Wild and Exotic Bale Mountains ride summary
This short but fascinating ride explores the wild, high altitude and remote Saneti plateau (also known as the island in the air), the world’s largest expanse of Afro Alpine habitat that is home to the rare Ethiopian wolf. You will experience a host of other endemic species of wildlife: mountain nyala, Meneliks bush buck, wart hogs, and a phenomenal variety of prolific bird life. Guests ride hardy Abyssinian ponies for up to 6 hours a day at an altitude of between 2,500 and 4,000 metres. The views are spectacular looking down on the vast tropical rain forests, and the air is clear and fresh. You will spend 3 nights under canvas with all supplies transported by packhorse before repairing to the fabulous boutique Bale Mountains lodge, which is surrounded by pristine cloud forest , colourful birds and rare wildlife.
We can also arrange a privately guided visit to the most iconic of Ethiopia’s northern regions including Axum, Gondar and Lalibela.
Wild and Exotic exclusive Bale Mountains National Park ride sample itinerary
This short but fascinating ride explores the wild, high altitude and remote Saneti plateau, the world’s largest expanse of Afro Alpine habitat that is home to the rare Ethiopian wolf and other endemic species of wildlife. Guests ride hardy Abyssinian ponies for up to 6 hours a day, spending 3 nights under canvas with all supplies transported by packhorse before repairing to the fabulous boutique Bale Mountains lodge, which is surrounded by pristine cloud forest, colourful birds and rare wildlife. We can also arrange a privately guided visit to the most iconic of Ethiopia’s northern regions including Axum, Gondar and Lalibela.
Day 1: Today you have a long 9 hour drive to Bale Mountains National Park, which you will enter at its north western entry point and overnight at Dinsho Park headquarters, camping among the wildlife in the heavily wooded slopes above at an altitude of around 2,500 metres. It is also possible to fly from Addis to Robe near Bale on certain days of the week.
Day 2: Having spent the morning enjoying the mountain nyala, Meneliks bush buck, wart hogs and many birds that frequent this corner of the park, the horses will be saddled up for the first day’s ride. Homesteads will gradually become less frequent as we head into the park proper on a 5 hour ride, camping at Sodota in a valley dotted with lobelias, an area favoured by rare Ethiopian wolves. Overnight Sodota campsite at an altitude of around 3585 metres. (B, L, D)
Day 3: You leave the Wasem river valley, which is inhabited by colonies of baboons, riding up into more canyons that are concertinaed into a giant amphitheatre and head onto basaltic plateaus up to 4000 metres high. You follow a long valley through wild mountains, and camp overnight at Wasama at an altitude of around 3750 metres after 6 hrs of riding.
Day 4: This morning the trail leads to Gebre Guracha, or Black Lake, which is home of many endemic bird species. You ride on to the Saneti Plateau, also know as the island in the air, which lies at an altitude of 4000m and is sometimes shrouded in fog. On today’s trail riders are likely to encounter Ethiopian wolves and warthogs. We pass through a forest of hagenias and African junipers, our path bordered by yellow flowers and bright red Kniphobias, which cover the hillsides. At this altitude the air is fresh and clear and the views can be spectacular, especially the Herenna escarpment to the south, which drops 2000m towards a vast tropical forest extending all the way to Kenya. After riding for approx 7 hours you are met and driven to the luxurious Bale Mountain Lodge for an overnight stay at an altitude of around 2800 metres.
Day 5: After breakfast you will be transferred by 4 wheel drive vehicle down from the high altitudes, via Goba and Dinsho, the headquarters of the Bale National Park, then to Shashemene and Lake Langano where we stop for lunch and a swim in the lake before arriving at Addis in the evening where you will and then drive back to Addis.
Wild & Exotic fact sheet for Bale Mountains ride in Ethiopia
Types of Trip: With the exception of the nights spent at Bale Mountain Lodge, these are camping trips run inside the remote Bale Mountain National Park – an Afro alpine moorland with a plateau at about 4000 meters and peaks over 4200 – 4360meters high. These horse back safaris take you off the beaten trail beyond the reach of vehicles. As all materials required for the ride are carried on horses these are simple camps.
Accommodation: Dome tents (singles or doubles) which are put up by camp staff that accompany the ride, and foam mattresses (about 5cm thick). We recommend guests bring their own sleeping bags on the trip, and they should be good to temperatures of at least minus 5°C. At Dinsho and Sodota there are clean toilets however there are no facilities at Saneti and Wesema, which are located in the wilderness.
Type of Horses: We use local ponies from the Bale Mountains. They are good for the altitude and the occasional stony paths. But they are very narrow and small (maybe max 13.1 or 13.2). We send our expert ahead to select the best of the ponies available.
