Archive for the ‘South Omo’ Category

Erik Lönnroth writes:

I just got back from a 9 day trip to Omo and would like to provide a few updates. All in all, I would not recommend this as a travel destination, with the possible exception of researchers looking for a case study in tourism mismanagement. The Bradt 2012 guide mentions that this is a “once in a lifetime experience”, but these days for all the wrong reasons. I would go one step further: it is questionable whether a visit to this region should be recommended at all – and that goes for both organised tours and independent travel. As someone who has lived in Ethiopia and several other African countries, I assumed I would be able to use basic Amharic and street smarts to sidestep the herds and discover my own, more authentic, experience of Omo. I was wrong. No matter how noble your intentions, you’ll find it nigh-on impossible to avoid the prescribed itineraries forced on you by the guide associations that guard the gates of every attraction like a local mafia. The prices quoted in the 2012 guide are also out of date – as a rule of thumb I would say that in July 2014 they were 50-100% higher – that goes for food, hotels, guides, and village fees.

As mentioned in the Guide, several of the tribes have developed an obsession with getting money from photos. For the Mursi and Dassanech, this behaviour now verges on OCD, with some variation of “photo”/”5 birr”/”you take a picture” constituting 100% of interactions with the villagers. One gets the sense that the tribes people harbour few warm feelings towards foreigners, and with every right; their villages have been transformed into human zoos, with no area – including the insides of their huts – off limits to snapping cameras. With the exception of very young children who have yet to be corrupted by the faranji hysteria, you are unlikely to establish much of a human connection during your visits. An exception to this rule was the Evangadi dance, put on one evening by a Hamer village near Turmi, in which we danced and sang with the people in what felt like a genuinely upbeat and friendly experience.

As mentioned, Omo prices have increased substantially since 2012. Several experiences feel like complete rip-offs, particularly the charges imposed by guide associations, who typically demand 200-300 birr for activities that last an hour or two. As each attraction is controlled by a separate association, a new guide is required – and thus a new charge – at each stop. The “guiding” element tends to be non-existent – these young men typically exhibit an air of disdain for both faranjis and the tribes, and seem thoroughly uninterested/incapable of explaining anything but the most banal facts (“this is the hut where the people sleep”, “they wear clothes of animal skin”). After collecting their fees the guides return to chewing chat and drinking beer, waiting for the next busload of tourists. Haggling is impossible – fees are supposedly set by government and a receipt is duly presented. Where the money actually goes – other than to beer and chat – is anybody’s guess.

Here is an update on pricing at each of the attractions I visited (bear in mind that July is supposedly low season):
Key Afer market – Guide: 200 birr. Parking: 36 birr.
Dimeka market – Guide: 200 birr.
Mursi village – Guide: 200 birr. Village: 200 birr per person. Photos 5 birr per portrait.
Dassanech village – Guide: 300 birr. Boat 150 birr. Parking 36 birr. Village: 200 birr per person. (Note that this ends up being roughly triple the price quoted in the Guide. The Dassanech are also the worst of all the tribes when it comes to asking for photos – we literally had to flee the scene when we refused to take our cameras out. A bridge across the Omorate river is due to open in a few months, which will make it possible to avoid the jacked-up boat fee, and possibly reach more remote villages. However, it will probably be a matter of only weeks or months until those villages become just as corrupted by faranji fever).
Evangadi dance (Hamer tribe) – Guide: 200 birr. Dance: 200 birr per person.

Budget hotels in Konso, Jinka, Turmi, and Dimeka typically charge 250-300 per room with cold shower, although one one or two occasions we were able to haggle it down to 200 (due to it being low season).

You’ll easily end up spending $50 per day on accommodation, food, and activities, and that’s not counting the driver and 4×4, typically $120-$150 per day. Total expense for a trip: Minimum $1,500 but more likely $2,000+. There simply is no way to do Omo on a shoestring – the government, guide assocations, and tribes have made this literally impossible.

All in all, I can think of much more enjoyable and less exploitative ways of spending that kind of cash, in Ethiopia and beyond.

Thanks for reading!

