Located 400 kilometres southeast of Ethiopia’s capital is the unrivalled Bale Mountains National Park. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its outstanding universal value, this distinct park encompasses roughly 2,200 square kilometres of volcanic peaks, glacial peaks and swamps, and Afro-alpine plateaus.
The landscape is dramatic and ideal for activities such as trekking, fishing, and birdwatching. Adventurous trekkers come to the park because of the Sanetti Plateau, which has the highest peak in Ethiopia’s southern highlands. Trekking opens up plenty of opportunities for visitors to spot rare species such as the Ethiopian wolf and Bale monkey. The ecosystem of Bale Mountains National Park is an important water catchment area and supplies water for over 12 million people in the Somalian and Ethiopian lowlands.
The only way of getting to the Bale Mountains National Park is via road. A private transfer from the capital city to the neighbouring towns is recommended. The road transfer should take about three hours.
Bale Mountains National Park is home to a myriad of species. These include the Ethiopian fox, Bale monkey, Menelik’s bushbuck, and mountain nyala. There are also 310 bird species.
Safari-goers venturing to Bale Mountains National Park have a couple of choices when it comes to overnight facilities. There are luxury lodges for the discerning traveller while those who intend on going off the beaten track will have campsites to choose from.
Because of the diverse and contrasting landscapes, populations of wildlife are scattered. In total, there are 78 mammals, 12 species of reptile, 17 amphibians, and 310 bird species.
Iconic species include the Ethiopian fox, Bale monkey, Menelik’s bushbuck, and mountain nyala. The Ethiopian fox is seen mainly in the Afroalpine areas. The relatively impenetrable Harenna forest is where visitors can spot forest hogs, bushpig, and big cats. Smaller reptiles include the heather chameleon, mountain adder, and rock hyrax.
Bale is an extremely important area for avifauna, and one of the few places where avid birders can spot the extremely rare Prince Ruspoli’s turaco. The Bale Mountains is a wintering passage for birds of prey, in particular eagles such as the greater spotted eagle, steppe eagle, and tawny eagles.
A landscape characterised by deep valleys, glacial peaks, and expansive grasslands can mean contrasting weather patterns. This is the area of extremes, where weather patterns are drastic and can change at a moment’s notice. Visitors should be fully-equipped for the changing weather.
The northern section of the park, home to the Harenna forest, enjoys more moderate temperatures, but temperatures can fall below freezing when night falls. May to July is the best time to visit because of the warmer temperatures. This is the rainy season, but rains are short bursts of showers offering respite from the heat. Trekking is best done when it’s drier, which from October to April.
Bale Mountains National Park has something for everyone and is the perfect place for adventure lovers, culture fanatics, and wildlife enthusiasts. Activities focus on the wildlife aspect and the exquisite surrounds of Africa’s most revered national park.
Trekking is the most popular adventure activity in the park, and avid hikers have a choice of well-worn routes to explore. Two popular trails include the Gushuralle Peak Forest Forest Trail and the Harenna Bamboo and Waterfall Trail. The waterfall trail is dotted with waterfalls tucked inside a bamboo-lined canyon. Birding is exceptional. The Bale Birding Route sprawls over several habitats, and a popular birding trail is an easy to navigate trail that sets-out from the park’s headquarters.
Other activities include fishing, horse riding, and cultural activities such as harvesting honey with locals and exploring the local wild forest coffee village.
There is a range of accommodation options in the park, catering for a variety of budgets. Luxury retreats in the forested wilderness provide the perfect escape for premier guests, and there’s a resident naturalist on-site to educate visitors about the wild. There are campsites available for campers and multi-day trekkers, but visitors would need to be self-sufficient.