GVET 010 Mount Zuquala – 1 day

Pick up is at 7.30 and we take the south east road, heading for Mount Zuquala, which can easily be seen from Addis Ababa.  Zuquala is a volcanic cone which rises to 3000 m asl, some 1000 m higher than the surrounding countryside, the crater is 2 km across and some 60 m deep, with a shallow lake at the bottom.

We turn of the main road just before entering Debre Zeit, some 48 km from Addis Ababa.  It used to be possible to drive straight to the top but in recent years there has not been maintenance after the rains and it is now necessary to park the car and walk for an hour or so.

On the north east of the caldera is a monastery, part of which was destroyed by Mohammed Gragn in the 16th century, but which was later restored.  The monastery is dedicated to Abba Gebre Menfes Qiddus, an Ethiopian saint renowned for his love of animals and wild life – he is frequently shown in paintings surrounded by lions and other wild beasts.  A common story is that he allowed a bird to drink water from his eye.

The crater slopes are covered by dry montane forest, mainly made up of Juniper trees. The forest has a high bio-diversity – 217 species of flowering plants and ferns have been recorded.  A number of endemic birds and mammals can be seen here, including: Wattled Ibis, Blue-winged Goose, Black-winged lovebird, Banded Barbet, Abyssinian Woodpecker, White-winged Cliff Chat, Abyssinian Catbird, White-backed Black Tit, and the Colobus Monkey.

Other birds of interest include : White-cheeked Turaco, Slender-billed Chestnut-winged Starling, Sharpe’s Starling, Verreaux’s Eagle and Ruppel’s Griffon Vulture, while of animal species Grey Duiker and Klipsringer can be seen.

We will take a picnic lunch in the crater (it is forbidden to enter the lake, which is said to be blessed), and pay a short visit to Debre Zeit town before returning to Addis Ababa late afternoon.

GVET 009 Ambo, Wonchi Crater Lake and Wolliso- 2 days

From Wonchi crater lake we could continue to Wolliso, to the newly opened Negash Lodge.  This was the site of the old Ghion Hotel – there is a natural hot spring which feeds a swimming pool as well as the water in the rooms, marvelous grounds with good bird life and Colobus and Vervet monkeys.

The owner has totally revamped the old hotel building, which has enormous baths in the rooms, and added as number of bungalows in traditional styles, Sidamo style and tukuls.

We could drive straight to Negash Lodge taking the Jimma Road out of Addis Ababa – it is only 125 km  and leaving early we would be there mid-morning.

GVET 007 Melka Kunture, Adadi Mariam and Tiya - 1 day

Pick up is at 7.30 am, and we then head south-west on the Jimma road, before turning due south on to the Butajira Road.  Melka Kunture lies near the Awash River Gorge and is one of the most important neolithic sites in Ethiopia.  Hand axes and various other implements have been found here.  There is a museum at the site.
About 5 km further on the Butajira Road, is the rock hewn church of Adadi Mariam, contemporaneous with those of Lalibela - in fact local tradition ascribes it to King Lalibela who is said to have had it built on his visit to Mount Zuqwala in 1106.  Damaged during the wars with Ahmed Gragn in the 16th century, it fell into disuse and was only reopened in the time of Menelik II.  It is today in regular use.

Our final stop today is at Tiya, classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, where we can see the northernmost example of a peculiar type of engraved, standing stellae which stretch across parts of southern Ethiopia.  These  stellae are believed to have been erected between the 12th and 14th centuries and are almost certainly grave markers - recent excavations at Tiya have revealed the remains of young people of both sexes, aged between 18 - 30 and buried in foetal positions.
At some stage today we will take a picnic lunch, perhaps near the Awash River Gorge, and leave for the return journey to Addis Ababa mid afternoon.

GVTE 008 Ambo and Wonchi Crater Lake - 1 day

We set off at 7.00, heading west on the new Ambo road.  We will pass Menagesha Forest to the north of the road, the Holetta River (a tributary of the Awash), the small town of Addis Alem where Menelik II once planned to make his capital, before reaching Ambo, some 120 km from the capital.

The area between Addis Alem and Ambo contains the intersections of three of Ethiopia’s major river basins: those of the Awash, Omo and Guder.

We will stop for some refreshment in the town of Ambo, from where Ethiopia’s most famous mineral water is drawn, before driving up nearly 1000 meters in 27 km to the rim of the Wonchi crater, where visitors will see one of the most beautiful sites in Ethiopia - verdant forests, a lake with islands, all within the crater.

We can leave our vehicles here and descend either on foot or on horse, or drive down all the way to the crater.  We will have a picnic lunch here and spend some hours walking or horse riding through the forest, visiting the hot springs, and taking a dug-out boat over to the island to visit the church. Mid afternoon we will start our journey back to Addis Ababa.

The formerly state owned Ethiopia Hotel in Ambo has been privatized is being refurbished and has great grounds.  Across the road from the hotel is the swimming pool, fed by springs.  This one day tour can easily be extended to 2 days, with an overnight at the Ethiopia Hotel.

GVET 006 The Menagesha Forest and Addis Alem - 1 day

We set off at 7.00, heading west on the Jimma road. We pass potters’ markets and take a turn left after the town of Sebeta to mount Wuchacha and the Menegasha forest - the 50 km journey takes about 1 ½ hours.The Emperor Zera Yacob (1434-1468), noticing the degradation of the forest around Mount Wechecha, initiated what was the first reforestation and conservation measure in Africa by having Juniper trees planted.  We will take a picnic lunch, making our way up through the forest towards the top of Mount Wechecha. We can expect to see the Abyssinian Catbird, Banded Barbet, Golden-backed Woodpecker, Black-headed Forest Oriole, Wattled Ibis, Yellow-fronted Parrot, Black-winged Lovebird, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, Crowned Eagle and Narina’s Trogan.  Among the wildlife species recorded here are:  Menelik’s Bushbuck, Leopard rarely seen), Colobus Monkey, Serval, Grey Duiker, Hyaena, Warthog, Porcupine and Civet Cat.

After a picnic lunch in the forest, we will return to Addis Ababa by the Ambo road, stopping off at the small town of Addis Alem. Towards the end of the 19th century, faced with a chronic wood shortage around Addis Ababa (ultimately solved through the importation and planting of the fast growing Eucalyptus), Emperor Menelik II thought of transferring his capital here, and one can see today the imperial compound, Menelik’s residence, a dining hall, kitchen and the church of Mariam, which was planned to be the counterpart of Mariamtsion Church in Axum.  The church has some interesting paintings and a small museum nearby contains clothes and decorations of former Ethiopian rulers.

We then set off for Addis Ababa, passing Gefersa reservoir (good for birds) and arriving early evening.