Awash National Park | Ethiopia Travel Tips & Reviews | Africa Point
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Awash National Park
Canyon at Awash National Park, Ethiopia
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Awash National Park

Snapshot

Enter the park and drive south along the quiet trails that wind through the Ilala plains. Pausing alone amidst a herd of Besia Oryx or Greater Kudu feasting on grass in the shade of an acacia tree, the tranquility and serenity of Awash National Park will become apparent. Gaze down from the crater rim of the dormant Fentale volcano at sunset, admiring the woodlands and plains below.  Soak in natural hot springs surrounded by palm trees in a private oasis, before returning south for a stroll along the Awash Waterfalls.

 

Best Time to Visit

This park is best visited between the months of November and February.
 

How to Get There

3 hours by car, 200km east of Addis Ababa.
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The Serene Awash National Park

Awash National Park is a serene destination in the lowlands of the rift valley. With numerous activities and minimal visitors, Awash is ideal for those looking for a park with adventure and isolation. 

 

The dormant and climbable Fentale volcano acts as the centerpiece to the park, with savannah and acacia woodland sprawling out beneath it. As you drive across the plains, you will likely have the chance to observe the Besia oryx, the greater and lesser kudu and Soemmerring’s gazelle, while leopards and cheetahs lurk in the shadows. Colobus monkeys and baboons will undoubtedly entertain you as they hop through the trees at the campsite that sing with birdcalls. 

 

The Awash River courses along the southern border of the park, before continuing south towards the Danakil depression. You can watch it crash over the edge of the gorge in a series of misty waterfalls, just below the park’s campsites and at the beginning of small hiking trails. Birdlife here, and from the peak of Fantale is plentiful, with a number of show-stopping bustards, secretary birds and raptors patrolling the skies. 

 

After game drives and hiking, the perfect conclusion to a visit in Awash is a soak in the steaming natural hot springs in the northern portion of the park. It is well worth detouring past the Hyena Cave in hopes of spying a cackle of hunters, before slipping into the steaming waters. As the oldest and most developed wildlife reserve in Ethiopia, this park is a perfect piece of wilderness just outside the capital city. 

 

 

Waterfalls, Wildlife and Hot Springs 

Waterfall Hike

From the southern plains of Ilala Sala, it is only a quick drive to the Awash Gorge and a series of powerful waterfalls. As the Awash River approaches the edge of the gorge, it quickly splits into six individual waterfalls that crash down 250 meters into the chocolate-coloured river below, leaving all observers covered in a light mist. These falls are the second largest in Ethiopia, after the Blue Nile Falls. 

 

Having spent time observing these majestic falls, begin to follow a 2-kilometer path that winds along the riverbank. This well-trodden path often passes the occasional crocodile and monitor lizard lazing on the shores, and a number of agile hyraxes scampering through the rocky shoreline. Occasionally, the odd hippo pops its head out of the river in calmer sections. Birding is also fantastic along this trail, with numerous opportunities to search for African fish eagles, Goliath herons, plovers and sandpipers. 

 

Further down the river, just outside the park boundary, it is possible to join a one to two day rafting trip down a 28-kilometer stretch of the river. With wildlife, rapids and stunning vistas, this trip begins near the base of the falls and ends just after the town of Awash Station. An overnight is spent at a tiny hot springs on the riverbank, sacred to local tribes. 

 

Game Viewing

Driving across the acacia-stippled Ilala Sala Plain in the southern portion park is undoubtedly the best place to experience the wide variety of arid plains game with relative exclusivity. Rising early, head out in a 4x4 vehicle along the well maintained dirt roads. It will not be long before you find yourself amidst a herd of East African Oryx or Soemmerring’s Gazelle. Warthogs and Salt’s dik diks are never far away, and some may be lucky enough to spy a lesser Kudu. Bat-eared foxes and jackals are often seen chasing after Abyssinian hares. Baboons and colobus monkeys are nearly always present in the treetops. Cheetah, serval and leopard do live within the park, though sightings are very rare. In the late afternoon, head towards the base of Mount Fentale to the Hyena Caves. At dusk, it is possible to watch as cackle of hyenas emerges in anticipation of their nighttime hunts. 

