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Bale Mountains National Park Saturday, January 30, 2016
Addis Ababa Axum Dire Dawa Gondar Harar Lalibela Mekelle Yeha Wildlife Historical Places
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Bale Mountains National Park
Bale Mountains National Park is an area of high altitude plateau that is broken by numerous
spectacular volcanic plugs and peaks, beautiful alpine lakes and rushing mountain streams that
descend into deep rocky gorges on their way to the lowlands below. As you ascend into the
mountains you will experience changes in the vegetation with altitude, from juniper forests to
heather moorlands and alpine meadows, which at various times of year exhibit an abundance of
Bale Mountains National Park is the largest area of Afro-Alpine habitat in the whole of the
continent. It gives the visitor opportunities for unsurpassed mountain walking, horse trekking,
scenic driving and the chances to view many of Ethiopia's endemic mammals, in particular the
Mountain Nyala and Semien Fox, and birds, such as the Thick-billed Raven, Wattled Ibis, Blue-
winged Goose, and Rouget's Rail.
The Bale Mountains rise from the extensive surrounding farmlands at 2,500 m above sea level to
the west, north and east. The National Park area is divided into two major parts by the spectacular
Harenna escarpment that runs from east to west.
North of this escarpment is a high altitude plateau area at 4,000 m altitude. The plateau is formed
of ancient volcanic rocks (trachytes, basalts, agglomerates and tuffs) dissected by many Rivers
and streams that have cut deep gorges into the edges over the centuries. In some places this has
resulted in scenic waterfalls. From the plateau rise several mountain massifs of rounded and
craggy peaks, including Tullu Deemtu the second-highest mountain in Ethiopia at 4,377 m above
sea level. (Ras Dashen, near the Simien Mountains National Park in the north is the highest -
4,543 m). A major part of the central peaks area is covered by a capping of more recent lava flows,
still mainly unvegetated, and forming spectacular rock ripples and pillars. Many shallow
depressions on the plateau are filled with water in the wet season, forming small lakes that mirror
the surrounding scenery. Larger lakes such as Garba Guracha ("black water"), Hora Bachay and
Hala Weoz, contain water all year round. These many lakes provide habitat for water birds,
especially migrating ducks from Europe during the northern winter.
Best time to visit
The climate of the Bale Mountains, as is to be expected in a high altitude mountainous region, is
characterized by a high rainfall and periods of damp cloudy weather, interspersed with periods of
sparkling sunny weather with brilliant blue skies.
The climatic year can be roughly divided into three seasons -the dry, early wet and wet seasons.
The dry season is usually from November to February. Very little rain is experienced and
temperatures on the clear sunny days may rise to as high as nearly 30° centigrade. Nights are star-
filled, clear and cold, usually with heavy ground frosts. Temperatures may fall between minus 6°
and minus 15° centigrade in the main peak area of the Park. This is the best period to visit the
National Park, especially for walking and horse trekking in the high mountain area. The vegetation
can get very dry in the dry season, and fires must then be very carefully tended.
The early wet season lasts from March to June, and about two-thirds as much rain falls in this
period, as in the wet season from July to October. Throughout these eight months, days are
generally cooler and nights warmer than in the dry season. Despite the wetter weather, the area
can still be enjoyed with adequate warm and weatherproof clothing. Bright sunny periods may be
experienced at any time. Snow has been recorded, but does not lie around for very long.
South of the Harenna escarpment, the land falls precipitously to a large area of dense Podocarpus
forest, that slopes gradually down to an altitude of 1 500 m at the southern Park boundary. A few
kilometres further on the land changes.abruptly to open wooded grasslands, with higher
temperatures and the surprising sight of camels in the area of Dolo-Mena.
The high rainfall in the Bale Mountains, together with the great variation in altitude and topography,
result in rich diversity in the vegetation. Changes in the vegetation with altitude are clearly seen,
this zonation being a result of increasing then decreasing rainfall as you ascend, generally
decreasing temperatures, and increased exposure of rock and resulting poorer soils.
