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Ethiopia Photo Tour 2018

  Safari OverviewPhoto SafarisPrivate ToursPhoto HidesBook a Safari with Shem
 

Introduction

This exclusive, small group tour provides a rare opportunity to photograph the “best of the best” in Ethiopia.

Split by the Great Rift Valley and rippling with seemingly endless mountains, the country’s geography is as dramatic as its history and culture. Ethiopia is the cradle of our earliest known ancestors; a hub for some of the first Christians, Muslims, Jews and a last frontier for some of Africa’s most intriguing wildlife and photogenic tribal traditions.

Ethiopia is a wonderland of exotic tribes and cultural mix. In many of the areas we are travelling to, there are few roads and very little protocol with regards a ‘formal’ itinerary. If some of the tribes are not in the area when we are there, then we won’t see them. To make sure we have the best opportunity to witness the Omo valley at its best, we are working very closely with our local guides, who has lived in Ethiopia their whole lives and who specialize in the Omo Valley. Over this time they have gained a reputation for running the best photo based groups into the valley and their reputation amongst the tribes in the valley is excellent; allowing us to get into places that many visitors cannot.

Specifically on this trip we have added two very special highlights. The first is the Bale Mountains where we will be able to find and photograph the highly endangered Ethiopian Wolf. The second highlight is that we have timed this tour to co-inside with a visit to Lalibela on St George’s day. There will be a multitude of pilgrims around St George’s church. This, the most famous of the rock hewn churches of Lalibela will be filled with pilgrims visiting it. The scenes will give us amazing photographic opportunities and be one of the highlights of your visit.

We have engaged Graeme Lemon/Wild Expeditions for all on-ground logistics. Graeme is a safari operator and fully qualified professional safari guide with over twenty years’ experience in African safaris. His extensive guiding skills include; walking safaris, white water rafting, canoe guiding, wilderness hiking and conventional boat and vehicle excursions in Africa. Prior to operating in Ethiopia, he was Managing Director of his own safari company (including luxury lodges) in Zimbabwe from the mid-90s until 2003. Graeme has also spent time guiding in both Australia and Canada.

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Why These Particular Destinations & Subjects?


A person can visit Africa many times to photograph its spectacular wildlife, scenery and cultures, but it requires a discerning eye to discover and appreciate photographic opportunities in uniquely iconic destinations. I continually seek ‘less-travelled-by-others’ destinations for each photo safari and tour and this one introduces you to destinations that reveal an Africa, you possibly may not have known existed. It is not about seeking lions, leopards or other ‘big cats’ as I anticipate those interested in joining me on this tour will already have undertaken a number of such photo safaris.

I wish to introduce you to subjects of Ethiopia, each unquestionably unique in its own right but when brought together into the one journey, offers a kaleidoscopic selection of natural history, nature, travel and cultural photography. The photography you will experience on this trip is some of the richest you will find in Africa, if not the world. The itinerary is a carefully selected set of unforgettable experiences for those who dare to find them. It has been created for photographers who have a passion for travelling “towards the edge” in search of compelling images.

Below are a few highlights of what this tour offers you as the visitor and as the photographer.

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Highlights

  • Combining the northern and southern parts of Ethiopia in one photo tour is unique and not offered by many.
  • Photographing the endemic wildlife and endangered species of the Simien Mountains National Park. This includes beautiful scenes of the Gelada monkey, sightings of the bearded vulture and possibly the Walia Ibex .
  • Photograph the amazing churches of Lalibela – churches not constructed in the traditional way but hewn from the living rock of monolithic blocks and in continued use since their construction in 12th century.
  • Visit Lalibela’s most famous church, St George’s Church on St George’s day, when it is filled with pilgrims circling the cross-shaped rock church.
  • This is a true photographic journey into the “best of the best” of Ethiopia’s Omo Valley, one of the most culturally rich tribal destinations on the African continent.
  • You will visit the villages of the Kara, Mursi, Arbori, Hamar, Dassanech and Suri tribes to photograph their daily activities, stunning portraits, and timeless ceremonies.
  • In one trip you will have the opportunity to photograph the UNESCO cultural sites of the Konso people and will witness them planting crops, herding livestock, tribal dancing, Head dresses, scarification, body painting, lip plates, beaded skins and ornate necklaces.
  • The tribes live in a remote locations where there are no upmarket hotels or lodges. We will be based in an upmarket mobile-tented camp away from any other tourists.
  • You will be accompanied by two experienced and committed photographers who will provide every assistance to you – Shem Compion (South Africa) and Denis Glennon AO (Australia).
  • In the Bale Mountains you will stake out and photograph the endemic and highly endangered Ethiopian Wolf. This charismatic animal is found nowhere else on earth and we will end our trip photographing these creatures.

