Back in September, Mike and I took a trip to Ethiopia. It’s a relatively inexpensive, short, three-hour flight from Riyadh. We only spent eight days there. Not much time in a country with a seemingly endless amount of cultural and natural sights. While there is no shortage of sights, travel from one spot to another is sometimes long or complicated. There are cheap buses that operate across the country, but if you are short on time, as we were, this may not be the best way to go. As we were advised, depending on where you are traveling and how quickly the bus fills up, the trip may take several hours or a couple of days. I really hate long bus rides. When we vacationed in Costa Rica, we took a couple of regional buses. It is, without a doubt, the most economical way to get around, but something about sitting in those uncomfortable seats for hours drained me. I never fully regained my energy on that Costa Rica trip and considering I’m four or five years older, I could see that happening again in Ethiopia.
With this in mind, we decided to let the domestic airline routes dictate our trip itinerary. We flew into Addis Ababa and stayed there two nights before flying to Arba Minch, a town in Southern Ethiopia. Arba Minch appealed to us for a number of reasons. After a culturally rich couple of days in the urban landscape of Addis Ababa, we wanted to experience some breath-taking natural beauty. Arba Minch is home to Nechisar National Park, which is flanked by two lakes, Lake Chamo and Lake Abaya. Nechisar allows you to experience a few different habitats from one place, with a groundwater forest, grassy plains and lake shorelines.
With just a little effort, you are almost guaranteed to see baboons, zebras, hippos, crocodiles and all kinds of ridiculously beautiful birds. We stayed at the wonderful Paradise Lodge in Arba Minch and I saw more baboons from the porch of our hut than I could count. We went on two outings in Nechisar Park. First we did a walk to Forty Springs, the water source for which the town is named (Arba Minch actually means ‘forty springs’). Then we did a hike across the plains. All the photos here are from that trip. For each park excursion, a scout dressed in full camo and carrying an assault rifle accompanies you. Exciting stuff, huh? I was shocked at how close we were able to get to the zebras. They made sure to keep an eye on us and keep their distance. But overall, they weren’t too fazed by our presence. Mike got closest to them and took the zebra shots here.
Ethiopia is probably the most photogenic place I’ve ever visited. The use of color in domiciles, in clothing, is absolutely eye opening. After that trip I felt like I understood color in a new way. Unfortunately, I was not able to capture as much of this as I would have liked. There was a terrible thunderstorm one night in Arba Minch, seriously the most vicious thunderstorm I think I’ve ever witnessed, Lightning hit the grass roof of our hut and caught fire. Luckily, we were in the lodge restaurant at the time. Who knows what could’ve happened if we were in there. Anyhow, all of our belongings got pulled out into the rain, in the efforts to put out the fire. Our digital camera was destroyed and I had to rely on my phone camera for the rest of the trip. Some of my best photos from this trip are actually on my Instagram account.
This mere slice of Ethiopia that we able to see in eight days really left an impression on me and I hope we are able to return. I will say however that this type of travel is not for everyone. As a tourist, you may experience a lot of hustling, harassing and panhandling. One night in Addis Ababa, my husband was pickpocketed by a couple of kids. Luckily, we got the wallet back and they only made off with a couple of small bills. Look to travel guides like Lonely Planet to understand how to navigate these things. I found Lonely Planet was right on the money with giving safety tips for traveling around the country. My advice, take a cab whenever you can, particularly at night.