driving through Borena and Sidamo areas. Visit the stele yard at Tutu Fella.
Day 12 Addis Ababa (1B)
Estimated Travel Time: 8 hours Approximate Distance: 354 km Depart Yirgalem, with a stop at Lake Ziway for some bird watching. We'll also visit communities near the Lake that are using energy-saving stoves, decreasing deforestation of the area. Passing by the town of Shashemene, known for its Rastafarian community, we continue to the modern and cosmopolitan Addis Ababa, perched on the slopes of the Entoto Mountains, where your tour ends upon arrival in the late afternoon.