Last Modified: 24 Sep 2013
Trip code: YDOGC
Validity: 01 Jan 2012 to 31 Dec 2013
Discover unique and beautiful places on this journey across the heart of Ethiopia. Experience a land like no other, from the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela and the untouched wilderness in the Simien Mountains, to the sophistication of Gonder and the history of Aksum's ruins. Feel the mist rise from the Blue Nile Falls and cross into Kenya to spot Africa's iconic Big Five. Along the way, encounter friendly Ethiopian Rastafarians, Kenya's proud Samburu warriors and the rarely visited tribes of the Omo Valley. This is an adventure like no other, that will take you into the heart of a special and rarely visited part of the continent.
TRIP CHANGE 2014
In 2014 we will have an extra night in the Simien Mountains on Day 3 instead of staying in Debark. We will stay in Debark on Day 6 instead.
This trip is operated by our experienced local partners Dragoman Overland. Dragoman shares Intrepid's ethos for adventure travel and has many years' expertise in overlanding.
Table of Contents
To save you money and the hassle of booking multiple trips, this journey is a combination of some of our most popular adventures so your leader and the composition of your group may change.
- The best value journeys on the planet! On a Basix trip you can expect amazing experiences, but none of the inclusions that you may not want. Which means budget (1-2 star) accommodation, plenty of free time, activities that are optional and the freedom to choose meals to suit your budget. On some trips you may be camping and required to set up your own tent. You'll also have access to a group leader to offer advice and help you uncover the region's hidden gems. On a Basix journey, the way you travel is all a part of the adventure. Depending on the destination and the itinerary, you could find yourself travelling on anything from a donkey to a bus or a private safari vehicle. These trips are ideal for first-time travellers seeking fun and independence with the support of a group leader. They're also ideal for independent travellers looking to make the most of their travel time with minimum hassle and maximum experiences.
Days 1-2 Gonder
Teanastellen! Welcome to Ethiopia.
There will be a group meeting at 6pm.
You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If your flight arrives too late, we recommend that you consider arriving a day early and book a night's accommodation prior to the trip so you are able to attend. If you are going to be late please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your kitty, insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting so please ensure you have all details on hand to provide to your leader.
The historic city of Gonder is known as the city of castles and palaces. This was once the capital of Ethiopia in the reign of King Fasilidas who built the first castle. Successive kings added their own castles to the complex. On the outskirts of the town there is also Fasilidas' Bath, which is an interesting building standing in an artificial pool which is still filled for occasional religious ceremonies. At the Debre Berhan Sellassie Church we can see the famous ceiling which is painted with hundreds of faces of angels and hear about the church's fascinating yet violent history.
In Gonder we stay in a basic pension.
The next day we take a tour of Gonder where we can gain a fascinating insight into the city's ancient history.
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 3 Debark
Leaving Gonder behind we travel toward Debark (101 km, approx 4 hours). We will arrive by midday and spend the afternoon arranging our trek into the mountains. The process can take quiet some time as we arrange permits, campsites, scouts and guides.
Standing at the gateway to the Simien Mountains is the town of Debark. Many people pass through here to experience the wonders that these mountains have to offer. With this beauty in its landscape, Debark has some of the most amazing scenery in Ethiopia.
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Days 4-6 Simien Mountains National Park
We will trek for the next two days, the route we take and time we trek each day will be decided by you as a group, it is also possible to spilt in to two groups if need be.
The Simien Mountains are known for their dramatic and spectacular scenery. Jagged mountain peaks flank deep valleys and high altitude plains where only grasses, junipers and giant lobelias grow. This is one of the major mountain regions of Africa, home to mountain Ras Dejen (4543m), the fourth highest peak in the continent. The National Park was created primarily to protect the a type of wild goat - the Walia ibex - and the Gelada baboon and rare Ethiopian wolf are also found here. Standing on top of a sharp precipice and gazing out over the magnificent landscape here will take your breath away, so it's definitely worth taking a bit of time to explore.
In the Simien Mountains we stay for two nights at a campsite.
The following day we will return to Debark for the night.
- Simien Mountains trek (2 days)
Camping (with facilities) (3 nts)
Day 7 Enda Selassie
Today we have a very long travel day to Aksum (155 km, approx 13 hours). Whilst the distance is not too far the roads in this part of Ethiopia are rough. We may choose to break the journey and stop over in Selassie for the night if the roads are particularly bad.
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Days 8-9 Aksum
Once in Aksum, we take a guided city tour which will take in the main sights of this fascinating town - the site of Ethiopia's oldest city.
