Last Modified: 19 Jan 2014
Ethiopian Explorer Northbound
Trip code: YDOHC
Validity: 01 Jan 2012 to 31 Dec 2013
Discover fascinating places and beautiful scenery 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 of the Simien Mountains, to the sophistication of Gonder and the history of ruin-peppered Aksum. Feel the mist rising from Blue Nile Falls and spot Africa's iconic Big Five in Kenya. Along the way encounter friendly Rastafarians, proud Samburu warriors and the rarely visited tribespeople of the Omo Valley. Travelling through a rarely visited part of the continent, this is a special and unique African adventure.
TRIP CHANGE 2014
In 2014 the evening of Day 38 will be spent in Debark before we head into the Simien Mountains.
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.
Day 1 Nairobi
Jambo! Welcome to Kenya.
The trip begins with 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.
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.
If you arrive early, you can head out and 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.
- Karen Blixen museum - USD14
- Carnivore Restaurant - KES2000
- Nairobi National Park safari walk - USD20
- Bomas of Kenya - USD10
- National Museum - USD10
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 2 Lake Naivasha
This morning we depart for our camp on the shores of Lake Naivasha (140 km, approx 4 hours), one of the most beautiful of the Great Rift Valley bodies of water.
Our campground has showers and flush toilets.
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.
- Elsamere Conservation Centre
- Big game walking safari - USD40
- Hippo spotting boat trip - USD20
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Days 3-4 Lake Nakuru
We have the morning free to explore a little more before departing for our campsite near Nakuru town (120 km, approx 2-3 hours).
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.
The following day we head into Nakuru National Park for a game drive in jeeps.
- Game Drive, Lake Nakuru National Park
- Dairy farm visit
Camping (with facilities) (2 nts)
Day 5 Mt Kenya
Leaving the park early this morning we travel through fantastic scenery as we travel to the slopes of Mt Kenya, spending the night in the grounds of one of the many lodges that are dotted around the area.
We might choose to utilise one of our spare days here to explore nearby Sweet Water Game Sanctuary, or take the opportunity to explore the lower slopes of Mt Kenya.
- Nayaroi caves (Mau Mau) & waterfalls - USD15
- Nature trails, Naro Moru - USD10
- Horse riding, Naro Moru - USD15
- Game drive - USD100
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 6-7 Samburu National Reserve
We travel on to Samburu National Reserve (140 km, approx 4-5 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.
Here we 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.
Our camp is in the heart of the park. Facilities are drop toilets and cold showers.
- Samburu community activities
- Visit to Samburu tribal community and cultural project
- Samburu - Game Drive
Camping (with basic facilities) (1 nt), Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Days 8-9 Marsabit/Moyale
Today we travel on to Marsabit (240 km, approx 6-7 hours). We'll travel through the black lunar landscape and pass mountain greenery, spectacular craters, water courses, 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.
The next day we cross the border into Ethiopia and the border town of Moyale (265 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.
Camp site (1 nt), Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Days 10-11 Konso
We have a full day of travel on towards Konso (330 km, approx 7-8 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.
The follow day is a spare day, either being spent in the Konso or travelling on towards the Omo Valley. You will decide this as a group.
Camping (with facilities) (2 nts)
Days 12-14 Omo Valley
In the far south of the country lies the Omo Valley area. We drive down through this remote region (145 km, approx 5-6 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.
- Guided excursions to tribal markets and villages
Bush camp (no facilities) (3 nts)
Days 15-16 Arba Minch
The following day we drive to Arba Minch (110 km, approx 2-3 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 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.
- Crocodile Farm - USD5
- Lake Chamo boat trip and Crocodile Market - USD65
- Bicycle hire - USD5
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 17-18 Wendo Genet/Awasa
We head back down from the mountains and spend the night at Wendo Genet en route to Arba Minch (280 km, approx 10-12 hours) where we spend time relaxing in the hot springs. Tonight we camp in the grounds of the Hot Spring 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.
Wendo Genet is located approximately 35 km from the town of Awasa, on the shores of Lake Awasa.
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
After visiting the project we will stop in Awasa town for shopping before heading back to our camp in Wendo Genet and more time for relaxing in the hot springs.
- Awassa Children's Project
Camping (with facilities) (2 nts)
Days 19-21 Bale Mountain National Park
Leaving Wendo Genet we drive on towards the Bale Mountains National Park (280 km, approx 10-11 hours). We'll 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.
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.
- Driving and game excursions
Lodge (3 nts)
Day 22 Lake Abiata-Shala National Park
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 (287 km, approx 8-9 hours). We spend tonight in a bush camp right in the midst of this stunning setting, and visit Lake Abiyata with a guide.
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.