Alan Friedlob (Bellingham, Washington) & Mariann Kocsis (Baltimore, Maryland) write:

This April, we were fortunate to have spent about three weeks traveling with Overland Ethiopia Tours (http://www.overlandethiopiatours.com ). (Haileab Seyoum Beyene and his support staff)– in a private tour of the Northern Circuit, Rift Valley, South Omo, and the Bale Mountains. What impressed us is the social network Haileab and his guys have across the country. Everywhere we went—from Gonder to Yabello, warm greetings were exchanged through chance encounters with acquaintances of friends, and Haileab’s seamless connections with local guides opened doors to a better understanding of the cultural diversity that is Ethiopia. Haileab speaks Amharic, Oromaic, and Tigrinya; any of which may come in handy in helping guests bridge the challenges of Ethiopian travel. . As a guide, he listened to what we wanted to do—stopping at an unexpected market, listening to music, or finding high quality crafts and high grade coffee. He and his colleagues did everything possible to accommodate us. Haileab’s itinerary and accommodations were exactly as we had agreed. In one instance where he could not secure the hotel on our itinerary, he compensated us with three nights’ of meals at our next location.

Regarding our itinerary, I would like to suggest that you consider not visiting the Mursi people, or if you go, clarifying what your visit will entail, and then decide. As you are probably aware, the people of the South Omo Region expect to be paid for all photos. In the case of the Mursi, this practice has become extreme. It will be extremely difficult for a tourist to learn about Mursi ways as “photo,photo” will dominate the experience. Many world renown photographers like McCullin and McCurdy have captured the Mursi. Perhaps better to buy their books than contribute to the tribe’s self- exploitation. A difficult decision for some tourists.

Thankfully this is not the case for other people that you are likely to visit, even though similar pressures will be found. For example, the Key Afer and Dimeka markets are “must dos” but there are many other markets where you would be the only outsider. Haileab patiently negotiated the landscape with us, and we learned.

Again, if you are planning to visit, please check out Overland Ethiopia Tours. You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

Mateusz writes:

I’d like to recommend a tour guide operator for South Omo Valley who took a group of friends and myself on an unforgettable journey. Lalo Desse (lalojinka@gmail.com) was raised in Jinka and has many friends and family still living in the area and within some of the tribes themselves. Some of the reasons I recommend his services:

- While Lalo is a younger operator who has been running his own tour company for only few years, he is very adept at organizing activities and reservations. When unexpected events occured (and they will), he was quick to remedy the situation. And while he may be dressed casually and wearing a turtle-shell necklace (unlike the uniformed guides of other tour companies), his genuine warmth towards tourists and excitement for what he does really shows through.

- Very reasonably priced, especially compared to other tour operators which I contacted. He also offers the choice of a minivan vs 4×4. We chose the former (sans A/C) to save on costs and had a great time rocking the “party bus”.

- Having friends and relatives in the tribe, Lalo gave us the incredible experience of sleeping overnight in tribal villages. This was the highlight of the trip and offered us a glipse into real day-to-day activities of some of the tribespeople.

- Unlike the convoys of 4×4′s you will see on the road, Lalo travels solo. While I can’t compare it to the larger group trips, we all enjoyed our intimate experience with Lalo, his driver, and the mechanic, and by the end we felt like a group of old friends. He also encouraged us to take our time to see the villages and tribes, unlike other tour operators I contacted who wanted to cram in as many tribes in as few days as possible.

- Conscious of the effects of tourism on the local tribes, Lalo was keen to inform us on good stewardship of the local economy. We even saw him interject when he saw tourists pulling over in Mago National Park to take roadside pictures of children who dressed up to attract photos (supposedly illegal by tribal regulations)

Overall, I’d highly recommend Lalo and his services, especially for those looking for a personal approach and access to some of the off-the-road experiences South Omo has to offer.

Based on this recent reader feedback (http://bradtethiopiaupdate.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/glory-ethiopia-tours/#comment-3869) and a similarly off-putting older comment (http://bradtethiopiaupdate.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/glory-ethiopia-tours/#comment-1387), we would strongly advise against making any travel arrangements with Glory Ethiopia Tours (a company that was formerly recommended by several readers) or its owner Daniel Demtew Aseffa.

I am also pasting in the review in full below:

Gail Riba wrote:

In January 2013 we had the worst experience that we have had in our many years of travel to many countries. We had booked a private tour ( January 16-February) with Daniel Demtew Aseffa of Glory Ethiopian Travel. Friends had previously used Daniel with a positive experience 2 years before. In the interim something changed Daniel. We were cheated, lied to, robbed, and eventually abandoned because of Daniel’s incompetence and dishonesty. Here are the details:
We spoke to him via Skype and sent numerous emails back and forth. We paid him by means of wire transfers a total of $9194 for three people for a tour from January 16th through February 1, 2013.