Aksum is the site of Ethiopia's oldest city. It has some impressive obelisks carved from single blocks of granite - the tallest still standing is 23 metres high and was probably transported by elephants from a nearby quarry. The scale of the monuments in this stelae field are testament to the enormous importance that the ancient kingdom of Aksum once enjoyed. Close to the town are the ruins of a palace that is said to have belonged to the Queen of Sheba. There is also a complex of several churches, which have been built over the ages around the same site. The most interesting, is a small unimposing building with a green picket fence that holds the crowns of various former Ethiopian emperors and is said to house the original Ark of the Covenant.
In Aksum we stay in a basic hotel.
- Church of St Mary of Zion - USD3
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 10 Mekele
It is a full day's journey from Aksum to Mekele (285 km, approx 10-12 hours).
Mekele is a cultural town famous for its churches and desert landscape. Historians date Mekele to be founded in the 13th century and it is a place with a colourful history. Derg The Tigrayan People's Liberation Front Monument is one of the most famous points and can be seen from nearly any place in the town. The palace of King Yohannes IV is a chance to see so much of Mekele's history during the reign of this king. The churches are worth a visit, as they are just beautiful.
Mekele is our base for exploring the intriguing rock-hewn churches of Tigray.
Sculpted into cliff faces or into pre-existing caves, there are at least 120 churches with many of the churches located in groups, referred to as "clusters" the most famous being Gheralta, Takatisfi, Tembien and Atsbi.
- Tigray Rock-hewn Churches
- Debre Damo Monastery (men only) - USD3
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 11 Woldiya
Today we will leave the town of Mekele behind and travel around 270 km (approx 8 hours), where we will bush camp for the night.
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Days 12-14 Lalibela
Today we drive through more remote parts of Ethiopia, en route to Lalibela (175 km, approx 7-8 hours).
Hidden in the hills of northern Ethiopia is the small town of Lalibela. This medieval village has grown up around 13 monolithic churches hewn from rock in the 12th century. It’s an awe-inspiring feat of engineering which must have taken many years and thousands of men to complete. Fortunately the village is underdeveloped as a tourist site and still has its original Ethiopian charm. Each of the churches is unique in design and beautifully carved. Legend has it that King Lalibela completed all the work in 12 days with the help of a band of angels who carved the rocks for him day and night. The church of Asheten Mariam is hidden in the rugged hills behind the village. You may like to trek there on foot or take a mule to this fascinating monastery and enjoy the incredible views on the way.
We walk with a local guide who is able to unlock the fascinating history of both the churches and Lalibela itself.
In Lalibela we stay in a basic hotel.
- Guided tour of rock churches, monastery & visit to local school at Lalibela
Hotel (3 nts)
Days 15-17 Bahir Dar
It is a full day's drive to Bahir Dar (310 km, approx 12 hours) where we have a 3 night stay. Located on the shores of Lake Tana and only a few hundred metres from the source of the mighty Blue Nile, this is a fascinating place.
A few kilometres down the river from Bahir Dar are the spectacular Blue Nile Falls - locally known as Tissisat Falls (literally translating as 'water that smokes'). After walking around the falls, we use local reed boats to cross the river upstream. On the lake itself are a number of monasteries on islands and peninsulas and we take the opportunity to visit two on our boat trip. These churches feature the traditional murals and decoration of the Orthodox Church. We cross the dramatic Blue Nile Gorge which is 1 km deep, taking a couple of hours to drive down to the bottom, cross the river and drive back up the other side.
In Bahir Dar we stay in a basic hotel.
- Entrance Blue Nile Falls
- 1/2 Day Lake Tana reed boat trip
Hotel (3 nts)
Day 18 Dejen
We spend a night in Dejen (270 km, approx 6-7 hours).
Dejen is a transit stop en route to Addis, but if as a group we chose to continue on to Addis today and the roads are favourable we will do.
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Days 19-21 Addis Ababa
We have a 215 km drive into the capital, Addis Ababa, arriving late afternoon.
Referred to more commonly as "Addis", Addis Ababa lies amongst wooded hills at an altitude of about 2300 metres, giving it a pleasant climate. Addis has many sights to offer visitors. Get a fascinating glimpse into Ethiopia's many tribal groups at the Ethnological Museum, see the stunning fossil collection at the National Museum, and don't miss the chaotic bustle of the Merkato (local market). All manner of arts and crafts can be found in the souvenir shops on Churchill Avenue.
Why not take the chance to head to one of the city's many restaurants for the chance to eat some local food and perhaps listen to some traditional music.
Tonight we stay in a comfortable well located hotel with good facilities.
The next two days are free for you to explore the many sights on offer in Addis Ababa. Some suggestions include:
Visit "Lucy" at the National Museum, Addis Ababa
Stroll through the Merkato, one of the largest markets in Africa.
St George's Cathedral (Giorgis Cathedral) built to commemorate Ethiopia's victory over the Italians.
Visit Africa Hall - a symbol of African independence and optimism.
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary, meet your new fellow travellers, and collect the next part of your kitty.