 

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Itinerary

Day 1 - 2

Sapphire Hotel, Addis Ababa 

Arrive at Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  You will be met by a C4 ground handler who will transfer you to the Sapphire Hotel for 1 nights stay. The day includes a city tour of Addis Ababa and time permitting, visits to: The National Museum, Trinity Cathedral, Mount Entonto, Churches of Raguel and Kidist Mariam, St Georges Church and the Mercato Markets.

Day 2 - 4

Semien Lodge, Ethiopia.

We will catch the commercial flight up to Gondar where our private vehicles will wait to take us to Simien National Park. After settling into the Simien Mountain Lodge, we will spend the next two days photographing the landscapes of the SMNP and the Gelada monkeys. Depending on the locations of the monkey troops we will fit in as many photo shoots of them as we can.

Simien Mountains & Gelada Monkeys

Simien Mountains National Park, listed as a World Heritage Site in 1918, is one of the more dramatic national parks of Ethiopia. Located in the Simien Gondar Zone of the Amhara Region in northern Ethiopia, the park covers the Simien Mountains including Ras Dejen, the highest mountain in Ethiopia at 4,533m (14,850 feet). It is an exotic setting with unique and endemic wildlife and breath-taking views on a landscape shaped by nature and traditional agriculture. The natural beauty of this region has always filled photographers with awe. With its undulating plateau and deep valleys it is frequently dubbed the Grand Canyon of Africa.

It is home to a number of endangered species, including the Ethiopian wolf (the rarest canid in the world, and Africa’s most threatened carnivore) and the walia ibex – a wild goat found nowhere else in the world. The gelada monkey and the caracal, also occur within the Simien Mountains. More than 50 species of birds inhabit the park, including the impressive bearded vulture, or lammergeier, with its 3m (10 feet) wingspan. Massive erosion over millions of years on the plateau has created one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, with jagged mountain peaks, deep valleys and sharp precipices dropping some 1,500m (5000 feet).

The gelada is an “Old World” monkey, not a baboon despite previous naming conventions. It is the only living member of the once widespread genus Theropithecus and is only found in the highlands of Ethiopia. The present day population of the gelada is limited to the steep escarpments and gorges that border the eastern side of the central highlands and the north western highlands. The gelada feeds predominantly on fresh shoots of grass, roots and seeds. It is frequently called the “bleeding heart” monkey as a result of the distinctive, bright red, heart-shaped patch on its chest.

The gelada social system consists of a hierarchy of social groups generally made up of 1-4 breeding males, 2-10 females and their dependent young. The females tend to be closely related, have strong social ties and stay in their own band all their lives. A band of gelada shares a common foraging and sleeping area and may contain 2-10 reproductive units, as well as 1-3 all male groups (non-breeding males of a young age, who remain in these groups for 2-4 years before trying to enter a reproductive unit). The ranging areas of different bands overlap, and can mix easily for a short period, without any aggression, to form very large gelada ‘communities’ or herds. These communities can be up to 1,000 strong – geladas can associate in one of the largest groups of any primate on earth. Approximately 2,500 geladas live in the park with a further 2,000 on the surrounding Simien massif. The average band size is 200 geladas, providing excellent photography opportunities of these rare and magnificent creatures.

