We travelled to the Simien mountains in May this year and it was an amazing experience. After a lot of internet research we settled on a 6 night trek organised by Yalew Tafete (www.guide-ethiopia.com). We cannot recommend him enough. The trek we chose was a highland to lowland trek but Yalew can arrange treks to suit your needs. He is from Debark so is also a local person. While it is possible to just show up at the park office in Debark and arrange a guide, scout, cook, and mule handlers (or in fact to simply take a scout) if you are time constrained we highly recommend using Yalew. We were really impressed with Yalew’s organisation and, if you can afford it, think that it enhances the experience to have a full compliment of local people to join you on the trek. Yalew met us at the airport in Gondar and from there everything went seamlessly. He checked on our dietary requirements and made sure we had enough clothing and bedding. He had also pre-arranged a driver to get to the start of the trek and the trekking crew. For two of us we considered it good value for money and the cost would reduce further the more people were part of the group. While we did not require any additional arrangement, Yalew can help organise internal travel and any other activities you require.
As for the trek itself it was one of the best things we have done. May is a low season as it is the dry season and the highlands do not have the lush greenness that is present from October to January. Although we would like to go back at that time of year to experience the scenery it did not diminish our experience and as an advantage there are not as many trekkers, with just a handful of groups in the camps each night. The trek has great variety from wildlife (the gelada monkeys, walia ibex, ethiopian wolves (if you are lucky) and great variety of birds; the astounding canyons and scenery as you walk along the escarpment; and the opportunity to meet and interact with the locals. Highlights were out stays in the grounds of local schools and the coffee ceremony we had with our scout Noor’s relatives. We also had a wonderful trekking crew. Eyosi Worede was an exceptional guide who has impressive knowledge of almost everything to do with the region and is wonderfully friendly and good company. Kadir and Moorat achieved culinary feats with just a single gas cooker (even baking a birthday cake!) and Noor proved himself very adept at wrangling to many local children that you meet along the way. We would recommend, however, taking a good supply of pens and other things of use for the children as they are incredibly appreciative of anything you can offer. We also took some old clothing that we were able to distribute at the end of the trek.
We would say it is a once in a lifetime experience, but we are already planning a return trip.
Gareth and Alice