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Bale Mountains National Park, Ethiopia (Center on Interactive Map)

Map of Bale Mountains National Park, Ethiopia

Map of Bale Mountains National Park, Ethiopia

Sanetti Plain Harenna Forest Campsite
Ethiopian Wolf (Canis simensis) Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) Fan-tailed Raven (Corvus rhipidurus) Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) Cape Crow (Corvus capensis) Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax) - Mobbed by Pied Crow
Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus) Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) - Female Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) - Female Fan-tailed Raven (Corvus rhipidurus) Eats Spectacled Pigeon Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) Lesser Spotted Eagle (Clanga pomarina)
Yellow-billed Duck (Anas undulata) Spot-breasted Lapwing (Vanellus melanocephalus) White-collared Pigeon (Columba albitorques) Pied Crow (Corvus albus) Tawny-flanked Prinia (Prinia subflava) African Wood-Owl (Strix woodfordii)
Streaky Seedeater (Crithagra striolatus) Ethiopian Cisticola (Cisticola lugubris) Abyssinian Owl (Asio abyssinicus) Abyssinian Thrush (Turdus abyssinicus) Mountain Nyala (Tragelaphus buxtoni) - Male Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)
Lanner Falcon (Falco biarmicus) Augur Buzzard (Buteo augur) Rueppells Robin-Chat (Cossypha semirufa) Variable Sunbird (Nectarinia venusta) - Male Dark-headed Oriole (Oriolus monacha) Thick-billed Raven (Corvus crassirostris)
Red-billed Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) Thekla Lark (Galerida theklae) Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) Ethiopian Wolf (Canis simensis) Abyssinian Siskin (Serinus nigriceps) Dusky Turtle-Dove (Streptopelia lugens)
Cape Crow (Corvus capensis) Ethiopian Thrush (Turdus simensis) Mountain Nyala (Tragelaphus buxtoni) - Female and Young Dusky Alseonax (Muscicapa adusta) Bohar reedbuck (Redunca redunca) Bush Duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia)
Black-winged Lapwing (Vanellus melanopterus) Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus) - Female Bottas Wheatear (Oenanthe bottae) Rougets Rail (Rougetius rougetii) Moorland Chat (Cercomela sordida) Yellow Bishop (Euplectes capensis) - Non-breeding
Blue-winged Goose (Cyanochen cyanopterus) Red-knobbed Coot (Fulica cristata)

The Bale Mountains National Park is a somewhat protected area that covers a variety of highland habitats just south of Addis Ababa. The Sanetti Plain is the biggest moorland in all of Africa. This area is a virtual island, and thus contains many endemic species.


Africa: Egypt and Ethiopia

1/13/2011: After our quick morning hike at Wondo Genet, we high-tailed it toward Bale Mountains so that we might arrive in Dinsho before the park office closed.

The road was paved until Dodola, but after that we were in for a bit of a bumpy ride as we climbed into the very scenic mountains. Upon reaching the Gaysay area of the park, we started to see some mammals and potholes full of ducks.

We arrived very late in the afternoon to the park headquarters at Dinsho where we paid for the requisite guide and park entrance for three days, and this is where the series of rip-offs and/or poor value began.

We had been warned by our driver that some of the guides at Dinsho were not especially professional, but the guide that he recommended was not available. So, we were assigned a different guide, hereby known as "Mr. Torpid". Mr. Torpid consistently cut our hikes (the main purpose of our visit to Bale) short for various excuses... none which seemed valid. He slept through an entire day, and he ate all of our food. The one thing that he was eager to do was to obtain a goat for dinner. Being a vegetarian, I told him that we did not want a goat, but that did not stop him from spending hours looking for one. And our driver was the one who spotted all the wildlife... while driving, no less. Finally, he ditched us just after lunch on the third day (more on that later). Basically, we got about three hours of guiding for our three days guiding fee. Adding insult, after Mr Torpid ditched us, we were approached by the "Owl Guide" who treated us to possibly the only scam that we endured in Ethiopia (or maybe just a misunderstanding, more on that later).

Anyway, we spent an hour or so at Dinsho walking around the forest. We saw plenty of antelope there, and warthogs seemed to be hiding in holes just about everywhere. I would have liked to stay longer, but Mr. Torpid quit on us because "It was too dark for photos".

The next day, after much discussion about starting times, we arranged to wake up early to head to the Sanetti Plain. The higher altitudes are above the tree line, and we even saw ice on a small pond. Mr. Torpid got cold, and he cut our hike short because "you can't see the wolves while hiking".