 

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Day 4 - 5

Goha Hotel, Ethiopia.    

We will have a last morning shoot in the Semien Mountains National Park and then drive to Gondor and overnight at Goha Hotel. In Gondar, we will have time to explore and photograph the Fasilides Castles and baths complex. Because of these remarkable buildings, Gondar town is frequently referred to as the ‘Camelot of Africa’.

Day 5 - 7

Maribela Hotel, Ethiopia.    

We catch the commercial flight from Gondar across to the ancient and most renowned of Ethiopia’s historical destinations, Lalibela. In Lalibela we will photograph the rock hewn churches built in the 11th century. The churches must be seen – and walked through – to be believed. These exceptional churches have been the focus of pilgrimage for Coptic Christians since the 12th century and to this day still attract photographers from all over the world. Shoes must be removed when entering the churches.

Flash photography inside the churches is forbidden. Expect the cool morning air to be filled with the smell of incense. A sprinkling of foreign visitors may be seen floundering through narrow crevices and labyrinthine tunnels. If you go inside one of the churches here you can feel the history, like an energy coming out and touching you. It goes beyond comprehension what the builders did, especially the detail they created. It’s impossible to think about the labouring and skills necessary to create something of that calibre at that period. Even though Lalibela sits in a remote region of Ethiopia, people/pilgrims walk for days, even weeks, to get here, many of them traversing the rugged mountains barefoot.

Amongst them, blind men and women and people with disabilities also join the pilgrimage, making their way along Lalibela’s winding paths. What makes the Lalibela churches important is that they are still in use. It’s not a museum; it’s a living heritage. Every day, every morning, there is a service in all the churches. Be prepared to capture some totally unexpected and astonishing photos here. We will also drive out of town to the famed cave church of Yemrehana Cristos. Being still active churches, there is always the opportunity to participate in a service in one of these marvels. A highlight will be photographing the St. George’s Day festivities at St. George’s church.

 

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Day 7 - 11

Lumala Camp, Murulle.

Catching a charter from Lalibela, we will make our way to Murulle airstrip where we will be met by our guide. The next 3 days will be spent exploring the Hamer, Kara, Dasanech and Mursi tribes and their lifestyles - a true photographic adventure into the remote region of southern Ethiopia’s Omo Valley. The Hamar women wear beautiful, colourful, beaded skins, ornate necklaces and metal bangles around their wrist and ankles. They are well-known for their unique hairstyle, which is made up of a crown of long dread-lock braids covered in ochre. The Dassenech (known for their unique and ornate hair buns) are a semi-nomadic tribe that stretches across Sudan, Kenya and southern Ethiopia.

The Mursi tribes are one of the most photogenic in Omo Valley. The Mursi women paint their bodies and face in white. They and their counter cousins the Surma and the Chai and Tirma tribes are probably the last groups in Africa amongst whom it is still the norm for women to wear large pottery or wooden discs or ‘plates’ in their lower lips. A girl’s lower lip is cut, by her mother or by another woman of her settlement, when she reaches the age of 15 or 16. The cut is held open by a wooden plug until the wound heals, which can take around 3 months. It appears to be up to the individual girl to decide how far to stretch the lip, by inserting progressively larger plugs over a period of several months. Some, but by no means all, girls persevere until their lips can take plates of 12 centimetres or more in diameter. The larger the plate, the more it is valued by the Mursi women. Men of the Mursi also use white paint for their bodies and faces.

 

Tribes of the Omo Valley

For millennia, the Omo Valley has been inhabited by a kaleidoscopic variety of ethnic groups having rich and distinctive cultural identities. Tribes living in the more remote lower Omo Valley are among the most fascinating on the African continent. The Arbore, Ari, Bena, Bodi, Bumi, Dassanech, Dorze, Hamer, Kara, Kwegu, Mursi, Tsemay, and Turkana tribes are out of sight of the cities and towns of modern life and their way of life is still largely untouched by modernity. This is a true photographic adventure into the remote region of southern Ethiopia’s Omo Valley; one of the most culturally rich tribal regions on the African continent. Inspired by their habitat of lush vegetation, abundant trees and colourful flowers the people use the bright yellows, startling whites and red clay soils to paint each other’s bodies to create stunningly photogenic body “costumes” which at festival times are a walking body of art. These tribes have been sheltered from much of the modern world in a place that is still primeval, natural, and apparently ageless.


