The Hidden Tribes of Ethiopia
This once in a lifetime trip is a rare chance to meet the Hidden Tribes of Ethiopia and Kenya. People who have walked along the same mystical paths for centuries and whose lives are shrouded in fantastic culture and secrecy.
– In Ethiopia, we will discover Emperors and Archangels, a New Jerusalem, and the 3.5 million years old bones of Lucy. Visit the music houses while you sip on tej. Meet tribes who are almost totally cut off from outside influences and see them paint their bodies, braid their hair and adorn themselves in ochre and lip plates. Speak to the crocodile hunters and experience their coming of age ceremonies.
– And Kenya will give us the incredible opportunity to visit the secret Singing Wells (absolutely no photography is allowed) and the Reteti elephant orphanage of the most remote Samburu.
– There will be game viewing, as the homes of these tribes are both very remote and very wild. But this is no ordinary African Safari.
Caren has led trips all over Africa for decades. It is a testament to the unique character of this Safari that one of our top Trip Designers will be initiated into the customs of these mystical tribes together with her guests.
- Experience the Samburu Singing Wells
- Get up close to elephants at Reteti Sanctuary
- See a DIMI ceremony among the reknowned crocodile hunters- the Dassenech
- Dance with the Kara people
- Visit the Mursi people, the most renowned of the Omo tribes, with their lip and ear plates
- Take an Ethiopian cooking class
- Visit Lalibela
Itinerary at a Glance
City Tour & Welcome Dinner Addis Ababa
Welcome to Ethiopia! On arrival at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, after clearing customs you will be met and transferred to The Sheraton, located in the heart of the Ethiopian capital. You will have the morning to relax and rejuvenate, the hotel has a wide range of facilities including pools, restaurants and the Aqva Club which has a variety of massages to offer.
After lunch, we will begin the city tour. We first drive north up to Mount Entoto. In 1881 Emperor Menelik II made his permanent camp there, after remains of an old town (believed to have been the capital of 16th century monarch Lebna Dengel) were discovered, which Menelik took as a divine and auspicious sign. Addis Ababa at between 2300 – 2500 meters is the third highest capital in the world and Entoto is several hundred meters higher – as we drive up the hill there is an appreciable drop in temperature and the air is filled with the scent of the Eucalyptus trees which line the road.
From the top, there is a panoramic view of the capital and surrounding countryside. Entoto is an important watershed; to the north, water flows to the Blue Nile and on to the Mediterranean, to the south to the Awash River and east to Djibouti. Your guide will point out the important landmarks of the city.
Entoto was soon abandoned as a site for the capital – it was cold, difficult to provision and there was a shortage of wood. Empress Taytu was said to have led the move down to the plain of Finfine in 1889, and to have named the new capital Addis Ababa, or New Flower. However, two important structures remain within the old imperial compound on Entoto, the churches of Mariam and the Archangel Raguel. It was in the church of Mariam that Menelik was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia in 1889, and in the small museum in the compound there are various clothes, court and household implements and weapons dating from the period. The church of Raguel is unusual in that it is octagonal, rather than round. There is a first story balustrade around which Menelik liked to stroll.
Leaving the churches, we descend to Addis Ababa, stopping off at the National Archaeological Museum. You can view exhibits ranging from the 3.5 million-year-old bones of Lucy, from the Axumite and Gondarene periods through to the period of the monarchs Tewodros and Menelik II.
You will return to the hotel for dinner and overnight stay.
Traditional music houses of Lalibela & Ethiopian Cooking Class
After an early breakfast, road transfer to the airport for your charter flight to Lalibela.
On arrival at the airstrip you will be transferred to Mezena Lodge/Maribela Hotel.
Shorty after, we will start our tour of the churches followed by lunch and continuing in the afternoon. (churches are closed 1200-1400)
At the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th centuries King Lalibela of the Zaghwe dynasty built a series of rock hewn churches – the New Jerusalem as he called it – now rightly acknowledged to be one of the wonders of the world. There are 11 churches in the town named after him, with others in the surrounding countryside. All are still in use today. (The churches are divided into two groups, the division being the River Yordanos or River Jordan.)
It is estimated that the churches took 25 years to construct – for the Kingdom based on Roha (later renamed Lalibela) to have kept a large work force engaged in economically unproductive labour for such a long period means that it disposed of a large economic surplus and was very wealthy. The area then was clearly fertile and agriculturally productive, whereas now deforestation and population pressures on the land have reduced its productivity.
We will visit a typical farm, where we will be guided on the issues relating to farm work and the daily life of people engaged in agriculture. This initiative benefits the farmer and his family.