So, before noon, our hiking canceled, we started a boring game drive around the plain in search of the Ethiopian Wolf, rarest of the worlds canids. Of course, our driver, Asimenew, was the one to see wolves just off the road. With some cajoling, Mr. Torpid was convinced to help us track the wolves to get a closer view. Mr. Torpid was leading us in the wrong direction, and I figured out where the wolves had gone by observing fleeing birds. We got our photos, and Mr. Torpid strongly suggested that we needed to get moving in order to "reach the campsite". As we walked back to the car, Barbara called out a rabbit. But, I turned around to see not only a rabbit, but a wolf was in hot pursuit. The wolf ran past us no more than 20 feet away! I guess we couldn't see the wolf though because we were hiking.

The campsite in the Harenna Forest, was, of course, no more than one hour by car. The scenery was dominated by the mountain, and the campsite provided us with our very own rock quarry, gawking children, goats, cows, and some guy with an AK-47. Mr Torpid quickly set up his tent and began a several hour long nap. Barbara and I walked around for awhile, but we never did find anything that I would classify as a "forest". The Harenna Forest is more of a pastureland with scattered groves of trees. There seemed to be some forest in the distance, but it was a tangled mess of impenetrable brush. Maybe if Mr. Torpid was around we could have found a better hike. One thing that Mr. Torpid got right was the coldness factor. We changed plans to not camp on Sanetti because of the cold, and sure enough, some rains came through late in the afternoon. The campsite, at 9000 feet, was a good 3000 feet lower than Sanetti, but it was still quite cold during the night. We heard lions roaring and hyenas yapping while we slept.

The next day, we walked around the campsite while waiting for Mr. Torpid to wake up. He was intent on going directly to lunch, but I insisted that we wanted to hike on the Sanetti plain some more. There were three more Ethiopian Wolves which we must not have really seen since we were walking. Well, time for lunch.

It was difficult to convince Ethiopians that we wanted to eat local food. But it was fasting (ie.. vegetarian) day, and I insisted that I wanted to eat atkelt bayeanetu, a mix of veggie dishes that is served on Wednesdays and Fridays. The driver knew of a place in Robe, and off we went. By the looks of the patrons, we may have been the only faranji to ever eat in that restaurant, but it was the best food that we had in Ethiopia.

After lunch, we headed back to Dinsho and the Dinsho lodge. Mr. Torpid told us to walk around on our own, and he bailed completing our buy three days guiding/get one half day special.

So, we walked around the forest alone, and sure enough, we came across a warthog in a hole. The warthog was surprised and cornered, and it nearly ran me down in an attempt to escape. Those warthogs have some really mean looking tusks to make it all that much more scary.

The final insult came when we met the "Owl Guide". He told me "I can show you owls for fifty birr". Call me crazy, but I kind of figured that Mr Torpid should be showing us owls as part of the standard guiding fee, but anyway, fifty birr is not a whole lot of money, so I agreed to the service. Twenty minutes later, we had seen the owls, and the owl guide demanded "four fifty birr". I am not sure if he was intentionally trying to use his limited English skills to scam us (saying "for fifty" instead of "four hundred fifty"), or if he honestly thought his half hour of services was worth more than two nights in a hotel. Thus, a minor argument started, and the end result was that I paid 200 Birr more than I thought I agreed to hopefully due to misunderstanding.

At this point, I was looking forward to getting back to the more honest scam artists in Egypt where the lies revolve around business hours or full hotels...

The next morning, we left Dinsho early to start a very eventful morning. I was still intently searching for an Abyssinian Longclaw, when I saw an odd shaped raptor flying over the road. It turned out to be a Lammergeier, and it actually landed on a rock right next to the road! We got some amazing views as it drank water from a small spring. Then, just a few minutes later, we witnessed a Fan-tailed Raven tearing apart a pigeon, plucking the pigeon and eating it alive! I never did find the longclaw, though.