- St George Cathedral - Free
- National Museum - USD1
- Merkato - Free
- Africa Hall - Free
Hotel (3 nts)
Day 22 Lake Abiyata
This lake is one of the shallowest in the Rift Valley and is a soda lake. Grass and acacia woodlands surround its crystallised white shoreline. The lake is home to vast flocks of flamingos, which from a distance create a pink carpet effect across the lake. This is an excellent place to look for birdlife, as many species come to feed on the prolific algae found in the lake's waters. Usual species include greater and lesser flamingos, white pelicans, white necked cormorants, herons, stocks, ibises, spoonbills and terns. It also has a resident population of fish eagles as well as a few antelope and smaller mammals around the shore.
Leaving the city behind we travel to Lake Abiyata (215 km, approx 5 hours).
Just north of the town of Shashemene are two of the most beautiful of the Rift Valley Lakes, Lake Abiyata and Lake Shala. These two lakes make up the Rift Valley National Park.
We spend tonight in a bush camp right in the midst of this stunning setting and visit Lake Abiyata with a guide.
- Guided visit of Lake Abiyata
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Days 23-25 Bale Mountains National Park
From Lake Abiyata we drive on towards the Bale Mountains National Park (250 km, approx. 12-13 hours). We will drive high onto the plateau in search of the Simien fox and, time allowing, you may be able to hire horses and follow the riding trails.
In the Bale Mountains we stay in a lodge.
Bale Mountains National Park is situated on a high plateau surrounded by mountain peaks which soar to over 4000 metres in height. As you climb into the hills the terrain changes from forest on the lower slopes through junipers and heather to the exotic moorlands of the plateau, criss-crossed by fast-flowing streams. This beautiful park is home to three species unique to Ethiopia; the Simien red fox, Menelik's bushbuck and the mountain nyala. There are some 200 species of bird within the park including 13 of Ethiopia's 23 endemic species.
- Horse/mule trek - USD15
- Guided hike - USD15
Lodge (3 nts)
Day 26 Wendo Genet
We head back down the mountains and spend the night at Wendo Genet (280 km, approx. 10-12 hours) where we can spend time relaxing in the hot springs. We will camp tonight in the grounds of the Hot Springs Hotel.
Wondo Genet (also known as Wendo Genet) is a resort town in Ethiopia. Located southeast of Shashemene in the Sidama Zone of the Southern Nations. Wondo Genet is known for its hot springs and is surrounded by primary Ethiopian forests. The Wondo Genet hotel was established in 1964, on land used as recreation site for the royal family until 1975. Emperor Haile Selassie bequeathed its name, meaning "Wondo Paradise", in reference to the beautiful panorama with a rich endowment of forests, wildlife and abundant water.
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 27 Awassa
Today we will head to Awassa to visit the Awassa Children's Project which is an organisation dedicated to housing, feeding, educating, providing health care and AIDS Education to children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic in Africa.
After visiting the project we will stop in Awassa town for shopping before heading back to our camp in Wendo Genet and more time for relaxing in the hot springs.
Awassa (also spelled Hawassa) is a city in Ethiopia, on the shores of Lake Awasa in the Great Rift Valley where fishing is it major local industry. Awassa was capital of the former Sidamo Province from about 1978 until the province was abolished with the adoption of the 1995 Constitution. This city is home to Hawassa University, Awasa Adventist College, and a major market. Important local attractions include the St. Gabriel Church and the Awassa Kenema Stadium.
During our time in Awassa we will visit the Awassa Childrens Project. The Awassa Children's Project (ACP) promotes sensible, culturally responsible relief work aimed at assisting children primarily orphaned by AIDS, educating people in Africa's Sub-Saharan region about AIDS prevention, and offering a proactive and immediate approach towards the resolution of serious health and social issues facing the region. Formed in 2001, ACP supports several organisations in Awassa, Ethiopia: a children’s centre that provides housing, food and education for over 60 children orphaned by AIDS; One Love Theater (OLT), an AIDS education theatre company; and, the Awassa Youth Campus, a community centre in downtown Awassa which features (free to all Awassa children), aikido, sports, tutoring, art, music and a library, among other activities. These organizations continue to grow and dramatically improve the lives of Awassa children and the community in which they live.
For further information on the project please go to
- Awassa Children's Project
Lodge (1 nt)
Days 28-29 Arba Minch
The following day we drive to Arba Minch (305 km, approx 7-8 hours).
Meaning 'forty springs', Arba Minch takes its name from the streams found between the two Rift Valley lakes of Abaya and Chamo. The town has stunning views over the lakes and surrounding forested areas, and also has an excellent and vibrant market.
We spend time here to allow exploration of the area. Options include a five-hour boat trip into Lake Chamo National Park to the Crocodile Market.