1) At the last minute he reversed our trip so that we went to the south first. We now realize that was because he had no reservations for us in the north.

2) Before the trip we researched some of the hotels and decided to upgrade 2 of them. We sent Daniel the extra money for the upgrades but we never stayed in those hotels for 2 of the nights 3 nights booked. He pocketed that money too.

2) More than once he took us to hotels we had not booked and told us it was because they were better. We now know that it was because the ones we booked were more and/or would no longer take his reservations.

3)) Also on day one we gave him $200 cash so that he could negotiate with the villages which required a fee to enter ($20 per village. We later found out that this was 10 times what he would have to pay. So he, all along, planned on pocketing that money.

4) The car: Most importantly we were the only non 4 wheel drive car we saw in the South Omo! The warning lights on the dashboard were lit day one. He said the light was broken. Then day 2 the air conditioning went (it was in the 90’s and very dusty). The brakes squeaked which he claimed were because of new brake pads. Then the radiator went and he began gluing it together, leaving us for hours and days on the side of the road and in restaurants/hotels to supposedly fix it. Later we found out there were no radiators in Southern Ethiopia so we have no idea what he was doing while we were stranded. One back door did not open. One back window did not open at all and the other opened only halfway. Car was a death trap. In an accident there was no escape.
During this time there were 4 days where we had breakfast, were stranded and given a 3-4pm lunch and no dinner, having arrived at hotels after 9pm. One day were left at a hotel at 6pm and not picked up until 3pm the next day with no contact in between.

6) At the Mursi village we wanted to buy lip plates. He told us it would cost us 200 birr per plate. Without negotiating we bought them for 30 birr each from a woman who approached us. I’m sure he planned on pocketing the difference there also.

5) At the Murulle Lodge he asked us for an additional $100 each saying the price had gone up and if we didn’t pay we’d have no place to stay. When we questioned how they could do that after we had reserved at a particular price we were told that was common practice in Ethiopia. I’m sure he pocketed that money

6) At one point we went to see some totems and the people kept yelling at us in Amharic and waving us away. Daniel went in an office and we heard arguing. He came out and said they were accusing him of his papers not being good. He called them stupid peasants. Later we found out it was true that he was not licensed.

7) On our many drives he slept or read. No conversation or information occurred.

8) The morning of our departure for the north at 5AM he said he would pick us up to take us to the airport and, at that time, would bring us our vouchers for the northern part of the trip. We ALL know that that was a lie.

9) On our last ride with him to Addis from the south the car was completely broken down so we had to take a taxi van. He wanted us to pay that also but by then we were disgusted and refused. Then Daniel, the taxi driver, and a friend drove up to 180 kph, chewing chat and drinking a clear liquid mixed with coke. When we complained Daniel said we had to accept it or they could just leave us on the side of the road with our luggage. We were truly afraid for our lives by this point. The license number of the taxi van was # 07809

10) We arrived in the north to find out that the tour operator there expected us to arrive with the several thousands of dollars they were owed by Daniel. We were told the m oney was to pay for the last month’s tour group of Australians that Daniel never paid for. He also had not paid for us so we were on our own. We then had to repay for everything (hotel, transportation, tours) until we got back to Addis 5 days later to fly home. We had to stay in hotels that took credit cards as we did not have that much cash on us. At Lalibela the fees had double since the time we had booked so because Daniel never paid for our admission or tour, we had to pay the increased fee to enter the churches ($100 each)

11) A man name Fitsum Gezahegne( President – Ethiopian Tour Operators Association and Managing Director Paradise Ethipia Travel) helped us. He is the president of the Ethipian tour guide association. It was from him that we learned that Daniel is not licensed. Fitsum rebooked the hotels and tours. He also got us a van when a dust storm from the Sudan cancelled all flights for three days. In this way we were able to pay him at the end with a credit card since we did not have enough cash on us to continue the trip.

