2015 trip report

Ian and Les write:

Going South:

  • One night on Lake Langano at Bishangari Lodge was memorable both from the point of view of location and birds. However, one has to suffer the 30 minute journey from the main road, much of it on a track, to get there. It was worth the suffering.
  • Then the drive from Lake Langano to Bale Mountain National Park, up over the Sanetti Plateau and down to Bale Mountain Lodge was probably the best one day road trip I have taken. Your description of it was apt. A bonus for me were the pipits and larks on the farmed plateau between Shashemene and Goba.
  • We decided to splurge on a 3 night stay at Bale Mountain Lodge even though it was way over what we would normally pay for accommodation. It was helped a discount Guy Levene offered us. He was not there by we met Yvonne on the last night and she said you were there 3 weeks previously. It was worth the money both because of the location, between the plateau and the dry lowlands, and for the warmth and care provided by the people who work there.
  • We did a day trip down to the area around Dola Mena and I could not believe how prolific the birdlife it there. I am not a top birder by any means but we must have seen 50 species there in 4 hours of which 14 were ‘lifers’ for me. And camels to boot. That said, I can understand it when Yvonne said that some people come back from this trip disappointed as it is the birding which makes it really special.

Going North, we took a tourist package as we only had three days for this part of our trip and chose to go to Bahir Dar.

  • We selected the Abay Minch Hotel, partly based on the Bradt Guide advice. But were very disappointed not to be on the lake and your description needs to be amended as the wording something like ‘in a quiet corner of the lake’ is misleading. So we decided to move – with Abey Minch not giving us a refund – and stayed at the Lake Tana Blue Nile Resort. It is such a great location, particularly for birding, and we really liked the atmosphere there. The food was better than we expected and Les and I decided they only needed to do one thing: fix the bathrooms.
  • The Deset Lodge, on the bay opposite the Lake Tana resort hotel is a great place for evening drinks and dinner. We went there with people staying in Bahir Dar who are in the know.
  • We took a day trip on Lake Tana to the monasteries with the one on Dek Island being the highlight: beautiful, quiet and spiritual.
  • The trip to see the Blue Nile Falls trickle was disappointing and I would not recommend it. We knew there was no water but were not prepared for the horrible bumpy 37 km journey there and the pressure to buy curios every step of the way. Also the birding was disappointing.

Back in Addis and the Akaki Wetlands

  • While I was working for the first week in Addis I stayed at the Ghion Hotel, which was just OK, made worthwhile by the setting. But on passing through on the way back we wanted the feel of smart Bole Road and stayed in the KZ hotel which was nice and good value.
  • Based on what you had written about the Akaki Wetlands, we took a half day trip out there. But, as I presume you have found yourself, the wetlands are gone. It seems as if they have been drained for agriculture and/or for the construction of the freeway, railway and pipeline between the town and what must have been the wetlands. In some ways this is a metaphor for what is happening in Ethiopia: development at an unbelievable pace with the wilderness paying a price for this.

Public transport in Addis Ababa

Addis Advisor writes:

Addis MINIBUS TAXIS, price drop, location changes.

. PRICES

Due to world oil thing prices have been cut thus….these are for trips of different length starting with shortest

SHORT 1.50 birr down to 1.25…………In Amharic………and birr k haya amist

MEDIUM 3.00 birr down to 2.50 eg Arat Kilo to Megananya..

LONG 4-00 birr down to ???? not sure if 3.50 or 3,25………eg Bole to Piazza,

Stadium to Kaliti Bus Station 12 km out to southern outskirts of Addis is still 10 birr…(for those busing south)

2. As the Addis Light Rail system nears completion many minibus starting points are back to normal…..ie as in Bradt Guide 6th edition maps. BUT many also still different……..especially on eastern section of the Metro Rail between Maskal Square and Megananya…..which has many hotels…. LOCALS will always be most helpful in telling you where a particular route currently starts.

3. For those aiming to save money by using minibuses…….see relevant page on how to use Addis minibus taxis in Bradt (6th edition only).

Addis Light Rail network will open later this year……..

Visas on arrival – tentative good news

I’ve just heard from two reliable local sources, one working in tourism and the other with the government, that according to the immigration department, a 3-month single-entry visa should be available on arrival at US$70 (as opposed to US$50 for the 30-day visa) starting today (28 Jan 2015).

I would not recommend that anybody rely on this information until it is verified. However, if anybody flying into Addis Ababa is able to verify or refute it by checking with the visa desk at the airport arrivals hall, that would be most useful – please comment below!

Visa extensions

John writes:

You have certainly heard that visa procedures have been toughened.  It now costs USD 50.- to have the visa delivered
upon arrival at the airport, and only one month visas are issued. (see also https://bradtethiopiaupdate.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/visa-on-arrival/)

I do not know what the normal procedure for extension is – queuing up endlessly at immigration? – but the procedure if you overstay is complicated. You first have to go to immigration to state that you overstayed, then you have to appear in front of a magistrate who will decide upon the fine, usualy 20-25 USD (though I was told that an Italian fellow who had seriously overstayed was fined 500 USD) and you will have to pay an additional 100 USD to get a one-month extension.

Fire at Itegue Taitu Hotel

We were saddened to hear the the historic old main building of the Itegue Taitu, the oldest hotel in Addis Ababa, and the most characterful, was partially destroyed by fire over the weekend – see http://english.alarabiya.net/en/life-style/travel-and-tourism/2015/01/12/Fire-guts-Itegue-Taitu-Hotel-Ethiopian-hotel-made-famous-by-scoop-.html.

Our understanding is that the bedrooms on the 1st floor of the main building, the roof, many historic pieces and a bank office were completely lost to the fire. The Jazz Amba club was also completely destroyed.

However, the two outbuildings that house most of the accommodation were unaffected and we’ve heard reliably that these rooms are still functional. Reception is still operating out of the left hand side of the old main building, and the ground floor restaurant in the main building reopened on 14 Jan. .

For further details see http://taituhotel.com

Hopefully the rest of this lovely old building will be restored in due course!

Trip report December/January 2014/15

Franka writes:

I would like to share some advise and news from Ethiopia where I spent a couple of weeks between December and January 2015.

Addis Ababa
I would not recommend the Itegue Taitu hotel. The single room was quite dirty and with no hot water.

Gondar
I would recommend Michael Hotel. It is clean, there is a wifi free, hot water and a fair price (300 birr for a room with twin bed)
I would not recommend the tour operator “Siemen_Trekking”, especially to a single traveller women.
Generally speaking, Gondar was the only place in ethiopia, where I didn’t feel safe.

Mekele
I would not recommend the Atse Yohannis Hotel. I spent there two nights, in two different room, and both where not so clean, very old structure. I also had a reservation but they completely ignore it and I had some problem in finding an available room.

ETT Tour Operator is good, altought we had a problem with the car (air conditioning) while we were travelling towards Erta Ale. Be sure the driver will check the air conditioning system before leaving Mekele and always ask for the newest model of jeep (there are more then one).

Lalibela
We had a reservation at Alef Paradise. Altought the reservation was reconfirmed the day before our arrival, when there, there was no room available. Had to change place, stayed in The Villa guesthouse. Very Good accommodation.