Omo National Park
One of the most beautiful national parks in Ethiopia, its 4068 km2 of wilderness bordered by the Omo river, is home to an amazing range of wildlife. 306 species of birds have been identified here, while large herds of Eland, some Buffalo, Elephants, Giraffe, Cheetah, Lion, Leopard, Burchell’s Zebra are not uncommon.
The park is not easily accessible, as the current means of access is via Omorate and the ferry to the north bank of the river. The park HQ is 75 km from Kibish settlement. However, a new airstrip is available close to the HQ and to a pleasant campsite on the Mui River – plans are in hand for further major improvements.
Omo National Park, the largest in the country, with an area of 4,068 square kilometres. It is a vast expanse of true wilderness, adjacent to the Omo River, which flows southwards into Lake Turkana and is one of the richest and least-visited wildlife sanctuaries in eastern Africa. Eland, oryx, Burchell’s zebra, Lelwel hartebeest, buffalo, giraffe, elephant, waterbuck, kudu, lion, leopard and cheetah roam within the park’s boundaries.
The Omo Valley is virtually free of human habitation but is rich in palaeo-anthro-pological remains. According to scientific research done in 1982 by the University of California at Berkeley, hominid remains from the Omo Valley probably date back more than four million years.
Much of Africa’s volcanic activity is concentrated along the immense 5,000 kilometre crack in the earth’s surface known as the Rift Valley. It is the result of two roughly parallel faults, between which, in distant geological time, the crust was weakened and the land subsided. The valley walls – daunting blue-grey ridges of volcanic basalt and granite – rise sheer on either side to towering heights of 4,000 metres. The valley floor, 50 kilometres or more across, encompasses some of the world’s last true wildernesses.
Ethiopia is often referred to as the ‘water tower’ of eastern Africa because of the many rivers that pour off its high tableland, and a visit to this part of the Rift Valley, studded with lakes, volcanoes and savannah grassland, offers the visitor a true safari experience.
The Omo River tumbles its 350 kilometre way through a steep inaccessible valley before slowing its pace as it nears the lowlands and then meanders through flat, semi-desert bush, eventually running into Lake Turkana. Since 1973, the river has proved a major attraction for white-water rafters. The season for rafting is between September and October, when the river is still high from the June to September rains but the weather is drier.
The river passes varied scenery, including an open gallery forest of tamarinds and figs, alive with colobus monkeys. Under the canopy along the riverbanks may be seen many colourful birds. Goliath herons, blue-breasted kingfishers, white-cheeked turacos, emerald-spotted wood doves and red-fronted bee-eaters are all rewarding sights, while monitor lizards may be glimpsed scuttling into the undergrowth. Beyond the forest, hippos graze on the savannah slopes against the mountain walls, and waterbuck, bushbuck and Abyssinian ground hornbills are sometimes to be seen.
Abundant wildlife, spirited rapids, innumerable side creeks and waterfalls, sheer inner canyons and hot springs all combine to make the Omo one of the world’s classic river adventures.
Ethiopia Tourism commission
P.O. Box 2183
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia