The Simien Mountains national park is home to Ethiopia’s tallest mountain (Ras Dejen -4,533m). Its dramatic peaks, sharp precipices and valleys lend it the nickname of Africa’s Grand Canyon. Dotted around this vast mountain range are pockets of stunning endemic species such as the Gelada baboon, Wahlia ibex (mountain goat) and the Simien fox. I was extremely lucky to see all three!!
Early on a December Sunday morning we made our through Gondar to Debark (95km journey). Leaving the historic Gondar we passed felasha villages, herdsmen and their cattle and in no time the mountains emerged before us. The smooth tarmac led us all the way to Debark where we got our park ranger and guide. The rest of the journey from Debark to the lodge was uncomfortable. Partly because of the bumpy moutainous road littered with loose stones, but mostly due to sharing the vehicle with a man wielding a very big gun *shudders* – with each bump I exhaled a prayer. We stayed at the Simien Lodge and got our own tukel/gojo/hut for one night.
Our accommodation overnight was the Simien lodge (which claims to be the highest lodge in Africa) was comfortable. Our only reminder of Christmas was the tinsel and large fireplace at the lodge. Ethiopia an orthodox and very old Christian country dodoes not celebrate Christmas on the 25th. Talk about a country that dances to the beat of its own drum. The time around the fireplace ed to interacting with some other visitors staying at the lodge, and as these sort of interactions usually go – they feel quite poignant. Nothing like sitting and talking around the fire to make you philosophical.
The gelada baboons are the main wildlife attraction in the Simien mountains and they sometimes come up to lodge, so no need for crazy hikes. I for one am not keen on ridiculously dangerous hikes up the sides of mountains however the views are worth it. If you don’t mind going that extra mile for views, then you should wake up in time (very early) for the breathtaking sunrise at the lodge. Chennek is where you are most likely to spot the Wahlia ibex and another very common camping site (along with Debark and Sankebar). The scenery here is absolutely breathtaking – expansive plains with large rock outcrops and what look like mini palm trees. The scenery is cinematic to say the least and fondly reminded me of the Lion King.
During my incredibly short trip to the Simien mountain range I felt pushed to the limits of my fears. My fear of heights had to be held off as I skirted the sharp escarpments eager to keep up with my local utterly fearless guide. The experience of this unique national park and its inhabitants made me feel secure in my place on Earth and acutely aware of beautiful symbiosis we have with the natural world – if we respect this Earth we are so blessed to be on.