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Travel to the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia

Friday 8th of January 2016 09:41:07 AM  |  Diretube

We are barely an hour south of Addis Ababa and already the landscape has changed so immensely it’s unrecognizable – the skyscrapers, convoluted traffic circles, and idling taxis replaced by scruffy acacia and protruding termite mounds. Colorfully painted Oromo tombs line the roadside and camels tower over clusters of goats and donkeys in rare swathes of shade. A priest in ivory-colored robes atop a horse draped with bouncing bfccb135bjpgurgundy pompoms trots past my window.

I’m on my way to a lake dappled stretch of the Ethiopian Rift Valley, beginning a birding weekend with my then Addis Ababa-based brother-in-law Mike Fisher and Andy Haines, a friend from the Washington, DC area — all three of us self-described bird nerds. After spending four years teaching English in Addis Ababa during the early 1990s (and serving on the board of the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society), Andy is returning to Ethiopia for the first time two decades, and taking us to one of his favorite places — Lake Langano. We’ve hired a driver and a ‘classic’ Land Cruiser (translation: sans air conditioning and seat cushioning) and planned perhaps an overly ambitious itinerary for a 48-hour visit.

Gradually, the countryside becomes tinged with greenery and I can tell we are approaching a body of water. Violet streaked jacaranda, Indian neem, and pepper trees punctuate the acacia and fig trees line the Awash River. And then – unceremoniously – we spot our first birds of the weekend along the road: a gang of white-backed vultures huddled over the splayed corpse of a very unfortunate zebu.
Ethiopia’s collection of Rift Valley lakes, particularly those on our agenda – Langano, Ziway, and the so-called twin lakes Abiata and Shala — form an avifauna-rich, wetland-studded ecosystem, a haven for birds with 436 different species documented. Andy is fond of reminding us on his first birding trip to Lake Langano, nearly two decades ago, he saw 150 different species in a weekend.
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Image: The Great Rift Valley in Ethiopia.

                   


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