Simien Mountain Holidays

Find your perfect safari in the Simien Mountains National Park

Simien Mountains National Park

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Ethiopia's Simien Mountains National Park

The Simien Mountains offer some of Africa's finest opportunities for hiking and trekking enthusiasts.

Some 40 million years ago, enormous volcanic plugs were eroded into a fantastic array of crags, pinnacles and the characteristic, ‘pudding-shaped’, flat- topped mountains described by Homer as the ‘chess-pieces of the gods’. Creating some of Africa’s most dramatic scenery at altitudes from 1,900 – 4,533m above sea level, the mountains are cut by precipitous gorges, deep valleys and bordered by expansive plains. Several peaks exceed 4,000m and the tallest, Mt Ras Dashen (4,533m) is the continent’s fourth highest mountain and the highest point in the park. 120km from Gondar in the northwest, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is more appreciated for its world class scenery than for its wildlife, though some interesting endemic species are present. Its flora is also compelling, with Giant lobelia, Red-hot poker and in the sub-Afroalpine zone, species such as Rose of Abyssinnia and Everlasting flowers much in evidence. Following an expansion in its surface area, the park currently covers 412 km2

The park’s iconic mammal is the endemic Gelada or bleeding- heart monkey, the only primate that grazes. Geladas on the Roof of Africa are an increasingly in-demand wildlife experience. Two highly endangered, endemic mammals inhabit the park: the range restricted Walia ibex numbers only some 500. There are about 70 or so endangered Ethiopian wolves in the park. Birders can easily see endemics including thick-billed raven, the rowdy wattled Ibis, white-collared pigeon, white-billed Starling and groups of black-headed siskin.

Because of extensive habitat destruction, rural poverty and poor management, this amazing national park was added to the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger in 1996. The terrain beckons trekking enthusiasts and indeed, presents awe inspiring hiking and mule-trekking opportunities, but the existing infrastructure (original campsites) along well established trails, has been struggling to cope with the 20,000-odd visitors per year and are in dire need of maintenance. To remedy this, the AWF (African Wildlife Foundation) and EWCA (Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority) have helped to create new trails as well as a trekking route outside of the park, with a view to dispersing tourists over a wider area and thereby, benefitting more local communities.

Mules, muleteers, local guides and provisions for trekking expeditions are all arranged in the access town of Debrak, from where a lengthy first day’s trek will take you to Sankaber, the first camp. Those who prefer to stay in lodges, can opt for the well-run Simien Lodge.

It is also possible to drive deep into the national park: again, such excursions commence in Debarak where park permits and a park guide are arranged. 35km from Debarak is scenic Sankaber, in the sub-Afroalpine zone. From this beautiful part of the park, easy walks take you to spectacular viewpoints. Continue another 24km to Chennek, passing by the viepoint Kurbet Metaya, a good site for Walia ibexes. Another 2 km will take you to Mt Bwahit (4,200m). The drive continues along foothills through a valley cut by mountain streams. Later, return to Chennek.

Active travellers keen to do a 3 – 4 hour walk can leave a vehicle at Ayna Meda, a scout post on the road between Sankaber and Chennek. An hour into the hike, pass through Afro-alpine meadows, and then ascend the peak of Imet Gogo (3,926m). From here, return to your vehicle or hike another 2 hours to Geech (Gich) Camp. To summit the highest peak of Ethiopia (Ras Dejen), drive about 3 hours on a variable gravel road to Abbat Dejen. From there, a 2 hour trek followed by an uphill ascent will take you to this peak (4,533m).

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