Suri Country with South Expedition Africa

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 to anybody planning to visit Ethiopia, especially people who are interested in photo expeditions and indigenous tribes.

2 thoughts on “Suri Country with South Expedition Africa

  1. Kuba says:

    We visited Southern Ethiopia on December 2012 with South Expedition Africa. We visited Lower Omo valley, Konso villages and Dorzie tribe in the Mountains and Nachisar National Park. Program of this trip was very interested and well organized. Nathaniel – the owner of the office is very flexible and give you what you need, despite we had only e-mail contact with him. Ethiopia is an amazing country, with many attractions and what is the most important -with many nice, friendly and very honorable people. Such wonderful man is Gecho, our new friend from Ethiopia. He was our driver and guide in this trip. He helped us to see, touch and taste many goods of Southern Ethiopia. He adjusted our program to have possibilities to see all markets in Lower Omo valley and join a celebration of Bull Jumping in Hammer Tribe. After few days of our trip he became a member of our family. Thank’s a lot, Gecho. Greetings from Poland.

  2. Halim Ina says:

    Three years ago I spent three weeks in Ethiopia under the guidance of South Expedition Africa. Prior to the visit extensive email messages were exchanged between us and never once did it seem a burden to the leader, Nathaniel Taffere. He was always courteous and generous with his time, and we laid out a very specific plan for my visit that made me feel quite comfortable. When I arrived two people were waiting for me, and lodgings were provided within the capital until the next day when the second flight took me to the location of our photography, the Lower Omo Valley. The driver and guide were both young and energetic, providing me with plenty of help during the next three weeks. The work itself was quite difficult, from navigating tough terrain to negotiating with the local communities. However the good people of South Expedition Africa did their best and we managed to make perhaps the most incredible images in my portfolio. During my time a few changes needed to be made and Nathaniel was most generous with his guidance, allowing these changes to be made and without difficulty. I would highly recommend working with this gentle man, and with his company.

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