Even for seasoned safari guides, having criss-crossed the African continent time and again, there awaits an experience that will exceed expectations. Ethiopia is not on every traveler’s bucket list, and yet its treasures are unique in Africa, with Ethiopians inheriting a dynasty stretching back 3,000 years to the reign of King Solomon, and his romance with the Queen of Sheba.
This is where the Great Rift Valley first slices into the continent’s heart, and where the famous hominid fossil “Lucy” was found and pushed back the time frame of our own evolution to over 3 million years. Walia Ibex traverse cliffs at 13,000 feet in the Simien Mountains. Rare Ethiopian wolves – cousins of Europe’s Gray wolves – trot through the vast grassland plateau of the Bale Mountains – we had several of them appear right in front of camp during our stay in December.
And then the churches: hewn from rock over a thousand years ago, Lalibela’s iconic monoliths see a continuous pilgrimage of orthodox Christians who have been traveling here for centuries. We had the privilege of exploring these same churches alongside a group of women who had trekked a month on foot from their village; their devotion evident as they prostrated themselves and wailed their blessings on arrival in each of the distinct, underground Houses of God.
Our time amongst the Gelada monkeys of the Simien Mountains must also rank as one of the outstanding wildlife moments; we walked right amongst these primates as they fed and played and interacted with one another, oblivious as wandered freely within their alpine realm.
When the intrepid Scottish explorer James Bruce penetrated the Abyssinian interior in 1770, he was the first outsider to enter this mysterious, proud kingdom for centuries. His reports of a centralized, feudal society in the heart of Africa were scarcely believed back in Europe, and yet today we know them to be true, and the castles, monasteries and the ancient culture itself is visible for us to witness first hand.