About Ethiopia and the Omo Valley
Ethiopia is like nowhere else in the world. It is a peaceful country blessed with a rich history, expansive wildlife and definitely Africa’s most soulful people. Ethiopia is home to the oldest human fossils ever found and we can even trace all of our ancestors back to this land.
Present day Ethiopia, is home to the oldest ethnic groups on the planet, with more than 80 languages spoken. Many of these dialects are "dying" languages, but Ethiopia is focused on cultural preservation. Many of these indigenous people live in the south of Ethiopia in the Omo Valley. The ethnic groups of the Omo Valley are world-renowned for their isolated lifestyle and unique decorated fashion sense. These indigenous people live so unaffected by the outside world and what they do need they get directly from nature.
On many occasions, these people may have been portrayed as wild, dangerous and unpredictable. With nomadic lifestyles, their means to survival can seem uncivilized. Practicing ancient rituals and customs including: body-modification, drinking ox blood, female circumcision, polygamy, marriage by abduction, etc. make these groups seem unapproachable.
Ethical Travel in Omo Valley Ethiopia
I am here to tell you, there is a way to visit this region. And to do so in an ethical and impactful way! The best and only way to engage in this travel itinerary in a responsible way is to start with your tour agency. I only recommend hiring an Ethiopian tour company, so your money does not go to a foreign entity.
I traveled with Hamerland Tours, which is owned by Nibret - a local Ethiopian from the Omo Valley region. Nibret is a young entrepreneur who has since traveled the world. Speaking perfect English, with a global perspective, he is eager to bring people to his region of Ethiopia in an honest way. He partners with the best local guides, so when you get to the different tribes, you support a member of their community that speaks their language and practices their culture.
More on how to visit these tribes ethically in a blog post Ethiopia: How NOT to engage in "human safari" tourism coming next!
Ethiopia Travel Tips
- Fly into Ethiopia with Ethiopian Air. You will get further discounts on all domestic flights if you do so. Also, they are a member of Star Alliance so be sure to add in your mileage plus account to get some extra miles.
- If you are a solo-female traveler, you can go to Ethiopia alone! Just make sure to link up with Nibret. He is even a photographer and instagrammer, so he can definitely help capture your travel moments! @nibbytravels
- Do not count on internet. Anywhere. Not even in a 5 star hotel in Addis Ababa. When you land, get a phone chip so you can connect to data. In the Omo Valley, there is not much reception. So, don't count on that either.
- Don't overdo it with the "travel gear". Sunscreen, bug spray, tissues are necessary. I wore my "regular" clothes, boots and a hat.
- Don't do Ethiopia on a budget people. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Spend money on the nice lodges, to tip local guides and to pay the ethnic tribes for their time.
- A private itinerary for 1-2 people should cost you around $2,000 - $2,500 for 7 days all inclusive.
Ethiopia Travel Itinerary
Day 1: Fly from Addis Ababa to Arba Minch to visit Dorze
Arrive and pick up local guide. Enjoy a traditional coffee and lunch break before driving to the Dorze village.
The Dorze live high up in the Gughe Mountains where we see the traditional Dorze beehive shaped huts recognized as one of the visually attractive structural houses by the UNESCO.
Overnight Paradise Lodge Hotel Arba Minch
After breakfast drive down to Arba Minch and take a boat trip on Lake Chamo to see hippos and some of the largest crocodiles in all of Africa.
Drive to Konso have a local lunch break and then visit the Konso Village. Here visit one of the 9 UNESCO registered villages. The Konso’s are known for the erection of generation poles, raised every 18 years marking the start of a new generation. The age of village can be determined by how many poles are standing.
On this evening meet the Konso King and visit his village. (Only available with Nibret Hamerland Tours.)
Visit the "New York" natural landmark outside of Konso.
Overnight Kanta Lodge Hotel
- After breakfast drive to Benna tribe village near the town of Key Afer. Visit Nibret's family friends house and learn about their way of life. (Only available with Nibret Hamerland Tours.)
- Continue drive to Turmi for lunch and visit Hamer tribe village.
- Attend a local bull jumping ceremony when a boy is pronounced “man” after proving his capacity to jump 5 up to 13 cattle’s stand in a row.
- This includes a special event in which female family members show their appreciation for the groom through a unique ritual. The women dance and sing and taunt the other men who then whip them in response with a stick until they bleed. The women want scars to show their love for family and perform this ritual with a smile.
- At night, the ceremony finishes with an "Evan Gady" night dance party.
- Overnight Paradise Lodge Hotel Turmi
Day 4: Visit Dassanech tribe village
- In the morning drive to Omorate to register your passports and then cross Omo river with a local boat.
- Visit Dassanech tribes and learn about their local lifestyle. They inhabit the southernmost region of the Omo Valley, where river delta enters Lake Turkana. Despite the lake and delta, the entire region is unbearably dry and there is nothing but desert to the west and southwest.
Head back to Turmi and visit local market.
Overnight Paradise Lodge Hotel Turmi
Day 5: Visit Kara and Arbore village (the river flooded and closed the road so we could not visit the Kara)
Kara’s are a small tribe with an estimated population between 3,000. They live along the east banks of the Omo River and are known for decoratively painting their faces and body.
- Drive to Arbore tribal village located at the northern edge of Mount Buska.
- The Arbore women are absolutely stunning, they have dark skin and strong features. Prior to marriage the women shave their head. Many wear dark robes, colorful beads and their huts are crafted from tree branches.
Overnight Paradise Lodge Hotel Turmi
Day 6: Drive to Mursi Tribe
- Drive hours to find the most nomadic of all the tribe. The Mursi. Mursi people are know for their large lip plates and body scars. They are isolated from much of the outside world and have a fascinating lifestyle.
- After the visit drive to Jinka.
- Overnight Eco-omo Safari Lodge
Day 7: Visit Jinka and fly back to Addis
- Start your morning with a traditional coffee ceremony in a local family house. (Only available with Nibret Hamerland Tours.) Learn about the urban family culture in Jinka.
- Visit Omo Hope Foundation. An organization dedicated to providing a safe, nurturing home and quality education for the rescued orphaned "Mingi" children from the Omo Valley tribes.
- Flight to Addis Ababa
Ethiopia Contact Information
Nibret Adem | Hamerland Tours Ethiopia
Whatsapp +251 912 61 20 42