Ethiopia is one of the most incredible birding destinations in Africa with over 860 species recorded which is about 9.5% of the world’s and 39% of Africa’s birds. There are 16 endemic species and another 14 are only found in Ethiopia and Eritrea. We will explore a variety of habitats that include lush and green forests, woodlands, moist and arid savannah, lakes, rugged mountainous terrain and wetlands. Some of main targets are Blue-winged Goose, Rouget’s Rail, Wattled Ibis, Spot-breasted Plover, White-collared Pigeon, Thick-billed Raven, Black-winged Love-bird, Yellow-fronted Parrot, Abyssinian Woodpecker, White-backed Tit, Abyssinian Catbird, Abyssinian Longclaw and Black-headed Siskin. This wonderful birding tour starts and ends in Addis Ababa.
DAY 1: Debre Libanos via Entoto Mountains and Sululta Plain
With an early start from Addis Ababa, we will make our way to Debre Libanos via the Entoto Mountains overlooking the capital city, and the Sululta plain. The Sululta plain with its pocket wetlands and cultivation area supports White-winged Cliff-chat, Black-winged and Spot-breasted Plover, Wattled Ibis, Blue-winged Goose, Abyssinian Longclaw, Common Crane, Erlanger’s and Thekla Larks, Botta’s Wheatear, Moorland Chat and Groundscraper Thrush. On arrival at Debre Libanos we will check into our hotel which has a magnificent view over the Jemma River Gorge, the tributary of the Blue Nile. We will start birding along the so called “Portuguese Bridge” and we hope to see Lammergeyer, Ruppell’s Vulture, Little Rock-Thrush, Ruppell’s Chat, Cliff-chat and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting. While birding we will keep an eye open for one of Ethiopia’s endemic mammals, the Gelada or bleeding heart baboon. The forest around the monastery of Debre Libanos is great for sightings of White-cheeked Turaco, Montane White-eye, White-backed Black Tit, Banded Barbet, Black-headed Forest Oriole, White-billed Starling, White-winged Cliff-chat, White-backed Black Tit, and with luck Abyssinian Woodpecker.
DAY 2: Birding the Jemma valley
We will have an early start from Debre Libanos and make our way to the Jemma valley which holds a substantial population of the rare Harwood’s Francolin and is about 2 hours from Debre Libanos. This scenic and rugged area offers big diversity of birdlife and we will explore at various elevations. Besides Harwood’s Francolin we will also look for Erckel’s Francolins, Fox Kestrel, Yellow-fronted Canary, Ruppell’s Chat, Mourning (Abyssinian Black) Wheatear, Red-billed Pytilia, Yellow-rumped Serin, Foxy Cisticola, Abyssinian Waxbill, Vinaceous Dove, Red-billed Quelea, Abyssinian Roller, Rock-Thrushes, Speckle-fronted Weaver, Stone Partridge, and White-billed Starling. From here we will make our way to Debre Birhan where we will stay for two nights.
DAY 3: Birding at Melka Jebdu and Gemassa Gedel
With an early start we will make our way to Melka Jebdu situated in the foothills of the magnificent Ankober escarpment. Our main targets here will be Yellow-breasted Barbet, Yellow-throated Seedeater, Dark-Chanting Goshawk, Bare-faced Go-away bird, Black and Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Slate-colored Boubou, Red-rumped Waxbill and African Orange-bellied Parrot to name a few. We will return to Debre Birhan and by mid to late afternoon we will drive to the scenic Gemassa Gedel to spot the rare Ankober Serin found on the steep cliffs of the escarpment. The site is also a great spot for the Gelada Baboon.