Lake Chamo National Park is home to what the locals refer to as the 'crocodile market'. This is a place on the shores of the lake where vast numbers of crocs congregate, some of which reach over seven metres in length. The lake is home to the Guji and Ganjule people who traditionally hunt hippos and are famed for their 'ambatch boats', which resemble the boats carved in the tombs of the ancient Egyptians.
For those who prefer a less strenuous day, you can hire bikes and ride around the local area, or perhaps visit the local government-run crocodile farm.
In Arba Minch for two nights we stay in a hotel.
- Bicycle hire - USD5
- Crocodile Farm - USD5
- Lake Chamo boat trip and Crocodile Market - USD65
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 30-32 Omo Valley Region
In the far south of the country lies the Omo Valley area. We drive down through this remote region (110 km, approx 2-4 hours) to the settlement of Turmi which is our launch point for the Omo Valley. From here we will spend 3 nights and 4 days visiting a combination of markets and small tribal settlements in the surrounding region.
The Omo Valley region is unusual in that it is home to so many different tribes all living very close to one another in such a small area. Anthropologists believe that this is because thousands of years ago this area of Africa acted as a kind of ethnic crossroads, as different groups of people migrated between north, south, east and west.
Exploring the many small communities and settlements here will give you a fascinating insight into the different tribes, their cultures, traditions and way of life. We travel with a local guide, who will be able to introduce us to the Hamer, Arbore and Dascensch tribes, among others. There are also other tribal groupings throughout the area and our guide will point out the different tribes and their customs. Life is distinctly tribal throughout the region, with few modern amenities.
You should be aware we will be travelling through very remote areas where road and sanitary conditions will be rough. We will staying in basic camp sites.
Bush camp (no facilities) (3 nts)
Days 33-34 Konso
We travel on towards Konso (145 km, approx 5 hours), home to the local Konso people. We will have time to explore the local market and perhaps take a tour of some traditional houses.
In the far south of Ethiopia on the banks of the Sagan river is Konso, gateway to the Omo Valley. The whole way of life in the villages here has changed little over the centuries and old traditions are strongly upheld.
Due to the nature of this route the following day has been allocated in the itinerary as a spare day which will be used where necessary.
Camping (with facilities) (2 nts)
Day 35 Moyale
Today we make our grand entrance to northern Kenya where we must travel in a security convoy because of the dangers of travelling alone in the desert. We travel to the Moyale border (320 km, approx 7-8 hours), where we set up camp.
The market town of Moyale splits the countries of Kenya and Ethiopia. There is a nice atmosphere that runs throughout the town and more of this can be discovered through exploring.
Due to security issues in this particular area we will be accompanied by a police escort.
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 36 Marsabit
We travel on to Marsabit (265 km, approx 7-9 hours). We will travel through the black lunar landscape and pass mountain greenery, spectacular craters, watercourses, bush country and termite mounds.
Marsabit lies on the extinct volcano of Mount Marsabit. Surrounded by forests on the hills, it is a contrasting image to the deserts in the background. At the heart of the forest is Lake Paradise. This gorgeous site attracts animals such as elephants and buffaloes to the spot and this and the Bongole Crater create a fascinating location for people all over to come and gaze at the beauty of the town.
Camp site (1 nt)
Days 37-38 Samburu National Reserve
We travel on to Samburu National Reserve (225 km, approx 7-8 hours).
The Samburu region has hardly been touched by tourism and its pristine wilderness is home to a fascinating mix of Kenya's nomadic tribes who still retain their traditional ways of life. These tribes include the Samburu, Rendille, Turkana, and Kalenjin. The Samburu National Reserve is famous for its reticulated giraffes, Grevy's zebras, graceful gerenuks and Beisa oryx, while crocodiles are often seen in the river. You may also see lions or leopards here, if you're lucky.
We'll take a game drive into the park and also visit the Samburu Cultural Centre outside Samburu National Reserve.
Similar in appearance to the Masai but lesser known, the Samburu are a proud warrior tribe. Here we watch traditional Samburu dancing, and learn about Samburu tribal life and customs. The project is run by Samburu tribesmen for the benefit of the community.
The camp is in the heart of the park. Facilities are drop toilets and cold showers.
- Samburu - Game Drive
- Visit to Samburu tribal community and cultural project
Camping (with basic facilities) (2 nts)
Days 39-40 Naro Moru
Leaving the park early this morning, we travel through the fantastic scenery as we travel to the slopes of Mt Kenya. We will spend 2 nights here camping in the grounds of one of the many lodges that are dotted around the area.
You will have the opportunity to explore nearby Ol Pejeta Conservancy (formerly known as Sweetwater Game Reserve) or take the opportunity to explore the lower slopes of Mt Kenya.
