Often called “The Roof of
Africa”, Ethiopia is one of the continent’s top birding
destinations. The extensive and ancient highlands are among the
most distinctive bioregions, with about 30 bird specialties
confined to these scenically spectacular mountains (some shared
These include highly distinctive species in their own genera, such
as Abyssinian Catbird, Blue-winged Goose
and unusual Rouget’s Rail, plus a host of
other endemics, including Abyssinian Woodpecker,
the striking White-cheeked Turaco, local Harwood’s
Francolin, White-backed Tit, Yellow-fronted
Parrot, Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher, Abyssinian
Oriole, Wattled Ibis, Spot-breasted
Lapwing, White-collared Pigeon, White-winged
Cliff Chat, Rueppell’s Black Chat,
Abyssinian Longclaw, Black-winged Lovebird
and the highly localised Ankober’s Serin.
In the south the highlands slowly merge with lower-lying thornveld
and grasslands, and hold a number of rare endemics such as Prince
Ruspoli’s Turaco, Liben or Sidamo Lark,
Salvadori’s Serin, the unusual Streseman’s
Bush Crow and White-tailed Swallow.
And finally, the Great Rift Valley scythes the highlands down the
middle. Dotted with lakes and covered in arid savanna and grasslands
rich in bird species, more widespread north-east African species
combine with the local avifauna to create not only a distinctive
mix, but also a diverse one. The rift valley itself holds some local
specialities too, not least Sombre Rock Chat and
It is these special species that are the focus of our trip, with
the itinerary designed to give you a shot at seeing all the bird
for which Ethiopia is revered as a birding destination. The birding
is relatively easy and very diverse, the scenery forms probably
Africa’s most dramatic backdrops, and a number of special
mammals will be looked for, such as Mountain Nyala
and the Critically Endangered Ethiopian Wolf, making
Ethiopia a great all-round nature experience.
The detailed itinerary
below. Our trip in 2016 will add an extra day in the Rift Valley and another in the south, making the trip 18 days long.
1. Addis Ababa to Awash
Our Ethiopia trip kicks off with an early start from the country’s lofty capital, Addis Ababa (after breakfast with Brown-rumped Seedeater), as we make our way down into the lake-studded rift valley. We should have time to pause at Debre Zeyit for our first
waterbirds, before heading to our final destination at Awash, for some introductory dry-country birding.
2. Awash National Park
The bird-filled Awash National Park and surrounds will be the focus of our entire day’s birding. At the black lava flow at Lake Baseka we’ll search for the highly localised Sombre Rock Chat. The rest of the time will be spent scouring the grass plains and bushland for specials such as Arabian Bustard, Hartlaub’s Bustard, Red-winged Lark, Somali Fiscal and Yellow-breasted Barbet.
3. Awash to Wondo Genet
After some final early morning around Awash we’ll start our journey southwards, passing various crater lakes and wetlands, such as Lake Ziway and Langano, with surrounding acacia bush, and may see Northern Grey Tit and Black-billed Woodhoopoe. By the mid afternoon we hope to reach Wondo Genet, and spend the last few hours of light birding in some remnant forest patches near our accommodation, although the main birding here will be the following morning.
4. Wondo Genet to Goba
Early morning birding around Wondo Genet should turn up several endemics and specials, which may include Yellow-fronted Parrot, White-cheeked Turaco, Banded Barbet, Abyssinian Woodpecker, Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher, Abyssinian Oriole and perhaps the scarce Abyssinian Ground Thrush. We’ll then wind our way into the fabulous Bale Mountains, keeping our eyes peeled for Thick-billed Raven and Red-billed Chough, for two nights stay.
5 and 6. Bale Mountains National Park
The breathtaking scenery of the Bale Mountains provides a backdrop to some of Ethiopia’s best birding. We’ll spend a full day examining the alpine moorlands and Hagenia forests of the area, in search of Moorland Francolin, White-backed Tit, Abyssinian Catbird, Rouget’s Rail, Wattled Ibis, Blue-winged Goose, Spot-breasted Lapwing, White-collared Pigeon, Abyssinian Longclaw, Abyssinian Woodpecker and White-billed Starling. And of course we’ll be watching out for Ethiopia’s flagship mammal, the Critically Endangered Ethiopian Wolf!
7. Goba to Negele
With a long dive ahead of us we make an early start across the Sanetti Plateau and down through the Harenna Forest, searching
for any local specialities that
we may be missing. We’ll
pause at a few strategic river crossings in search of the charismatic Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco on our way south on to Negele.
The overgrazed Liben Plains near Negele holds perhaps Africa’s most threatened bird, the rare Liben/Sidamo Lark. This species will form the main focus of our visit, but we also hope to find several other specialties in the area, including Somali Short-toed Lark, White-crowned Starling and perhaps Salvadori’s Seedeater. Arid country birds may include Vulturine Guineafowl and Pringle’s Puffback..