- Guided visit of Lake Abiyata
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Days 23-25 Addis Ababa
We travel from Lake Abiyata to Addis Ababa (215 km, approx 5-6 hours).
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 and try some local food and perhaps hear some traditional music.
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
- Africa Hall - Free
- Merkato - Free
- National Museum - USD1
Hotel (3 nts)
Day 26 Dejen
We spend a night in Dejen (260 km, approx 7-8 hours), visiting the Blue Nile Gorge en route.
We cross the dramatic Blue Nile Gorge, which is 1 km deep, take a couple of hours to drive down to the bottom, cross the river, and drive back up the other side.
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Days 27-29 Bahir Dar
Today we travel on to Bahir Dar (270 km, approx. 6-7 hours), located on the shores of Lake Tana and only a few hundred metres from the source of the mighty Blue Nile.
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.
- 1/2 Day Lake Tana reed boat trip
- Entrance Blue Nile Falls
- Ura Kidane Mereth Monastery and Kebran Gabriel M KChurch
Hotel (3 nts)
Days 30-32 Lalibela
A full day journey of 310 km takes us to the medieval town of Lalibela where we stay for three nights in a friendly local hotel.
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.
- Guided tour of rock churches, monastery & visit to local school at Lalibela
Hotel (3 nts)
Day 33 Bush Camp
Leaving the town behind, we travel around 170 km (approx 7-8 hours) before bushcamping for the night.
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 34 Mekele
From our bush camp it is a full day's journey to Mekele (266 km, approx 8-9 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 the 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)
Days 35-36 Aksum
It is a full day's journey from Mekele to Aksum (300 km, approx 8-9 hours).
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.
We'll take a guided city tour, which will take in the main sights of this fascinating town.
- Guided tour of Aksum
- Palace and church ruins
- Church of St Mary of Zion - USD3
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 37 Enda Selassie
Leaving Aksum behind we travel toward Debark (255 km, approx 13 hours). It is a very long travel day to Debark as while 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)
Day 38 Debark
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Days 39-41 Simien Mountains National Park
Once in Debark we set to arranging our trek into the mountains. The process can take quite 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.
We will trek for the next two days, and the route we take, and time we trek, will be decided by the group. It is also possible to split into two groups if need be. The adventurous may choose to hire mules to trek even further in search of klipspringer, Walia ibex, the gelada baboon, or if you are lucky, the endangered Simien fox.
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 return to Debark for the night.
- Entrance Simien Mountains National Park
- Simien Mountains trek (2 days)
Camping (with facilities) (3 nts)
Days 42-44 Gonder
Leaving the mountains behind, we travel on to Gonder (100 km, approx 4-5 hours). We spend two nights in Gonder at a small pension.
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.
On our second day here we'll take a tour where we gain a fascinating insight into ancient times.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
- Church of Debre Berhan Sellassie
- Castle Complex and Fasilidas' Bath
- Guided tour of Gonder
Hotel (2 nts)
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
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.
The step up into the overland truck, while not overly high, can become tiring, as can the constant setting and packing up of camp. You need to judge yourself to be physically fit enough to haul yourself up and down 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.
The receipt of commissions or kickbacks in exchange for recommending particular shops or services is ingrained in the culture of the tourism industry. Rather than turning a blind eye to this unavoidable issue in some areas, Intrepid has established a centralised fund whereby contributions from recommended suppliers are collected and distributed back into the business. Intrepid aim to provide the best value trips in the market, and this fund assists in keeping operating costs and trip prices low to you.
A priority in establishing this fund is that the experience of our traveller - you - is not compromised in any way. Please let us know via the feedback form completed after your trip if we are successfully meeting this objective.
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 22 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.
Hotel (17 nts), Camping (with facilities) (16 nts), Bush camp (no facilities) (5 nts), Lodge (3 nts), Camp site (1 nt), Camping (with basic facilities) (1 nt)
Accommodation on this trip is mainly in two-person dome tents.
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. In Africa it's not usually practical to camp when staying in towns and cities so we use hotel accommodation and eat out in local restaurants.
There may be the occasional night stop, when we stay in the grounds of a hotel or at a campsite which may also have cabins available. In this case there may be a choice of camping or upgrading to a room (at additional cost).
Keep in mind that if we are staying in dormitory accommodation, you may have to share with other passengers or be split into same sex rooms. Check with your travel agent before travelling about the possibility of upgrading to a private room.
Campsites do have facilities but they usually aren't to the same standard you would find in western countries. For example the bathroom facilities can be very basic (the toilets may be a squat-style hole in the ground). There is rarely toilet paper provided and shower facilities can be as simple as a hose pipe spurting out cold water. Wild camps have no facilities at all.
Not all campsites are as basic as this description - it's just to make sure there are no surprises for you.
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.
