5 Things You Must Do in the Southern Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia

Posted: February 18, 2016 in Ethiopia - the Secret of Africa
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Like a chain of pearls the lakes cover the bottom of the Rift Valley which stretches out from Syria to Mozambique and has a width of 50km. All the Lakes are full of fish like Tilapia and Nile Perch and thus attract many different bird species, so they are a paradise for bird watchers. But they are also ideal places for a real vacation with relaxing, swimming, boat trips, fishing, watching crocodiles and hippo’s and enjoying the serene, romantic scene, specially at sunset, with only the voices of the birds or crickets as back ground music.

Coming from Addis Ababa, you first pass a man-made lake where the Koka Dam provides electricity for the capital. Not long after passing this lake, the first Rift Valley Lake comes in sight:

  1. Lake Ziway

Here you can observe many birds such as white pelican, saddle bill, yellow bill, storks and kingfishers. Also hippo’s can be seen. A boat can be rented to visit one or more of the islands with their monasteries. Debre Sion is the most famous. It is said that in the 9th century A.D., the Ark of the Covenant was brought here from Axum because it was in danger to be destructed by the ferocious queen Gudit. Indeed, the oldest written document about Axum has been discovered here.

Place to stay: Haile Resort, Ziway

Photos Ethiopie juillet 2013 354

  1. Lake Langano

Travelling further to the south there is an excellent opportunity to relax at the shores of Lake Langano. This lake with its reddish brown water is Bilharzia free so it is safe to swim. The old growth forest on the eastside of the lake is a great place for nature lovers and birdwatchers. There are several good hotels and Lodges in a beautiful setting where you can relax on the sandy shores and where boats, water bikes, fishing equipment and cycles can be rented. It is an ideal base to make trips to the nearby Lake Abijata-Shall National Park.

Place to stay: Sabana Beach Resort, Borati Lodge, and Bishangari lodge.

Photos Ethiopie juillet 2013 326

  1. Lake Abijata-Shall National Park

Lake Abijata provides a stunning spectacle of untouched, unspoiled Ethiopia. It hosts an extraordinary number of birds like wild duck, geese, cormorants, flamingos and great numbers of Great White Pelicans. These pelicans come only to Abijata to feed, they nest and sleep on islands in neighboring Lake Shala. These islands are home for the most important breeding colony of Great White Pelicans in Africa. Recently, Lake Abijata is dramatically shrinking because of the nearby Soda Ash factory that uses the water.

Ostrich Birds of Ethipia

Ostrich Birds of Ethipia

Lake Shalla which is a crater lake, has many bays fringed with wild fig, acacia and euphorbia, overlooking dark waters which are the deepest in Ethiopia, 200 meters or more. It breathes an untouched, mysterious beauty. In its surroundings several sulphurous springs bubble up. There are excellent places for camping on its shores, ideal for people who seek rest and silence in unspoiled nature. There is not much wild life around the lakes but the beautiful Grant’s Gazelle and different species of monkeys can regularly be seen.

Place to stay: Sabana Beach Resort, Borati Lodge, and Bishangari lodge.

Lake Abijata-Shalla National Park in the Great Rift Valley Lakes


  1. Lepis Community Tourism Site for bird watching & Horse-riding

Lepis forest is most pristine and secluded natural wonders, with breathtaking and stunning views, endemic bird and wildlife species, and a natural waterfall. Make Hiking in the forest to visit different wildlife including; warthogs, bushbuck, colobus monkeys, thick-billed ravens, African white backed vultures, and blue-breasted bee-eaters).

Lepis can currently be visited as a day trip from Langano or Hawassa, but there is currently no accommodation (even campsites) for longer stays.


Boat Man at Lake Hawassa

  1. Hawassa/Awassa and Senkelle Wildife Sanctary


Hawassa recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. The modern capital of the Southern Region is situated on the shores of Lake Hawassa/Awassa. A visit to the daily scenic morning Fish market

in Awassa where the fisher man sell his fresh Tilapia, Catfish, and Barbus whereas Pelicans and Storks are competing to take the left over. You can also spot Black and White Colbous monkey around the Amor Gedele.

You can walk along the lake shore for nice evening sunset and aquatic birds. However the vegetation makes beach seeing impossible in some places. The shores are covered by aquatic grasses. The lake does not have impressive sand beaches for recreation. However, the area is arguably one of the best places of bird watching. There are a lot of lodges and resorts including Haile and Lewi resort situated along the edges of a huge reed fringed the lake provides ample opportunity to see  a variety of ducks, waders, herons, and pelicans.

Visit Hawassa with NETWORK Ethiopia Travel and Tours


Senkelle Wildlife Sanctuary (90 Km from Awassa, well-known for endemic and endangered subspecies of Swayne’s Hartebeest). The sanctuary was created to save the most viable population of the Swayne’s Hartebeest- an endemic and endangered subspecies. Visitors can easily spot the endemic Swayne’s Hartebeest; Bohor Reedbuck, Oribi, Greater Kudu and different bird species on this Savanna grassland & bush land. To travel to Senkelle a 4WD Vehicle is advisable.

Place to stay:

Top: Haile Resort, Lewi Resort & Spa and Gezhage & Elefenshe Resort, Central Hotel, South Star hotel

Medium: Oasis International Hotel, Lake View Hotel, Tadesse Injory, and Pinna Hotel.

Swaynes heartbees, FANOS Ethiopia Tours

Written by: Keb Mathews

Kebrabe  Matewos,

B.A Tourism Management, (University of Gonder) Tourism Lecturer, Tour Operator & Tour leader
Mobile: + 251 913170579

P.o.box: 26696 Code 1000

E-mail: kebmathews@yahoo.com

Skype: kebmathews



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