The Ol Pejeta Conservancy, formally known as the Sweetwaters Game Reserve, is home to an amazingly diverse range of wildlife including the endangered black and white rhinos, elephants, lions, leopards, buffaloes, Grevy's zebras, giraffes, cheetahs, Thomson's gazelles, black-back jackals, ostriches, Grant's gazelles, baboons, waterbucks, oryx, elands and several hundred bird species. It's also home to over 40 chimpanzees. While not indigenous to the area, the conservancy is the only place you can see wild chimps in Kenya.
- Nayaroi caves (Mau Mau) & waterfalls - USD15
- Nature trails, Naro Moru - USD10
- Horse riding, Naro Moru - USD15
- Game drive - USD100
Camping (with facilities) (2 nts)
Days 41-42 Nakuru National Park
Leaving the mountain early this morning, we travel through the fantastic scenery of the Great Rift Valley to our campsite near to Nakuru town (75 km, approx 1-2 hours).
The following day we head to Nakuru National Park for a game drive in Jeeps.
Lake Nakuru National Park's small and compact area, based around a flamingo-filled lake, makes it a great location for spotting wildlife. Along with the other members of the Big Five, Lake Nakuru harbours many rhinos and will be the best chance to get a great picture of these magnificent beasts.
- Game Drive, Lake Nakuru National Park
- Dairy farm visit
Camping (with facilities) (2 nts)
Day 43 Lake Naivasha
We drive on to our camp on the shores of Lake Naivasha (100 km, approx 1-2 hours), one of the most beautiful of the Great Rift Valley bodies of water, to relax by the lakeside.
One of the few freshwater lakes in the Great Rift Valley, Lake Naivasha has floating islands of papyrus reeds and a border of flat-topped acacias. It's also home to a healthy population of hippos and a tremendous variety of birds.
There is an option here to take an afternoon boat trip along the scenic shallow waters for a closer look at the hippos.
Our campground has showers and flush toilets.
- Elsamere Conservation Centre
- Big game walking safari - USD40
- Hippo spotting boat trip - USD20
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 44 Nairobi
Today we cut back across the Great Rift Valley, passing through the lands of magnificently dressed Masai tribes people, who are often seen tending to their herds of cattle. Our return trip to Nairobi takes roughly 3-4 hours (150 km).
Nairobi - which takes its name from a Maasai phrase meaning 'place of cool waters' - has a cosmopolitan atmosphere. There are plenty of good bars and restaurants, while markets and shops have most things you could want or need, as well as various arts and crafts from the region.
On arrival in Nairobi we'll be dropped at our finishing point hotel. No accommodation is provided for tonight, but we are able to book you additional accommodation in Nairobi. Please ask at time of booking.
Important: Please don't book any international flights until after 9pm this evening.
If you're staying on, why not head out to explore the National Museum of Kenya, the Karen Blixen Museum (author of Out of Africa), or Bomas of Kenya where traditional homesteads of several Kenyan tribes are displayed in an outdoor village.
- Bomas of Kenya - USD10
- National Museum - USD10
- Karen Blixen museum - USD14
- Carnivore Restaurant - KES2000
- Nairobi National Park safari walk - USD20
We must emphasise that the routes, activities and places visited described in these trip notes are intentions and are meant as a rough guide only. We intend following the route detailed but exact night stops cannot be guaranteed. It sometimes happens that we decide to make a change to our basic planned itinerary. This may be for a variety of reasons - climatic, road or bureaucratic conditions may demand it. Or it may be because we find a better, more interesting route. While actually en route, unexpected hospitality, a local festival or a great place to chill out can determine our exact route and itinerary on any given trip.
Overnight stops and driving distances each day may vary to best suit the needs of the group.
The comforts of home are more of a rarity. English isn't common and the food will be quite different to home. It's important to observe some of the local customs to not cause offence. Many of the locals’ standard of living may be confronting.
Be prepared for some serious physical activity. The majority of activities included on this trip will be challenging. The fitter you are, the more you'll enjoy your holiday.
In these parts of the world you'll need to be healthy enough to cope with extremes of climate; from hot deserts through to the cold of high mountain areas.
Overland travelling can be demanding - long, rough travel days and dusty conditions can be challenging to some. You'll need to be fit enough to help every day with the camp chores (cooking, washing up, general camp set up) as well as putting up, and taking down your own tent. There are some long driving days and some early morning starts. The step-up into the overland vehicle, while not overly high, can become tiring. You need to judge if you are physically fit enough to haul yourself up and down the step at least 8-10 times a day.
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
On this trip it's compulsory to contribute to a kitty. The kitty is an on-ground payment put into a central fund and overseen by travellers and the crew. It helps fund accommodation, camp meals and some included activities. Kitty amounts are subject to change to reflect local price increases. Please check our website for the up-to-date amount 48 hours prior to your trip commencement.