This photo tour will visit tribes on both sides of the Omo River, including spending several days visiting the Suri tribe, also known as the Surma. The Suri are the most ornate tribe, and being the most remote tribe in the Omo they are one of the least visited, but the most desired tribe for us to photograph. This is one of a very few photo tours to traverse both sides of the Omo River to photograph the Suri tribe.

We will spend sufficient time in each location to ensure a deeper experience, which always produces more intimate and compelling images. As we are fellow travellers/photographers in an amazing part of the world I have retained flexibility in the itinerary to ensure we can immerse ourselves in spontaneous photographic opportunities that will inevitably arise. The time spent in each village will depend on what activities are taking place and the richness of the photography. It is likely we will also meet several other tribes en-route. I wish to give you the opportunity to photographically document their daily lives, capture stunning portraits, and experience some of their timeless ceremonies – truly be an experience of a lifetime!

When larger groups visit remote tribal villages, the higher the probability your subject will be distracted, another photographer will shoot over or too close to you, other photographers take too long to shoot particularly special subjects and frequently another photographer will show up in your background. This tour is limited to only 14 participants to ensure you come home with more intimate experiences, many memories, and much higher quality images.

The incredible photography available in Ethiopia captures a moment in time in the ancient world of people who live peacefully and close to nature in one of the most far flung, yet beautiful parts of the world. It is a special opportunity to photographically document their daily lives, capture enthralling portraits, photograph timeless ceremonies whilst feeling you are an integral part of a very special personal experience.

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Day 11 - 14

Kabish Tented Camp, Ethiopia.

We will catch a charter flight from Murulle airstrip to Mizan Teferi and then drive to Kibish where we spend the next 4 nights in a tented camp along the banks of a river. Here we’ll sit with and get to know the Suri and their ways.

Both Lumale and Kabish Tented Camps are very comfortable. The ‘igloo’ tents are standing height and fully insect proofed with integral ground sheets and an awning over the door. Your bedding is freshly made up each day and the cot beds have comfortable mattresses and a decent pillow. Each tent has its own shower and toilet (long drop) tent. The food is very good and wines, beers and some spirits are available. The camp chef is a ‘miracle worker’ in this remote area and the packed lunches are as good as the hearty breakfasts and delightful dinners.

From here we will spend extended periods photographing the Suri and their lifestyles. The Suri are renowned for their stick fighting ceremonies. The Suri people are semi-nomadic cattle herders and live on the west side of the Omo River. This area is still much undeveloped, only an unpaved road leads to the heart of the Suri settlements: Kibish. Suri people have a cattle-centred culture, the wealth of a family is measured by the number of animals owned. Usually the animals are not eaten unless a big ceremony takes place. The animals are used for milk and blood which they both drink. Sometimes Suri warriors are preparing a mixture of cattle blood and milk for a ceremonial rite called ‘cow bleeding’. Like the Mursi people the Suri women are wearing lip plates. The Suri culture demands that the men are trained as warriors as well as cattle herders.

 

Day 14 - 17

Bale Mountain Lodge, Ethiopia.    

Driving up to Mizan Teferi, we’ll catch a charter flight that will take us across to Bale Mountains National Park for our 3 nights stay at Bale Mountain Lodge. The next three days are spent searching for and hopefully finding and photographing the elusive Ethiopian wolves as well as the magnificent landscapes of the Bale mountains.

Day 17 - 18

Sapphire Hotel, Ethiopia.   

After breakfast we will make our way back to the Mizan Teferi airstrip for our charter flight back across the mountains to Addis Ababa. Staying at the Sapphire Hotel, we will enjoy our farewell dinner together at a restaurant in the city.

