When we think about a safari holiday, many of us will automatically think about Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia or South Africa itself. Although these are tried and tested locations and provide an incredible experience, there are plenty of other countries that are taking their rightful place on the safari map.
One of these is the beautiful and largely untamed country of Ethiopia. Situated in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is a rugged, landlocked country offering plenty to see, including some stunning wildlife.
You have a choice of safaris in Ethiopia, from cultural and historical through to perhaps the most desirable – a wildlife safari. Some tour companies combine both experiences, such as a 4-day historical tour followed by, say, a 5-day wildlife safari, giving you the best of both worlds.
Read on to learn more, and visit our Ethiopia eVisa page to apply for your travel pass for this East African nation!
Are There Safari Tours in Ethiopia?
Yes, there are lots of tours of this type on offer in this sometimes overlooked country. Many of them take in the best that Ethiopia has to offer including majestic mountains, stunning scenery and luscious lakes.
If you are new to these tours in Ethiopia, you can be spoiled for choice, and so to help, the following is our guide to finding the best wildlife safari in Ethiopia for you.
Use an Ethiopia Safari Tours Company
It really is your best bet to use a tour company, who will give you everything you need for your trip with their expertise. Here are the best wildlife safaris to do and where to go for an unforgettable trip of a lifetime.
Where to Do Safari in Ethiopia
Bale Mountains National Park
If you are new to safaris in Ethiopia, this is the perfect starting point. A 4- or 5-day trek will take you from Ethiopia’s southern highlands through to the Sanetti Plateau.
As well as visiting glacial lakes, volcanic peaks and the lush green Harenna Forest, you will get up close and personal with some of the magnificent inhabitants of this landscape. These include mountain wolves, monkeys and an incredible array of exotic birds.
Tours are generally conducted in a 4×4 vehicle, and guidelines state that visitors below the age of 8 will generally not be permitted to join the tour.
Gambella National Park
Situated on the western edge of Ethiopia, this park has one of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the country, but has in the past been overlooked due to a lack of accommodation.
During a tour of Gambella, you can enjoy a stay in tented camps run by hugely experienced guides. You will also have the opportunity to see some amazing wildlife including elephants, lions, cheetahs, leopards and elephants.
While Gambella is one of the best experiences of this type in Ethiopia, it is also one of the most expensive since it can only be reached by charter flight, so bear this in mind.
Simien (or ‘Simian’ the more commonly spelt way) means ‘monkey’, and in these mountains you’ll find a bustling collection of them!
The Gelada monkey is the symbol of this beautiful mountain range. These are also known as ‘bleeding heart monkeys’ because of the distinctive heart-shape pattern on their chests.
As well as being one of the most breathtaking parts of the country, this area is ideal for visitors of all ages. This is because the Gelada monkeys are very much accustomed to being around people, and are happy to play amongst your group for the ultimate safari selfie!
As well as the Gelada monkeys, visitors can expect to come across the Ethiopian wolf, raptors and thick-billed ravens.
Omo Valley, on the northern border, offers not just stunning wildlife and scenery but also a chance to experience the ‘real’ Ethiopia.
Home to several traditional tribes, including the ancient Mursi, this area is very much like taking a trip back in time and really is not to be missed.
Visitors will stay in mobile camps and will get to see over 300 different species of birds during this unique safari tour.
Lalibela Game Reserve
With a focus on luxury accommodation and conservation, the 26,000-acre Lalibela Game Reserve should be the top of your list if you are looking to become acquainted with lions, elephants, rhinos, buffalo and leopards.
Set in vast areas of Savannah grassland, you will also get to spot cheetahs, jackals, hyenas and free-roaming lions during your trip.
For a once-in-a-lifetime safari by 4×4 vehicle, you will do no better than the remote and geologically active landscape of the Danakil Depression.
Like no place on Earth, this unworldly place features active volcanoes, rare molten lava lakes and the beautiful Lake Asale – the lowest point geographically in the whole of Africa.
During your unforgettable visit, you will find countless species of birds, including ostriches, as well as some super-rare animals such as the Oryx Beisa.
Safari Lodges and Camps in Ethiopia
Ethiopian people are some of the most welcoming in the world, and your tour will be hosted by people who cannot wait to show off some of the treasures that this country has to offer.
Accommodation will usually be campsites or caravans, so do not expect a 5-star hotel during your trip. You can, however, expect more upmarket accommodation by staying in one of the luxury safari tents in Ethiopia. Some of the lodges and camps are also eco-friendly.
All the luxury tour operators specialising in safaris will ensure they match your needs to perfection. Even ‘glampers’ can take advantage of a luxury tent in the country.
Ethiopian tour operators take safety incredibly seriously, so you can expect to be issued with an extensive list of rules and guidelines before you embark on your safari.
In terms of food, you can expect to start your day with a simple breakfast of fruit, biscuits and coffee. Depending on your accommodation, a midday meal will usually be a packed lunch, while a buffet dinner in the evening typically consists of traditional African soups and stews.
What Is the Cost of an Ethiopia Safari?
It really does depend on the accommodation you select. The more comfortable or luxurious you choose, inevitably the cost is higher. But what price is comfort?
There are also seasonal differences – low season is April to September, when you may expect heavy rains. Mid-season is October to December, while high season (the most expensive) is January to March.
Some ideas for the best time to visit safari areas are:
- The highlands, north, east, and west: October to early April.
- The south and Danakil: August to mid-October and mid-February to March.
If you plan to travel around Ethiopia as well as take in a safari, pack clothing for both hot and cooler temperatures. This is because the thermometer can move greatly depending on the altitude and time of day.
Overall, expect to pay in the region of 2,500 USD for good accommodation, safari and food, based on 2 people travelling at the luxury level for 5 days in high season.
In low season, the cost would be nearer the 2,000 USD mark, based on the same criteria. The mid-season cost would be in the middle of these 2 levels, travelling with specialist operators and using decent transport between the animal viewpoints.
If you really do not mind where and what you sleep in, and your only concern is seeing the wildlife, you can easily halve that cost, or even more. It’s best to do your research! Do compare prices though, as some very similar itineraries can go up to 5,000 USD.
Best Reasons to Go on Safari in Ethiopia
Ethiopia safaris are based on the natural environment, and this country is one of the only 12 worldwide to be credited with some of the richest biodiversity on the planet.
With 13 national parks and animal sanctuaries and a rich cultural legacy of around 6,000 years, you cannot fail to find the fascination of this country. Some of the animal life is totally unique to the country.
Not only that, but you can also get fantastic coffee as you enjoy your journey. With no less than 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, culturally you could not ask for more!