Your kitty will be collected when you arrive for your trip, either on day 1 or, if on a combination trip, in stages throughout your trip.
You may pay your kitty in a mixture of US Dollars cash and the rest in local currency (amount and type of currency to be agreed by the leader at the start of the trip). Most of our travellers chose to bring a cash passport with them for withdrawing local currency (you can visit www.cashpassport.com for further information on these). This is a very secure way of carrying your money whilst travelling. You treat them exactly like an ATM card and draw out local currency from an ATM to give to your leader within each country.
If you do choose to pay part in local currency your trip leader will confirm the current exchange rates with you so you will know exactly how much to hand over.
Travellers cheques have become increasingly difficult to change around the world with passengers and our leaders experiencing huge frustration and numerous hours spent trying to find a bank which will change travellers cheques. For this reason we no longer accept them on our trips.
Kitty does not cover food while staying in hotels and hostels.
We constantly monitor local price changes and exchange rate fluctuations that could affect kitty expenses. Final kitty contributions are likely to be different from those quoted in the brochure or at the time of booking so you must check the final amount just before departure.
As our kitty is flexible the indicated amount is indicative only. Follow the link below to view the kitty amount for your departure date.
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are for entrance only and don't include transport costs to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Optional activities aren't necessarily endorsed or recommended by Intrepid nor included in price of this trip. If you do any optional activities, you do so at your own risk and it must be clearly understood that your participation is your own decision and doesn't form part of your contract with Intrepid. You may be required to sign/complete a waiver form or a receipt for some optional activities.
The official currency of Ethiopia is the Birr (ETB). There are some ATMs which accept international Visa cards in the major cities. Check with your bank for information on international ATM fees. When leaving home don't forget your PIN and make sure you know the telephone number for cancelling your card if it's stolen. Keep this in a safe place. We recommend that you carry some foreign currency cash for when ATMs can not be accessed, have broken down or run out of cash. There are few problems changing money at the many banks and currency exchange facilities. Cash in USD are the easiest to exchange, although EUR can also often be exchanged. Traveller's cheques are not recommended and while some banks and five-star hotels will change travellers cheques, the process is time consuming, commissions can be high (up to 10%) and it can be difficult to change on weekends and public holidays.
The official currency of Kenya is the Kenyan Shilling (KES).The best way to manage your money in Kenya is a mixture of cash, an ATM card (best to have both Visa and MasterCard) and some traveller's cheques. Cash is easily changed at exchange bureaus and they generally offer the best rates. US$ large bills, in good condition, 2003 series onwards only, are more widely accepted; any old or damaged notes may not be accepted. EUR or GBP are also widely accepted. When changing money, only use reputable authorised money exchange vendors and never anyone on the street. There are many instances of travellers being given counterfeit notes or being tricked when money is being counted out.
You should also carry some traveller’s cheques for back up emergency cash. While traveller’s cheques are undoubtedly the safest way to carry money, they are becoming harder to cash around the world and can often result in unfavourable exchange rates and commission charges. It can also be tricky to reach banks during banking business hours which are often short in many African countries. Note: Receipts for traveller’s cheques are required by banks and money changers.
With ATMs being increasingly available in the many major towns and cities, credit or debit cards are a convenient way to access money. A charge is made for each international transaction - please check with your bank how much this fee will be. Check with your bank before leaving home that your card can be used as a debit card in Africa. You may also want to notify your bank that you are visiting Africa as it's not unknown for banks to freeze cards which show sudden transactions in other countries.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
If you are happy with the services providing a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. We recommend that any tips are given to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.
The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants: Please check the bill and if there’s an addition of 10% service charge, there’s no requirement for tipping. Otherwise, 10% of the total bill amount is appropriate.
At local markets and basic restaurants: Leave the loose change.
Local guides/Porters: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest US$1 per person, per day for local guides/porters.
Your crew (including the leader and driver, and perhaps cook depending on your trip): You may also consider tipping your crew for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline US$2-3 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
Please note this Intrepid trip is operated by our experienced local partners Dragoman Overland. Your departure will be run in a Dragoman vehicle with a Dragoman crew.
The minimum age for this trip is 18 years old and bookings for minors, even if accompanied by a parent, cannot be accepted.
Maximum of 21 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit:
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
Camping (with facilities) (16 nts), Hotel (15 nts), Bush camp (no facilities) (5 nts), Lodge (4 nts), Camping (with basic facilities) (2 nts), Camp site (1 nt)
The type and variety of accommodation is determined by conditions on each of our routes. Each route is different - on some we use a mixture of campsites and wild camps; on others we also use hotels.
Where it's not practical to camp (ie: in towns and cities), we use hotel accommodation and eat out in local restaurants. The frequency and regularity of hotel stops depends on the route and area.
