Simply stated, David Erterius is an exceptional individual: patient, kind, diligent, and hard-working almost to a fault. He was ever-conscious of his clients’ welfare, with remarkable birding skills which he relentlessly employed to ensure that all members of the group regularly saw, identified and enjoyed each species, including mammals and reptiles.
On this brief yet exciting Ethiopia birding tour, we will commence our adventures at the ancient city of Gondar, famed for its spectacular and unique medieval castles. We will then continue to the lofty heights of the awe-inspiring Simien Mountains National Park, which holds the only population of the rare and magnificent Walia Ibex. Here we can also expect a bounty of Ethiopian birds as well as a wonderful selection of very scarce and range-restricted mammals, including huge troops of gentle and ridiculously confiding Geladas and, with a bit of luck, Ethiopian Wolf – the world’s rarest canid – to name just some of the many potential highlights!
The spectacular scenery, fascinating history, diverse cultures and astonishing wildlife make this a really superb finale to one of the most thoroughly enjoyable destinations in Africa!
Bearded Vulture, Thick-billed Raven, Wattled Ibis, Rouget’s Rail, Chestnut-naped Francolin, Spot-breasted Lapwing, White-billed Starling, Red-billed Chough, White-collared Pigeon, Banded Barbet, White-fronted & Rüppell’s Black Chat, White-winged Cliff Chat, Abyssinian Catbird, White-backed Black Tit, Abyssinian Longclaw, Yellow-rumped & Brown-rumped Seedeater, Ethiopian Siskin
Ethiopian Wolf, Gelada, Walia Ibex
afro-alpine moorland with Giant Lobelias, rocky slopes, cliffs
temperate in highlands, rain is not expected
spectacular scenery, the highest hotel in Africa, medieval castles of Gondar, Simien Mountains
Day 1: Arrival in Addis Ababa
Today is essentially an arrival day in the capital city of Addis Ababa for those not continuing on from the Ethiopia Highlights tour. For anyone who does arrive during the day, it is possible to enjoy some very rewarding birding around the grounds of the hotel where we will be staying tonight. Noteworthy species that may be seen this afternoon include White-backed Black Tit, Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher, Brown-rumped Seedeater, Tacazze Sunbird, White-collared Pigeon and a host of raptors overhead, including perhaps Egyptian and Hooded Vultures.
Day 2: Fly from Addis Ababa to Gondar and drive to Simien Mountains National Park
We will leave in the morning for our domestic flight to Gondar, gateway to the world-famous Simien Mountains National Park; home to the critically endangered Walia Ibex, super troops of Gelada and a host of other spectacular wildlife.
Gondar is known as the “Camelot of Ethiopia.” This city was founded by Emperor Fasilidas around 1635 and is famous for its medieval castles and ornately decorated churches – in particular, Debra Berhan Selassie. Gondar is probably the most immediately impressive of Ethiopia’s major ex-capitals and is now one of the country’s largest cities. Flanked by twin mountain streams at an altitude of more than 2,300m (7,600ft), Gondar commands spectacular views over farmlands to the gleaming waters of Lake Tana 35 kilometres (22 miles) to the south. This marvellous city really is a sight to behold, and the ancient castle-like structures give a sense of the city’s age and the kind of civilisation that once occupied the area.
Once in Gondar, we will make our way to the highest hotel in Africa, situated at an altitude of 3,260m (10,800ft). This comfortable lodge will be our overnight stop before we head into the mountains of the Simien Mountains National Park. This World Heritage Site, with its jagged skyline and blocks of volcanic core rock, was once described as a place where “Greek gods play chess” – and in the next few days of our Ethiopia birding tour, we will see for ourselves just how apt this statement happens to be!
