I have just returned from a 6 weeks’ business trip to Northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia and would like to share with you a couple of additions/changes.
1. Lake Langano
Yes, I agree with the comments of some of your readers on the website, however, for someone who has known Langano for the past 20 years, the development of “Sabana Lodge” isn’t all THAT positive. Yes, super, the rooms are great, the restaurant also and the location is superb but it’s become a pure money-making tourist trap: First, one has to purchase an entry ticket for ETB 100 – that can be exchanged for payment for drinks, food, etc. Secondly, the price for food and drinks are prohibitive for locals and its very easy to see that the high prices are used to “thin out the clientele” and limit the use to expatriates and well-to-to Ethiopians – clearly visible once you enter the restaurant because one could just as well sit in a restaurant somewhere in a Swiss holiday resort – absolutely nothing to do with Ethiopia.
2. Page 505 “Moyale to Nairobi”
2.1. Due to the recent restrictions imposed by Kenya, the Ethiopians have retaliated and do NOT allow any vehicles (other than NGOs) to cross from Moyale KE to Moyale ET. For non-NGO folks it is necessary to use one of the hundreds of motorbike taxis to the border barrier and then walk across and take another motorbike taxi J
2.2 The Ethiopian passport office in Moyale ET is closed daily from 12 – 14 hrs.
2.3. There is a heightened security situation North of Isiolo KE and police insists on any vehicle travelling North to do so in a police convoy. The same applies when travelling South from Marsabit to Isiolo.
3. Page 510 “Where to stay….in Arba Minch”
Found quite a nice place, more in the “Budget line”, next door to the far more expensive, upmarket and tourist-swarming “Tourist Hotel”: “MERCATO PENSION” Its located in down-town Arba Minch (Sikela) , on the second floor of a new small shopping complex, opposite the Union Bank and next door to the “Tourist Hotel”. Rooms can be very hot and rooms to the front are quite noisy as all the trucks and buses pass that road. Rooms to the back are much quieter. The guys at the pension are quite friendly. There are 55 rooms (sgl/dbl) with en-suite Western style toilet, all very clean, cold shower, and TV – all for ETB 350/night, i.e. appr USD 19. No idea about B/F as I took mine next door in the shaded open restaurant of the “Tourist Hotel” J
Incidentally, there are no also quite a number of new, good quality guesthouses in the up-town part of Arba Minch (Shecha)
4. Page 530 “Other practicalities” for South Omo
- “Permits” – not applicable , no one needs or requests permits
“Village fees” – not applicable
“Road Improvement Tax” – none witnessed
5. Page 536 Turmi / “Where to stay”
5.1. Best place to stay in town is the now almost completed “Turmi Lodge” (hardly anyone knows that place under your published name “Splendor Ethiopia Tours Hamer Village Lodge”). I stayed there for several days after some dreadful camping experience in Omorate, and I stayed during a general water shortage in that part of Ethiopia with people actually dying of thirst with some digging 5-7 meters deep into dry river beds. And I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears when German, Austrian and Japanese tourists arrived in buses and Toyotas and some actually complained that the “hot shower didn’t work” !!!! (Why don’t those kind of people simply stay at home J ???)
Contrary to what some spoiled brats might report, the hotel is indeed splendid: Rooms are all bungalow-type (total 24 rooms with 2 dbl beds). They all have en-suite hot / cold shower, superb Western style toilets, tiled floors in room and bath/toilet, electric fans, intact mosquito-mesh at all window plus individual mosquito-nets per bed. There is an also an efficient, usually same-day (except rain season) laundry service.
Staff is exceptionally friendly and accommodating. The restaurant serves two types of food: (a) on days where the tourists arrive en-masse, they will serve a good quality but boring Western style buffet with chicken, (b) on request and on non-tourist arrival days, beautiful and extremely tasty Ethiopian dishes. I have never eaten a better Shirro-Wat anywhere in Ethiopia !. The chef is a marvel and if you try to practice a few words of Amharic he will surprise you with some really excellent food J.
The hotel has to generate its own electricity (and some tourists actually complain that there is no 24-hrts electrictity !! Well, they should be out and about rather than sitting in the hotel J) The generator are usually running from 06:30 – 08:00 hrs and from 20:30 – 22:00 hrs. Slight variations can occur but once you know the schedule its easy to arrange your day accordingly. I was happy to have electrictity at all and toicharge my mobile, laptop, camera, etc.
Only downside: its quite pricey at USD 70-80/night
5.2. “Buska Restaurant” – Prices have now risen to ETB 120-200 !!! For that, one still doesn’t get running water, lowest quality shared squatting toilets (used also by bar guests), and no electric points in the room. Not recommendable considering the climate and minimal hygienic standards.
6. Page 537 Omorate
6.1. Its really the furthest out-back of Ethiopia and your advice about accommodation (camping) is the best – the local “hotels” – no thank you J
6.2. The river side, well, if you are not scared of the “supposedly existing” crocodiles – the water of the Omo river are beautifully cold on a sweltering day of 48 degrees C J Its good to hang out with the locals cause know the safest places. And as the Omo is relatively fast flowing (careful: currents) it’s also quite safe in terms of Bilharzia.
6.3. The “main attraction”: The Dassanech villages – well, actually one should refrain a bit from advertising villages as main attraction. For the past 2 years there exists a constant drought emergency and people dig 5-7 meters deep into dry river beds to harvest small buckets of brown mucky water. Animals and people actually die, yet still tourists are being driven around in comfortable Toyotas, taking photographs of the “terrible situation”, throw an empty water bottle at the children (very valuable and priced possession) and drive away. I find that extremely bizarre and disturbing.
7. Page 538 “Getting there and Away” – The road has been upgraded and it now takes 1 hour to drive from Omorate to Turmi.
8. General info
If someone requires an excellent guide and translator, here are the details of an exceptionally gifted and professional young man who has established a small group of guide/translator friends who, together, offer their servceis to visitors of the area:
Mr. Wondafrash Shiferaw (Nickname: Choncher), E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org , Mobile: +251-91-682 5037 / +251-91-245 6444
We used his and his friends services (at a very moderate fee) during our time of conducting several socio-economic studies and survey in different locations around Turmi and during community meetings with villagers, herders, elders and administrators during which he displayed a great sense of professionalism and respect.