9. Negele to Yavello
Today we continue further south into the arid country of southern Ethiopia, as we continue on to Yavello. We’ll visit some riverine habitats in search of the highly localised Juba Weaver and White- winged Dove and smart Black-bellied Sunbird, pause, if necessary at Arero forest, where one of the largest populations of Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco resides, and catch up with some more arid-country species, such as Red-naped Bushshrike, Three-streaked Tchagra and Foxy Lark.
10. Yavello to Awassa
The immediate surrounds of Yavello are home to two very special birds, the charismatic Streseman’s Bush Crow and little-known White-tailed Swallow. We’ll spend the early morning searching for these, before starting our return journey northwards, watching out for Shelley’s Starling at the roadside as we go. We break our journey at the bird-filled Lake Awasa.
11. Awassa to Debre Libanos
Today we continue northwards, back through Addis Ababa and to spectacular cliffs of Debre Libanos. Here we’ll search for the localised Erckel’s Francolin, White-winged Cliff Chat, Rueppell’s Black Chat and the unusual Gelada Baboon.
12. Debre Libanos, the Jemma Valley and on to Ankober
An early start from Debre Libanos will see us descend into the Jemma River valley, where after first light we’ll search for Harwood’s Francolin. We’ll also watch out for Hemprich’s
Hornbill, White-billed Starling, Black- billed Barbet and Foxy Cisticola, and if we are very fortunate, the scarce Red-billed Pytilia. We’ll
then continue onto the escarpment at Ankober.
13. Ankober to Addis Ababa
Yet another little-known endemic can be found in the vicinity of Ankober, the unobtrusive Ankober Serin. We’ll also stand the chance of searching for specials that we may be missing, including Erckel’s Francolin, Black-headed Siskin, Ethiopian Cisticola. We hope also to have time to make a short detour to Melka Ghebdu, where the localised Yellow-throated Serin occurs, before heading over the cultivated plains to Addis.
14. Gibe Gorge day trip
Our final day in Ethiopia will be spend exploring the Gibe Gorge area, about an hour’s drive west of Addis. Here we stand the chance again of finding the scarce Red-billed Pytilia, and may encounter Abyssinian Waxbill. It will also give us a chance to search for any other specials that we may have missed.
15 and 16. In 2016, we are increasing the length of the tour by two days, with an extra day added in the Rift Valley and another in the south, making the trip 18 days long.
For keen birders and mammal
enthusiasts. Designed to see as many as possible endemic birds,
but while on the walks we spend a lot of time looking for other
aspects of wildlife such as mammals. We can also customise any
itinerary to suit to the keen birder, the wildlife enthusiast
Many participants on our trips are amateur wildlife photographers.
And when we get excellent views of a bird or mammal, some time
is usually spent watching and photographing it. However, this
is not a photographic tour and once the majority of the people
have felt that they have absorbed the animal or bird to their
satisfaction, then we move on in search of the next encounter.
Thus, while the photographic opportunities
are very good, the group will only occasionally wait for somebody
who wants to spend even longer getting better photos.
A moderate degree of fitness is required. Please enquire if
you have any questions.
Warm to hot in the lowlands and cool in the forests and highlands
Basic to moderate comfort in local small hotes and guest houses.
We travel by minibus, bus or four wheel drive vehicle.
This depends on the specific tour. Please enquire.
Ethiopian endemics including Prince Ruspoli's Turaco, Spot-breasted Lapwing, Rouget's
Rail, Abyssinian Catbird, Stresemann's Bush Crow and Blue-winged
Ethiopia are excluded from the tour cost. For some examples of direct and
economical flights, please click here.
A Yellow fever vaccination is mandatory
if you come from an infected zone. If you are travelling from
a country not infected by the disease, travellers are still
advised to obtain a vaccination as yellow fever is a mosquito-borne
disease that is endemic in the region. So we recommend getting
the Yellow-fever vaccination, irrespective of where you are
coming from. It is useful for travel in most tropical countries
and lasts 10 years. Please consult your local travel clinic
if you have any concerns.
You can buy a visa on arrival in Addis
airport (20 USD in 2012). The office will be open.
Your booking can be secured with a booking form and deposit. You will receive confirmation and our tour information pack with practical information on what to expect and how to prepare for the tour. The balance
is due 150 days before the tour. Contact us to enquire about availability.
About Birding Africa
Birding Africa is a specialist birding tour company customising tours for both world listers and more relaxed holiday birders. We combine interests in mammals, butterflies, dragonflies, botany and other natural history aspects and will guide you to Africa's and Madagascar's most diverse birding destinations. Our guides' knowledge of African birds and birding areas is our greatest strength and together we have rediscovered species, shared exciting observations with the birding community and had a fun time exploring our home continent. We've even written two acclaimed guide books on where to find Southern Africa's and Madagascar's best birds. Birding is more than our passion, it's our lifestyle, and we are dedicated to making professional, best value trips filled with endemic species and unique wildlife experiences. Since 1997, we've run bird watching tours in South Africa and further into Africa for individual birders, small birding groups and top international tour companies. We've run Conservation Tours in association with the African Bird Club and work with and consult for a number of other top international tour companies and the BBC Natural History Unit.