Day 18

Bole International Airport, Ethiopia.    

After breakfast you will be transferred back to Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, Ethiopia for your international flights home. This is the end of the safari.

 

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Acommodation

Sapphire Hotel

Located in the city’s central zone, one kilometre away from Bole International Airport, 3 minutes drive adjacent to the renowned Bole Medanailam Church. The Hotel is settled on 1300 sq. m of land, located on Namibia Avenue. Sapphire Addis Hotel offers Luxurious Restaurant, Bar and Lounge, Spa and Fitness Centre, Conference halls and ATM service. The Hotel boasts its grandeur and elegance at the same time.

The Hotel owns 130 delicately furnished guest rooms of various types, with each and every facility and amenity displaying taste and elegance as well as meticulous care. We will offer you the most tender and comfortable embrace and enjoyment.

 

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Simien Lodge

The lodge is located at the beginning of the escarpment, about 22km from Debarak, which is the ‘frontier town’ of the Simien Mountain National Park. There are 26 main rooms. They are semi-circular, essentially half a tukel. Each room has a bathroom. The rooms all have tiled floors, which are heated a few degrees by a solar system. In between the rows of tukels is a bank of forty square meters of solar panels. When there is sun, then hot water is automatically pumped through pipes under floor, heating the room by a few degrees. However this is not intended to be a full central heating system. The lodge is at 3300 metres altitude and of course it is cold at this height, especially at night. But the system is enough to take off the chill, making the lodge a comfortable way to visit the Simiens.

 

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Goha Hotel

From stunning views to historical wonders of Ethiopia, Gondar with its mysterious castles, was the 17th century capital of king Fasiledes. Goha hotel in Gondar is ideally situated on the hills of the city and a short distance away from these royal enclosures. The hotel has over 82 rooms and suites that feature excellent amenities including free high-speed wireless Internet access and flat-screen televisions. Additional amenities such as swimming pool, free airport shuttle service, souvenir shop, restaurant, bar with campfire are also there to make your stay a comfortable one. Contact us anytime as we are always delighted to welcome you to the beautiful Goha Hotel.

 

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Maribela Hotel

Hotel Maribela is located in the heart of Lalibela Mountains. Spacious and modern rooms, all with breath-taking views of the Ethiopian Highlands. Maribela Hotel was built in a very appealing design, inspired by the famous rock churches of Lalibela. The tasteful interior decoration gives every guest the very best in Lalibela hospitality. Maribela is a special name. It means Lalibela in Amharic. The term literally mean ‘honey eater’ . This name was given to King Lalibela, a saint and the builder of the city and the famous churches. Legend has it that on the day of his birth many bees indicated his future greatness by surrounding him. Whether you are enjoying the stunning sunset, having a serenade in the delightful garden or enjoying the uninterrupted views of the valleys and mountains from your room’s balcony on your daybed, you will find that Maribela Hotel offers you a genuinely restive and regenerating experience.

 

  

 

Lumale Camp

Lumale Camp is a very comfortable but a simple base on the riverbanks. The ‘igloo’ tents are standing height and fully insect proofed with integral ground sheets and an awning over the door. Your bedding is freshly made up each day and the cot beds have comfortable mattresses and a decent pillow. Each tent has its own shower and toilet (long drop) tent. The food is very good and wines, beers and some spirits are available. The camp chef is a miracle worker in this remote area and the packed lunches are as good as the hearty breakfasts and welcome, delicious dinners.

Kabish Tented Camp

Both the Luxury mobile tented camps on the Dus river bank and Kibish in the Omo Valley are spacious and have all the amenities that you would need on your photographic safari.

