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A true adventure, in every sense of the word. If you can cope with difficult roads and an at times challenging meeting of cultures, then the Lower Omo Valley offers an incredibly rich insight into the traditional and diverse tribal life in Africa.
The Lower Omo Valley in the South of Ethiopia is perhaps one of the most ethnographically diverse regions in the world. It served as an ancient meeting point as tribes migrated from all corners of Africa and now plays host to many different tribes each with unique and fascinating customs. If you can handle the challenges of travelling in this remote region, then the rewards are immense. Whether you are watching the traditional ceremony of Hamer people Jumping the Bulls or gazing incredulously at the site of a Mursi’s lip plates, this is a place unlike anywhere else on Earth.
The landscape and wildlife of the Lower Omo Valley is an attraction in itself, terraced richly vegetated areas contrast with open savannah and despite widespread poaching, hippo (Lake Chomo) and dik dik, kudu, guinea fowl, gerenuk and various birds are frequently seen. The real reason for the journey though is in the contrast of cultures and learning about the traditional customs of peoples far removed from your own lifestyle.
There-in the danger lies. Like any people subject to gawping tourists sticking cameras in their faces, exploitation of both tourists and tribes alike is unfortunately commonplace. Tourists are requested to pay for photos, local children can be a real nuisance and official tribal / tourist interactions when done wrong can be hollow.
With extraordinary care and the right attitude, it is possible to navigate these nuisances and have a broadly positive impact on the area. For this reason, we have teamed up with a local Ethiopian operator with a pioneering reputation in supporting ecolodges and sensitive tourism.
There are no two ways about it, this trip is a once in a lifetime experience but due to the nature of accommodation available, state of the roads and challenges of cultural tourism, it should only be considered by those with an open mind and the right expectations.
Tour dust facilitated our tour of Ethiopia, which is an amazing country! It is a beautiful country with rich cultural varieties. The mountain trekking on Bale Mt was a great physical challenge, but with a great reward. We saw many different animals and birds that I had never seen (or heard of) before. The trip through Omo valley was like a trip back in time, a view of life before it was cluttered with the conveniences of technology. The tribes are advanced in their own rite, by surviving without modern conveniences, off of the land. Our tour guide, Minalu was very knowledgeable and gave us great insight and information about the tribes. There were people from many of the tribes who not only knew him as a tour guide, but as a friend of the family. This made the experience a more personal one for us. One definitely needs to be a bit adventurous to travel in Ethiopia, but the inconveniences are well worth it. Thanks so much! These are memories that will not soon be forgotten.
Mindy Unger reviewing Tribes of the Omo Valley