Still unknown by the tourism industry, this part of Ethiopia is very rich in natural beauty such as green rolling hills with dense forests teeming with wild animals and birds, the Omo river Canyon, waterfalls, coffee- and tea plantations and fertile soil where fruits, crops and vegetables abundantly grow. In the far west the climate and landscape changes abruptly when you go down to the swampy lowlands with their hot, humid atmosphere near the Sudanese border.
The word "coffee" comes from the name of the former region "Kaffa"where coffee first was discovered by a herds boy as a stimulant and later was used as the black liquid which is so well known now all over the world. For ages the secret of coffee remained in Ethiopia. In the 16th century coffee was brought to Arabia by traders and cultivated there and in the 17th century it was introduced in Europe. The biggest coffee plantations of Ethiopia are still in the Kaffa region and coffee is still the biggest export product of Ethiopia.
West Ethiopia is inhabited by the Oromo, Nuer and Anuak people and different smaller tribes. In Jimma and in Nekemte are interesting museums where you can learn more about the culture of this tribes.
Highlights of western Ethiopia
this is the biggest and most modern town of the west with a green and friendly atmosphere. It was the capital of the kingdom of Jimma (founded in the 14th century) which became powerful by the trade of coffee and reached the summit of its wealth in the 19th century. The last king of Jimma was the powerful King Abba Jiffar (1878-1932) who built a palace in Jiren, 8 km. from Jimma. This palace is recently restored and can daily be visited. Also the market where you can buy the three legged Jimma stools and colourful basket ware and the Jimma museum are worth a visit. The museum has an interesting collection of traditional arts and crafts, fine woodwork and musical instruments. Also some of the possessions of the Kaffa kings can be seen.
In the surroundings of Jimma are two interesting places for birdwatchers: Lake Boye and Kofe Swamp. In the Kofe Swamp species such as wattled Crane, red-chested Flufftail and Abyssinian longclaw can be observed. There are also small herds of Bohor Reedbuck. In lake Boye you can also see hippo's.
Gambella at the shore of the Baro river is the last city before the Sudanese border and it tastes Sudanese as well as Ethiopian. It has a subtropical hot and humid climate. Its inhabitants, the Anuak and Nuer are very friendly people. The Anuak are fisherman and mixed agriculturists, very tall and dark skinned, and they speak a language related to that of the Luo in Kenya. The Nuer came from Sudan and are smaller than the Anuak but also dark-skinned. It is interesting to visit the markets of the Nuer and Anuak in the town or to visit their villages outside and taste their culture and way of living. Or you can meet them near the Baro river where they come together for a bath, a walk or a gossip which is a colorful picture. It is a pleasant walk going along the riverside to see the old pier and steamship, silent witnesses of the industrious past of Gambella. In 1907 Gambella was established by the Ethiopian emperor Menelik and the British as a port for export of coffee and other agricultural products via the Baro river to Sudan and Egypt. It became a British territory and was a prosperous trade centre. In 1936 the Italians captured Gambella but after a bloody battle it was returned to England in 1941. Then it became a part of Sudan but was given back to Ethiopia in 1956. Under the regime of Mengistu the port ceased functioning but nowadays the governement is planning to revive it. So probably Gambella wil regain its old glory again in the near future.
Gambella National Park
This is a remote and swampy park that is not so well protected so it is invaded by cotton plantations and Sudanese refugee camps. Yet animals such as elephant, buffalo, lion, roan antelope, tiang, Lelwel hartebeest, olive baboon and gureza monkey can be seen as well as many interesting birds. When you follow the track at the east side of the park, take a stop at lake Alware and scenic lake Tata. Or follow the road along the north border of the park to pass an area inhabited by the Anuak fishermen and Nuer pastoralists. It seems as if time has stopped ages ago here and they still live their lives untouched by modern influences. You can see many birds, crocodiles, water- and forest mammals on this route.
Near the village Matu the Sor Waterfall is a great attraction. The last kilometer to this waterfall you climb a track that leads you through a dense jungle with butterflies, birds and monkeys. Finally the track descend to a viewpoint near the top of a gorge to have a splendid view on the waterfall, plunging down 100 meter into the gorge, surrounded by dense forest. At the base of the waterfall it is possible to swim in the cold water.
The Guder falls near Ambo can best be visited on Sunday because there is a dam upstream which will be opened only on sunday's.
Several routes lead you through a beautiful hilly landscape with dense forests where streams and rivers flow and waterfalls are plunging down. In this forests bird- and wildlife is abundant. Even along the roadside you can see many colobus monkeys. Take for example the road from Jimma to Gambella via Mizan Teferi or the road between Matu and Bedele. Also in the surrounding of Bonga is a huge potential for hiking. An area of natural beauty with hot springs, caves, natural bridges, waterfalls, forests with an abundant wild- and birdlife. There are also unexcavated historical sites and age old churches. From Bonga trekking tours with a guide can be organized.
Not far from Addis Abeba, on the road to Ambo, is the 2.500 ha. large natural Menagesha National forest, the first known subject of an official conservation policy in Africa. Since the 16th century this forest is protected by the government. It is a beautiful forest with tall juniper and wanza trees. Some trees are over 400 years old. In the past around 40% of Ethiopia was covered with this kind of forests. Also this forest is a paradise for birds, and different endemic species. Wildlife is abundant - gureza monkey, the endemic menelik's bushbuck, baboon, common duiker, leopard and serval. The Wenchi crater lake of mount Wenchi (3220 m.) is beautiful surrounded by forests on the steep crater slopes. In a village on the edge of the crater you can rent horses and a guide to accompany you down to the lake. The lake shore is a fine place for a picknick in nature, while enjoying the many water birds, monkeys and baboons. By the lake canoes are for rent to bring you to the island church of Cherkos and to the hot springs. Coffee plantations can be visited around Tepi and Mizan Teferi. It is a delight to walk on this plantations which are in fact forests where the coffee grows under tall, old trees teeming with birds, to protect the coffee from too intense sunlight. There are also interesting spice and fruit plantations and you can see the pulping and processing stations. The plantations have their own guesthouses. A tea plantation can be visited near Wushwush. It also has its own guesthouse. Contact us to get more information or book a tour to be one of the few who visit this land of natural beauty!