Bale Mountain Camp

The central lodge nestles into the hillside so as to minimize the visual impact on the surrounding area, and is built using local slate-grey coloured stone. The attached dining room is a ‘tukul’ in style featuring a thatched roof, with a sweep of windows maximizing the amazing views of the natural clearing and mountain range beyond. A central sunken fireplace creates a snug area in which to relax during the chillier mountain evenings. All lodge ‘menyetta-bets’ (guest-rooms) are spacious and comfortable with a wood burning stove in each room to provide warmth and a cosy atmosphere. Furniture has been crafted locally using sustainable wood, and all our soft furnishings are locally sourced and are of the highest quality with an emphasis on comfort with Ethiopian style. The Service Quarters for Bale Mountain Lodge, which includes staff accommodation, laundry, maintenance and store facilities, along with staff ablutions and study and conservation facilities, are also built to the highest standards using local materials in order to blend into the surroundings.

 

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Flights

Day 1

We will be met at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport and transferred to the Sapphire Hotel for one nights stay. The day includes a full city tour of Addis with highlights.

Day 2

We catch the commercial flight up to Gondar where vehicles will wait to take us to Simien National Park. After settling in to Simien Mountain Lodge, we will spend the next two days exploring the park and having wonderful interactions with the Gelada there.....

Day 4

Leaving the Simiens, we return to Gondar. In Gondar, we’ll have the opportunity to explore the Fasilides Castles and baths complex. These amazing buildings make Gondar town the Camelot of Africa.

Day 5

We catch the commercial flight from Gondar across to the ancient and most renowned of Ethiopia’s historical destinations, Lalibela. In Lalibela we will visit the 11 rock hewn churches built in the 11th century. We’ll also drive out of town and visit the famed cave church of Yemrehana Cristos. Being live churches, there is always the opportunity to participate in a service in one of these marvels.

Day 7

Catching a charter from Lalibela, we will make our way to Murulle airstrip where we will be met by our guide. The next 3 days will be spent exploring the Hamer, Kara, Nyangatom and Kwegu tribes and their lifestyles.

Day 11

We will catch a charter flight from Murulle airstrip to Mizan Teferi and the drive to Kibish where we spend the next 3 nights in a tented camp along the banks of a river. Here we’ll sit with and get to know the Suri and their ways. The Suri are also renowned for the stick fighting ceremonies.

Day 14

Driving up to Mizan Teferi, we’ll catch a charter flight that will take us across to Bale Mountains National Park our stay at Bale Mountain Lodge. The next couple of days are spent looking for wolves and exploring the Bale mountains.

Day 17

After breakfast we will make our way back to the airstrip  for our charter flight back across the mountains to Addis Ababa. Staying at our hotel, we will spend the last night  enjoying a meal at a restaurant in town.

Day 18

After breakfast you will be transferred back to Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, Ethiopia for your international flights home. This is the end of the safari.



30% deposit confirms your booking. Balance payable 8 week before tour start date.
Maximum of 14 participants and a minimum of 10 participants is required for the tour to proceed.
Please note there are a limited number of unshared rooms/tents available on this photo safari and these will be allocated in order of receipt of registration and payment of the single supplement.

 

The above costs include

  • All accommodation and meals.
  • Bottled water in transport vehicles and during meals.
  • Private ground transportation.
  • Park and Ranger fees.
  • National English speaking escort guide and local tribal guides.
  • Local guide fees.
  • Gratuities for guides and drivers.
  • All alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Internal flights:
    • Addis - Gondar (Commercial flight)
    • Gondar - Lalibela (Commercial flight)
    • Lalibela - Murulle (Charter flight)
    • Murulle - Mizan Teferi (Charter flight)
    • Mizan Teferi - Bale (Charter flight)
    • Bale - Addis (Charter flight)

The above costs don't include

  • International flights.
  • Travel Insurance.
  • Personal purchases (including shopping, spirits, laundry, telephone calls, etc.).
  • Optional extra activities not included on the itinerary.
  • Pre- and Post- expeditions tours.
  • Meals or accommodations before or after the tour (except as noted in the detailed itinerary).
 

Costs

$16500.00 per person sharing
$19800.00 per single suppliment

Single Suppliment - Booking Deposit 30% Qty $5940.00




Per Person Sharing Booking Deposit - Booking Deposit 30% Qty $4950.00




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