Enjoy a cookery class in Ethiopian cuisine.
There are vibrant traditional music houses in Lalibela, with musicians and singers playing without amplifiers or microphones. Sample honey wine, or tej, and enjoy the dancing!
Churches of Lalibela
After breakfast we set off on mule or on foot to the church of Ashetun Mariam, about 4 hours’ round trip. We pass small villages on the way up and there are wonderful views of the surrounding countryside from the top of the mountain where the church is located.
If you do not feel up for a hike or mule ride, there will be an option of a shorter drive to the cave church of Neakuto Leab.
After lunch we set off by car to the cave church of Yemrehane Christos, built by the king of the same name before the reign of King Lalibela. The church is constructed inside a cave, in Axumite style, similar to the 7th century monastery at Debre Damo in Tigray, with alternating levels of wood and stone. A 40km trip from Lalibela followed by a 10 minute hike brings you to this beautiful church, the finest example of its kind in Ethiopia.
Body Painting Ceremony – Omo Valley
After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airstrip for your charter flight to Murile (1 hour 30 mins), by the Omo River, followed by a boat transfer to Lale’s Camp. (formerly known as Lumale.) Offering comfortable tented accommodation with en suite facilities.
This evening, you will be amongst the Kara villagers and you will be attending one of their body painting ceremonies in the village of Dus. You will return to Lale’s Camp for your overnight stay.
Isolated Hamar Homesteads, remote villages of the Mursi
An early morning drive to a Hamar village, where you will interact with the Hamar villagers as they prepare themselves for their day ahead. It takes the better part of 40 minutes to reach a very small pocket of isolated Hamar homesteads. The Hamar are pastoralists and the women beautify themselves with amazing braided hairstyles covered in red ochre and butter. The use of skins and beads is prevalent in clothing choice.
Return to Lale’s Camp for brunch
With a two to three-hour boat excursion up the river, we reach the southern extremities of the Mursi areas, where we expect to encounter remote villages coming down to the river during the day. Their villages are up in the nearby mountains and these villagers remain relatively cut off from outside influences. The Mursi are the most renowned of the Omo tribes, with their lip and ear plates. We will enjoy a packed lunch on our boat excursion.
This evening, we will enjoy a boat cruise with a good chance of viewing wildlife!
Return to Mursi Fly Camp on the rivers edge, where you will be accommodated in a small dome shaped tent, with a separate shower and a long drop toilet. Enjoy dinner and your overnight stay.
Morning walk/Game viewing & evening fire dance
This morning, before having breakfast enjoy a relaxed morning walk upriver looking for any signs of wildlife from the previous night, with a good chance of seeing some great wildlife with the possibility of seeing lion, leopard and antelope. You will then return to Lale’s camp and participate in an evening dance with the Kara, where you can enjoy cold drinks and relax around the fire.
Lake Turkana & crocodile hunters of the Omo Delta
This morning we will drive across the grassy plains of Murulle down to the Omo Delta.
Home of the Dassenech, we will spend the evening on a cruise into the Omo Delta and touch the headwaters of Lake Turkana. There are many Dassenech villages dotted along the river bank and we will have an opportunity to go and meet with them and a possibility of seeing the DIMI ceremonies happening around. The Dassenech are renowned crocodile hunters from the Omo Delta.
Overnight stay at Delta Fly Camp in a large A Frame safari tent with en suite flush toilet and shower.
Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy
This morning we will return to the town of Omerate for your charter flight to Addis Ababa where you will connect with your scheduled flight to Nairobi, Kenya.
On arrival at JKIA in Nairobi, you will be met for your private charter to the Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy, Sarara Camp. You will be accommodated in a luxury spacious tent with an indoor toilet and an outdoor bathroom. Enjoy the magnificent view of the Mathews Mountain Range and animal watering hole.
Oprhaned Elephant Sanctuary
Today you will visit the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, the first community owned elephant orphanage in Africa where orphaned and abandoned elephant calves are rescued and released while creating opportunities for the local community and specifically empowering young Samburu Women.
Sacred Singing Wells
This morning, you will experience one of the most sacred cultural experiences in Kenya; the Singing Wells. Drive a short distance to the dry river bed. Here, permanent wells are maintained by families and passed down from generation to generation. This water gives life to cattle and goats on which these local communities survive. You’ll watch the men and boys sing to their herds, who know each unique song and only drink when called for. (This activity is dependent on dry weather.)
After breakfast, you will depart on a private charter to Nairobi, where your amazing cultural experience will come to an end.