Riding Ability: You should be fit enough to ride up to 6 hours a day.
Length of Rides: Up to 7 hours a day in the saddle. Lunch stops will vary in length depending on the location and distance to be covered – as well as the weather. Some walking on foot may be necessary over rough terrain.
Size of Rides: Minimum of 3 days and maximum of 6 days.
Tack: We take our own saddles with us – these are western style trekking saddles. Ethiopian ponies are generally ridden in head collars, not bridles.
Meals: We take a good cook who will travel with us on the trail. The limitations of preparing food from produce carried on horse back means that food will be simple but tasty and healthy. Packed lunches are prepared by the cook at campsites and carried by packhorse.
Drinks: All food and drink is carried on horseback during the ride. We bring bottled water, although there is some spring water along the trails. We also provide a box of red wine, but recommend that guests make full use of their Duty Free allowance for any special liquors or spirits. If you wish to buy some mixers for your duty free please let you driver know before leaving Addis Ababa as tonic is not widely available. Please note that alcohol is not advisable in large amounts at altitude, as it will compound the effects you feel from being so high up and make any mountain sickness worse
Terrain: The Bale Mountains are high altitude moorland. Much of the ride will be following trails over the mountains used by shepherds and cow herders.
Other Activities: There will be chances to get off your mount and walk around, and maybe climb a peak. Photographing the wildlife and the plants is something most are keen to do. A ride in Bale Mountains is usually included as part of a longer itinerary featuring some of Ethiopia’s world famous cultural sights including visits to Gondar, Lalibela and Tigray in the north of the country.
Clothing List: A clothing list will be sent put with all booking forms. There is no laundry at campsites, but this service is available at Bale Mountains Lodge at the end of the ride, time permitting.
Insurance: Whilst we carry public liability insurance and take all possible care we strongly advise you to have full medical and holiday insurance that includes medevac and understand that you are on a horse safari. These are adventure safaris and Wild and Exotic and their partners accept no liability for accidents on safari.
Wildlife: The most rare and endangered animal is the Ethiopian Wolf which is similar in appearance to a fox. The Wolf in the most endangered canid on the planet and the Bale Mountains is its principle remaining refuge. There may be around 400 individuals in the park, and you are very likely to have numerous sightings of them. They are not dangerous but are shy. There are many other animals, but most of the large wildlife will be seen around Dinsho camp with Mountain Nyala and Wart Hogs being very common sightings. On the moorland the occasional hare, rock hyrax, klipspringer and giant mole rats will be the most likely sightings. Birdlife is also exciting, with perhaps the prize going to the mighty Lammergeyer, but all kinds of raptors can be seen, vultures of different types eagles such as the Tawny Eagle and the Black Eagle and the ever present Augur Buzzard.
How to get there: The first campsite at National Park HQ is a 6 hour drive from the capital, Addis Ababa; however there are also scheduled flights available on certain days of the week. The drive to Bale is usually broken by a visit to Lake Langano for lunch and a swim.
Children: We will accept children on riding safaris but they must be competent riders.
Non-Riders: Due to the inaccessible nature of the terrain it is not possible for non riders to participate in this itinerary, although non riders could be based at the comfortable Bale Mountain Lodge for the duration of the ride if they so wished.
Single Supplement: Is only charged for those not able to share accommodation.
Weather/Season: We have no winter or summer as we are so close to the equator. There are two rainy seasons June – October and April. We ride at an average of 3,000-4,000 meters above seas level. This makes for a cool climate.
Information we require: All guests will be required to complete a Wild and Exotic booking form.
Medical: Guests are advised to carry basic medication on the ride. Biggest problems are mild altitude sickness (nausea and headaches) tummy upsets (not on trek but in general in Ethiopia), heat stroke (the sun is strong), strained muscles, twisted ankles, minor cuts & grazes, itchy bites. Some medicines that would be good are Imodium, ciprofloxin, ORS sachets, paracetamol, ibuprofen, antiseptic cream, antihistamine, plasters and treatment for blisters. The Bale Mountains and much of northern Ethiopia lie well above the 1,800m cut off for the malarial mosquito, so no anti malarial drug are necessary. Exceptions are the Rift Valley (e.g. Lake Langano) the Omo valley to the south west, and Bahir Dar (just) in the north. Depending on the season this risk can be such that you might like to take malarial prophylactics. Please take advice from your GP before travelling.
Cash: We suggest you change US$100 into Ethiopian Birr on arrival. There are no opportunities to change money once on the ride. It will be possible to change money at banks before and after the ride and should be possible in major hotels.