The mountains are surrounded to the northwest and northeast by fertile plains at 2,500 m that are
heavily utilized for agriculture mainly wheat growing. This is succeeded by remnants of beautiful
juniper and Kosso (Hagenia abyssinica) forest -a belt that reaches up to about 3,300 m altitude,
which is the upper limit of the tree zone, apart from a few isolated trees in protected valleys. Above
the tree line the heather moorlands begin, reaching to about 3,600 m altitudes on gently sloping
ground, and as high as 3,800 m on steep rocky slopes. Above this are various forms of Afro-Alpine
moorland, dominated by different plants depending on slope, drainage and rodent activity. The tops
of most of the high peaks are either bare rocks, or exposed soil with very small hardy tussock
herbs or grasses. To the south, the land falls away far more, through rich and varied forest below
the heather, containing bamboo and giant Podocarpus trees, and finally giving way to dry short-
tree wooded grasslands at 1,600 m on the southern boundary of the Park.
The northern forests are open with little under-growth, and while dominated by Juniper and
Hagenia trees, also contain St John's Wort and bushes (Hypericum spp.) with large golden-yellow
flowers, Schefflera abyssinica and Rappanea simensis trees amongst others. The grassy forest
floor makes for easy walking and viewing of animals; the wonderful fruity smell of fallen Hagenia
leaves rising from your path. This large tree of the rose family, has separate male and female
trees; the female flowers contain anthelmintic, and are widely used in a decoction against the
tapeworm. Another member of the rose family - Rosa abyssinica is found here, with its beautiful
white flowers and delicate scent, the only indigenous African rose.
The southern forests, in contrast, are much denser with a greater variety of tree, shrub and herb
species. Juniper is not found on the south side, but the other species are. The trees are covered in
epiphytes and creepers, and in many cases rise to over thirty metres in height. Higher reaches of
the forests, near Katcha at 2,600 m, are interspersed with bamboo groves, and many wildflowers
beside the small rushing torrents. Early in the wet season, dense thickets of edible Rubus
steudneri in the blackberry family are in flower and fruit. Streamside beds of the white-flowered
Crinum ornatum with their heavy sweet scent also bloom at this time. Occasional grassy glades
occur mainly where drainage is poor and small swamps form along River and stream courses.
Grassland has formed at the forest altitude near Dinsho and at Gaysay. This is partly due to the
action of man, but mainly at Gaysay through impeded drainage and marshy conditions. These
grasslands include large areas of the scrubby aromatic "sagebrush " plant (Artemesia afra) -a
staple foodplant of the Mountain Nyala, and the grey-green leaved "everlasting" flower
(Helichrysum splendidum), which produces papery bright yellow flowers early in the wet season at
this altitude. The heather zone is often burnt in an attempt by pastoralists to obtain more grassland.
As a result the size of the heather (mainly Erica arborea) varies greatly -from thirty centimetre
recent regrowth to five metre tall mature trees. Mature heather trunks and stems are usually lichen
and moss covered and the frequent mists also support a lush dense growth beneath them of
wildflowers and grasses.
The Afro-Alpine moorlands and meadows are mainly dominated by low (50 cm) scrubby vegetation
of either the "everlasting" flower genus (Helichrysum) or by Alchemilla johnstoni. Within and above
the heather zone, these plants may form a continuous dense ground cover, but with increasing
altitude they are reduced to tussocks with bare soil and grass clumps in between. Alchemilla
predominates in wetter situations along drainage lines, while various Helichrym species dominate
in flatter areas and at higher altitudes. There are more than ten different species of "everlasting"
flower in the mountains -so- called because their flowers are dry and papery and last for years
when picked. Flowers vary from the uncommon large red and white H. formosissimum, through
many small white-flowered species including the rounded rock-like spiny cushions of H. citris
pinum, to several yellow and brown-flowered species, including H. cymosum which is found at all
altitudes. Several other plant genera are represented by many species here, like the Helichrysums
-including many species of the small ground-covering Alchemillas.
A notable plant which occurs over a broad range of altitude is the "Red-hot poker" (Kniphofia spp.).
The tall spikes of red and yellow flowers can be seen as early as April on the Harenna escarpment,
and a few flowers persist till December. But the height of flowering is from June onwards when
dense masses can be seen. They are a favourite source of nectar for the brilliant irridescent
Tacazze Sunbird. In common with other high altitude areas of Eastern Africa, a few plants have
developed giant forms.
