Birding tours from Cape Town to Cameroon and Madagascar, with the only African Birding Specialist










    Cape Town Pelagics
    Cape Birding Route
    350 Photo Challenge

  photographs from a Birding Africa tour to Ethiopia (c) Callan Cohen
Detailed Itinerary, Ethiopia Endemics Tour

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 with Eritrea).

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 Yellow-throated Seed-eater.

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.

Rift Valley in Ethiopia on a Birding Africa tour (c) Callan Cohen
The Rift Valley © Callan Cohen.

Detailed Itinerary

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.

Northern Carmine Bee-eater in Awash National Park, photographed on a Birding Africa tour to Ethiopia © Callan Cohen.

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!

Of all carnovores, Ethiopian Wolf is the most endangered, with only 400 to 600 remaining. We make a special effort to search for them in the Bale mountains. Photo taken on a Birding Africa tour to Ethiopia (c) Callan Cohen
Of all carnivores, the Ethiopian Wolf is the most endangered, with only 400 to 600 remaining. We make a special effort to search for them in the Bale mountains. Photo taken on a Birding Africa tour to Ethiopia © Callan Cohen.

Rouget's Rail must be the tamest species of rail in the world! Photo taken on a Birding Africa tour to Ethiopia (c) Callan Cohen
Rouget's Rail must be the tamest species of rail in the world! Photo taken on a Birding Africa tour to Ethiopia © Callan Cohen.

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.

8. 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..

Liben Lark on a Birding Africa tour to Ethiopia (c) Callan Cohen
Liben Lark on a Birding Africa Ethiopia tour © Callan Cohen.

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.

The fearsome-looking Gelada Baboon is a peaceful grass-eater. Photo taken on a Birding Africa tour to Ethiopia (c) Callan Cohen
The fearsome-looking Gelada Baboon is a peaceful grass-eater. Photo taken on a Birding Africa tour to Ethiopia © Callan Cohen.

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.

photographs from a Birding Africa tour to Ethiopia (c) Callan Cohen

Practical tour information

Focus 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 or both.
Photography 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.
Fitness A moderate degree of fitness is required. Please enquire if you have any questions.
Climate Warm to hot in the lowlands and cool in the forests and highlands
Comfort Basic to moderate comfort in local small hotes and guest houses.
Transport We travel by minibus, bus or four wheel drive vehicle.
Group Size This depends on the specific tour. Please enquire.
Top birds Ethiopian endemics including Prince Ruspoli's Turaco, Spot-breasted Lapwing, Rouget's Rail, Abyssinian Catbird, Stresemann's Bush Crow and Blue-winged Goose.
Top mammals Ethiopian Wolf, Gelada Baboon, Hamadryas Baboon, Olive/Anubis Baboon, Black-and-white Guereza Colobus, Blue monkey, Sykes Monkey, Root-rat (Tachyoryctes sp), Common (Golden) Jackal, Black-backed Jackal, Bat-eared Fox, White-tailed Mongoose, Spotted Hyaena, Ethiopian Rock Hyrax, Mountain Nyala, Beisa Oryx
Flights Flights to/from Ethiopia are excluded from the tour cost. For some examples of direct and economical flights, please click here.
Yellow Fever 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.
Visa You can buy a visa on arrival in Addis airport (20 USD in 2012). The office will be open.
Booking 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.

For feedback from our guests, please see our Client Comments. Please also browse our Latest News and Trip Reports.

This website is maintained by Birding Africa.
Copyright © 1997-2015 Birding Africa

Please do not use any text, images or content from this site without permission.
Black Harrier photograph courtesy of Keith Offord.
© Birding Africa 1997-2015

[African Tailorbirding CC (CK2003/020710/23) trading as Birding Africa]
P.O. Box 22727, Scarborough, 7975, South Africa.


Home and News - Tour Calendar - Trip Reports - Client Comments - Conservation - About Us - Contact Us