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Omo Valley
Omo River, Omo Valley, Ethiopia
Omo Valley
Dasanesh Village, Omo Valley, Ethiopia
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Omo Valley


Explore the cultural crossroads for African tribes on a journey through the Omo Valley. Here, some of the world’s most isolated and ancient tribes thrive in a manner that has changed minimally over centuries. Heralded as one of Africa’s last frontiers, the 15 ethnic groups that reside in this region are vanishing quickly. A visit here provides a rare and fleeting glimpse into Africa’s fascinating cultural history. 


Best Time to Visit

It is best to visit the Omo Valley during its dry season, which lasts from July to August and December to January.  

How to Get There

Explorations of the Omo Valley are led out of the town of Jinka, 700km south of Addis. 
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The Historical Omo Valley

A journey into the Omo Valley reveals a rare untouched corner of Africa. Numerous contrasting tribes inhabit the region who, until only recently, had remained completely disconnected from the modern world. Clans of Kara, Mursi, Hama and Dassanech continue to sustain beliefs and practice rituals that trace back to some of the earliest human societies.  Tours into the Valley give visitors a unique opportunity to observe these practices. Unfortunately, the growing level of tourism coupled with plans to build a large damn on the river creates an enormous threat to the viability of the lifestyles seen here. This will likely only remain a pristine destination for a handful of years more. 


Two national parks – Mago and Omo – as well as a World Heritage Site protect the region’s natural and archeological gems. Game drives across the plains and hikes up the escarpments reveal stunning landscapes with ungulates and large mammals hidden throughout. The region is also home to the earliest known homo sapiens remains.  



Exploring the Cultures and Wildlife of the Omo Valley  

Mursi Village Tour

Of the tribes residing in the Omo Valley, the Mursi are among the most accessible. Like other tribes in the region, the Mursi remained largely untouched by both Ethiopian and colonial powers. Their dress, culture and traditions are markedly different from the rest of the country – and from their neighbouring tribes as well. 


You will be able to easily identify a Mursi woman by the large clay plates she wears in her lower lips. The men and children, by contrast, are noticed by the intricate white clay designs painted on their bodies. Famed and successful warriors, approximately 10,000 Mursi continue to live in the valley today, living as semi-nomadic cattle herders. The photos you take when visiting this tribe draw people back to Africa in her most ancient and primitive state. Unfortunately, in recent years, the Mursi have come to survive increasingly off tourist revenues. Though lucrative, the unregulated and frequent visits have led to numerous tensions between the Mursi, the tour operators and foreign visitors. This has given the communities located near major towns a reputation for violence and a lack of hospitality. As such, great care and sensitivity is required from all who decide to embark on a tour. 


Note that if you are planning to visit and photograph a Mursi village, it is expected that you pay the subjects for any photographs taken. Though the negotiation process can be somewhat challenging, a thoughtful and experienced tour operator with good local relations will help make this visit as pleasant as possible. 


Game Drives and Wildlife Viewing

Mago and Omo National Parks are both located within the Omo Valley and have decent, albeit shy, wildlife populations. These parks are among the few in Ethiopia that offer classic African safari experience, complete with sprawling plains, acacia trees and large mammals. Though sightings will be far less common when compared to the parks of Kenya and Tanzania, explorations through the Omo Valley plunge guests into the true and untrammeled African bush. A lucky few may stumble upon an elephant, buffalo or lion – though it is far more common to see kudu, hartebeest and gazelle. The park is also home to the endangered reticulated giraffe and the Grevy’s zebra, though they too are difficult to spot. 


Tracks throughout either park are fairly limited, but there are plenty of opportunities to set out into the park on foot. In Mago, a great trail leads from the park headquarters up an escarpment. From the plateau, you will have fantastic views of the plains below and the Mursi Mountains on the horizon. 


Other Activities

For those who really wish to dive into the Omo Valley, there is no better way to explore it than through a guided canoe trip along the Omo River. A journey along the river carries you into the heart of the valley, bypassing the often-visited villages in exchange for true remoteness and isolation. Furthermore, this is your best opportunity to see wildlife as it descends to the river in the early morning and late afternoon for a drink. 


These river tours connect guests with some of the lesser visited tribes, including the Hamar people. If visiting between August and March, you may even have the chance to watch the famed bull jumping ceremony, which marks the passage from childhood into manhood. This is also observable if traveling by road. 


If you are interested in markets, a number of villages and towns in the region have fascinating weekly markets that draw together numerous different regional tribes. Key Afer, Dimeka, and Jinka have some of the best markets. 




When visiting the Omo Valley, guests have the option to camp throughout the national parks or to stay in a lodge in the town of Jinka. Accommodation in Jinka tends to be somewhat poor value, but does ensure that guests have a bed and access to a restaurant and bar.


Camping is generally the preferable option, especially if you seek depth and authenticity. Set out into Mago or Omo National Park with full camping gear and pitch a tent on the side of the Mago River. Campsites are basic, but located in beautiful areas. It is also possible to seek permission to camp in a local village, though this is not a guaranteed option. 



How to Get There

The launch point for explorations into the Omo Valley is the town of Jinka, 700km south of Addis. If driving, you can expect a minimum of 10 hours by road. There are also flights from Addis to Jinka, which run daily and take an hour. 



Best Time to Visit

It is best to visit the Omo Valley during its dry season, which lasts from July to August and December to January.  The rainy season spans from March to June, with additional short rains in November. Roads within the Valley often become impassable during this time. 


Temperatures range between 14°C and 41°C over the course of the year, with the hottest months occurring between June and August. 

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