Lobelia rhynchopetalum is the most noticeable in the Bale Mountains. The plant consists of a
rosette of large shiny leaves on top of an unbranched stem that grows to about two metres. Out of
this is produced the flower spike of dark blue flowers, that can reach six metres above the ground
at high altitudes. These Giant Lobelias are mainly found on the Sanetti Plateau up to the top of
Tullu Deemtu and Mt. Batu. The silhouettes of the flower spikes typify the horizon everywhere at
higher altitudes. Once the plant has flowered it dies, leaving a tall hollow and dried-out stem,
covered in seed capsules containing millions of tiny yellow seeds. The species only produces short
plants (2 m) at lower altitudes such as Dinsho. Another giant but very spindly species - L.gibberroa,
occurs in the Harenna forest.
The meadows, stream banks, forest floor and grasslands of the Bale Mountains contain many
different wildflowers. Some are minute, others large and showy; some present nearly year-round,
others rarely seen. They are a further fascinating facet of this area, that contribute visually to your
enjoyment, and understanding of this wonderful, wild place.
The mountains are most famous as home and refuge of the endemic Mountain Nyala and Semien
Fox. Both these mammals occur in reasonable numbers, and visits to the Gaysay area, and the
Sanetti plateau will ensure you see both. The Mountain Nyala is a large antelope in the spiral-
horned antelope family. Males are a dark brown colour with a pair of gently spiraled horns with
white tips. They bear handsome white markings on the face, neck and legs, together with usually at
least one stripe and some white spots on each side. The hornless females are a lighter brown
colour, and typically have the same white markings as the males, though less often have stripes,
but normally have spots on the sides. Males can weigh as much as 280 kilos, stand one and a half
metres at the shoulder, and have a mane of long erectile hairs along the spine. Females weigh less
and have no mane.
Younger animals are lighter in colour, and young males bear tiny spike horns from about five
months of age, that go through various shapes as they develop. Both sexes have enormous ears.
Mountain Nyala are especially numerous in the Gaysay area, and occur in small scattered groups
else where in the Park at all altitudes. They are mainly browsers - feeding on bushes and herbs,
but also eat grass. Groups vary in size -from lone adult males, or a female with her offspring from
the last two years, to aggregations of over seventy animals. Males may be seen to make strange
slow, strutting displays at each other, or to dig the earth with their horns and twist branches
between them. Mountain Nyala only occur in Ethiopia, and only in the high mountains east of the
Rift Valley, between Harar in the North, Arsi, and Bale in the South.
The Semien Fox -despite its name, is more common here in Bale than it is in Semyen. It is found
nowhere in between these two isolated mountain areas, and nowhere else in the world. The animal
is the size and colour of a European Red Fox, but with long legs, longer muzzle, and a striking
black and white tail. The male and female are similar in appearance. Semien Fox feed on rodents,
and as a result are mainly found at the higher altitudes where rodents abound. The Sanetti Plateau
is an especially good area to see them, but they do occur in higher parts of the mountains, as well
as down at Gaysay on rare occasions. They are usually seen hunting alone, but can be seen in
pairs, and after the breeding season as many as eight adults and cubs have been seen together.
The Semien Fox hunts their prey by standing still over the rodent holes, patiently listening, turning
their head and ears from side to side, and suddenly pouncing when a rat emerges. They will also
dig to reach rats on occasions. They give a high yelping bark. To keep contact with other foxes,
and when apprehensive about anything such as your close proximity. They are well camouflaged
amongst the lichen - covered rocks of the plateau and can be very hard to see, despite their
striking orange-red colour.
There are more than twenty other small to large-sized mammals to be seen in the Park. Some are
sighted only rarely or are known by the evidence they leave -such as droppings and footprints.
Menelik's Bushbuck is a form, or subspecies, of the one commonly found over most of Africa. It is
very different however, in that the adult male is a jet-black color, and both sexes are long-haired.
