Matthew Birt writes:
I enjoyed reading and made good use of everyone else’s information, so I thought I ought to contribute:
Travelled solo, independently using local transport
Bradt Guidebook excellent
Generally felt very safe and welcome
Quite a lot of hassle from kids, beggars, tourist touts, blokes in the street – quite consistent, but not that persistant and certainly not threatening in any way. Groups of kids are a right royal pain in the ____ .
Transport pretty good. People always really helpful – and I always got to where I was heading, even if I’m not sure how. Roads generally good and traffic free – all the driver has to worry about are the people standing in the middle of it and the aimlessly wandering livestock
Cheap tuk-tuks just about everywhere – seem to have replaced garis in most places
Mobile phone coverage generally good – cheap and quick to get sim (need photocopy of passport and photo)
Everything seemed very inexpensive – accomm, transport, food, etc
Easy to change cash in banks/airport
ATMs in a lot of places – Dashen and Commercial Bank worked for me
Forgotten how noisy Africa is, especially at night – or at least it was where I slept. Every night. My top tip – take the finest ear plugs money can buy. As well as eye drops (for the dust) and lip balm (for the sun).
Budget hotels – apart from in Harar – always provided towel, toilet paper and soap.
Weather – always sunny and hot during day – 25-30 C. No rain. In some towns, pretty cold early morning and night and required two fleeces (e.g. Debark, Debre Birhan, Abese Teferi)
Arrived 2am, and stayed in there until morning flight to Axum. Felt safe, although pretty cold. Nowhere nice to sleep, try and get into domestic terminal departures asap where there are comfortable loungers.
Hotel reps waiting at airport with free transport
Africa House – fine – 175B en suite single
Thought Tsion Maryam complex at 200B a rip-off, considering much of it closed and under refurbishment
Really enjoyed walk out to Debre Liqanos Monastry
Africa Hotel – fine – 150B – adjacent restaurant good but noisy at night
Nice just to be in a normal town, without the tourist ‘nonsense’
Good to walk out of town into countryside to see ‘real’ Ethiopia
Bus from Shire didn’t leave until after 7, even though told to be there at 5. Awful road. Wonderful Simien scenery for 10 hours or so!
Simien Park Hotel – good – 250B en suite single
Unique Landscape next door also looked good, but slightly more expensive.
If not trekking, negotiate hard and get a number of quotes for your day trip into the national park – tourist touts, argh!!!
Queen Taitu Pension – 200B en suite single. Poor. No hot water, etc. Noisy.
Moved to Belegez Pension, 200B, water still a problem, but quieter and nicer courtyard
Four Sisters Restaurant – great food and fantastic dancing. Before I left I didn’t think some contrived dance show for tourists would be a highlight of my trip. But it was. Go and see for yourself.
As solo, negotiated guide fee down to 100B (rather than 200) for castle complex
Kosoye also a highlight. Easy to get to (30-40 mins north of Gondar). Had a very nice breakfast at Befikir Ecolodge, which is visible from main road. Staff super friendly. Then great walk down into valley. Scout cost 100B, and worth every penny. Tough going. Highly recommended.
Wudie Pension – nice big room – 200B.
Ghion looked really run down to me, although good spot for meeting fellow tourists.
Tread carefully with the tourist touts in town. Both half day trips to the lake monastries and waterfall were shambolic and a rip-off. Average price paid seemed to be 200B/person, but I’m sure you can get for less. Get itinerary and any additional costs written down. You have been warned! Good for meeting other (equally hacked-off) tourists though!
Lucky with Blue Nile Falls – water was flowing – and another highlight.
There for Christmas, so very busy and accomm prices x2 or x3 normal rate
Hotel Lalibela, been refurbished and now rather swish. $45/double en suite
Private Roha – very basic, but felt safe – 400B/twin shared facilities
Recommend Unique Restarant opposite Asheton – cheap and good fun
Walk up to Asheton Maryam good, although hard
Used local guide – Zewudu Melak – +251 (0) 913636414 – for churches – nice guy – only ‘guide’ I used that I can recommend
Logo Hayk Lodge (I think, maybe name changed, not sure)
This place could probably be very peaceful and relaxing, but not on Christmas Day with a huge party going on!
230B/hut ensuite for okayish room (150B if you’re Ethiopian!)
