An area of high altitude plateau that is broken by numerous spectacular volcanic plugs and peaks, beautiful alpine lakes and rushing mountain streams that descends into deep rocky gorges on their way to the lowlands below. As ascending into the mountains experience changes in the vegetation with altitude, from juniper forests to heather moorlands and alpine meadows, which at various times of year exhibit an abundance of colorful wildflowers. Bale Mountains National Park is the largest area of Afro-Alpine habitat in the whole of the continent. It gives the visitor opportunities for unsurpassed mountain walking, horse trekking, scenic driving and the chances to view many of Ethiopia’s endemic mammals, in particular the Mountain Nyala and Semien Fox, and birds, such as the Thick-billed Raven, Wattled Ibis, Blue-winged Goose, and Rouget’s Rail.
It rises from the extensive surrounding farmlands at 2,500 m above sea level to the west, north and east. The National Park area is divided into two major parts by the spectacular Harenna escarpment that runs from east to west. North of this escarpment is a high altitude plateau area at 4,000 m altitude. The plateau is formed of ancient volcanic rocks (trachytes, basalts, agglomerates and tuffs) dissected by many Rivers and streams that have cut deep gorges into the edges over the centuries. In some places this has resulted in scenic waterfalls. From the plateau rise several mountain massifs of rounded and craggy peaks, including Tullu Deemtu the second-highest mountain in Ethiopia at 4,377 m above sea level. (Ras Dashen, near the Simien Mountains National Park in the north is the highest – 4,543 m). A major part of the central peaks area is covered by a capping of more recent lava flows, still mainly unvegetated, and forming spectacular rock ripples and pillars. Many shallow depressions on the plateau are filled with water in the wet season, forming small lakes that mirror the surrounding scenery. Larger lakes such as Garba Guracha (“black water”), Hora Bachay and Hala Weoz, contain water all year round. These many lakes provide habitat for water birds, especially migrating ducks from Europe during the northern winter.
This area derives its name from the little Gaysay River that flows into the Web near Dinsho. It consists of Boditi peak at the southern end of the Lajo Spur, and the flatlands each side of the Gaysay River at the mountain’s base. The main road crosses part of the Gaysay area, just before reaching Dinsho.
Make best use of your time in the Bale Mountain National Park throw it and focusing on the high altitude Sanetti plateau. Observe the endemic Ethiopian Wolf, the Giant Molerat, and much more. Walk about the plateau enjoying the awe-inspiring landscape.
The road is lined with the orange-blossomed Lenontis and in the wet season the “red hot pocker”(Knip hofia) is blooming beneath the trees and attracting the brilliant iridescent Tacazza and Malachite sunbirds. On this area Wintering spotted, Imperial and other Aquila eagles are amongst the birds of prey that you may see, and almost all Ethiopians vulture species regularly occur.
After spending the morning on the plateau, drive to the spectacular Harenna Escarpment, some remarkable views and an afternoon in which to descend the Escarpment. It will be more realistic to set our sight on such endemic birds as white-backed Black Tit, Abyssinian catbird, Black-winged Lovebird, Golden-backed wood pecker and Black-headed Siskin perhaps.
Is a longer walking prospect, but can be done in a long day from the plateau road. The mountain is a long horseshoe-shaped ridge at the head of the great Shiya and Tegona River gorges. It is very craggy and more rugged than Tullu Deemtu in appearance, and seemingly more mountainous, for all that it is a few metres lower. Leopard has been sighted near the top, as have Klipspringer and Mountain Nyala, while montane birds such as the chough and lammergeyer soar effortlessly over as you climb up the mountain’s flanks.
Short riding trips can be arranged in the Dinsho area, but it is far more worthwhile to set aside at least four full days to enjoy a horse trip to the full.
Sof Omar Caves
The fantastic limestone caves of Sof Omar make a day’s outing from Dinsho, Robe or Goba. The road leaves Robe town, crossing the farming areas to the east, before descending into the lowlands. Here the vegetation is very different being dry lowland with wooded grasslands. The caves lie at 1,300 m above sea level. This is in marked contrast to what you will experience in the Bale Mountains at up to 4,000 m. Very different animals occur along the way as well, most noticeably the Greater and Lesser Kudu – both relatives of the Mountain Nyala, and the tiny dik dik antelope. The caves themselves carry the whole flow of the Web River that rises in the Bale Mountains, underground through wonderfully carved caverns for a distance of one and a half kilometer.