14/11/2017
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Ethiopia

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Rouget's Rail
Rouget's Rail

Dates: 5-15 November 2018

Price: €2,795

 

 

Ethiopia is one of the most extraordinary countries in Africa, a land where Ethiopian Wolves roam the mountains and Lammergeiers rule the skies. Dominated by the breathtaking highlands and filled with the richest historical heritage of the entire continent, Ethiopia is one of the most sought-after and enigmatic destinations in Africa. The country’s nine national parks and four wildlife sanctuaries are renowned for their diverse fauna and flora. The extraordinary and unique wildlife includes many endemic and regionally restricted species.

Colourful and confiding birds, extreme high plateaus, afro-alpine moorlands, dry desert-scapes, lush forests, a string of lakes set deep in the Rift Valley – you’ll find it all in Ethiopia.

 

Itinerary

Day 1
Overnight flight to arrive at Addis Ababa the next day.

Day 2
We arrive at Addis Ababa in the morning. At an altitude of 2,400 m, the city is well placed as a starting point for highland birding. Our first endemic bird may well be the impressive Thick-billed Raven. The extensive gardens of our hotel can be productive, with endemics such as Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher, Brown-rumped Seedeater and White-collared Pigeon, as well as Nyanza Swift, Tacazze Sunbird, Brown Parisoma and Speckled Mousebird, among many others.

After lunch in the hotel, we leave for the swampy vegetation of the Geffersa Reservoir, some 12 miles west of Addis Ababa. It supports a good number of waterbirds, which occasionally number among them the endemic Blue-winged Goose. Other endemics found in the area are White-collared Pigeon, Abyssinian Longclaw, Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher, Black-headed Siskin, Brown-rumped Seedeater and sometimes even Wattled Ibis. Augur Buzzard, African Hobby, African Black and Yellow-billed Duck and Red-breasted Wheatear can be seen here as well.

Overnight Ghion Hotel, Addis Ababa.


Day 3
We leave early and drive north through the heavily grazed, seasonally wet highland grasslands of the Sululta Plains. Before reaching the plains, we stop to look for endemic White-winged Cliff Chat. As we pass through the Sululta Plain, we might see Wattled Ibis, Blue-winged Goose, Black-winged Lapwing, Abyssinian Longclaw and Black-headed Siskin. The endemic White-collared Pigeon is common here and we’ll search for the endemic Erlanger’s Lark and the rare Red-chested Swallow.

Later we reach Debre Libanos and the impressive Jemmu river gorge about 65 miles from the capital. We will first stop at the arid Jemmu gorge. We will scan cliffs and boulders for Erckel's Francolin, the endemic Rüppell’s Black and White-winged Cliff Chat and White-billed Starling. This is a good vantage point for soaring raptors including Lammergeier, Rüppell’s Vulture and Verreaux’s Eagle. Nyanza Swifts are also evident here and we might see a troop of the endemic Gelada Baboons.

The road to the monastery and the surrounding forest are good for a number of endemic and montane species such as Black-winged Lovebird, White-cheeked Turaco, Banded Barbet, Abyssinian Woodpecker, Brown Woodland Warbler, White-backed Black Tit, Montane White-eye, Abyssinian Oriole and White-billed Starling.

Overnight Ghion Hotel, Addis Ababa.


Day 4
We make an early start heading south down the main Ethiopian Rift Valley. We will be birding along the main road, stopping off at several of the lakes. The shallow Chelekleka Lake is a good place to find African Pygmy Goose, Hottentot Teal, Southern Pochard and White-backed Duck, along with other ducks and waders.

Our next stop is Koka Dam on the Awash River. Herons including Goliath and storks are common here and Black Crowned Crane is fairly reliable. African Fish Eagle regularly disturbs the flocks of waterbirds, while Rattling Cisticolas and White-browed Sparrow-weavers breed along the road.

After lunch we head to the shore of Lake Ziway, where huge numbers of waterbirds congregate. Yellow-billed and Marabou Storks, Hamerkop, Black Heron, ibises and egrets, White Pelican and African Fish Eagle are some of the species to be seen here in impressive numbers. Lesser Jacana is also possible and we check gulls for wintering Pallas’s and Heuglin’s. We leave Ziway mid-afternoon continuing to Lake Langano to stay at our hotel situated on the shores of the lake.

Overnight Simbo Lodge, Lake Langano.


