Wildlife in the Ethiopia's Rift Valley

Trip Start Oct 11, 2012
Trip End Nov 19, 2012

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What I did
Nechisar National Park
Lake Chamo

Flag of Ethiopia  ,
Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I woke Jillie up at 6:30 for breakfast.  They try very hard in this restaurant.  We have a lake view here from the terrace.  It was pretty hazy.  We left at 7:30.  I was in Girmay's car today.  I had no idea how to spell his name until I asked Kibrom.  I sat in the front and Martina, Andrew & Barbara were in the back.  We stopped at a little shop in town to get water, but then the drivers all disappeared so we had to wait for them to come back before we could start out on our drive to the Nechisar National Park.  I still don't know where they went.  A mystery.

We had been warned that the drive would be very difficult, but various people opted for the long drive rather than the alternative for different reasons:  Martina mentioned that she didn't advise the hour walks in the noonday sun.  Anne said that people were put off by the idea of an 8 hr boat ride.  So we did the drive.  We went up stream beds or what appeared to be stream beds.  We got to a sign that said 20 km to the Nechisar Plains and I think someone said it was almost 5 km to get to the sign.  We drove around the large lake and it sometimes appeared to be the color of chocolate milk - and others times it looked mostly blue, or maybe it was a second lake - I was never sure.  We passed tall plants that I recognized as euphorbia and ones that looked like little stick trees - probably another type of euphorbia.  There were also some pretty yellow flowers, blue spike flowers and some smaller creamsicle-colored ones as well.  I didn't do very well with photographing plants or flowers today.

When we finally reached the plains, someone spotted what they said was a dik-dik in the bushes.  I think I saw the outline or shape of an animal.  We went to a lookout that was pleasant and I took some photos of the wavy grass - it was lovely as it blew in the wind.  After we got down into the plains again, someone spotted zebra and gazelles - Grant's gazelles??  I saw the zebra but not the gazelles.  As we wound our way around the plains, we saw the little groups of Burchell's zebra much closer up as well as some birds - kory bustards, secretary birds, and maybe fish hawks.  Other people saw some gazelles and I did see one with nice horns before we left the plains. 

As we made our way out, Barbara spotted 2 little dik-dik and she was very pleased.  Then we saw a kudu - she had said again and again how much she wanted to see a kudu.  She jumped out of the 4x4 and managed a photo of the back of it as it was running down the road.  We had to drive back the same tortuous way that we had driven in.  Our drivers were excellent and there were no flat tires or broken car parts - that I knew of.  I think all the vehicles are Toyota Land Cruisers - they seem to be pretty sturdy cars.

Today was our big wildlife highlight for Ethiopia.  I hadn't really considered Ethiopia as a safari destination.  The hippo viewing and the first part of our ride into Nechisar National Park couldn't really compare with my Southern or East African trips, but once we got closer to the zebra on the Plains and I began to see some birds and other gazelles, I was just as excited as I had been on the other safaris.  The crocodile viewing was exceptional - seeing them so close as we went past them in the boats.  The 4x4 ride to get to the Plains was also exceptional - hadn't been on anything nearly as rough on the other trips!

We then stopped in town for a late lunch.  The place was in a rather fancy courtyard - like a big shopping mall courtyard - outdoor though - with a fountain in it - sadly the fountain wasn't running.  I got the shoro with injera and it came on a huge platter.  I rather like it but couldn't finish it all.  Doris had a fish dish that was very photogenic!  Poor Jillie ordered fish with pineapple sauce and it didn't come until very late and she had to wolf her food down because we were ready to leave for the boat ride.  I hadn't noticed but Martina had managed to get to the internet.  I barely had time to eat....It is always difficult for me to get much done on group tours because of the fast pace - so much to see and such relatively limited time.

We drove off again out of town to Chamo Lake where we took 2 motor boats out.  We had picked up the boatmen and some gas on the way.  There weren't enough life jackets to go around.  On the way out, the boatman poled us until he started the engine.  The water was a little rough so we got a little wet with Mick and my driver Girmay getting the wettest.  We went out to a side channel half way across the lake and there we looked at the crocodiles basking on the mud shore.  The first one sighted was so huge that I didn't realize I was looking at a crocodile.  It was monstrous with a huge scaly back.  The were other big ones - I am not sure how many but it seemed like at least a dozen.  In that area were a number of birds - fish hawks, sacred ibis, marabou stork, heron - maybe others that I can't remember or ones that I misremembered. 

We then went on in search of the hippos and a few were spotted, but they mostly disappeared under the water as soon as we saw them...and then we left before they came back up.

There was a gorgeous lowering sun with rays streaming down over the mountains.  I think everyone took loads of photos of it.  On the way back Andrew asked if he could sit in the front seat since he had some ideas for some shots.  I sat in the middle of the back and was content to watch the scenery through the windshield.  There were herds of cows coming back along the highway....along with some goats sometimes.  Kibrom says that cattle are a status symbol - more important than their use for meat or milk.  They are brought back to villages outside the city although it looked as if lots were going into town. On the way back to the hotel, there were only a few people carrying large bunches of straw or sticks on their heads.  I don't know how many were walking up the hill on our way out.  The poor guys seemed to be trotting or walking as if the weight on their heads or shoulders were pushing them forward. 

We got back around 6:30 and had dinner at 7 pm.  Not too much to report there.  Oh, some people were buying the local red wine which is bottled in beer bottles and sealed with beer bottle caps.

The electricity is still on now - it's almost 9:30.  I think I might upload some photos before getting to bed and taking my malaria tablet since I can't take it within 2 hrs of eating.  Hope the electricity doesn't go off because I would like to charge my computer tonight.

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