DAY 4: Off to Awash National Park
Our next destination is Awash National Park with birding and lunch stops en route. We will be birding along the main road, stopping at Bishoftu for aquatic birds like Great Crested Grebe, Pink-backed Pelican, African Pygmy-goose, Common Crane, Common, Green, Marsh, and Wood Sandpipers, Little Grebe, Cattle Egret, Lesser Flamingo, Egyptian Goose, Spur-Winged Goose, Red-knobbed Coot, Ruff, Pintail, Garganey, Northern Shoveller, Southern Pochard and White-backed Duck. On our way to Awash we will also stop at Beseka Lake for our key target bird- the Sombre Chat. By late afternoon we will enter Awash National Park and time permitting start birding
DAY 5: Full day birding in Awash National Park
Today we have a full day in Awash National Park. The Acacia Savanna, open grassland and the woodland habitat of Awash is home to more than 450 species of birds. Awash is one of the best places to see Scissor-tailed Kite, Kori Bustard, Arabian Bustard, Singing Bushlark, Blue-spotted Wood-dove, Yellow-necked Francolin, Yellow-breasted Barbet, Nile Valley Sunbird, Chestnut-headed Sparrow, Bearded Woodpecker, Secretarybird, Rosy-patched Bushshrike, Red-winged Lark, Lichtenstein’s and Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Ashy, Boran and Rattling Cisticolas, African Thrush and Crimson-rumped Waxbill. Awash is also a good place for game viewing and we might see Beisa Oryx, Soemmering’s Gazelle, Salt’s Dik-dik, Warthog, Common Jackal, Vervet Monkey and Lesser Kudu.
DAY 6: Koka and Lake Langano
After wrapping up our birding in Awash National Park we will depart for Lake Langano birding en route and stopping at Koka Dam and the Awash River. The area around Koka is ideal place to spot Black-crowned Crane, Saddle-billed Stork and many shorebirds. We wil then stop at Lake Ziway for lunch. Lake Ziway is home to African Pygmy Geese, Yellow-billed and Marabou Storks, Collared Pratincole, Lesser and African Jacana, Great White Pelican, African Fish Eagle, Black Heron, Fulvous Whistling Duck and Black Crake. Finally we will make our way to Lake Langano for a two night stay.
DAY 7: Full day birding around Lake Langano
Today we have a full of birding around Lake Langano. In the Acacia woodland and lakeshore we should pick up various Hornbills, Slender-tailed Nightjar, Grayish and Verreaux’s Eagle-Owls, Rufous-necked Wryneck, Black-billed Woodhoopoe, Black-winged Lovebird, Blue-breasted and Little Bee-eaters, Narina Trogon, Common Redstart, Yellow-fronted Parrot, White-cheeked Turaco, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Red-faced Crombec, Reichenow’s Seedeater, Ruppell’s Weaver, Crimson-rumped Waxbill, Greater and Lesser Flamingos. We also expect to see Hippos, Warthog, Olive Baboon and Colobus Monkey from a mammal point of view.
DAY 8: Bale Mountains National Park
We will depart after breakfast and leave the Rift Valley behind as we make our way to the Bale Mountains National Park, the largest Afro-alpine habitat in Africa, and a real birding, mammal and flora endemic hotspot. Our main targets will be the many high elevation endemic species that include Rouget’s Rail, Thick-billed Raven, Blue-winged Goose, Abyssinian Longclaw, White-collared Pigeon, Yellow-crowned Canary, Red-breasted Wheatear, White-backed Tit, Cape Eagle-owl, Abyssinian Owl, Spot-breasted Plover, Abyssinian Catbird, Montane White-eye, Abyssinian Ground-thrush and Black-winged Lovebird. The Gaysay grasslands near the Park headquarters at Dinsho is a great place to spot the endemic Mountain Nyala and Menelik’s Bushbuck as well as Olive Baboon, Bohor Reedbuck and Warthog. By late afternoon we will make our way to Goba for a two night stay.
DAY 9: Sanette Plateau
Today we will start with a drive to the Sanette Plateau on the highest all weather road in Africa dotted with Afro-Alpine flora of which the two main species are the Giant Lobelia and Red Hot Poker. Our first birding stop will be the Juniper Forest on the outskirt of Goba where we expect to see Abyssinian Catbird, White-cheeked Turaco, Bale Parisoma, Black-winged Lovebird, Olive Thrush, and African Goshawk. The foothills at the base of the Plateau is an excellent spot for Rouget’s Rail. The Plateau is home to a host of raptors that include Lanner Falcon, Steppe and Tawny Eagles, Augur Buzzard as well as the rare Wattled Crane, Spot-breasted Plover, Chestnut-naped Francolin, Moorland Francolin and Malachite Sunbird. The star of Sanette Plateau is the rarest canid in the world, the Ethiopian Wolves and the abundant rodent population which include the Giant Molerat. The nearby Tullu Dimtu Mountain at 4377 m is the second highest peak in the country after Ras Dashen. By late afternoon we will return to Goba for where we will again overnight.
