Simen National Park

Most promising national park is Simen, although it has over 12,000 persons living in one of its sections, and must make do with an annual budget of around $15,000 U.S. Even so, it belongs among the world’s great reserves.

Sharing this spectacular 84-square-mile (219-km2) national park carved out of northern Ethiopia’s Simen Mountain Range with ibex are equally-rare Ethiopian wolves, previously known as Simen foxes or Abyssinian jackals, and golden-maned gelada baboons, endemic here. An estimated 20,000 of these striking baboons with pink chest patches—ferocious-looking but mild-tempered—roam the park in bands of up to 400 or so, wailing, moaning, sighing, crying out to alert all in earshot if they spot a predator. They dominate highland grasslands and share the park with gray-furred hamadryas baboons in the dry lowlands. Olive baboons and attractive, mischievous vervet and black-and-white colobus monkeys are found throughout the park, and guereza monkeys in its more wooded sections.

Tiny, agile klipspringers gambol fearlessly on tiptoes on rocks up to 13,000 feet (4,000 m). Striped, spiral-horned Menelik’s bushbucks browse on shrubs, bushes, and trees.

Leopards and even more secretive wild and serval cats and caracals prey on smaller grazers, sharing, when they have to, with spotted hyenas and golden jackals.

Powerful lammergeiers or bearded vultures, called “bone-breakers” for their habit of dropping bones from great heights to shatter them and eat the marrow, nest on cliffs where they take off to soar effortlessly on nine-foot (3-m) wingspans on the park’s north side. Updrafts along these escarpments attract other raptors as well—Verreaux’s eagles, Rüppell’s griffons, kestrels, lanner falcons, and augur buzzards.

Simen was occupied for a time by the Tigre People’s Liberation Party which led the coalition that overthrew the Marxist regime. Local problems still exist to an extent that Simen has been declared a U.N. World Heritage Site in Danger—consult embassies for up-to-date information.

International visitors fly to Addis Ababa from which Ethiopian Airlines has good service throughout the country including to Gondar, only 60 miles (100 km) from park access at Debark. The park has simple accommodations and campsites, where rangers, guides, and riding and pack animals can be hired for treks of three to 10 days. Best times are November–February (wet seasons are February–March and July–September).


Abijatta-Shalla Rift Lakes National Park, 342 square miles (887 km2) of lakes south of Addis Ababa ranging from shallow Lake Abijatta to 850-foot-deep (260-m) Lake Shalla—important wetlands for over 300 bird species, including lesser flamingos and a large breeding colony of threatened great white pelicans.

Awash National Park, 292 square miles (757 km2) in the Great Rift Valley east of Addis Ababawith large ungulate herds including Soemmering’s gazelles, Beisa oryx, greater and lesser kudus. Predators include leopards, black-maned Abyssinian lions, cheetahs. Beautiful carmine bee-eaters are numerous, among over 400 bird species.

Babile Elephant Sanctuary, 2,656 square miles (6,880 km2) south of Harar, home to a tiny number of a possibly distinct elephant subspecies.

Bale Mountains National Park west of Goba, 953 square miles (2,471 km2) of ruggedly beautiful mountains including 14,000-foot (4,317-m) lake-dotted plateaus and the Herenna Forest—second largest moist tropical forest remaining in Ethiopia. It is an important catchment for four major rivers, important refuge for 46 mammals, stronghold for endangered Ethiopian wolves, mountain nyalas, Bohor reedbucks, and klipspringers. Forest-dwelling lions and African wild dogs are here also with 16 endemic birds including Rouget’s rails, Abyssinian catbirds, wattled ibises, black-headed siskins, blue-winged geese, black-winged lovebirds, and gorgeous white-cheeked turacos. Even though Simen is better known internationally because of its Endangered World Heritage status, some consider Bale Mountains Ethiopia’s finest reserve.

Gambella National Park consists of 1,953 square miles (5,061 km2) of lowland plains crossed by two rivers in far south-southeastern Ethiopia, important migration track for large herds of whiteeared kobs and marsh-loving Nile lechwes, seriously threatened by agricultural development.

Mago National Park, also Omo National Park are parts of the Omo–Tama–Mago protected complex covering more than 2,403 square miles (6,226 km2) in the far southeast with large numbers of plains wildlife including buffalo, Beisa oryx, elephants, giraffes, leopards, Africanwild dogs.

Nechisar National Park is 198 square miles (514 km2) of grassy river-crossed plains east of Arba Minch in the south with prolific wildlife, including threatened leopards and Swayne’s hartebeest, large herds of Burchell’s zebras and Grant’s gazelles, and fine birding.

Yangudi-Rassa National Park at 1,826 square miles (4,731 km2) is an arid area of flat open grassland and riverine forest northeast of Addis Ababa set aside for Somali wild asses, ancestors of domestic donkeys. The wild ass may or may not have survived recent troubles. Also here are cheetahs and leopards.

Spectacular Blue Nile Falls (Tissisat) , 22 miles (35 km) east of Bahar Dar.

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Abijatta-Shalla Rift Lakes National Park

Awash National Park

Babile Elephant Sanctuary

Bale Mountains National Park

Gambella National Park

Mago National Park

Omo National Park

Nechisar National Park

Yangudi-Rassa National Park

Blue Nile Falls (Tissisat)