Southern Ethiopia trip report

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: , 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.


“Ethiopia Highlights” errata

Frank Rispin has kindly pointed out several minor errors in the new Ethiopia Highlights guide, as listed below:

p 80 Air France/Alitalia/BMI no longer fly to Addis Ababa. Other airlines that do fly into Addis but are not here include Egyptair, Fly Dubai, Gulf Air, Kenya Airways

p 93 The 1br COIN has been around for 2 plus years.

p 96 Although menus at local eateries are normally printed in Amharic, this is not the case for the type of restaurants likely to be frequented by people travelling with tour companies

p 108 Addis Map. Karamara Restaurant closed. Habesha is in wrong place (it is on the Bole Rd). The Top View is reached via the major intersection of 5 roads 1cm south east of Yeka Michael Church !! (ie the famous Meganya Interchange). Saris is in wrong place. Crossroads labelled Saris is the Gotera Interchange. Saris is south of this some 2/3kms.

p 113 What we refer to as the Lion of Judah statue is the Tilglachin Memorial – the tall obelisk with Red Star on top 300 metres further north up Churchill that is the war memorial for 78-79………

p 115  former Imperial Palace (actually called the Jubilee Palace in HS regime) is now the National Palace or the Presidential Palace….as the President lives there.

p 116 line 8. This bar next to Taitu is closed. Yes it was in a very small old church , and was at one time the Falklands Bar/Pub see Piazza Map 5th edition p156.

P 129. The turn off to Menagesha Forest is near Sabata, 25-30km from Addis Ababa on the Woliso (Jimma) road, not at Woliso itself.

p 242 Bekele Mola Hotel, Langano closed. One of the best things to do in Hawassa is go on the Hippo boat – much easier to find here than at Lake Zwai; but not mentioned.

Travel in Southern Ethiopia

We did a 2 weeks trip in South Ethiopia. This travel was less surprising and atonishing that the northen part (Lalibela, Simien).
Nevertheless, I would like to give update on the Dodola/Adaba lodges and also the Dinsho one.
Happy to start with Changeti as everything is perfect (clean, large tent, kindness…) thanks to the couple who is taking care of the lodge and even sweeping the cow dung up from grass.
But unfortunatly all the other ones (Angafu,Molichio and Duro) cannot be compared. Bed clothes are not clean and we needed to desinfect them before sleeping.
Duro was the worst as we could not stay in the dining room as the oven was expelling smoke instead of warming up the room. Windows panes of one bed room were broken.
Our local guide told us that these damages are dated back several weeks (or months?).
Question is to know who is responsible for the repairs as local farmers told us that they are not paid for that.
I will talk also of the Dinsho lodge where the owner (who keeps the bed rooms keys) was not there at 4.30pm and we had to wait 2 hours before he returns from town with our driver as he could not be contacted (his mobil was off). The following day was the same story with other guests.
I trust that this is a daily trip to town for drinking beers.
These comments are given in a positive/constructive way to avoid tourists just to notice (or most probably not) these disorders and nothing new happens even after the complains.
Could it be possible to write to The Tourism Organisation or Ministry of Tourism to explain our concern and let them know that if the situation persists, tourists will avoid coming to this marvellous mountains but do they care ?????..
I did not like at all the children dancing like Michael Jackson in the slop going to the Dorze village. Could we ask again (as you wrote many times in your guide) tourists not to give money.
In overall, I recommand the 5 hours trekking in the Wenchi crater and also Wondo Genet that deserves more than 1 day. I was disappointed by Awash Park where there is not so much to see
For the hotel, number 1 spot is SABANA in Langano, then Paradise Lodge in Arba Minch.
Ethiopia is a very fascinating country.

Robert Val

Rift Valley Updates

Langano Update August 2010.

1. Bekele Mola Hotel is closed – forclosed by a bank when B. Mola PLC put it up as collateral for a loan elsewhere… Watch this space to see if some entrepreneur will take over the jewel of BMs Rift Valley Chain and restore it to its 1970s number one spot!!!!

2. Abula Bassuma also seems to be closed. It’s large sign in Bulbulla village has gone.

3. SABANA is NOW the place to go. I had only eaten there in 08 and 09 but stayed 2 nights recently. Sabana hqs whqt you rarely get in Ethiopia, built in QUALITY. The whole place was designed by an engineer. The rooms are simply decorated and superbly practical. The stunning restaurant design deserves a prize. Book before you go – 0461191181 – they will give you a booking number and you pay at Topview, Blue Tops or Pit Stop in Addis. Cash only. Rooms $75 upwards – bit cheaper mid week. Prices quoted include tax/service. Turn left off Awassa road after 200km stone – clear signboard. NO CAMPING.

4. WABE SHEBELLE - ok if your budget wont stretch to Sabana!!!!! And you don’t mind litter all over the place, and dogs. Latest newish twin rooms c 392 birr – inclusive. Check toilet, showers, and lights work before accepting room. Designated camping area now appears to have many hotel tents up.

5. Wenney and Bishangari directions. 2009 Bradt Guide page 455.   This is wrong and confusing.   The road to both places is the same one. As stated it goes left off Awassa tarmac highway about 2km past Bekele Mola. Huge billboards mark the corner. Good gravel road for several KM; then a track.

Awassa Update August 2010.