Campsites will range from rather basic to those with excellent facilities, including swimming pools, restaurants and bars. In some cases it may also be possible to upgrade locally to bungalows, lodges or even tree-houses. One of the highlights of overlanding is that in more remote areas we will wild-camp. This allows us to get far away from the tourist crowds to some beautiful, secluded spots. We will also arrange as many village or local homestays as possible, allowing us to get close to indigenous populations and ensures our money stays within local communities.
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
When travelling on an Overland trip you have chosen a participation camping tour. This means that you will be helping your leader prepare meals for the group. You may also get the chance to help with the shopping!
Your leader will come up with meal ideas and quantities needed for large groups. Participating in the camp is usually done on a duty roster system with group of 5 or 6 people (depending on group size) having a different camp job each day. If you have any dietary requirements please tell us at the time of booking and also remind your crew at your welcome meeting.
All meals when camping
Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
There are many long hours spent driving on rough roads on all African itineraries. While most people love the chance to watch the changing landscape and daily village life, feedback shows that long periods of inactivity does not appeal to all clients. We provide the approximate distance covered each day and how many hours this normally takes to drive so that you can choose the safari experience which is right for you.
African conditions are extremely tough on vehicles. While we fastidiously maintain our vehicles at our workshops, you should not expect Africa to be your traditional touring experience. While it's certainly our aim to avoid them, it's important that you set off on your trip knowing that the occasional breakdown can happen and are best treated as part of the African adventure. Due to wet weather there may be times when we have to take an alternative route which will mean longer travel times.
On all of our Dragoman-operated Overlanding trips you will be accompanied by two Western crew members who are responsible for the group and the overall organisation of the trip.
While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad knowledge of the places visited and to offer suggestions of things to do and see. In East and Southern Africa we will also have an African camp master/cook who is in charge of running the camp and organising all of the meals. Their knowledge of the local produce makes shopping at the markets great fun and you will learn how to prepare and cook some unusual dishes. In the rest of Africa, South America and the majority of Central Asia and China we use local guides who may stay with us for just a few hours or will actually travel with us for some or all of the journey. In these cases they become a third crew member and are able to offer their local knowledge as well as a real insight into the lives of the local people. Our crew are chosen for their leadership skills, and most importantly have a passion for the region and its people.
We endeavour to provide the services of an experienced leader and crew; however, situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders
On any Overland trip, there are a number of tasks that need to be done. Our overland trip leaders will organise the group into smaller groups of two or three who will take turns in the daily shopping and cooking, vehicle cleaning, disposing of rubbish, etc. There are also a number of other jobs that need doing e.g. collecting water and firewood, luggage loading, supervising the kitty and food stores, which may be assigned to particular people or on a rota system according to group size, make-up, and so on. You must come prepared to 'pull your weight' and share in these duties; you will become very unpopular with other group members if they have to do your share. The more you put into a trip, the more you'll benefit.
Near Kebele 16, Keha River
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your trip as scheduled, please refer to the emergency contact section below for who to contact depending upon your starting location.
No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
Kivi Milimani Hotel
Phone: +254 735491064
Finish point description
The Kivi Milimani hotel is very simple but clean, comfortable and safe. All rooms have en suite with hot water. The hotel's surroundings are lovely with a pool area perfect for relaxing and groovy retro (but original!) 70's bar and restaurant.
Finish point instructions
It's possible to book a taxi to the airport via our hotel - please enquire at the reception. The price will be approximately US$20 in Kenyan shillings.
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
Most nationalities require a visa for entry to Ethiopia. Please see this website to find your closest embassy or consulate: http://www.embassiesabroad.com/embassies-of/Ethiopia. If you are flying into Addis Ababa you can obtain a visa on arrival. You'll need two passport photos and approximately US$40. You may be asked for proof of a return ticket - please carry your tour notes as proof that you are leaving overland. If you are entering at any border other than Addis Ababa airport you MUST obtain your visa in advance.
KENYA - overland from Ethiopia:
Kenyan visas can be obtained by most nationalities on arrival at the Moyale border crossing. The cost is approximately US$25. Kenyan visas are required by most nationalities, including the EU, US and Australia. If you plan to purchase your visa on arrival you'll need new (post-2003), clean US dollars cash. Currently you don't require a multi-entry visa between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda due to an agreement between the three countries (eg. if you exit Kenya to Tanzania you can re-enter Kenya on the same visa). If your trip visits Rwanda and re-enters Kenya you may require a double entry visa to Kenya, depending on the border guard on the day. This can easily be purchased at the border if required.
Issues on your trip
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb.
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
The size of baggage that can be brought on this tour is limited by the locker space on the truck. Different trucks have different sized lockers however to be safe we recommend that your bag be no larger than 66cm deep, 30cm wide, and 30cm high. You will need to bring your own lock for your locker. We recommend a 20-30mm sized padlock with a long shackle.The weight limit for luggage on all trucks is maximum 20kg. Backpacks shouldn't have an external frame unless it can be easily removed and stored separately to avoid damaging other people's luggage.
