New upmarket lodges in Gondar and Bale Mountains

Simon writes:

My wife and I are just back from Ethiopia. Your guide was invaluable both in planning our trip and while we were there – packed with interesting information of all sorts, and pleasantly unafraid to express an opinion.

We stayed in two new places (Mayleko Lodge in Gondar and Bale Mountain Lodge just south of the Sanetti Plateau) and I thought it might be helpful to give you some feedback about both.

Mayleko Lodge opened earlier this year. The rooms, in individual traditional style cabins with their own verandas, are very spacious and stylish. Warm-hued stone floors, bamboo ceilings and traditional wooden furniture provide lots of Ethiopian character. The enormous bed was very comfortable. The bathroom, with its walk-in shower, was the best we saw on our trip. We went to Mayleko after two days trekking with TESFA, and then again after two nights in the Simiens (including camping). The luxury the Mayleko offers was exactly what was needed after rougher conditions. The Mayleko’s food was good, and relatively good value for an upmarket place (for example the wine was priced much lower than in other locations). The swimming pool was a pleasure in the heat of the day, and all the staff were exceptionally helpful and welcoming. The location on the edge of Gondar is just a few minutes from the airport so very convenient if you are flying back to Addis.
Bale Mountain Lodge opened this year, providing for the first time a comfortable base to explore two of the most unique habitats in Ethiopia – the extraordinary Sanetti Plateau with its Abyssinian wolves, endemic birds, giant lobelias and mole rats, and the Harena cloud forest in which the lodge is located. The spacious high ceilinged central lodge building with its two tier fireplaces is a welcoming place with great views of the mountains. The bedrooms are housed in separate huts from many of which you cannot see the others – just the beautiful views. They are very comfortable, with tons of room, large beds and walk-in showers. The food is excellent and for people who drink like I do, the all-in price is extremely appealing. The English owners Guy and Yvonne Levene have invested immense effort in developing the lodge (including designing and building a spectacular small scale in-river hydro-electric plant which is a tourist attraction in itself) and are warm and solicitous hosts. The lodge has been designed to have a minimal environmental impact, and provides a base for scientific researchers (including James, the resident Kenyan naturalist, who is one of the most knowledgeable ornithologists and most expert bird ringers that I have met). It also has an important positive impact on the local economy, employing and training local people, and running education scholarship schemes.

Your list of books about and/or set in Ethiopia was really useful guidance for filling up my Kindle before we went. The one you missed is Flashman on the March, the last in George MacDonald Fraser’s series when Flashman gets involved in Napier’s expedition. Like all the series, it is completely politically incorrect but great fun – and I have to say that most of the fiction set in Ethiopia I found rather disappointing.

Thank you for such a brilliant guidebook – it really made a difference to our trip to a spectacular country.

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