Day 5
The hotel gardens and surrounding dry bush are perfect for a morning birding walk. We will be looking for Black-winged Lovebird, Banded, Red-fronted and Red-billed Barbets, Little Weaver and Little Rock Thrush. The rocky escarpment above the hotel holds Blue-breasted Bee-eater, Mocking Cliff Chat, Abyssinian Black Wheatear, Fan-tailed Raven and Ethiopian Rock Hyrax. A walk in the adjacent dry acacia woodland might yield Black-billed Woodhoopoe, Bearded Woodpecker, Von der Decken’s Hornbill, Boran Cisticola, Buff-bellied Warbler, Mouse-coloured Penduline-Tit, White-winged Black Tit, White-rumped Babbler, Grey-headed Batis and Rüppell’s Weaver.

We might visit the grounds of another hotel for roosting Slender-tailed Nightjar, and Verreaux’s and Greyish Eagle Owls.

In the afternoon we visit Bishangari Forest on the south-eastern shore of the lake. The acacia woodland bordering the road could produce Western Banded Snake-Eagle, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Red-throated Wryneck and Clapperton’s Francolin, among others. The remnant patch of natural forest at Bishangari Lodge is home to a number of endemics and special birds including Scaly Francolin, Lemon Dove, Narina Trogon, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Yellow-fronted Parrot, White-cheeked Turaco, Abyssinian Woodpecker and Abyssinian Oriole. Noisy groups of Grey-backed Fiscal inhabit the more open areas and Guereza Colobus can be found in tall fig trees.

Overnight Simbo Lodge, Lake Langano.


Day 6
Today we set off to the fabulous Bale Mountains, one of Africa’s most spectacular regions. Our gradual ascent takes us through montane grassland, then juniper woodland, before reaching the high Afro-alpine moorland of the Bale Mountains themselves. We stop several times on the way, with great roadside birding virtually all along our route. More common birds include Augur Buzzard, Black-winged Lapwing, Erlanger’s Lark, the dark Ethiopian subspecies of African Stonechat, Red-breasted Wheatear, Groundscraper Thrush and Yellow Bishop. As we gain height, highland species start to appear along the road. We expect to see soaring Lammergeiers, flocks of Red-billed Chough, Blue-winged Goose, Wattled Ibis, Rouget’s Rail, Chestnut-naped Francolin, White-collared Pigeon, Abyssinian Longclaw, Moorland Chat and Black-headed Siskin. There is a stake-out for Cape Eagle-Owl on the way, too.


We stop at Dinsho and spend some time exploring the area, as the main concentration of the endemic Mountain Nyala is found here. We might also see the endemic Menelik’s Bushbuck, and with the help of the local ranger we look for roosting Montane Nightjar and possibly Abyssinian and African Wood Owls. Then we push on to Goba and the Wabe Shebelle Hotel.

Overnight Wabe Shebelle Hotel, Goba.


Day 7
The Bale Mountains National Park was set up to protect two endemic mammals: Ethiopian Wolf and Mountain Nyala. Here, on an island of tundra in the tropics, a fascinating range of unique flora and fauna can be found. Lobelias, groundsels and hypericums have evolved into trees, the last festooned with epiphytes. The park hosts a great array of endemic wildlife among its moorland and forests.

We spend a full day in the park. As we leave Goba we soon reach remnant stands of Juniper-Hagenia forest that are home to endemic Abyssinian Woodpecker, White-backed Black Tit, Abyssinian Catbird and Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher, plus the shy Abyssinian Ground-Thrush. Further on, stands of Hypericum trees host the endemic griseiventris form of Brown Parisoma. Moorland and Chestnut-naped Francolin, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler frequents dense shrubbery and Ethiopian Cisticola the more open areas.

As we reach the Sanetti Plateau at 4,100 m, the alpine moorland is covered with heath-like vegetation, broken by heather plants and stands of giant lobelia which grow up to 6 m. We should be able to see the rare Wattled Crane, the magnificent Spot-breasted Plover, Blue-winged Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, Lammergeier, Rouget’s Rail, African Snipe, Black-headed Siskin and Slender-billed Starling. The only afrotropical Ruddy Shelduck, Golden Eagle and Red-billed Chough complete the impressive list here. We hope to see Ethiopian Wolf, which is the rarest wolf in the world, with an estimated 400 individuals in total. We will hopefully also see the endemic Giant Root-rat and Starck’s Hare.

After crossing the plateau, we arrive at the Harenna Escarpment, from where we will have an astonishing view over the forest 2,000 m below. Harenna Forest is considered to be the second largest in East Africa. This is one of the least explored areas of the country. We descend the escarpment to the Harenna Forest looking for Mountain Buzzard, African Cuckoo Hawk, Yellow-fronted Parrot and other forest specialists.

At the end of this extraordinary day we return back to Goba crossing the Sanetti Plateau on our way back.

Overnight Wabe Shebelle Hotel, Goba.


Day 8
We depart after breakfast to drive to Lake Awassa, birding on the way.

