Safety at Koka Dam

Harm Bouta writes:

I would like to add some information regarding the Hippo-pool and crocodile watching near the Koka-Dam close to Adama/Nazret.
This area has recently turned into quite a dangerous area. Last week my family and i have been violently robbed of practically all our belonging (a violent robbery of my bag and a break in in our car whereby all our camping stuff has been stolen). I understood from the police that this area has become very dangerous even for Ethiopians (while at the police station a farmer came in who had been ambushed in the area).
It would be good to add this warning or completely remove the reference to the Hippo-pool as it is currently very likely other people might become victim of these thiefs as well.

Southern Ethiopia updates

I made a fifteen days trip with my wife and some other Dutch tourists, organized by a Dutch agency via the Ethiopian agency Greenland Tours.

We started in Addis, flew to Harar, spend two nights there, then drove to the south, with overnight stops in Nazareth, Dinsho, Goba, Awassa, Konso, Jinka, Mago NP campsite, Turmi three nights, Arba Minch two nights, then back to Addis.

Security = Ethiopia feels very safe. Never felt threatened. No thefts. Only town where I thought someone was following us in the street, and where I met an American man whose passport and money were stolen, was in Awassa.

Economy = Ethiopia looks booming! Everywhere you see new buildings being built. Road works to improve the infrastructure in many different places. There is more and more asphalt.

Harar = Lovely city to spent two days. Special atmosphere in those little alleys. Visited Rimbaud house and Harari cultural house. Good lunch at the popular restaurant “Cozy – pizzeria and coffee”, about 50 meters away from the equally good and popular Fresh Touch restaurant (same side of the street), mentioned in your book on page 418. We went to see the “new hyena man”. Weird to see, but still worth it. We stayed in the Heritage Hotel, was good. From the terrace of our hotel, at the end of an afternoon we saw a hyena walking between the gardens below. We payed 20 birr for a tuktuk ride from the city centre to our hotel.

Between Harar and Nazareth we visited the big khat market in Aweday.
Awash NP = saw crocodiles down in the river from the lodge near the Falls. In the park we saw kudu, wart hog, gazelle and many beautiful oryxes.
Nazareth Rift valley hotel = hotel looked nice, good restaurant, but the room we had at the second floor was shabby, dark and dusty and there was no water in the bathrooms during the whole evening.

Shashemene = lunch in restaurant Lily of the valley was good, they had special juices i had never seen before, maybe Caribbean/rasta.

Dinsho = spent a night in the Dinsho lodge. Made a log fire in the lounge, but after a while the whole lounge was full of smoke! At night temperature dropped to about minus 2 celsius. Next morning made a lovely walk with a very knowledgeable ranger. Saw wart hog and many endemic mountain nyalas, as well as francolins, white tailed ibis, bushbuck, yellow fronted parrot.
In the afternoon we drove to the very summit of Tullu Deemtu, 4377 meters, highest road in Africa. As far as I know, this is the only place in Africa where you can go above 4000 meters by car. (In my younger days, I used to hike African 4000+mountains: Kili, Mt Kenya, Ruwenzori, Meru, mt Cameroon, Toubkal Atlas, Karisimbi, …). Sanetti plateau is of great beauty. Ethiopia has such a huge diversity in landscapes, incredible.
We saw the Abyssinian wolf, mole rats, lammergeier, shelduck.

Spent the night in Webe Shebele hotel in Goba, very comfortable room. Condoms provided in the room!

On the right side of the road between Robe and Dodola, I visited the house of cave people in a place called Sebsebe Washa. You can see the rock from the road. The house is built against the rock, and once you are inside the house, you notice the house is connected to tunnels in the rock. I paid the owner a couple of birr to visit his house. Bring a torch light, cause it is very dark.

Awassa = spent the night in the very comfortable new Pinna hotel. Made a motor boat trip on the lake to the place where the hippos live, pretty expensive faranji prices.

Dilla = delicious mango and avocado juice in Rendez Vous restaurant.