12) We also spoke with a man named Mr. Sisay Teklu, an assistant to the Minister of tourism. However when we met with him it was in an office with lots of boxes and a desk. He said they were remodeling. When Daniel was asked to repay us he said he had spent the money long ago. We wanted to have him arrested right then but we assured the ministry would recover our money and we would not get anything if Daniel was in jail..We signed papers (in Amharic) supposedly saying that if Daniel didn’t pay the agreed upon amount he and his wife (his partner in crime) would go to jail. We were also told in an email from Fitsum “The next day after you left, Mr. Sisay of the Ministry of Tourism had written a formal letter to Daniel requesting for an explanation about the whole thing and he signed a paper at the Ministry to pay all your money back before 31st of March. If he cannot pay the money by then, the government will pay you back and prosecute him accordingly.” We naively believed the ministry would stand by its promise. However when Daniel didn’t pay by the deadline, we received an email from Mr. Sisay that Daniel had been given an extension until May 4. We wrote asking them to honor the original agreement but that has not happened. At this point we are convinced we have been totally used and lied to and will never see this money and that Daniel will not go to jail for what he has done.
We believe the ministry should honor their promise to pay us and then get their money back from Daniel since they seem to trust Daniel and we don’t.
Also, not all Ethiopians are dishonest. We did meet several who tried to help us, including Fitsum.

 

Joyce Vera wrote:

I too did extensive research for our historical trip to North Ethiopia and was impressed by Daniel’s quick response to our many inqueries. Landing at Addis after a 30 hour flight he was one hour late picking me up which was the first of many disappointing events during our 11 day tour.

The next day we planned a full day tour of Addis and again one hour late. The full day tour lasted 4 hours claiming every thing was closed since it was Sunday.

We planned two nights at the Simein Moutain lodge with two single rooms. Upon arriving was told he only paid for one room. Called Daniel and he said two nights were too expensive so we would have to pay for the second night or share one room. Not acceptable to us.

We drove from Simein Mountains to Axum with a chat chewing driver in a pretty beat up minivan stopping to repair the battery, again to repair the door latch, and again when when it broke down completely half way
to Axum which resulted in us taking a public hop bus the rest of the way. We arrived in Axum exhausted, hungry and filthy and failed to notice the guide dumped us off at the wrong hotel. Our reservation was for the Remay but he left us at the Exodus which was much cheaper than the Remay.

The final day of the tour we flew from Lalibela to Addis where we promised a city tour, shopping, and a farewell dinner at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant. The chat chewing driver showed up 2 hours late and without a English speaking guide. The driver managed to find an English speaking friend of his who joined us and explained the van had no diesel and could not take us anywhere unless we bought the gas so what choice did we have? And the dinner, well he had no money for that either. Calling Daniel was no help, he claimed he was out of town so we would have to fend for ourselves.

All I can say is travellers beware of this company who simply did not deliver what he was paid to do.

I can not recommended this company.

Dietmar from Germany writes:

In October 2012 I stayed 4 weeks in Surma area around Kibish and Tulgit. Surma is the official Ethiopian umbrella term for three ethnic groups in South Ethiopia: the Suri people, the Mursi people and the Mekan people. Very often the name ‘Surma’ is used for the Suri people as well, but this is wrong, a Suri would never call himself a ‘Surma’. The Suri people are semi-nomadic cattle herders and live on the west side of the Omo River in the southwestern part of Ethiopia.

This area is still much undeveloped, only unpaved roads lead to the heart of the Suri settlements: Kibish. There are two roads from Mizan to Kibish: the old road via Bebeka Coffee Plantation and Dima, or the new Waji-Maji road via Tum and Koka. From time to time the roads are blocked because of rain, so you should better ask in advance which road is open. Beginning of October only the old road was passable.
Suri people have a cattle-centered 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 or a family member is sick. The animals are used for milk and blood. The Suri tribe is used to conflict, like for example the constant conflict with the neighbouring Nyangatom (Bume) tribe over land and cattle. In October 2012 however, the Suri and the Bume tribe lived together in peace. The Suri culture demands that the men are trained as warriors as well as cattle herders. Stick-fighting events like the ‘Zegine’ (or ‘Saginay’, also commonly known as Donga, the Amharic name for the stick fights) take place to train boys and young men and also to allow them to meet women.
However, Kalashnikovs are omnipresent and threaten to destabilize their society. Many ceremonies like weddings or funeral celebrations (Kilonga) look more like a military ceremony these days with a lot of Kalashnikovs and many gunshots. Even the stick-fighting events are accompanied with gunshots, sometimes deadly in case too much local beer was involved. As a result the Ethiopian government banned the stick fights, which now have to take place secretly and without presence of tourists.
In four weeks I only met a handful of tourists. This area is still quite untouched, and there are plenty of opportunities to see and experience the traditional life of the Suri tribe. The Suri people love to sing and dance, especially in full moon nights. If you are lucky you can see scarification, blood drinking ceremonies and other traditional rituals of the Suri people. All in all a wonderful experience.
If you are looking for a flexible, reliable and trustworthy company South Expedition Africa could be your choice. Especially if you are looking for off the beaten tracks or a tour operator who supports photo expeditions. The owner Nathaniel Taffere, helped always in any possible way to create a perfect logistic and to get the best local guides. The driver Gecho was great, a wonderful travel companion and advisor, and always driving very carefully and responsible. In summary, I had an amazing time and I would like to recommend http://www.south-expedition-africa.com/ to anybody planning to visit Ethiopia, especially people who are interested in photo expeditions and indigenous tribes.