Bushbuck are the smallest of the Mountain Nyala family that also includes the Greater and Lesser
Kudu, Eland, Bongo and Sitatunga. Like these other animals, the bushbuck has spirally twisted
horns and spots and stripes on the coat. However, the horns -found in the male only - are relatively
short. They are relatively easy to see at Dinsho and Gaysay, and are especially plentiful in the
forest and heather of the Adelay ridge. They are not found on the high plateau however which is
largely devoid of vegetation cover, and have rarely been sighted at altitudes over 3,400 m.
After the Mountain Nyala, the next most common antelope is the Bohor Reedbuck. These medium-
sized straw-coloured antelope are found in large numbers in the flat grasslands and swamps round
Gaysay mountain. Males are easily recognized from their forward-pointing hooked horns.
Reedbuck are almost only found in the Gaysay and Adelay grasslands, there being no suitable
long-grass areas higher in the mountains. Grey Duiker are the smallest antelope in the Park. They
occur at Gaysay and in the valleys with sufficient vegetation cover up to about 3,700 m altitude.
They are usually seen alone, diving into cover. Only the males have the short straight horns.
Klipspringer are only found where there is suitable rocky habitat, mainly at higher elevations,
though a few are found on the very top of Gaysay mountain. They are especially common in the
Lava Flows area. Their unusual spiky fur and square hooves are adaptations to their agile
existence amongst the rocks and cliffs. They probably derive their Amharic name of "Saas" from
their strange sneezing alarm call. Warthog are reasonably common in the Gaysay grasslands and
forest patches and on Adelay ridge. Groups with large numbers of piglets are frequently seen in the
dry and early wet seasons. Warthog are not found at higher altitudes in the mountains. Bushpig
and Giant Forest Hog occur in the southern Harenna forest area, but are rarely seen.
The Rock Hyrax are found in the same cliff and rocky habitat as the Klipspringer in large numbers
at all altitudes. These small dark-coloured and tailless relatives of the elephant are very numerous
in some localities. They are extremely agile in leaping up and down rock crevices and their shrill
calls echo from the cliffs in the evenings and early mornings.
Rats, mice, etc, are not usually considered "wildlife" by most visitors! However, in the Bale
Mountains they are an extremely important part of the ecosystem. This is because of the role that
several species play in modifying the soil and vegetation at the higher altitudes, and as the Semien
Fox's source of food. Most parts of the Sanetti Plateau look as though they have been ploughed
recently all the soil freshly turned and exposed, and tunnelled with numerous holes. This is entirely
the work of the hordes of rodents, several species of which are endemic to the Bale Mountains, or
the high mountain areas of Ethiopia. Their squeaks are heard easily as you pass through the area,
and numbers of them can be seen on sunny days rushing for their holes as you approach. Of
special interest is the Giant Molerat, a large species that feeds above ground in the daylight and
makes large craterlike depressions. It only partly emerges from these holes as it feeds the edges.
Later it blocks the entrance with soil and vegetation, and then digs to a new crater nearby to feed
there. These large numbers of rodents support not only the healthy Semien Fox population in the
high plateau area, but also numerous birds of prey, especially European migrants in the dry
season, that pass the European winter in the Bale Mountains.
Only three primate species have been found in the Bale Mountains National Park so far. The
Guereza, or black and white Colobus Monkey, is common wherever there is suitable forest habitat.
Several troops are on the flanks of Gaysay Mountain and the Adelay ridge, and they are very
common in the Harenna forest area. They are not found in the high mountain area however, since
this is above the forest zone. The Olive Baboon is also found in large numbers in the Harenna
forest, and troops also occur on Gaysay and Adelay. Surprisingly one troop exists in the high
mountain area in the Lava Flows at over 3,700 m altitude. The small Grivet Monkey is found only in
the Harenna forest at altitudes lower than 3,000 m. They are sometimes seen from the Goba to
Dolo Mena road as you drive through.
There are several other carnivores you are likely to see apart from the Semien Fox in the Bale
Mountains National Park.
The Gaysay grasslands and Dinsho Hill are good places to see the beautiful Serval Cat. These
small, spotted, long-Iegged and short-tailed cats hunt alone in long grass, depending on rats and
small birds as food. Also at Gaysay you often see the long, lithe shape of the Egyptian mongoose.