From Dilla to Konso = I showed our driver the new road from Fisiha Genet to Konso, mentioned in your book and on our good Hungarian Gizi map, but he said the road was not good, he prefered to drive via Yabello.

Konso = Edget Hotel was pretty basic, no running water and no electricity when we were there, but the place is popular with locals, for a beer in the evening.

Omo valley = we visited villages and markets of ethnic groups like Hamar, Karo, Mursi, Konso, Ari, Dassanetch and Arbore. Price of a picture was mostly 2, 3 or 4 birr. Communication was difficult. I found a very basis Hamar word list on the internet, the people liked it when i spoke some of their words. That was always good to break the ice and make the people smile.
On page 533 you write that Arbore is “far more rustic and unaffected than many similarly sized towns in south Omo”. Probably times have changed, because the Arbore people standing along the road, waiting to be photographed, were the most pushy. They surrounded me, kept on pulling my arms, etc, nothing bad, but far from unaffected. Lots of jeeps with tourists when we were there. We were one of them.

Turmi Evangadi camp site = showers were always working. Not a bad place to camp. Lots of bees though in the open air restaurant.

Mago NP = on the road to the camp site we saw baboons, dikdiks, guinea fowls. At the camp site lovely black and white colobuses. End of afternoon we made a game drive, starting behind the Colobus camp site, crossing the river by car, and then through high grass. So high that soon our main concern was not finding animals, but finding the track. I think we were the first car there since long. The armed scout walked ahead of our car, to look for the track. During two hours of game drive, we saw 1 dikdik, thousands of tse tse like flies and one sad lonely turtle, that was all. So dont go to Ethiopia for the animals, but for the people! And when we found that turtle or tortoise, our local guide who had been to the Mursi village with us, lift the poor animal from the ground, hold it above his head, put it back on the ground and then put his feet on it. I think Ethiopia has still quite a lot to learn as far as nature conservation policy is concerned!

Omorate = had to go to an office where an official checked our passports and wrote our names in a notebook. Local guide asked us 100 birr to cross the Omo river, two ways. Your guide book says “a few birr”. Probably faranji price, we did not bargain. No police escort necessary.

Way back in Konso = had lunch in new Kanta Lodge, looks very beautiful, nice tokuls, nice garden. Extremely crowded, all the landrovers with faranji stopped there for lunch.

Arba Minch = lovely boat trip to see the huge crocodiles, very exciting, many fish eagles, goliath heron. Swaynes Hotel definitely misses character, isolated place, no locals, a small bottle of water costs one euro, and there was no running water for a big part of the day. Very nice atmosphere however in Tourist hotel in lower town, popular with both locals and foreigners.
Nechisar NP = saw baboon, dikdik, yellow necked francolin, Grant gazelle, ground hornbill, ground squirrel, kudu, Burchells zebra, and all five remaining Swaynes hartebeest, hundred procent score.

Humbo = visited the thursday big cattle market, not many tourists, people dont ask money for pictures

Tiya stelae field = worth a visit if you are interested in history. Very knowledgeable guide who opened the doors for us.



Hotels in Nazret / Adama

I stayed at Safari lodge recently. the room was nice, but there was no hot water the night we were there and we only complained in the morning as we were leaving, so nothing they could really do about it. The food was good, dinner by the pool was lovely. The price was 491birr for a double including a buffet brakfast, which was good, but I disagree that it was the best I have ever had in Ethiopia (Desalegn hotel in Addis does better buffet breakfast). Safari lodge is often booked out on the weekends, we had to move to Adama German hotel for the second night, the rooms were also good, very spatious, no swimming pool, breakfast included. Prices from 380 to 500 depending on the rooms (from Twin to superior suite), perfect hot water. All fittings-furnishings rather new and very clean. Also free wireless with decent speed in the rooms, but you need to have your laptop configured in the business centre on the first floor.

Liza D

Nazareth Safari Lodge

I think you are very unfair on THIS PLACE.  So in its defence  – or an alternative view by an old Addis hand who has been to nearly all the new provincial lodges.