Days 3 & 4: Excursions to Simien Mountains National Park (Chenek)
These will prove to be an exciting two days of our Ethiopia birding tour as we explore the rugged Simien Mountains in search of the magnificent Walia Ibex and Gelada. The ibex, a large goat-like creature, sports a monstrous set of horns and inhabits the rugged rocky and grassy slopes of these seldom-visited mountains. The numbers of these animals are gradually recovering now that they are protected and the population is estimated to be approximately 500 animals, up from 200 in the late 1990s. Troops of Geladas, up to four hundred strong, also thrive here and we will spend quality time observing these unique and fascinating primates. With long woolly capes, tasselled tails, bare red chests and an arrogant swagger, these last relics of once widespread grass-eating baboons are now endemic to the highlands of Ethiopia. The Geladas roost on the massive cliffs that dominate the park, but spend their days hunched over the grasses that form the bulk of their diet. Despite sporting massive canines (the largest in proportion to body size of any mammal!), Geladas are non-aggressive and, with patience, we sometimes find ourselves in and amongst a large troop as they concentrate on their foraging. We may also be treated to a formidable lip-flip – the imposing grimace put on by Geladas to reveal their impressive upper jaw and canines, but more likely we will be completely ignored as they go about their daily business. Interestingly, Geladas are extremely vocal, being able to pronounce all nouns and five vowels!
Other attractions in the area include several species of endemic birds such as Rouget’s Rail, Erckel’s and Chestnut-naped Francolins, Spot-breasted Lapwing, Thick-billed Raven, Abyssinian Longclaw, White-billed Starling, Ethiopian Siskin and the rare and localised Ankober Serin, as well as an important population of the spectacular Bearded Vulture.
Ethiopian Wolf may also be found parading around this beautiful landscape, although they have suffered due to various diseases passed on from domestic dogs and are usually only restricted to more remote areas of the park. Serval, the Menelik’s sub-species of Bushbuck, Klipspringer, Guereza, Abyssinian sub-species of Rock Hyrax and Golden Jackal are further mammalian possibilities.
Day 5: Simien Mountains National Park to Gondar
We will spend some of the morning further exploring the mountains, after which we will then undertake the drive back to Gondar, stopping for any interesting sightings and photographic opportunities en route.
Whilst in Gondar, we will no doubt encounter a variety of other special Ethiopian birds; possibilities include Black-winged Lovebird, Hemprich’s Hornbill, Banded Barbet, Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher, Brown-rumped Seedeater and much besides.
Day 6: Fly from Gondar to Addis Ababa and depart
Following some final exploration of the Gondar area, we will fly back to Addis Ababa where we will have time to explore some of the historical sites and museums in the city. Fine linen, traditional Coptic Christian artefacts, wooden carvings and scripts are some of the many popular Ethiopian souvenirs that are available here. We will then transfer to Bole International Airport after a farewell dinner to catch our international flights home.
What our clients say about tours to Ethiopia
- CH & BH, Ethiopia 2017
I wanted to say what a fantastic trip we had! The tour was well organised, we didn’t have to change accommodation every day, the vehicles and drivers were excellent (after one of them was replaced) and we saw a great variety of habitats. Markus and Rich were absolutely wonderful, and very patient with everyone in the group. We were a diverse group in terms of age/energy levels, experience travelling in developing countries, and birding skills and knowledge. Yet Markus and Rich worked hard to get everyone on to as many birds and mammals as possible, and catered for everyone’s needs extremely well. They are both extremely professional, yet also a lot of fun and we had some truly hilarious moments, especially on our night drives. How do you choose between looking at an Aardwolf and an Aardvark when they are both in view at the same time? And who could forget Markus’s dying calf imitation to lure in Spotted Hyenas? I must say the impressive mammal list was quite unexpected. Ethiopia is truly an amazing destination – and certainly rivals birding in Southern Africa.
I look forward to travelling with Rockjumper in the future and have been singing your praises to birders here in Canberra.Ethiopia Endemics – Lashko
Wayne and Markus are both fantastic guides and the trip was spectacular!! I would definitely travel with Rockjumper again in the future and look forward to the possibility of doing so!DB, Ethiopia I 2013
Glen Valentine is an asset to any birding group with his excellent knowledge of birds and his friendly outgoing personality. He is helpful to both experienced and inexperienced birders alike. I would not hesitate to join another birding tour where he was leader or co-leader as I know from experience that it would be a thoroughly enjoyable and informative tour.RD, Ehtiopia