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Ethiopia: Omo River Expedition

River rafting on Omo River in Ethiopia
Upper Half
14 Days


Detailed Itinerary: DOWNLOAD (PDF-document)

The Omo River is rated as one of the world's great rafting trips. It has it all: challenging whitewater, abundant wildlife, excellent birds, superb scenery, and some of the most unique unvisited people in Africa. It is a trip back in time, to another era, road-less and pristine, where wildlife and traditional tribal groups carry on their lives, relatively untouched by the modern world. The trip is for the adventurous in spirit, for the lover of the wild; the river expedition that in 15 years has not become a 'tour'.

Even the most remote corners of Ethiopia will eventually see roads, bridges and tourists lodges. A strong reason to take the chance to experience this piece of a "disappearing world".

Fishermen in Piroge on Omo River in EthiopiaAmong the many attractions are:

Whitewater: From the first hour of the trip, a series of lively and challenging rapids spice our descent. While offering splashing excitement, none of the rapids we encounter are threatening and no previous experience is required. We scout the larger rapids and team members will have the option to walk around, providing excellent photo opportunities.

Scenery: The variety of scenery throughout the trip is truly dramatic; ranging from sections of spectacular sheer inner gorges (up to 4000 feet high) to lowland deserts. There are innumerable side streams with waterfalls up to 1000 feet high; water slides; hot springs; and clear, cool swimming pools. There are still many places yet to be explored and each trip we investigate new ones.

Hippo in Omo River / EthiopiaWildlife: Hippos surfacing near the boats for a suspicious inspection, crocodiles basking in the sun, bushbuck silently taking an afternoon drink, mesmerized waterbuck staring as we float by, colobus monkeys flying through the trees, baboons barking from their cliffs.... Sometimes even lions, leopards, and wild dogs.

Vegetation: Giant euphorbias, fragrant jasmine, rare orchids, the desert rose, classic acacias.

Birdlife: A full complement of African water birds, plus forest and bush species. Fish eagles, Goliath herons, kingfishers, bee eaters, storks, kites, vultures.... In the background, the soft lament of the emerald spotted wood dove, the bubbly purr of the white browed coucal and the raucous cawing of silvery cheeked hornbills.

Activities: Hiking up the sidestreams to fantastic waterfalls, highland villages and markets. Swimming in clear pools, showering under falls, soaking in hotsprings. Fishing the Omo catfish which can exceed 5 feet and 50 pounds.

Meeting cultures in Ethiopia Exotic Tribes: We'll meet among the most remote and least visited people anywhere. Our interaction with those spectacularly decorated and friendly groups is something very special.

Comforts: Pleasant climate, great campsites, excellent cuisine featuring fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products, bread, pies and cakes baked in a well embered Dutch oven. Thermarest sleeping pads and Eureka Timberline tents are provided.

Annoyances: Insects (tsetse flies and mosquitoes) can be a big irritation. Tsetse flies are attracted to blue and red, so try to avoid wearing these colors. They dislike white and yellow, and we've found the best protection is to combining a cotton t-shirt with a cotton long-sleeve "duck" shirt on top.

Crew: An elite crew of international and Ethiopian river guides who know and love the African bush along with English and Amharic speaking local guides and staff.

Omo River Expedition: First Half

Camping on Omo River Tour in EthiopiaThe drive to the put in is 185 km through typical highland farming country, dotted with thatched huts among the fields of ripening grain. After riggin, we're off and soon baptized by the first of many rapids that abound in this section of the river. The river lies within a 1500 m deep canyon, and the scenery changes constantly. There's plenty of time for hikes and swimming in tributaries. we visit spectacular waterfalls, careen down the water slides of the Red Grotto and Baboon Flume, float beneath the 100 m cliffs of Serenity Canyon and soak in hot springs by the light of the moon.

We usually layover (2 nights at one site) at least once, frequently at a lovely campsite from which we climb up to visit picturesque Wolayta villages. And the first half has an abundance of wildlife: hippos, crocs, antelopes, warthogs, monkeys, baboons, and sometimes lions. The drive back to Addis Ababa (for those doing the first half only) includes a night at beautiful Lake Langanno.

Omo River Expedition: Second Half

Group of three women / Omo River EthiopiaThe river continues in its deep canyon, but starts to mellow, with frequent tree lined stretches, and curves around enormous rock bars. But the rapids are by no means over: two of the Omo's most challenging await the third and fourth day. Superb vistas of distant peaks and mountain slopes patchworked with fields appear around every bend. Birdlife density increases and hippo counts per day reach their maximum. Hikes to highland farms bring us to more and more remote groups: Gemo, Gofa, Zala, Kulo Konta. Camps and tributaries continue to delight. Finally, as the canyon opens up and the river broadens, we encounter our first group of lower Omo peoples, the Bodi, maybe skinning a just shot hippo, or cultivating sorghum on the banks.

A mother and her child on Omo River in EthiopiaFor the last 7 days or so, we encounter Mursi, Bode, Moors, Karo and Chug. Each group has its distinctive dress and decoration: fantastic hairdos, enormous clay lip plates, ear plugs, bark cloth and beaded leather skirts. There are many chances to buy and trade for carved wooden head rests, artful baskets, musical instruments, or honey.

The trip ends near the confluence of the Mui River with the Omo, whence 4WD vehicles take us over the Mursi Hills, through Mago National Park, and up a very steep escarpment to Jinka, an entertainment frontier town with a lively market and a temperate climate. Here we enjoy fresh mangos, cold drinks, and a festive sit down dinner in a leafy enclosure. Next day it's back to Addis Ababa on an Ethiopian Airlines Twin Otter. Or we may choose to return by the very scenic road from Jinka.


Remote River Expeditions in Madagascar, Ethiopia, Tanzania - River Trips and Tours

Experience the romance of East Africa. We invite you to join one of Remote River Expeditions' adventures into Madagascar, Ethiopia, and Tanzania and see the atrractions of those countries. Each trip is completely unique. Each expedition has its own special challenges and serendipitous, human connections. What you can expect in every instance, however -- and why many of our clients return, year after year - is an outstanding wilderness experience including great food, magnificent wildlife, and friendships forged that last a lifetime.

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