They occur in small family parties of up to four or five animals, and like to use the vehicle tracks as
pathways. A close relative -the White-tailed Mongoose -is nocturnal and may appear in your car
headlights when driving at night.
Spotted Hyena are found at all altitudes in the Park, but in low numbers, and are rarely seen by
day except in the early morning. Their calls punctuate the night near most villages.
The Golden Jackal however though usually nocturnal, has often been seen by day in the Gaysay
and Dinsho areas. Other carnivores that are rarely seen but are known to exist in the area are
Leopard, Lion, Civet and the little striped Zorilla.
The Bale Mountains possess many habitats rich in birds, particularly the Harenna Forest which has
been little studied. More than one hundred and sixty species of birds are known from the Park
area, but their number is certain to be added to considerably in the future. Since the Bale
Mountains are isolated from other similar habitats in Africa by low and dry areas, many endemic
species are found. At least twenty-three species of birds are known to be endemic to Ethiopia. No
less than fourteen of these species are known to occur in the Bale Mountains National Park area,
and several are easily seen every day.
Amongst the endemics, the more commonly seen only are mentioned here. The Blue-winged
Goose and Rouget's Rail are found near any water be it stream or high mountain lake, at all
altitudes. The noisy Wattled Ibis occurs in most muddy places busily probing for food with its long
curved bill. Large numbers roost on high, cliffs in the mountains every night. The beautiful Spot-
breasted Plover is found in large numbers in the wet season on the Sanetti Plateau, and large
flocks of the White-collared Pigeon feed on the ground here at the same period. The weird-Iooking
Thick-billed Raven is a denizen of most villages, and usually finds your camp at any altitude. The
colourful little green and red Black-winged Love-birds are seen in large numbers in the forest
areas, while the larger Yellow-fronted Parrot is less often seen in the same habitat. The strident
ringing calls of the shy Abyssinian Catbird betray its presence in forest. Close observation in the
Gaysay grasslands and beside the main road will reveal the Abyssinian Long claw -a drab little
bird, but with a smart yellow bib. The high plateau is characterized by large flocks of the little black
and yellow Black-headed Siskin.
The Bale Mountains, rich in streams and little Alpine lakes, provide food and security for unusual
water birds such as the Ruddy Shelduck and the tall elegant Wattled Crane. Many European ducks
and waders pass the dry season in the mountains, before returning to Europe, as do several birds
of prey such as the Steppe Eagle and Kestrel. Probably the most common and friendly bird at all
altitudes is the little drab but cheery Mountain Chat - puffed up like a round feathered ball in the icy
dawn, hopping from tussock to tussock as he investigates you. One of the largest and most
spectacular birds is the Lammergeier also called the Bearded Vulture or Bone-breaker. This
enormous bird with its over-two-metre wingspan is often seen soaring alone over suitably high cliffs
and rock outcrops, while splintered bone fragments, even on the top of Tullu Deemtu and Mt. Batu
tell of its presence. Wherever you go in Bale there are birds to watch, and generally unusual ones
to add considerably to your experience of this wonderful area.
Driving The Park is mainly a walking area since it is a mountainous and fragile environment. There
are few roads, and these require four-wheel-drive vehicles.
This area derives its name from the little Gaysay River that flows into the Web near Dinsho. It
consists of Boditi peak at the southern end of the Lajo Spur, and the flatlands each side of the
Gaysay River at the mountain's base. The main road crosses part of the Gaysay area, just before
reaching Dinsho. The entrance gate lies beside (north of) the main road seven kilometers before
the village, coming from Shashamenne. A small track from the gate leads you across the Gaysay
River and then divides at the base of the mountain. The eastern arm affords good views of the
plains west of the Web River and goes for four kilometres to the northern boundary fence at the
small Albabo stream. Colobus monkey are often seen in the Hagenia forest before the first stream
crossing. There is a small photographic hide that is ten minutes walk up the first stream through
lovely Hagenia trees. The left fork of the track goes for three kilometres to the northern boundary
fence around the west flank of Boditi. There are good views of the Gaysay valley and its associated
marshes brimming with reedbuck. Fine views can be had to the north of the Gaysay valley and
The Gaysay area guarantees every visitor views of the endemic Mountain Nyala in considerable
numbers. As many as 400 have been seen here in a single afternoon. In addition there are
numerous Grey Duiker, Warthog and the Menelik's race of Bushbuck with beautiful jet-black males.