Tips: This is a present from the heart and clients should only tip if they are happy for the service provided. There are no hard and fast rules but your guide will help you on this. Tips are collected by the guide in any denomination you wish and distributed evenly amongst the staff. As a guide 50 birr covers a meal in Addis and some buys a bit more out of town. A beer is around 10 bir locally and ½ a kilo of meat is 60 birr in Addis.
Itineraries: Whilst we try and stick to the published itinerary we reserve the right to change it to suit weather conditions or other circumstances that may arise.
Photography: Please be careful when local people and check with your guide first. Also please note that there are no means to charge batteries of any type while on the ride.
Ethiopia general information and map
Capital: Addis Ababa
Getting there: Flights from London Heathrow are approximately 7 hours. We recommend Ethiopian Airlines, as domestic flights are inexpensive if you have booked your international flights with them.
Time: GMT plus three hours
Weather: There is no winter or summer as Ethiopia is close to the Equator. Because the altitude is an average of 2000 m above sea level, the heat is not oppressive, evenings cool, and there are few mosquitoes. There are two rainy seasons, a short one in April, and a long one from mid-June to mid-September.
Why Ethiopia: Ethiopia is a country of diverse and striking beauty, with a fascinating and turbulent history moulded by the influences of Christianity. Wild and Exotic recommends that a trip to Ethiopia includes awe-inspiring cultural tours discovering beautiful buildings, and understanding a way of life of the friendly Ethiopians, together with the more physical treks, to inhale the breathtaking landscape and witness the rural community. Sometimes the two are combined, with a hike, and even a climb, to see ancient mountain-top churches.
Gondar lies at the edge of the Simien mountains and is home to some fascinating architecture, including the Royal Enclosur and the beautiful church of Debre Birhan Selassie. A short flight away, Lalibela is home to 11 world famous monolithic rock hewn churches that date from the 12th century and endure as an extraordinary feat of engineering and is the single most impressive site in Ethiopia. Queen Sheba used the ancient city of Axum in the far north of Ethiopia as her capital in the 10th century BC, and the city of Axum is famous for its obelisks as well as for being the final resting place of the Arc of the Covenant. Wild and Exotic highly recommends a trek through the beautiful and rugged scenery of Tigray province, staying at simple but spectacularly located lodges run by the local community. There is one church here, Abuna Yemata Goh, which has a particularly steep climb, a section of which must be climbed bare foot using natural hand holes. The drop off is stomach churning: a challenging visit that is not for the faint hearted. We also advise you to travel south to the Bale Mountains National Park where it is well worth the drive for the wildlife rich experience: home to rare endemic species such as Nyala antelope, and Menelik’s bushbuck and the endangered Ethiopia wolf. Addis Ababa is an impressive African capital with the buzz of a strong expat presence, and a cosmopolitan feel.
Visas: A valid passport is required for visits to Ethiopia. Visas can be purchased for US$50 on arrival in Addis Ababa. If applying for a tourist visa on arrival, visitors will require two passport photographs and at least US$ 50 in cash. Application takes approximately 30 minutes. Alternatively, ivsas can be obtained prior to departure by contacting the Ethiopian Embassy in London www.ethiopia.embassyhomepage.com.
The trip was a great success, and on many levels. The itinerary was extremely good. We were always met as indicated exactly on time. Guide was delightful, efficient and always making things work for the guests. Ride Guides were superb, bright, educated, hugely knowledgeable. Camping sites, conditions and food excellent. The Bale is so diverse, the Sanetti Plateau unique, it was so rich, so varied and so special.
It was beyond all expectations and so safe! Quite beautiful and we very much hope it stays like that so we could go again. Thank you so much.
We had a wonderful time, varied scenery, great tents, fantastic guides, beautiful campsites and an excellent cook.
We had a truly fabulous time. The itinerary for the trip was incredibly well thought out. The ride was spectacular, and the tour we did after the ride gave us a real insight into the culture of the beautiful country we were lucky enough to be traveling in.
We had a really great time in Ethiopia thank you and have come away with so many good memories of the ride, the other places we saw, and the immense kindness and generosity of spirit of the people. I think the mixture the holiday provided of activity/culture/wild life was incredible.
Thank you for arranging a great trip to an amazing country .The riding and camping were superb with a very knowledgeable, interesting and personable guide, as were the backup team. The Bali lodge was wonderful as was the walk up the peak and watching honey collecting (not to mention eating it!). The drivers for the week were excellent, particularly Alex who I spent the most time with. Gondar and Lalibela were the right amount of time and we had good guides in both places as we did for our sightseeing in Addis.