What you call dark rooms are dark because of all the trees around them – Adama is hot and the shade is welcome when you arrive from Addis or elsewhere.

You call the standard rooms a miss. I think the rooms are spacious and amongst the best in provincial Ethiopia. They are in effect suites. Staff are helpful, when we last went they happily put a third bed in a room for 100br.

The buffet breakfast is CERTAINLY the best I have had in Ethiopia – reminiscent of Kenyan/South African lodges!

Frank Rispin

Road safety

Ethiopia has the highest vehicle death rate in the world. It also has
the highest road death rate, a definition which includes pedestrians
on the road. As discouraging to travel as they may be, the hazards
must be stated. Roads are by far your biggest threat when travelling
in Ethiopia. Another statistic to hold on to is that three quarters of
fatalities happen on the Addis Ababa – Nazaret stretch of road. To
minimise your risks, I suggest travellers avoid using any of the
hundreds of Toyota Minibuses on this road: they are small, flimsy,
crammed and the driver tends to see himself as chat chewing Ayrton
Senna. On this particular road, travelling by regular bus is safer
because they are chunky and slower. This road is straight and has no
cliffs (not so in the highlands), meaning that the old tyres and
twisted suspension are not so potentially horrific. Travellers on
private 4×4 Land Cruisers should be especially aware on this road too.
Expect the most dangerous overtaking and be ready to turn on to the
gravel at any time.
Travellers on rented 4×4 Land Cruisers should also check their
vehicles before agreeing to it. Ask for another one if necessary.
Things to look out for include:
Tyres: Don’t be surprised to see they are from different brands and
threads. That’s not a big problem as long as they are not worn or
cracked. Demand that the tyre be changed if necessary. Even better,
when contacting tour operators via internet, I suggest you
specifically demand tyres in good condition. This can save you time
when you arrive in the country.
Suspension: stand in front of and behind the 4×4, at least 5 metres
away, and make sure the car is not tilted. If it’s only by a fraction,
at least bear this in mind when loading luggage and fuel jerry cans on
the roof.
Chassis: while checking for a tilted suspension, check that the front
wheels and the rear wheels are in line. This is a serious risk when
fully loaded on rocky roads. Never accept a vehicle that has a twisted
chassis, not even by a margin.
Driver: All tours are divided in convenient one day travels, be it the
Northern Circuit or the Lower Omo Valley. On asphalt the driver has no
reason to travel beyond 90 km/h, on pista or gravel take it down to 60
km/h if it’s in good shape and 40 km/h if it’s loose soil or has
potholes. Keep your driver in check, I have seen horrific accidents
involving Land Cruisers with tourists where the sole cause has been
excessive speed. Also, local drivers find it irrestible to overtake as
soon as a slow car is in front: if he’s overtaking dangerously, as
most do, make it clear that you won’t take it, that you don’t care
about his driving skills (‘I have experience, don’t worry’…) or the
fact that the truck in front is going at 20 km/h. And for goodness
sake, don’t follow the Ethiopian way and put your seat belt on.
Always. Which makes me think: check the seatbelts work before agreeing
to the Land Cruiser!!
On public transport, be it wacky Lada drivers in nightime Addis Ababa,
minibus racers or large bus captains, your power of negotiation is
lower. But there are ways to get around this. Sit as close to the
driver as you can. In minibus journeys, particularly between towns,
ask to sit in the gabina or front part. If the gabina is full, ask
gabina ebakeh, bedemb eke felalew, ishi? This means ‘in the front
please, I’ll pay a bit more, okay?’. An extra 10 birr is enough and
worth every cent. The first advantage is space because you’ll be less
crammed. If you’re next to the window, you get to keep it open or
closed, a privilege you don’t get when sitting in the back with eight
or ten people. You also get better views and the chance to happily
suggest to the driver to chill out: the magic word is tara gaga
friend… ‘slow down pal’. As he’ll be chewing chat anyway, why not go
along and buy him a plastic bottled Pepsi to win him over to you. It
may sound frivolous, but it works.

Gregory Norris-Cervetto