 

If looking for a little extra information, be sure to swing past the museum near the campsite and park headquarters. Here you will find information about local wildlife – and a few taxidermy creatures. 80km outside of the park, you can also visit the Alledeghi Wildlife Reserve, where herds of gazelle and the endangered Grevy’s zebra currently reside. 

 

Mount Fentale Volcano Hike

If you crave a bit of a physical challenge, be sure to check out Mount Fentale. A climb up the slopes of the 2007-meter dormant Fantale Volcano will reward you with stunning landscapes and impressive panoramic views from the crater rim. Beginning at an altitude of 900 meters, this climb leads you through the acacia-lined slopes, with plenty of opportunities to observe the vibrant birdlife. Smaller species are plentiful; however, the lammergeyers and Egyptian vultures typically steal the show as they drift above the summit. 

 

Ascending, keep an eye out for signs of sixteenth-century life. A few remnants of large settlements remain on these slopes from early inhabitants. Pass over the hardened lava scar that covered the southern flank – a memory of the latest eruption that occurred in 1820. 

 

The crater itself steams with vapor escaping through cracks in the rock. Filled with long grasses, this area is used seasonally by local residents for grazing their cattle. Pitch a tent in a sheltered part of the crater and spend the afternoon exploring the landscape. Enjoy a stunning sunset with panoramic views of the National Park, before falling asleep under the uninterrupted starry night sky. 

 

Hot Springs

Descending from the volcano, you can unwind and relax in the Fiwuha hot springs at the base of the Fentale cliffs. Hidden behind a wall of palm trees, these swimmable pools act as a tiny oasis for visitors, locals and resident wildlife. Dive into the 40°C pools, being mindful of course of the bubbling regions and Nile crocodiles! 

 

It is worth spending some time on the shores with a book in the early hours. You may just be lucky enough to see a Defassa waterbuck descend to the shores for a drink. Baboons, lesser kudu, dik-diks and warthogs also congregate in this quiet area of the park. 

 

Other Activities

Birdlife is very rich in Awash, with nearly 350 species recorded to date.  The Secretary bird and the Abyssinian Ground Hornbill are among the rarer species in the park, while Carmine Bee-Eaters and the Abyssinian Roller are some of the most colourful. There are also a few ostrich that live at the Awash River campsite, and are gradually being reintroduced into the natural habitat. 

 

If you’re in local culture, a visit to a local Kereyu and Omo tribes would certainly be a highlight. Tours to their villages provide an opportunity to learn about the particular tribe’s history, beliefs, culture and languages. Tours also typically include a cultural performance. 

 

 

Accommodation

Visitors to Awash have the option of choosing between a campsite and a handful of locally run lodges located on the park boundaries.

 

Camping in this quiet park is generally the preferred option. A number of sites are located in a picturesque woodland on the banks of the Awash River, steps away from the falls. Pitch your tent beneath a ficus tree, and keep an eye out at mealtime for intrepid colobus monkeys who greedily descend for a bite of your picnic. Campsites are also ideal for birders, where the songs of greenwood-hoopoes, red-and-yellow barbets and the emerald-spotted wood dove are constantly heard. 

 

For those who climb Mount Fantale, it is also possible to pitch your tent on the crater rim. Wake early if camping here, since the sunrise over Ethiopia from this vantage point is truly spectacular. 

 

A single lodge operates in the park, organizing multiple activities for its guests. It also has a bar and restaurant. A second and less expensive lodge exists just outside the park boundaries in the town of Metehara. 

 

 

How to Get There

The park is most easily accessed by car from Addis Ababa. The Addis Ababa – Dire Dawa highway runs through the southern portion of the park, and the main entrance is at the 190km mark driving away from the capital, just after the town of Metehara. The drive takes approximately 3 hours. The park is approximately an hour and a half from Nazareth. 

 

 

Best Time To Visit

Generally, Awash is best visited during the warm dry months from November to February. During these months, wildlife viewing is at its best, and dry days permit ample hiking. That said if the birdlife and waterfalls are the primary draws to this park, it is best to visit the area at the end of the rainy season in September and October. 

 

Located in the highlands and not far from the equator, temperatures are moderate and fairly stable year round. Daily highs fluctuate between 20°C and 25°C, with the warmest months occurring between February and May. The coldest months occur between July and October. High levels of rainfall occur between June and September, while the dry months last from November to March. 


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Other Places of Interest in Ethiopia:
■ 
Lake Tana
■ 
Omo Valley

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