On this trip you will be accompanied by 3 crew members - Group Leader, Cook and Driver.
Intrepid runs some of our basic overland trips in conjunction with our partners Dragoman Overland (please refer to Trip Notes (Important Notes) to see if your trip is run in conjunction with Dragoman) and as such the demographics of the crew may vary on each departure - if you are travelling on an Intrepid-operated departure your crew will usually be Kenyan; if you are travelling on a Dragoman-operated departure your crew will be Westerners with an African cook.
Your Group Leader’s role involves organizing the overall operation and smooth-running of the trip, managing trip logistics, coordinating the kitty (where applicable) and will form work groups to take turns cooking, cleaning and shopping. (From time to time your leader may drive as well)
Your Group Leader will work towards making the trip as safe and enjoyable as possible for all travellers. Intrepid trips are built around the co–operation and participation of all the group members under the supervision of the group leader. The group leader will show the group how to set up and use the equipment.
While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the countries visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. We also use local guides where we think more specific knowledge will add to the enjoyment of the places we are visiting, especially when tracking and identifying game - we think it's the best of both worlds. Regardless of the country of origin, our Group Leaders are chosen for their leadership skills and are wonderful ambassadors for our company and our beautiful continent and its people.
Your Cook is responsible for the cooking and will help to coordinate the work groups for preparing the meals and washing up! Cooks are also responsible for organizing food shopping (they are always happy to have you on board) and most importantly, they make sure high hygiene standards are kept at all times while camping.
Your Driver’s main responsibility is to get you to your destination safely; they are also responsible for the maintenance of the vehicles along the way.
Everyone is expected participate and carry their share of the workload/duties, making camp chores easier. The duties Rota system is adopted where all members share in general camp duties – cooking, shopping, washing up etc.
If the whole group participates it will be quicker, easier, and more fun.
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.
Kivi Milimani Hotel
Phone: +254 735491064
Joining 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.
Joining point instructions
There is a taxi stand outside the airport building. A taxi should cost approximately US$20, and must be paid in Kenyan Shillings.
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
If you have pre-booked an airport transfer (where available) and have not made contact with our representative within 30 minutes of clearing customs and immigration, we recommend that you make your own way to the starting point hotel, following the Joining Instructions in these Trip Notes. Should this occur, please apply to your travel agent for a refund of the transfer cost on your return.
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.
Near Kebele 16, Keha River
Finish point instructions
A taxi from the hotel to the airport should cost approximately 100 Birr (US$5).
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.
Australia: Yes - Visa required
Belgium: Yes - Visa required
Canada: Yes - Visa required
Germany: Ye - Visa required
Ireland: Yes - Visa required
Netherlands: Yes - Visa required
New Zealand: Yes - Visa required
South Africa: Yes - Visa required if travelling for more than 30days
Switzerland: Yes - Visa required
United Kingdom: Yes - Visa required
USA: Yes - Visa required
Kenyan Visas can be obtained at point of entry for most nationalities, although some are required to purchase visas in advance. You MUST check before departure. If you plan to purchase your visa on arrival you'll need new (post-2003), clean US dollars cash. The cost is around US$50. 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
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.
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. We recommend at least a 1.5litre capacity. 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.
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.
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 are travelling during the hot season you may wish to also pack a sleep sheet so you will be comfortable no matter what the weather. Pillows are not provided so please bring a travel pillow along. While we provide a mattress for each client, some travellers find they like the extra comfort of a double layer and choose to bring their own mattress.
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.
A headlamp or torch is recommended for around the campsite at night. Some campsites have limited lighting and are powered by generators that switch off at a certain time. Although the trucks do carry lamps for meal times it’s a good idea to bring a headlamp to navigate the campsites and in particular going to the toilet in the middle of the night.
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.
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.
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:
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
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.
You may stay at hotels with unfenced pools and no life guard on duty.
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.
We have become aware of passengers being approached outside of our starting point hotels by 'helpful' locals who want to show you where to go or claiming to be Intrepid employees selling Urban Adventures or Intrepid trips. These people are not employees of Intrepid nor registered guides and will try and get as much money from you as they can. A friendly 'no thank you' should suffice. If this does happen to you, please advise your leader or the reception of your hotel immediately so that the person can be reported to the appropriate authorities.
Some hotel balconies don't meet UK standards in terms of the width of the balcony fence being narrower than 10cm.
Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in the western world or from your home country and not all the transport which we use provides seat belts.
While life jackets are generally available on water craft, there may be occasions where they are not provided and child size life jackets are not always readily available. If travelling with children and this safety issue concerns you we will be able to advise alternative methods of transport (where available) for you to travel to the next destination. You can choose to travel independently for this leg of the journey. This would be at your own expense.
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:
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:
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:
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.