Akalu Hotel – reasonable place – 100B for ensuite
Really nice restaurant at Eva Hotel
Alaf Hotel – bit noisy and water issues – 170B en suite. Great view of lake
Buffet D’Auoache – 150B/room – pretty nice and peaceful place. Dusty, nondescript town though
Managed to find a ‘guide’ to get me into Awash National Park by asking around at hotels. Hired a good minibus and driver for 1000B for the day (6am-6pm). Really enjoyed the reserve, it’s not the Serengeti, but saw quite a lot of game. Waterfalls fab. Awash Falls Lodge looked nice and was a good spot for lunch
Kebsch Int Lodge – decent room – 150B en suite; good restaurant attached
Got 6am bus direct to Kuni, found ‘guide’ quickly albeit using sign language and pointing to pictures in my Bradt Guide and visited Kuni Muktar Mountain Nyala Sanctuary. Not sure about ‘30-45 mins walk to river’. I got taken 2 hours up a bloody mountain, then 2 hours back down it. Not my ideal start to the day at 7 am. Fantastic though. Saw plenty of (skittish) nyala, warthogs, reedbuck and hyena.
Everyone I met moaned about the hotels in this place – except for those in the cultural guesthouses. The only town where I found that hotels were full
Trawfik Sharif Hotel – bit grim – bucket shower – 150B
Tewodros – 160B ensuite – okayish – despite stinking communal bathrooms at entrance
Belayneh – only offering doubles for 300B and water issues
Heritage Plaza looked more run down and mismanaged than guidebook suggests
Harar Ras – looked best bet – been refurbished – cheapest room 230B – good restaurant serving absolutely wonderful pizzas
Fresh Touch Restaurant – good, but expensive (for Ethiopia)
Hyena feeding cost me 100B – the greatest concentration of tourists I saw in one place throughout my 4 weeks in the country
Almaz Pension – 200B shared bathroom – clean, friendly, quiet, safe
Yod Abyssinia – good fun, if expensive – don’t go alone, sit at the front and be of above average height, otherwise you are liable to get dragged up on stage to dance – much to the amusement of the local crowd. This can lead to embarrassing flashbacks.
Have a good trip.
Allan Wickens writes:
I have just been with Addis Yimer of Ethiopia Eco Tour and Trek for what turned out to be a 9 day trek in the Simien Mountains. I had originally planned on 10 days but two days were easily combined at one stage.
What an amazing trip. Excellent organisation, great company, the food was nourishing and varied for a start. I had a problem in my one and only (debit) card wouldn’t work. Behind the scenes Addis arranged a transfer of funds from my daughter in New Zealand.
My guide Malese was great company, spoke very good English and could even understand my Kiwi jokes.
Even though I had to bear all the cost of the trip myself (3 mules, two horsemen, cook and assistant, scout and guide) I feel it was money well spent and made for one of the most enjoyable mountain adventures I have had (Ethiopia made country number 33 I have walked/climbed in and I’m off to Morocco tomorrow for Mount Toubkal – so I feel like I am qualified to give advice on this matter).
We managed to summit Ras Dashen in the trip – not so bad going up starting at 0400 but punishing on the legs coming down).
The countryside is quite dry now and getting drier. We included 3 days trekking in the lowlands, which means trekking in anything around or under 2000 metres. Paradoxically it was quite warm down lower and on the rim it got down to minus 2 overnight.
The highlights? My 1000 baboon day, the views from the rim and at Sonar, our last night festivities. The weather was clear each day with some dust haze in the distance from desert sandstorms.
Today I celebrated Orthodox Christian Xmas with Addis and his family.
I’ll enlarge more when I get home. By the way, their is very good cellphone coverage when up on the higher points (which includes virtually all of the popular 1-6 day area from Debark.
I’ve just returned from a fantastic trip in Ethiopia and wanted to share the positive experience we had with Ethiopia Eco Tour & Trek, run by Addis Yimmer firstname.lastname@example.org. We used them for the leg of the trip which included Gondar, the Simien Mountains and onto Axum. I’d contacted Addis before my trip with a suggested itinerary, he then added some suggestions and then arranged everything from there from pick up at Gondar airport to Axum.
