The West – Lush Nature and Coffee Routes
Western Ethiopia is an underpublicized wildlife-lover’s paradise, where colobus monkeys swing though roadside trees, elephants and buffalos lurk in forest glades, and an alluring bird checklist includes many forest endemics along with the spectacular shoebill and Egyptian plover. Nourished by a plentiful rainfall throughout the year, the loamy fertile soils of its lushly forested slopes are the natural home of the Arabica coffee bean and the origin of the world’s favorite hot brew - which still remains the region’s main export crop.
• More than 5,000 plant species have been identified in the lush montane rainforests of the Kafa Biosphere Reserve and the Yayu Coffee Forest Biosphere Reserve, including many varieties of wild coffee, which still grow profusely in the forest understory.
• Africa’s second-largest antelope migration occurs from March to June, when around a million white-tailed kob cross from South Sudan into Gambella National Park, which is also home to rare birds such as the shoebill and Egyptian plover
• Day hikes, mule excursions and boat trips are offered by a community tourism program at the 3,386m Mount Wenchi, an extinct volcano topped by a gorgeous crater lake and 13th century island monastery.
• The sleepy, steamy tropical river port of Gambella, set on a wide, fig-lined tributary of the Nile inhabited by traditional Anuwak fishermen and Nuer pastoralists.
• Little-visited Chebera-Churchura National Park offers a rare opportunity to track elephants on foot, while its rivers and crater lakes support plenty of hippos and birds.
• Bebeka Coffee Estate, Ethiopia’s largest, 45 minutes from Mizan Teferi, is of interest to birdwatchers, and a population of small red-brown buffaloes can be spotted in the surrounding hills.
• Kibish is the springboard for excursions into Southwest Omo, home to the culturally fascinating pastoralist Surma people.
Once a favourite retreat with Emperor Haile Selassie, Ambo is famed for its therapeutic hot springs resort and also offers access to the pretty Guder and Teltele Falls.