Colobus and Baboon are sometimes seen here and the beautiful Serval Cat is often surprised
hunting in the long grass. On very rare occasions Leopard are sighted, and sometimes a pair of the
endemic Semien Fox. Birds abound, especially in the forested parts, and are usually heard if not
Gaysay provides a good morning's or afternoon's wildlife watching and should on no account be
missed by any visitor to the Bale Mountains.
The spectacular road from Goba south to Dolo-Mena crosses the eastern part of the Bale
Mountains National Park and the Sanetti Plateau. This, the highest all-weather road in Africa,
crosses the 4,000 m contour, and some of the loveliest mountain scenery in Africa that can be
viewed from the comfort of your vehicle.
The road climbs up from Goba through beautiful Juniper and Hagenia forest. The road is lined with
the orange-blossomed Leonotis, and in the wet season the "Red Hot Poker" (Kniphofia} is
blooming beneath the trees and attracting the brilliant iridescent Tacazze and Malachite Sunbirds.
This forest gives way to giant St John's Wort (Hypericum revolutum} woods at 3,300 m altitude.
This narrow zone is soon succeeded by heather (Erica} moorlands at 3,400 m and you are out of
the forest and into the open in the mountains proper. Vistas open to the strange pinnacles of
Chorchora peak on the left -one of the Park boundary markers, and across the sheer-sided Tegona
River gorge to the right.
Another steep zigzag climb across slopes covered in heather bushes and Alchemilla johnstoni
scrub, and you enter the Plateau proper, through the portals of the weird five-metre tall flower
columns of giant Lobelia rynchopetalum plants. Here the plateau is studded with numerous shallow
alpine lakes, with views to the steep-sided volcanic plug of Konteh Tullu in the south, and the long
craggy ridges of Mt. Batu (4,203 m) in the west.
The road continues climbing gently, part Crane lakes at the base of Konteh. This is the centre of
the best area for seeing Semien Fox, and on rare occasions small groups of Mountain Nyala. Here,
you are at over 4,000 m above sea level, and in pure, clear cool mountain air with views in all
directions on a clear day. These views are heightened by the steep climb to the top of Konteh
(4,132 m), or the longer (one and a half hour) climb to the top of domed Tullu Deemtu (the "red
mountain" in Oromo) to the west of the road soon after. This is the second highest mountain in
Ethiopia at 4,377 m above sea level.
The road then skirts the base of Tullu Deemtu, and continues south to the edge of the Harenna
escarpment, forty kilometres from Goba. Here, on a clear day, the view is open right out over the
southern lowlands. The road descends the escarpment through a series of spectacular hairpin
bends. The initial heather scrub gives way after a few kilometres to Hagenia, heather and St John's
Wort forest, and later merges into lush Podocarpus forest; enormous trees covered in epiphytes
mosses, ferns and "Old Man's Beard" lichens. This continues down the small escarpment of Rira,
where looking back you see the tall rock towers of Gujurule, their tops often shrouded in cloud and
mist. Round their base is glorious mixed forest with bamboo and many clear sparkling streams that
are the source of the Shawe River. Later the road crosses the main Shawe River, passing through
tall mature Podo forest with its towering trees, until it suddenly ends almost 100 kilometres from
The Park boundary is shortly before this as you cross the Shisha -a small tributary of the Yadot
River. The forest gives way abruptly to dry, lowland wooded grasslands at about 1,600 m altitude,
and about ten kilometres later the little village of Dolo-Mena is reached. Here on a market day you
will be treated to the surprising sight of camels, so soon after leaving the Alpine conditions of over
4,000 m altitude.
The village is 110 kilometres from Goba, but a reasonable undertaking for a day's drive is from
Goba to the southern edge of the plateau, with maybe a descent of the escarpment into the forest
below, followed by the return to Goba. A good campsite exists at Katcha, after Rira on the left of
the road, along a track to a road quarry. This is a good base for walking in the bamboo forest, and,
for the more energetic, exploring the Gujurule volcanic plugs.
