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.
Tailor-made 9 - 21 days
'From Price' is the average price per person for ground arrangements for two people sharing.
Flights are typically an additional $703 per person economy class from London
…We were really happy with the service we got from Tourdust which can be best described as friendly, efficient and expert.....
Matthew McSweeney. See all Reviews
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.
DAY 1: Half day Addis Ababa Guided Tour
DAY 2: Drive Addis - Arba Minch
DAY 3: Boat trip on Lake Chamo
DAY 4: Dorze - Konso
DAY 5: Camping with Mursi
DAY 6: Drive - Turmi
DAY 7: Excursion to Karo People
DAY 8: Hamer Market Day
DAY 9: Excursion to Omo River
DAY 10: Borena Village, Bushland Excursion
DAY 11: Sidamo Country
DAY 12: Return to Addis
DAY 1: HALF DAY ADDIS ABABA GUIDED TOUR
You’ll be met at the airport and transferred to your central hotel. After a rest and refresh at the hotel, your guide will take you around the highlights of Addis. Depending on time and how you feel after your flight, you can choose to sample some of the best coffee in the world in the Piazza (old town), explore the National Museum and Archaeological Museum (home to the 3.5 million year old remains of Lucy) or explore the largest open air market in Africa.
Meals Included: None included
Transport: Airport Transfer
DAY 2: DRIVE ADDIS - ARBA MINCH
Today you drive to Arba Minch, in the South West of the country. You will pass over the rolling hills of the Oromo and then the Gurage Highlands, stopping for morning coffee at Butajira or Hosaina and lunch at Hosaina or Sodo. Drive along the west side of Lake Abaye as you approach Arba Minch arriving between 5-7pm.
Meals Included: Breakfast and Dinner Included
Transport: Drive Addis - Arba Minch (454 km)
DAY 3: BOAT TRIP ON LAKE CHAMO
This morning you will drive about half hour to the shores of Lake Chamo where you continue your excursion by boat to search for large crocodiles, hippos and a multitude of water and shore birds. After your lake excursion, you will head back to Arba Minch for lunch and proceed to the mountains to experience life with the Dorze people, where you will learn about their unique beehive-shaped houses, traditional weaving and how they prepare their main staple, false banana.
Meals Included: Breakfast and Dinner Included
Transport (where relevant): Drive Arba Minch - Lake Chamo – Dorze (35 km)
DAY 4: DORZE - KONSO
After breakfast with the Dorze people, you will head down the mountains and along Lake Chamo to Konso to visit the Konso people and their chief. While you are there, you will visit the Konso museum which will enlighten you on Konso culture and life. Spend the night in Konso.
Meals Included: Breakfast Included
Transport: Walk Dorze - Konso (125 km)
DAY 5: CAMPING WITH MURSI
A day journey from Konso to Mursi, stopping for lunch in Jinka where you will pay a visit to the Jinka Museum to learn about the South Omo tribes, then take a short excursion to an Ari Settlement. Head on to Mursi in Mago National Park to spend the night camping with the Mursi people, famous for the lip plates that the women wear.
Meals Included: n/a
Transport: Drive Konso – Jinka (150 km) - Mursi (75 km)
DAY 6: DRIVE - TURMI
This morning you pack up camp to travel to Turmi, central town of the Hamer people. On the way, you will stop in Key Afar to visit the colourful market frequented by the Benna, Ari, and Tsemai tribes. After lunch, you carry on to Turmi to set up camp at the Hamer campsite. While camping in Hamer region, you will take excursions to visit some of the other tribes and markets and you will have a chance to attend the optional Hamer Bull jumping ceremony.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Transport: Mursi - Jinka - Key Afar - Turmi (130 km)
DAY 7: EXCURSION TO KARO PEOPLE
Today involves an excursion to the Karo people who live on the banks of the Omo River. They are well known for their colourful body painting often simulating the pattern of guinea fowl plumage.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Transport: Drive Turmi - Karo (90 km), - Turmi
DAY 8: HAMER MARKET DAY
Today is Hamer market day in Dimeka. As the market does not get going really early in the morning, you have an extra hour this morning to explore the Kaske River by your camp or simply relax at the campsite.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Transport: Turmi - Dimeka - Turmi.