1. Hailes Resort. North end of lakeside road. Well signposted. Bedroom design outstanding.   Hotel design could have been transported from Majorca ? Pool great as long as they can stop it going green. 100br to swim.   Nice sunbeds and great view from them. Local people complaining about high drinks prices – Gin and T = 88br. Rooms over $100 ??      To rent  high speed motor boat for quick return trip to new Lewi Resort– rumoured to be 750 br.

2. Lewi Resort. South end of lakeside roads – next to Wabe Shebelle 2 ( now “Midroc Village” !!!! )

About 12 amazing bungalows with “Best in Ethiopia” Interior design that even outdoes Haile’s bedrooms !!   Each has a huge circular double bed with two headboards between which sits your CD/TV control console.   Large flat screen TV. These are $146 plus 25% ?? but have NO real view of lake.

By the lake is a smallish block of rooms. Front ones with lake view and garden to lakefront are about $95 plus 25%; ones at rear no lake view $65 plus. This place is trying to be the Sheraton of the South.

3. Places to eat in Awassa

a. Lewi Piazza ~ or new Lewi . Indoors in evening outdoors for breakfast – great.

b. Blue Nile – nice outdoor area at front. Excellent National Food section at rear.

c. Tadess Enjeri – but sign in Amharic only !!! Near top of main street. North side – just below supermarket.

4. Good value for money hotel in the likely event of your holiday budget or per diem not stretching to Hailes or Lewi prices , then try SOUTH SPRINGS HOTEL. When arriving from Addis this is the first hotel you see – on rhs of main Kenya highway on the corner where the lakeside road turns off to your right. Has vehicle gates on both roads – but name sign only on Moyale Road. Twin / Double Rooms 210 (140 for residents). Ezxcellent value.

Also has some nice family units for 4 people with small lounge and two bedrooms. It is some 3km from town centre but no prob if you have a vehicle.

Wondo Genet  ( from visits April and August 2010)

1. The cottage as they call it – ie Haile Sellassies circular bungalow. Costs us some 1400 br for a night at Easter 2010….. accomodates 5.

But you do sleep in the emperors bedroom !!   Has double, twin  both ensuite; and a single for the bodyguard (no loo)

2.  Buffet breakfast – beware – cold scrambled egg etc. Not exactly attractive. Menu cards tatty and poor choice.   The place is still magical but the restaurant could do with a gigantic kick in the …………..( or privatisation ). I am amazed the top UK company Exodus still takes people there !!

3.  On a day visit in August with my teenage grandchildren – larger pool was EMPTY –  just started on refilling process  Smaller pool full of two busloads of non swimmer school children – who were having a great time. ……. This was a Tuesday – so possibly avoid Tuesdays if you want to swim !!!!!!!

Frank Rispin

Langano & Abiata Shala

Swimming in red waters of Lake Langano, apparently the only bilharzias free lake in Ethiopia, was a strange experience. Very easy to get there from Addis, but you’d need to get a bus from Autobus Terra at 5.30am. I stayed in Bekele Mola hotel which is clearly signposted on the main road to Shashamene – opposite the main entrance of Abiata Shala National Park. You can walk for 30min to the hotel from the main road or pay Birr 10 for the cart if you’re lucky you see one. The best time to visit is Mon-Thu – you could be the only paying guest at the hotel. They’ll try to give you a room for Birr 325 per night and if this is expensive ask for cottage/chalet for Birr 126 per night.

Main entrance to Abiata Shala is only 30 min away but the National Park opens only at 8am (or maybe 8.30?). The best thing would be to get the ticket day in advance and start exploring not later than 7am the following day. If you arrive before 8am then be prepared to leave some kind of identification with the scouts and pay Birr 50 on your way back. I spent 5 hours walking through the acacia trees towards the shallow lake – birds, antelopes, Abyssinian Hare and some other animals will almost certainly be spotted. I decided not to go towards the shallow lake any further after arriving at some kind of small ridge (saw flamingos with my binoculars) and turned towards the viewpoint where both lakes can be seen. There are some adjacent cliffs 5 min walk which offers better views of the more beautiful lake. There were NO tourists that day and there were only two kids trying to sell models of the local huts/houses. You should be fine to take the 4km shortcut towards the main entrance – just follow your instinct or ask friendly locals for directions.

Goran Jovetic, London, UK

New lodge at Langano

Sabana Beach Resort (25 bungalows/rooms)  046-1191181/1191466/1191467; e-mail at;  The bungalows are family-friendly and can be combined depending on your requirements.  This new resort has an unusual landscape that combines a beachfront recreation area with a bar and snack facility and lakeside dining with a vast cliff-top.  From the location about 50 meters above the lake your accommodations, a beautifully uniquely designed hut-shaped restaurant, and a great site for a wedding, all overlook the lake.  The landscaping of the grounds, the environmentally sound design, and the careful attention to detail make this easily the best facility on Lake Langano.  Several activities exist on the property not always found at others in the area including: mountain bikes, canoes, beach volley, water slide, beach soccer, table tennis, darts, children playground. This location will please the international tourist in a relaxed and friendly environment.  Accommodation in the bungalow type rooms costs US $66/78 sgl/dbl wkend and are 15 % less weekdays (Sunday-Thursday).  Family rooms can handle up to 3 adults and two teenagers.  Those rates can range from US $102 to US $142 depending on size of group.  All prices are inclusive of breakfast, 15% VAT, & 10% service charge. James N. Larsen, CAE