Bourguet Olivier Omo Trek

Exploring the Omo Valley

Karo people overlooking Omo River (Olivier Bourguet, Ethiopian Tourism Organisation)

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Sensitively arranged visits to fascinating tribes in Southern Ethiopia

Visit tribes in the Omo Valley and learn about their fierce cultural identity in this rural region

The Omo Valley is a broad name for a vast area of South-Western Ethiopia, stretching all the way to its Southerly borders with Kenya and South Sudan. The main focus of a trip here is visiting some of the fascinating tribes that live deep in the wilderness of this remote enclave. The area is home to around 16 different ethnic groups, each of which maintain traditional lifestyles little-changed over the centuries. Each tribe is fiercely proud of their cultural identity, which is shown through their use of colourful jewellery, body painting and elaborate ear and lip plates. Interacting with some of these communities in a sensitive and responsible manner can give an incredible insight into rural life here, and a tailor made Omo Valley tour adds yet another layer to any cultural and historical Ethiopia itinerary.

Despite being so remote, the Omo Valley is relatively easy to access, with flights from Addis Ababa to both Arba Minch, and, less frequently, the more Southerly town of Jinka. If you fly in to Arba Minch, you’ll pass through the small town of Konso where you can finally regard yourself as being in the Omo Valley. Konso is a pleasant town surrounded by terraced fields, and the charming Kanta Lodge is the best choice for your overnight stay. From there it’s on to Jinka, the capital of the South Omo Region and another single-night stopping point en-route to see the tribes further South. If time allows, a visit to the South Omo Research Centre does offer some context to what you see in the area and the 21st century challenges faced by the tribes.

The main base for heading out to visit the tribes is the tiny village of Turmi, little more than a main road off which a number of houses can be found, along with a handful of shops and places to eat. Turmi is the heart of Hamer country, a tribe renowned for their bull jumping ceremonies, and they can be visited on the afternoon of arrival before heading to your lodge. All other tribe visits from here tend to be a full day out, visiting two or three different communities before returning to your accommodation in the late afternoon.

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