DAY 9: EXCURSION TO OMO RIVER
After breakfast, you will go to the Omo River at Omorate to visit the Dasanech people. The Dasanech are semi-nomadic people who maintain their livelihoods both from the Omo River and from the surrounding lands in Ethiopia and just across the border into Kenya. You will take a boat across the Omo River to visit a small Omorate settlement and experience their very basic lifestyle. After your visit, return to Turmi for lunch and carry on to Konso where you will spend the night.
Meals Included: Lunch and Dinner
Transport: Drive Turmi – Omorate (80 km), Turmi - Konso (190 km)
DAY 10: BORENA VILLAGE, BUSHLAND EXCURSION
After breakfast drive to Yabelo, arriving in Borena country where you will visit a Borena village and have the option to do a short excursion in the bushland. Keep your eyes open for various wildlife species including vulturine guinea fowl, dik dik and warthog.
Meals Included: Breakfast Only
Transport: Drive Konso - Yabelo
DAY 11: SIDAMO COUNTRY
Today’s drive brings you to Sidamo country. You will have a chance to visit some ancient burial stones as well as take a short excursion of a local village.
Meals Included: n/a
Transport (where relevant): Drive Yabelo – Yirgalem (260 km)
DAY 12: RETURN TO ADDIS
Start your journey early so you can be back to Addis by mid afternoon allowing yourself time for souvenir shopping or other last minute activities you may want to accomplish before your departure from Ethiopia. You will make a couple scenic stops along the way to Addis such as the rift valley lakes of Awassa and Ziway where you can see a variety of water and shorebirds.
Meals Included: Breakfast Only
Transport: Drive Yirgalem - Addis Ababa (300 km)
Ethiopia’s national airline, Ethiopian Airlines is arguably one of the best in Africa. International services are reliable with good seat pitch, whilst domestic flights are serviced by a brand new fleat of twin props. Ethiopian flies direct from London, Frankfurt, Paris and Rome in Europe. The flight takes around 8 hours. Great deals can be had if you book your international flight direct with Ethiopian with your domestic Ethiopian flights – you will need to call them to get these fairs.
- All guides and transfers and accommodation as detailed in the itinerary
- Entrance fees to museums and national parks and attractions
- Meals where stated (e.g. on trek)
- International flights, visas, tips and incidental expenses are not included
* Price quoted is on the basis of two people, discounts apply for larger groups
The best time to visit is June to September coinciding with many of the important tribal festivals. The dry season from January to February is best for wildlife. The rainy season early March – end of May and during November is best avoided.
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.
For the latest travel advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth office check www.gov.uk/travelaware
As Steve has already said it was an excellent trip both northern and southern parts. We had wanted to gain some insight into the people and the cultures, appreciate the landscape and the wildlife and get out of the mainstream so that (as far as is possible for a white tourist!) have some authentic experiences. We feel that the design and planning of the trip enabled this to happen. This was due in no small measure to our wonderful guide for the Southern part of the trip Ermias Tamiru together with our lovely and extremely efficient driver John (Yohannes)…..more about them later.
It is taking us some time to readjust to being back in the UK even after only 4 weeks away. It was a very powerful experience for us experiencing the generosity of the Ethiopian people and the beauty of the very varied landscape whilst observing up close the very high levels of poverty and deprivation of the people. We were glad that we visited small towns and villages and met local people. It is very helpful and appropriate to have local guides in each place because you get and insider’s view of the lifestyle and important local issues. Also it is a more respectful approach. People in Ethiopia are intensely proud of the country and of their own ethnic culture so they are the ones who should be talking about it!
We knew we would get on with Ermias and John as soon as we met them. They were both warm and welcoming and very flexible and keen to help us do and see the things we were interested in. Ermias speaks excellent English which means we had an easy flowing dialogue and could discuss everything as we travelled. He is knowledgeable about history and culture and keen to exchange ideas so it helped us to gain perhaps a more realistic insight into Ethiopian life. The balance of basic accommodation/camping and smarter lodges was fine. You were right about Aregash - what a great place to stay. The owners have a very personal approach which is very welcoming. Quite a contrast with Bishangari Lodge which we felt was one of the places in Ethiopia where Ethiopians do not feel welcome. The natural beauty there is intense and we loved it from that perspective but 2 nights was enough. We had an interesting time in Gidole. We lucky that the local Derashe dancers and singers were practising that day for Nations Day in Adama and we were taken along to see them. Great! Tikimtu was very hospitable and we were interested in the area. We camped in a place with no facilities at all which was fine for one night but probably not something which could be done regularly. We struggled to see Gidole as a tourist destination although it was fine for us as we were keen to have local experiences. By contrast Lephis seemed to have a lot more going for it. The walk through the forest up to waterfalls by mule was great. The birdlife is abundant. There is definitely potential there. We had a good time.