Previous Visit (Wondo Genet: 1/12/2011)
Next Visit (Abiata-Shala National Park: 1/15/2011)

Species Recorded (80)

Birds ( 69 )

Old World Tree Warblers ( Phylloscopidae )
Common Chiffchaff - Phylloscopus collybita
Brown Woodland-Warbler - Phylloscopus umbrovirens

Grebes ( Podicipedidae )
Little Grebe - Tachybaptus ruficollis

Hawks, Eagles, and Kites ( Accipitridae )
Eurasian Marsh-Harrier - Circus aeruginosus
Montagu's Harrier - Circus pygargus
White-backed Vulture - Gyps africanus
Rueppell's Griffon - Gyps rueppelli

Herons ( Ardeidae )
Gray Heron - Ardea cinerea
Black-headed Heron - Ardea melanocephala

Storks ( Ciconiidae )
Abdim's Stork - Ciconia abdimii
White Stork - Ciconia ciconia

Swans, Geese, and Ducks ( Anatidae )
Northern Pintail - Anas acuta
Green-winged Teal - Anas crecca
Yellow-billed Duck - Anas undulata
Blue-winged Goose - Cyanochen cyanoptera
Northern Shoveler - Spatula clypeata
Ruddy Shelduck - Tadorna ferruginea

Kites, Hawks, Eagles, and Allies ( Acciptridae )
Tawny Eagle - Aquila rapax
Augur Buzzard - Buteo augur
Lesser Spotted Eagle - Clanga pomarina
Black-winged Kite - Elanus caeruleus
Bearded Vulture - Gypaetus barbatus

Falcons and Allies ( Falconidae )
Lanner Falcon - Falco biarmicus
Lesser Kestrel - Falco naumanni
Eurasian Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus

Grouse, Turkeys, and Allies ( Phasianidae )
Chestnut-naped Francolin - Pternistis castaneicollis

Rails, Gallinules, and Allies ( Rallidae )
Red-knobbed Coot - Fulica cristata
Rouget's Rail - Rougetius rougetii

Plovers ( Charadriidae )
Spot-breasted Lapwing - Vanellus melanocephalus
Black-winged Lapwing - Vanellus melanopterus

Sandpipers and Allies ( Scolopacidae )
Common Snipe - Gallinago gallinago
Wood Sandpiper - Tringa glareola

Pigeons and Doves ( Columbidae )
White-collared Pigeon - Columba albitorques
Dusky Turtle-Dove - Streptopelia lugens

Typical Owls ( Strigidae )
African Long-Eared Owl - Asio abyssinicus
African Wood-Owl - Strix woodfordii

Nighthawks and Nightjars ( Caprimulgidae )
Abyssinian Nightjar - Caprimulgus poliocephalus

Swifts ( Apodidae )
African Palm-Swift - Cypsiurus parvus

Sunbirds ( Nectariniidae )
Variable Sunbird - Cinnyris venustus
Tacazze Sunbird - Nectarinia tacazze

Larks ( Alaudidae )
Thekla's Lark - Galerida theklae

Prinias and Apalis ( Cisticolidae )
Ethiopian Cisticola - Cisticola lugubris
Tawny-flanked Prinia - Prinia subflava

Jays and Crows ( Corvidae )
Pied Crow - Corvus albus
Cape Crow - Corvus capensis
Thick-billed Raven - Corvus crassirostris
Somali Crow - Corvus edithae
Fan-tailed Raven - Corvus rhipidurus
Red-billed Chough - Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax

Orioles ( Oriolidae )
Dark-headed Oriole - Oriolus monacha

Gonoleks ( Malaconotidae )
Ethiopian Boubou - Laniarius aethiopicus

Chickadees and Titmice ( Paridae )
White-backed Black-Tit - Melaniparus leuconotus

Bishops ( Ploceidae )
Yellow Bishop - Euplectes capensis

Old World Warblers and Gnatcatchers ( Sylviidae )
Abyssinian Catbird - Sylvia galinieri

Thrushes and Allies ( Turdidae )
Rueppell's Robin-Chat - Cossypha semirufa
Abyssinian Slaty-Flycatcher - Melaenornis chocolatinus
Dusky-brown Flycatcher - Muscicapa adusta
Rusty-Breasted Wheatear - Oenanthe frenata
Pied Wheatear - Oenanthe pleschanka
Moorland Chat - Pinarochroa sordida
Abyssinian Thrush - Turdus abyssinicus
Ethiopian Thrush - Turdus simensis

Wagtails and Pipits ( Motacillidae )
Red-throated Pipit - Anthus cervinus
Western Yellow Wagtail - Motacilla flava

Cardueline Finches and Allies ( Fringillidae )
African Citril - Crithagra citrinelloides
Streaky Seedeater - Crithagra striolata
Abyssinian Siskin - Serinus nigriceps

Old World Sparrows ( Passeridae )
Yellow-bellied Waxbill - Coccopygia quartinia
Pin-tailed Whydah - Vidua macroura




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