It may seem unlikely that a country best known for its terrible famines should be an absolute treasure-trove of National Parks, but this is certainly the case with Ethiopia. This north-east African country has one of the most spectacularly diverse landscapes in all of Africa, ranging from her soaring Afro-Alpine highlands to the incredible Danakil Depression, which is actually 120m below sea level – one of the lowest land points on the planet. There are fresh-water lakes, wetlands and bone-dry deserts, even though the country is a natural water shed and the source of several important rivers. Ethiopia takes her ecology and wildlife really seriously too – there are no less than 12 National Parks as well as several more protected areas for the intrepid visitor to discover.
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First up and probably the best known is the Simien Mountains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a truly spectacular landscape of rugged peaks, deep valleys and precipices. This is where you can see several extremely rare animals including the Walia Ibex (a species of wild goat endemic to the region), Gelada Baboons and perhaps even the shy Simien Fox. At Bale National Park there is more endemic Afro-alpine scenery and the opportunity for some unsurpassed mountain walking and hiking.
Omo National Park is one of the most beautiful of Ethiopia’s wilderness reserves, bordered by the Omo River and home to a startling variety of wildlife, including 4 of the Big Five. The scenery is just amazing as the river carves its way through 350km of the African Rift Valley. Its path includes white-water rapids, soaring sheer canyons, hot-water springs, waterfalls and masses of wildlife - this is the African jungle of your dreams, and traversing this river is one of the world’s classic river adventures.
Awash National Park is another gem! The Park offers some of the best bird-watching opportunities in the country with over 400 recorded species to be crossed off your checklist. There is also a wealth of other wildlife to see here as well as hot-water springs and some sensational waterfalls.
These are just a few of Ethiopia’s unspoilt and truly wild and wonderful National Parks. Explore them at your leisure and then move on to visit some of this surprising country’s ancient rock-hewn churches, ruins and other cultural delights.