Gert writes: 

As it is well described in the text, the Hamer still practice the annual “Bull Jumping Ceremony” (at different times in different locations) – and as described – during these ceremonies, the young girls allow the men to heavily beat them (as encouragement) with wooden sticks

This might sound harmless enough, but it isn’t – the place actually looks like a slaughterhouse because the girls are being beaten until they have deep, heavily bleeding gashes on their back. Over time, these gashes heal and create deep, thick welts/scars that are said to be “honorific scars”. Seeing Hamer women is something you are unlikely to ever forget – their backs are covered with enormous and multiple scars.

For NGOs it is impossible to work towards change as proclamation no. 612/2009 distinctly prohibit international organisations to work in any area that addresses “equal right, women’s, disabled or children’s rights, abolition of harmful practices, rights-based approaches, etc”.

The only ones who could make a difference are actually tourists…..however, a discussion with the representative of the Ministry of Women’s and Children Affairs revealed some interesting and disturbing insights.

Some of the Hamer elders would actually be prepared to abolish the practice of beating women as they realise that this is a harmful tradition that has no place in a modern-day society – even in their own. However, they will and cannot abolish this practice as it an important source of income: Tourists come for the explicit purpose to witness this ritual and handsomely pay for it !!!! I can just imagine: Back home, they go on the street carrying placards in favour of women’s rights, and on holidays they travel to Ethiopia and take loads of camera shots during the “beating of the women” ceremony. Humans are strange animals, indeed !

I admit, I am probably  overly critical but I think the Bradt Guide could do more to highlight the controversy and to encourage visitors to make a difference? That way, tourism could become some positive factor.

 

 

Gert writes:

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: wondisf@yahoo.com , 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.

 

Matthias writes:

We had a 14 days trip with Authentic Ethiopia Tours in the South of Ethiopia, which was an outstanding cultural experience. The tour was superbly organized and was adjustable according to our interests and condition. Our tour guide, Sileshi, gave us detailed background information and insights on the countries history and culture. Visiting numerous tribes in the region of the Omo Valley was a significant and overwhelming experience. Without our guide and the provided escorts it would have not been possible to come into contact with the different tribes so intensely. We felt safe and comfortable throughout the entire trip. To get a real and authentic experience of the Ethiopian culture and its people, we can recommend Authentic Ethiopia Tours. Without doubt this will assure you an unforgettable journey which is not touristic but lets you experience and be part of the culture yourself. For sure we will return to explore the rest of Ethiopia, since even though our experience was so overwhelming, it was only 10% of what Ethiopia still has to offer. Therefore we would like to say thank you to Authentic Ethiopia Tours for making our journey so maginificant and memorable.

Radek writes:

In December 2012 we spent 1 week in Omo Valley and 1 week in the north around Lalibela. No time for Simien and Abuna Yemata in Tigrey. Ethiopia would be my number 2-3 destination in Africa, it is interesting and safe, people are very nice. December is considered mid-season but in Omo markets and vilages we have seen very few tourists, similar in Lalibela. Even at the bull jumping there were 300 relatives and only 20 tourists. Go and see.

Addis Ababa

We stayed in Ankober hotel in Piazza next to Baro hotel email ankober.g.house at gmail.com . Always hot water, quiet. Ask for discount: we paid $27/night for double. You can also try historical Taitu email reservations at taituhotel.com for same price. For extensive list of cheap hotels in Addis go to ICASA 2011 Travel list or search cvent.com
Don’t use the taxi kiosk inside the airport terminal: they want $20 for ride to Piazza. Go to the parking lot, we bargain from 200B then finally to 150B. In general blue taxis are cheaper than yellow.