This is a rough (four-wheel-drive only) eleven kilometers track leading from the Park Headquarters
compound, south into the Park area. This track crosses the interesting natural bridge over the
Danka River where hyrax can be seen. It then runs beneath cliffs through heather to the edge of
the gorge of the Web River. It ends in a broad flat valley, from where it is an easy forty minute walk
to the beautiful Finch'Abera waterfall, where the Web and Wolla Rivers join. If you are lucky you
may see Semien Fox in the area at the end of the track. Arrangements can be made to meet your
horses at this point for more ambitious treks into the main peak area of the Park.
Bale Mountains National Park is essentially a walking area. Horse treks of several days duration
into the main peak area with pack and riding horses and accompanied by a guide, can be arranged
through the Park authorities in Dinsho. In addition, shorter walks can be accomplished in the
Dinsho area, or from anywhere along the roads and tracks mentioned above.
At Dinsho Headquarters a one kilometre Nature Trail has been designed up Dinsho Hill. This gives
a brief introduction to the plants and animals of the area, and the location of the main Park. There
is the added opportunity of seeing Mountain Nyala at close quarters on foot, in the Sanctuary
afforded by the fence around the compound. From the top of the hill (3,240 m) good views on a
clear day in all directions help in understanding the layout of the Park.
Walking on Gaysay hill is rewarding in terms of the views and the chances of seeing wildlife at
close quarters. The physically fit will find the steep climb to the Boditi summit (3,520 m) worthwhile
for a spectacular view of the Gaysay River flats and south into the main Park area.
A very enjoyable day-Iong walk can be had from Dinsho, up the Web valley to Gasuray peak
(3,325 m). The steep Climb to the summit is through beautiful mature Hagenia and juniper forest,
and into heather at the top. A traverse of the uplands to the north along the connecting spur to the
Adelay ridge leads you through beautiful heather and grass glades with the strange grey tussocks
of Helichrysum citrispinum -one of the "everlasting flowers". Mountain nyala, Klipspringer. Menelik's
Bushbuck and Warthog are commonly encountered here. A steep descent off the northeast corner
of Adelay brings you back down to the main road and Dinsho village.
The Sanetti Plateau is crowned by several peaks that add a good walk to the drive over it. Konteh
Tullu - the striking volcanic plug east of the road on the plateau, may look formidable, but twenty
minutes of steep scrambling from its base gives you magnificent views from the top (4, 132 m) in
all directions. Tullu Deemtu is the second highest mountain in Ethiopia at 4,377 m, and the highest
point in the Bale Mountains. Starting from the main road at its base it takes one and a half to two
hours to climb the slopes and reach the summit - a rounded ridge hidden from the aspect of your
starting point. Hares and rodents abound up here, despite the sparse vegetation cover. Mountain
Nyala are often seen below the summit to the south where there is a small water seepage point
and grove of Giant Lobelia plants. Wide views can be had all around, but especially to the main
plateau with its lakes and lava flows to the west, and to Mt. Batu a short distance north.
Is a longer walking prospect, but can be done in a long day from the plateau road. The mountain is
a long horseshoe-shaped ridge at the head of the great Shiya and Tegona River gorges. It is very
craggy and more rugged than Tullu Deemtu in appearance, and seemingly more mountainous, for
all that it is a few metres lower. Leopard has been sighted near the top, as have Klipspringer and
Mountain Nyala, while montane birds such as the chough and lammergeier soar effortlessly over
as you climb up the mountain's flanks. It is strongly recommended that a guide be taken for the
climb up Mt. Batu.