The organisation was superb – we had been provided with a detailed itinerary and it worked like clockwork! We were met in everywhere we should have been, the hotels, lodges/local accommodation were expecting us and meals and transport were available as indicated. Ermias made sure that everything was in place in the south and we felt very confident with John’s driving.
Stephen Keevash reviewing Tribes of the Omo Valley on 25 November 2014
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 on 21 November 2011
Our trip was excellent. Thank you! We were particularly impressed with the way it all worked seamlessly: someone was at each arrival point to meet us (or Alex was on the end of the phone to tell us what to do) or there was a phone message at Reception for when to expect someone.
The Jerusalem Hotel in Lalibela is not the same standard as Tukul Villages but it was OK for one night & we had plenty of warning. Lalibela at Christmas is pretty manic: full to bursting!
I must say that Alex looked after us well. He came to see us in Gondar to make sure everything was in place for the Simiens Trek & that we knew what to expect. When we got back after it, there he was again! Small but highly-valued pieces of customer care, evident again when he spoke to drivers while we were travelling.
All the staff who worked with us were of high quality, especially drivers and guides. Two who stood out were Younus, our driver both times we were in Addis Ababa, who we felt went beyond the call of duty & made our time there enjoyable - our last evening when waiting for a 2 a.m. flight could have been a drag, was in fact absolutely fine because of his suggestions (the Via Via cafe for dinner & then Mama's Kitchen for some music) and company.
The Simiens Trek was outstanding. Spectacular scenery, challenging at times, full of interest. Key to making it so was Dereje Gedamu who is a wonderful guide: we felt privileged to have him. he was ably assisted by the other staff & when our first, excellent chef had to leave at short notice to visit his mother in hospital, a replacement was found immediately (at Chenek!) who fed us to the same high standard. It was all a great experience that we will be talking about for a long time.
We were all pleased to have selected the 8 day option (& were not at all jealous of the peak-baggers heading for Ras Dashen). The second half of the trek was a good contrast to the high altitude section in the National Park's heartland as we descended through more intensively cultivated and populated areas, down steeply to the river and then back up past wonderful rock formations towards Mulit and out to the road at Adi Arkaye. It was full of interest and we were pleased to be pretty much on our own, rather than with the crowds at Geech & Chenek.
By comparison, the TESFA trek was rather tame, although an interesting comparison to see a more pastoral landscape and less remote villages. We had another good guide & enjoyed the lunch & evening stops, and the "loos with a view".
Pleased as we were that we had opted to drive from Bahir Dar to Lalibela, we had mixed feelings about driving the rough Gashena-Lalibela road three times - the starting and finishing points for the TESFA trek were just beyond Gashena. In 3 years when the road is complete this point may become academic, but meanwhile - if anyone else wants to do the same thing - it would be better for them to drive from Bahir Dar to Gashena, meet the TESFA crew there, do the trek & then continue to Lalibela. I am sure that TESFA could look after any extra baggage that people did not want on the trek.
One other point about the TESFA trek: we were not aware that there are several grades offered. I think we did the easiest and might well have preferred something more challenging so perhaps you could clarify the options available.
Only one other critical comment: we were underwhelmed by the Mayleko Lodge near Gondar airport. It was indeed welcome to have somewhere peaceful to return to after the trek, the rooms are nice & a couple of us enjoyed a "refreshing" swim, but on the other hand the restaurant was pretty mediocre and slow: we might have preferred to be out in the town.
Apart from that it was all good! A glimpse of Addis and another of Gondar; trekking with some R&R in Bahir Dar with its different scenery and history, ending with the religious fervour at Lalibela. A great holiday.
Gordon Parker reviewing Simien Mountains Trek & Northern Highlights on 09 February 2016
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