DAY 10: The Harenna Forest and Off to Negele
After breakfast we leave Goba for Negele with a picnic lunch. We first retrace our steps across the Plateau and then descend down the escarpment (where there is a chance to see Brown Warbler and Cinnamon Bracken Warbler) to the Harenna Forest. Passing through this great forest we will look for African Emerald and Red-chested Cuckoos, Abyssinian Woodpecker, Tropical Boubou, African Olive Pigeon and Lemon Dove. We also have a chance to see the elusive Bushpig, Giant Forest Hog, Colobus Monkey and the endemic Bale Monkey. After leaving the forest the habitat changes to Acacia woodland and supports many lowland species like Wahlberg’s Eagle, Golden-breasted, Shelley’s and Slender-billed Starlings, Blue-spotted Wood-dove, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Martial Eagle, Red-and-yellow Barbet and Bruce’s Green Pigeon. The area around the Genale River is the best place to spot the beautiful Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco.
DAY 11: Exploring the Liben Plains
We will spend the day exploring the Liben plains and the surrounding areas where our main target the Sidamo Lark which is restricted to this tiny locality. The plain is also a good place for Somali Short-toed Lark, Rufous Chatterer, Somali Tit, Grey-headed Social Weaver, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Tiny Cisticola, Heuglins Bustard, Hunter’s Sunbird, Golden Pipit, Pygmy Batis, Red-naped Bush-Shrike, Three-streaked Tchagra, Rosy-patched Bushshrike, Red-fronted Warbler, White-crowned Starling and Rufus Sparrow.
DAY 12: Off to Yabello birding en route
After an early breakfast we depart from Negelle and make our way to Yabello with a full day of birding along the way. The most interesting species we hope to see include Juba Weaver, White-winged Collared Dove, Black-bellied Sunbird, Gray Kestrel, Vulturine Guineafowl, Grey-headed Silverbill, White-tailed Swallow, Short-tailed Lark, White-crowned Starling, African Bare-eyed Thrush, Gray Wren-Warbler, Black-capped Social Weaver and the sought after Stresemann’s Bush Crow. By late afternoon we make our way to our hotel for a well-earned rest.
DAY 13: Full day birding around Yabello
Today we have a full day of birding around Yabello. We will explore the Acacia woodland and hope to see Red-fronted Barbet, D’Arnaud’s Barbet, African Orange-bellied Parrot, Stresemann’s Bush Crow, White-tailed Swallow, Kori, White-bellied, and Black-bellied Bustards, Pectoral-patch Cisticola, Pygmy Batis, Somali Tit, Taita Fiscal, Slate-colored Boubou, Golden-breasted Starling, White-bellied Canary, Red-headed Weaver, Reichenow’s Seedeater, Lesser-Masked Weaver, Scaly and Rufous Chatterer, Little Sparrow-hawk, Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove, Bearded Woodpecker, Three-banded Courser, Foxy Lark, Black and Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Northern Puffback and Slate-colored Boubou.
DAY 14: Awassa
After breakfast we leave Yabello for Awassa with birding stops en route. Upon arrival at Awassa we will check into our Hotel flowed by birding the forest on the shore of the lake where we can expect to see Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Spotted Creeper, Banded and Double-toothed Barbets, Woodland, Grey headed and Malachite Kingfishers, Ruppell’s Robin Chat, Gray-headed Batis, Black-headed Oriole, Fawn-breasted Waxbill, Gray-headed Woodpecker, Brown Snake Eagle, Black-winged Lovebird, Northern Carmine Bee-eater and White-rumped Babbler. We will also expect to see Vervet and Colobus Monkey.
DAY 15: Final birding around Lake Awassa and off to Addis
After breakfast we will explore the hotel gardens and make our way to the Fish Market on the shores of the lake. Here we can expect to see Saddle-billed and Marabou Storks, Spur-winged Lapwing, Pygmy Goose, Little Grebe, Great and Long-tailed Cormorant, Purple Heron, Comb Duck, Fulvous and White-faced Whistling Duck, Spur-winged Goose, Cape Teal, Southern Pochard, Lesser Moorhen, Great White Pelican, Black-headed and Gray-headed Gull. From here we make our way Addis with birding and lunch en route. We will check into a hotel to freshen up and relax before dinner and transfer to the airport for departure.