We reach our hotel on the lakeside in the afternoon. After checking in, we explore the hotel’s gardens and make our way to the shores of the lake. Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Double-toothed and Banded Barbet, Black-winged Lovebird, Red-breasted Wryneck, Spotted Creeper and Slender-billed Starling are usually found in the grounds of the hotel. Lake Awassa, fringed by mountains, is one of Ethiopia’s most beautiful lakes and is rich in birdlife. Along the shores, a superb variety of birds can be found, including African Pygmy Goose, White-backed Duck, Allen’s Gallinule, Giant Kingfisher, Blue-headed Coucal and Abyssinian Waxbill. There are hippos in the lake plus Guereza Colobus and Vervet Monkeys in the gardens of the lakeside hotels.

Overnight United Africa Hotel, Awassa.


Day 9
After breakfast we drive to the forests and hot springs of Wondo Genet. We walk in the remaining scrub and forest hoping to find endemic birds such as Yellow-fronted Parrot, Abyssinian Woodpecker and Abyssinian Oriole, plus Half-collared Kingfisher, Narina Trogon, Abyssinian Ground-thrush, African Hill Babbler and Sharpe’s Starling. The gardens closer to town hold Black-winged Lovebird, Banded and Double-toothed Barbets and Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, among others.

In the afternoon we visit Abiyata-Shalla National Park. We explore the shores and grasslands of Abiyata Lake, where thousands of Lesser and Greater Flamingoes congregate. Common, Black Crowned and sometimes Wattled Cranes, Kittlitz’s and Caspian Plovers, Kori Bustard, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill and a variety of ducks and waders are among other species to be seen.

Overnight United Africa Hotel, Awassa.

Day 10
We visit the fish market of Awassa in the morning, where the freshly caught fish attract many birds. Marabous, White Pelicans, herons and egrets gather around the fishermen creating a colourful scene.

We retrace our steps towards Addis Ababa, heading for Awash National Park, a superb area of grassland, savannah and wetlands. On the way we stop at Lake Beseka and the surrounding black lava fields to look for the rare Sombre Rock Chat, Blackstart, Bristle-crowned Starling and Striolated Bunting as well as troops of Sacred Baboon.

In the late afternoon we reach our lodge inside Awash National Park.

Overnight Awash Falls Lodge, Awash NP.


Day 11
Awash is mainly classic African savannah, but includes good riverine forest and, beneath the distinctive cone of the Fantalle volcano, lush hot springs. This is Afar country, where man’s earliest-known ancestors walked. A superb range of bird species can be found here and there are also interesting mammals including Beisa Oryx, Soemmering’s Gazelle and Salt’s Dik-dik. The absence of large predators means that it is safe to explore the area on foot.

We spend the morning in Awash NP, in the area’s different habitats looking for Lappet-faced and Rüppell’s Vultures, African Swallow-tailed Kite, Kori, Buff-crested, White-bellied and Hartlaub’s Bustards, Three-banded Courser, Spotted Thick-knee, Northern Carmine Bee-eater, Liechtenstein’s Sandgrouse, Gillett’s, Red-winged and Singing Bush Larks, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark, Ashy Cisticola, Somali Bulbul, Grey Wren-Warbler, Red-fronted Warbler, Mouse-coloured Penduline-Tit, Somali Fiscal, Shining Sunbird, White-headed Buffalo Weaver and Cut-throat Finch.

In the afternoon we visit the Ali Dege Plains. Our targets here include Somali Ostrich, Arabian Bustard, African Collared Dove, Yellow-breasted Barbet, Chestnut-headed Sparrow-Lark, Black Bush Robin and Nile Valley Sunbird among others.

Overnight Awash Falls Lodge, Awash NP.


Day 12
After a leisurely morning birding around the lodge we return to Addis stopping en route in suitable habitats to add a few extra birds.

We have a farewell dinner in a local restaurant, before departing for the airport for the late night flight.


Day 13
Arrive back in London.

 

This tour is operated for Birdwatch and BirdGuides by Ecotours Wildlife Holidays (a limited company registered in the UK with combined tour operator liability insurance at Camberford Law PLC, valid for all destinations in Europe, Asia and Africa, and offering free financial protection to all clients). The price includes all accommodation, meals (breakfast in the lodge/hotel, packed lunch and three-course dinner), tea and coffee, biscuits, fresh fruit and mineral water every day, transport, guiding, entrance to reserves and parks, tour literature with map, and species list; not included are flights, airport tax, optional activities, drinks during dinner, tips and other expenses of a personal nature. For further information or to make a reservation, please call the company on +36 20 4585921 or email info@ecotourswildlife.co.uk

 

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