South Omo

If you think about visiting Ethiopia and don’t have much time, then my advice would be go to Omo. All other places will still be there waiting for your next trip. Even if you have only few days, it is worth all the money and effort. Omo exceeded my expectations, I’ve never thought that such interesting and real tribes still exist. In most cases it is not a Travel Zoo as some tourists complained. Don’t postpone your trip because all will change dramatically in the next 10 years. They already have decent roads and electricity will be there in 1-3 years. If you have money then fly to Arba Minch even for few days to see Hamer.
We had to fly because we had very tight schedule. There are no flights to Jinka, only to Arba Minch 3 times a week. For some reason they are not listed on Ethiopian Airline web site, you have to call them. They have discounts on internal flights if you buy your ticket to Ethiopia from them. Make sure that you confirm every leg a day before- one flight was cancelled/delayed till next day, the other left 40 minutes early.
I will try to attach a list of all agencies that are recommended on various sites and blogs. In Addis the main ones are Abeba Tours, Sora, Adimasu. You pay more at the bigger agency but they probably would provide more help if the car breaks down. They quoted $130-$170 for 1990s model year and $170-$200 for newer model with Sora having the best prices. This is for the 4WD with driver, gas, taxes from Addis. 1$=18B. Don’t buy all inclusive- it will be $200+/pp/day. If you get the car then other expenses are double room 200B, meal 40-60B, beer 11-15, guide $30/day, entrance fees 300B/car/village so your total will be about $100/pp/day based on 2 people. Of course for the low budget trip. Bargain everywhere, they inflate prices-absolutely don’t pay 12B for a tea, it should be 3B -complain about rip off and walk away.
Another option, but only in a very dry season, is to rent 2WD Honda from Avis in Addis, with discounts and even charge per km it would be a good deal for 3+ people.
After we decided to fly we had to find a local guide and car in Omo. There are very few options so many people order the car from Addis but you have to pay for their round trip. Probable exception: I’ve received email from Endalk Bezawork endalbez at yahoo.com promising to charge $130/car from Arba. I’ve not be able to verify this because I’ve already decided to go with Lalo Dessie lalotour.com 251- 913363077, email lalojinka at gmail.com . Lalo is a local guide from Jinka, knows everybody including tribe people and can organize whatever you want. We were camping in the villages, seen bull jumping (impossible to find out the schedule without the good guide), visited his friends and family and had great time. Nice, flexible and highly recommended.
Other practical info: bring the toilet paper, peptobismol, antidiarrhea (we were OK), flashlight, granola bars, wet napkins, mosquito repellent and small net to cover your face at night.

Lalibela

We flew to Lalibela, stayed in nice Asheton hotel 251 33 3360030 don’t know email, paid 300B for double, highly recommended. It is worth to hire guides for 200B to visit churches. We wanted to do trekking so we talked to local agencies: Daniel Melese highlandtrekking.com 912130831 based in 7 Olives very professional but expensive at $40-$50/pp day trekking to Abune. We used Sisay Emagnu Trekking in Lalibela email sisay208 at yahoo.com251 920 133060 for 10-12 hour hike to churches in Bilbala for $25/pp day trekking. We returned by bus for 100B/ticket. Our guide was very nice and helpful freelancer Abebe email abebe_tesfaw at yahoo.com 251 921 963544. Another agencies are TESFA Cooperative and unrelated Tesfa Tours. I am not sure why the trekking prices are so high considering that you stay in huts, etc – dbl room in cheap hotel in Bilbala was 100B. Search internet for $5 trekking/hut stay with Ms. Sisay 251-91-1556205 but she did not replay to my email.

I want to recommend a guide, Lalo Desse, who worked for me in the Lower Omo River Valley in S. Ethiopia in 2006.  He was a magician, allowing me to travel in very hard circumstances with a measure of comfort and very inexpensively.  He has just started a small, shoestring touring company that can be googled at www.lalo-tours.com  They specialize in “alternative” travel, but can take anyone anywhere for any purpose in Ethiopia for a very reasonable price.  His telephone contact is 251 913 363 077 (int’l) or 0913 363 077 (in Ethiopia). I would highly recommend Lalo’s company for anyone wanting to travel anywhere in Ethiopia.

T. Miller