You will need to bring a mixture of lightweight clothing, some warm items for the evenings, and long shirts and pants for protection against mosquitoes in the malaria areas. Clothes should be easy to wash and dry. Some people like to take jeans for evenings out but they can be tough to dry and should not be used for trekking. Avoid nylon and other synthetics, which can be very uncomfortable in hot weather. Ex-military or military style clothing and equipment is NOT recommended.
Most of our trips have access to power to recharge batteries for phones and cameras every couple of days. We always recommend that you carry an extra battery for your camera just in case. Your vehicle will be equipped with a 12 volt “cigarette lighter” socket which may be used at the crew’s discretion, however, do bear in mind that only one piece of equipment can be charged at a time and it will not be allowed if there is a risk of running the vehicle’s batteries low. Batteries may also be recharged from hotel room wall sockets. We suggest you bring a mix of normal and rechargeable batteries and the appropriate recharging unit. Hotels and many campsites have electricity and charging of batteries is advised before checking out the following day.
Please try to avoid bringing unnecessary valuables, and use your hotel safe and the safe on the overland truck to store the bulk of your money, passport, and airline tickets. It’s also a good idea to purchase a money belt or pouch that is easily hidden.
We strongly recommend that you photocopy all important documents e.g. air tickets, passport, vaccination certificate, etc. and keep the copies separate from the originals. While not valid, a photocopy makes it very much easier to obtain replacements if necessary.
CAMPING EQUIPMENT / MATTRESS:
A sleeping bag (we recommend a 3–4 season). It can get very cold at night in winter months in desert and mountainous regions. If you're travelling during the hot season you may wish to also pack a sleep sheet so you will be comfortable no matter the weather. Pillows are NOT provided so please bring a travel pillow along.
We don't provide a mattress so please bring your own (a Thermarest / inflatable mattress is recommended).
A simple plastic bag / waterproof toiletry bag (that can hang on a nail on the back of a door) will be useful to keep your clothes dry inside basic camp shower structures.
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion end up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Please avoid the purchase of bottled water by using the chemically sterilized water stored in the purpose-built storage tank or in water jerry cans in your overland vehicle. You're free to refill your bottle as many times a day as you like.
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
A valid international certificate of vaccination against Yellow Fever is required in many countries. You may need to present this on arrival at the airport or border crossing. Some countries will refuse entry if you are unable to present your certificate. It's also quite common for your home country to request a Yellow Fever certificate on your arrival back home.
It is your responsibility to check with your doctor well in advance of leaving home about the Yellow Fever requirements for the countries you'll be visiting.
Bilharzia is known to occur in some of the lakes or rivers visited on this itinerary, we therefore advise all to take advice from your guide or leader locally before venturing for a swim.
Dengue fever is a known risk in parts of this country. It is a tropical viral disease spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available for dengue, and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
Malaria exists in all areas of Ethiopia below 1800m and it is recommended that you consult your doctor about malaria preventative medication.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
Where we use a local partner to fully operate one of our itineraries, we use the travel advisory of the country where that operator is based rather than the Australian DFAT advisory. This itinerary is operated by our local partners Dragoman, and as such will follow the British Government (FCO) Travel Advice. To view these travel advisories please log on to:
UNFENCED CAMP SITES:
On some trips you will at times stay in unfenced camp sites within national parks. While this is a fantastic experience, there are a few safety rules to follow. While staying in national parks it's important that you listen to any advice given by your tour leader and the park rangers regarding responsible and safe behaviour.
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
When packing be aware that dress standards can be conservative in some parts of Africa. To respect this and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means covering shoulders and no short shorts in culturally sensitive areas: Mosques, small villages, etc. We recommend a mixture of loose, lightweight clothing and warm clothing for the evenings. Topless sun bathing is unacceptable through out the whole of Africa.
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Responsible Travel projects
Organisations and projects currently supported in Kenya include:
* New Hope Children's Centre aims to assist the less fortunate in society and give them hope. The centre currently caters for 170 children, both boys and girls, from many parts of Kenya: 130 are residents and 40 live with their grandmothers, with New Hope paying for their school fees and assisting with clothing where necessary.
* Saidia Children's Home first opened its doors in 2004 with just five children in a disused and near derelict college building. They now have their own building and land, which is home to about fifty children. Their aim is to improve the lives of AIDS orphans and other disadvantaged children in Gilgil and the surrounding area, ultimately by creating projects that will become independent of outside aid.
Carbon Offset C02-e 1277.00 kgs per pax.
After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.
Remember that once you’ve left your feedback you’ll automatically be entered into our monthly draw for a US$500 (or equivalent in your local currency) travel voucher.