I can’t recommend Addis and his company highly enough. Everything was very professional, the support staff he used were excellent and he really understood the important elements of good service. Of particular note was how calm and flexible he was when one of us got sick in the Simien and we had to cut the trek a day short and get off the mountains. He bent over backwards to make sure we were all ok and safe, arranged everything to be brought forward a day (not easy) and also liaised with our guide for the next leg of the trip so he knew we were coming a day early.
A couple of final points – the cook that he uses in the Simien is amazing. The dishes he managed to conjure up from a single camping stove were very impressive and made a massive difference after a long day’s walk! Addis is also a lovely guy, very interesting and knowledgeable and is the type of person that makes me confident that Ethiopia has a great future.
I also wanted to mention something about payment. We paid a deposit before we left via Western Union which allowed Addis’ company to book all the necessary flights and hotels, as well as reserve a car. This is the norm. I know it can seem a bit of a leap of faith to transfer money to someone you’ve never met but bear in mind the world that we now live where feedback is so easy to give and where reputation is so important. There would be no gain for Addis, or the 100s of others in the same position as him, to be anything other than good on their promise.
I’ll try to post a full trip report with a couple of pictures in due course.
Teresa Shepro writes:
I returned from a 3 week trip November 4th. I had a pre-planned trip to the Omo Valley arranged through Galaxy Tours in Addis. Margeret, my office contact, was very helpful. My driver/guide, Mr. Habtamu, had a great knowledge of the area, and was very savvy and at the same time respectful in the tribal areas. He is well-known locally and just delightful. Plus he has good taste in music!
I planned the Northern part if the trip in just a few days, as my traveling companion had to cancel at the last minute. Molla Kassaw in Lalibela, was recommended to me. email@example.com
He is a nice, thoughtful young man, and planned a week long tour for me. His friend, Assefa, did the driving. I wanted to at least drive though the Simien Mountains in this short visit. The road through the park is under construction and was difficult and at times tiresome (10 hours!) with all of the heavy machinery, but at the end of the day worth it for the scenery.
I recently visited my brother working in Ethiopia. After staying some days in Addis Abeba, we travelled north, via the Lake Tana (Bahir Dar) to Gonder. Here we met our fantastic tour Guide, Addis Yimer, who took us on a tour to the Simien Mountains. It was magnificent!
Addis Yimer is an excellent guide, very knowledgeable (he loves to answer every questions you may have about the flora & fauna, geology and the people living here) and very friendly!!
It was an awesome tour and I am very glad that we found such a qualified guide.
Andy Parker writes:
I had a fantastic experience with Mulualem Gelaye of Ethiopia Simien Tours when visiting Ethiopia in January this year. I was short on time and only had 4 days to work with, and decided to see what tour companies could offer me rather than my original plan of getting to Debark and trying to organise everything myself. I don’t doubt that it’s possible to organise a great trip after arriving locally for less money than I paid, but I am really pleased I organised my trip in advance. The time it would have taken to get everything set up would have cut out some of the ‘must sees’ on my Simiens list.
As it was I shopped around and approached a couple of companies that sounded good, and haggled about itineraries, extras and price. I can’t advise strongly enough how much it pays to shop around and negotiate over times, routes etc, The price range offered by different companies for similar service was large. In the end I chose to go with http://www.ethiopiasimientours.com/ as Mulu was super helpful getting the exact itinerary that I wanted for a good price. He has organised Simien visits for the BBC and National Geographic among others, so it is no surprise how professional this company was.
Some specific notes for prospective Simien visitors:
– It gets COLD in the night. The sleeping bag provided for me was a bit thin and was often too cold to sleep, even with all my clothes on. This was the only downside of an amazing trip, so not a major gripe.
– I didn’t know that there were basic cold water showers at Gich and Chenek and this was a nice surprise
– I hired a horse for riding on for the 4 days of walking as I had a calf injury and wasn’t sure how it would hold up. In the end the calf was okay but it was great to have the horse for breaking up the larger uphill climbs at 3700m when I had not acclimatised to the altitude.
– For those with limited time to spend in the Simiens you can still have a great adventure by getting driven in and staying for a single night There might be better options. but from what I saw I would v strongly recommend getting a driver to take you to the Chenek campsite It is deep into the national park so the scenery is incredible, you get the fun of a night’s camping, and there were loads of geladas and walia ibex wandering around.