Ethiopia – Day 7 – Lalibela – Addis – Bale Mountains

Today was spent travelling from Lalibela to Bale Mountains.  The plane trip from Lalibela to Addis took 1.5 hours as we went via Gondar.   Everyone was excited to board the private charter for the one hour plane trip down to Robe.
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The flight was stunning flying over the Rift Valley…..
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We also flew over a volcano with a monastery on the top.
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We were met at Goba airstrip by Guy Levene, owner of Bale Mountain Lodge and 3 other four wheel drive vehicles from Kibran Tours.  We set off on the 2 hour transfer to the lodge and the change in the landscape as we climbed up onto the plateau was incredible. It was such a different, barren but hauntingly beautiful landscape.   The Sanetti plateau is the largest expanse of Afro alpine habitat in the world and is the best place to see the world’s rarest canid – the Ethiopian wolf.    There are around 450 wolves left and 60 % of them are found in the Bale Mountains.   They are relatively easy to spot as the landscape is so clear and they tend to be out hunting in the mornings and evenings.  Guy crosses the plateau at least twice a week and said he will see the wolves on 85% of his journeys.
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The transfer is a fascinating game drive and as we were lucky enough to have Guy driving us, he brought everything to life pointing out endemic birds & mammals such as a the Rougets Rail and Giant Mole Rat (the Ethiopian Wolf’s favourite dish!) .
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Guy stopped on top of the plateau to brief the team that we were entering the Ethiopian Wolf territory and to keep our eyes peeled. Within 5 minutes of setting off two of the groups spotted a female lying close to the road.  A further 10 km on and we were lucky enough to see a wolf hunting for his dinner.  It was fascinating to see them pat the ground trying to encourage the rodents out of the ground ready to be caught.
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It took us about 45 minutes to cross the plateau before we started dropping down into the Harenna Forest, the second largest forest in Ethiopia covering 4000km2.
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Ethiopia is one of the top 25 bio-diversity rich countries in the world and the Bale Mountains have one of the highest incidences of animal endemism of any terrestrial habitat on earth: the park itself holds 26% of Ethiopia’s endemic species.  The Bale Mountains is also listed as one of the top 4 birding spots in Africa with over 300 species being found in the area.
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We arrived at the lodge just as the sun was going down and it was so nice to eventually get to experience it first hand having been working with Guy & Yvonne for 18 months in the lead up to the opening.
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Yvonne was there to greet us with drinks & delicious nibbles and each of the wood burners were lit making our rooms lovely & cosy.  Just what was needed after a long journey!   The lodge looked amazing & they had done a great job of combining traditional design with contemporary style.    We all had a quick shower and change and reconvened around the fire pit for more drinks & nibbles.  Dinner was a delicious meal of Tilapia, sauteed potatoes & cauliflower cheese followed by caramelized bananas & tropical sorbet.  The food was far better than anything else we’d eaten and whilst it had been lovely to experience the traditional Ethiopian food, it was nice to have some western dishes!  Guy & Yvonne had invited Eric , the Manager of the Ethiopian Wolf project who gripped us all with updates on his work. The biggest threat to the Ethiopian wolf is rabies that they can catch from domestic dogs so a big focus for Eric was on a vaccination programme for the dogs.
We all fell into bed exhausted after our days travelling but keen to make the most of our next only full day at Bale Mountain Lodge.

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