Short riding trips can be arranged in the Dinsho area, but it is far more worthwhile to set aside at
least four full days to enjoy a horse trip to the full. Arrangements are best made beforehand by
letter or phone, but horses can be organized for a morning departure if requested the afternoon
before. Various routes can be followed, and it is best to take the advice of your local guide from
Sof Omar Caves
The fantastic limestone caves of Sof Omar make a day's outing from Dinsho, Robe or Goba. The
road leaves Robe town, crossing the farming areas to the east, before descending into the
lowlands. Here the vegetation is very different being dry lowland with wooded grasslands. The
caves lie at 1,300 m above sea level. This is in marked contrast to what you will experience in the
Bale Mountains at up to 4,000 m. Very different animals occur along the way as well, most
noticeably the Greater and Lesser Kudu - both relatives of the Mountain Nyala, and the tiny dik dik
antelope. The caves themselves carry the whole flow of the Web River that rises in the Bale
Mountains, underground through wonderfully carved caverns for a distance of one and a half
kilometres. There are over fifteen kilometres of associated passages, which require skill, time and
special equipment for a full exploration. However, a friendly local guide will show you enough to
take your breath away and make the trip worthwhile, for an hour or for as long as you care to
spend. A cool dip in the clear River afterwards refreshes you for the return drive. Full details of the
caves are provided in the booklet, "The Caves of Sof Omar" obtainable from the Ethiopian Tourism
Nine Rivers and streams between Adaba and Goba were stocked with trout in the early 1970' s.
These have thrived and are now available for sport fishing. Information, guides and permits can be
obtained from the Ministry of Agriculture offices in Adaba, Dinsho and Goba.Brown Trout can be
fished on a short stretch of the Web River near Dinsho, while all the other Rivers are stocked with
Rainbow. Anglers have to provide all their own equipment. Fishing conditions are varied -
cascading waterfalls, deep still pools, or the tiny narrow and clear Danka stream. Good exercise,
beautiful scenery, peaceful surroundings, are all combined in the one activity.
Dinsho -the Park Headquarters, Robe and Goba can all be reached in a long day's drive from
Addis Ababa. There are two routes -either along the Rift Valley south to Shashamenne, or through
Asella. The route via Shashamenne has more tarmac, and provides the added attractions of the
Rift Valley Lakes National Park - Abiatta and Shala lakes, and the Senkelle Swayne's Hartebeest
Sanctuary, as well as the opportunity for an overnight stop at Lake Langano Resort.
From Shashamenne you take the road east onto the wheat-growing plateau, before climbing up
into the mountains from Adaba through the beautiful Zuten Melka Gorge.
The Asella route takes you south from Nazaret across the Awash River and along the eastern wall
of the Rift Valley, below the Arsi Mountains, which are to the east. Once over the pass between
Mts. Kakka and Nkolo, you descend to cross the Wabe Shebele River, before reaching Dodola and
joining the route into the mountains from Shashamenne.
Warm clothing is a must at any time of the year, and waterproof clothing essential between March
and November, and advisable at all times. Visitors who are intending to do some walking will need
sturdy shoes or boots. It must be remembered that the sun at high altitudes burns the skin easily.
Hats, dark glasses and sunscreen lotions are therefore strongly recommended. Those visitors
spending nights on the trail need warm sleeping bags and light tents and camping equipment.
These can be provided by NTO for those trips arranged through them. Useful companions on a trip
to the Bale Mountains National Park are "Endemic Mammals of Ethiopia", "Ethiopia's Endemic
Birds" and the "Caves of Sof Omar" which are all published by ETC and available from NTO and
bookshops in Addis. Also very useful is "Some Wild Flowering Plants of Ethiopia" by Sue Edwards.
Travel permits must be obtained in Addis Ababa. They are currently $8 for 48 hours. These are
arranged by NTO for their clients, but otherwise must be obtained by individuals themselves. Daily
tickets for the Park are obtained and paid for at the Park Headquarters in Dinsho. Fishermen will
also need a fishing permit, which is obtained from the Fisheries Department in Addis Ababa, or
from Ministry of Agriculture offices in Addis Ababa, Dinsho or Goba.
Accommodation is not yet available in the Park area. The new Ras Hotel at Goba provides good
accommodation fifty kilometres from Park Headquarters at Dinsho, and is at the base of the road
leading to the Sanetti plateau and the east and Southern parts of the Park. The Bekelle Mola Hotel
at Robe, (15 km north of Goba) provides motel type accommodation, forty kilometres from Dinsho
on the way to Goba. Under certain circumstances camping may be allowed at the Park
Headquarters. Obviously camping is allowed in the main part of the Park when visitors are horse
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia