Plateaus, gorges, cliffs, escarpments, the most mind blowing formations –the Simien Mountains are truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to! The world heritage site, is found in the Ethiopian highlands. Simien Mountains' tallest peak is Ras Dashen, standing at 4550 meters above sea level, making it the continent’s 5th highest peak. On seeing the range fondly referred to as the “Roof of Africa” my partner, described it as Drakensberg on steroids. Formed between 20 and 30 million years ago, through volcanic eruptions, it’s not dissimilar to how South Africa’s Drakensberg Mountain range came about.
This dramatic, beautiful highland is home to 3 unique species: the Walia Ibex, the Gelada baboon and the Ethiopian Wolf. Sadly, the Ibex and Ethiopian wolf are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conversation of Nature. The Afro-alpine ecosystem found here is suited to the Walia Ibex. Part of the goat family, these herbivores love cliff tops. We spent hours and drove just 1000 meters shy of Ras Dahsen, in search of one. But there was poor visibility and unfortunately we didn’t get to see an Ibex in real life.
Soon enough we turned our attention to tracking an Ethiopian wolf, aka the Abyssinian wolf or the Simien fox. According to the African Wildlife Foundation, the Ethiopian Wolf is Africa’s most endangered carnivore; there are fewer than 600 adult Ethiopian wolves, the highest number of them are found in the Bale Mountains, to the south of the country. Genetically it’s closely related to the Grey wolf with its ancestor probably coming from Eurasia. And we got lucky, finding a wolf just a few meters from the road. We got to enjoy watching this rare creature for some 20 mins before he made a dash for it.
On the grassy plains we found the unusual looking and sounding Gelada Monkey, aka the bleeding heart baboon, the last species of grass eating primate. They are well adapted to living on the ground. At night they make the cliff faces their home, the steep rocks giving them protection from predators. When you sit among them, its sounds almost like human chatter. Researchers like Thore Bergman and Jacinta Beehner of the Gelada Research Project at the University of Michigan are currently studying the Gelada's vocal bank.
Our park guide was knowledgeable and extremely likable. He had a wonderful surprise for us - a short walk from the main road, through a dense canopy of trees, we found Jinbar Falls. From a vantage point, that places you above birds of prey, Jinbar and the Geech Abyss canyon into which its water tumbles are visually breath-taking! There are no official statistics – but its said to be among the tallest falls in Africa!
We capped our visit with a night at the Simien Lodge. After a day of driving and taking in several natural wonders, it was needed. The rooms are spacious and clean, the dining area made cosy with an inviting fireplace. It can get bloody cold up there. The cherry on top was finding a bottle of Nederberg on the menu, nothing like sipping on a yummy and warming South African wine, while at Africa’s highest lodge:)
An entrance fee, permit, guide and scout can all be paid for and booked at the Park’s main offices in Debark. No permit- no entry. You can drive the route or trekking at Simien is extremely popular, with dedicated routes for all fitness levels. There are official camp sites and two hotels, catering to the foreign tourist market. Take warm clothes as it can get chilly on the mountain.
Yet another amazing attraction in Ethiopia – I can’t recommend a holiday here highly enough!
All my travels are self funded.
My travel itinerary was customise designed by Boundless Ethiopia Tours, to cover the areas and activities of interest to me. I highly recommend them if you are considering a visit to this wonderful country, they are friendly, professional and knowledgeable.
For more information: http://boundlessethiopia.com/
I flew to Ethiopia on Ethiopian Airlines: https://www.ethiopianairlines.com/AA/EN