Bale Mountains

Daily Tour 5 day Availability: 2017-07-06
Bale Mountains, Ethiopia Axum, Mekele

The Bale Mountains, in the Oromia Region of southeast Ethiopia, south of the Awash River, are part of the Ethiopian Highlands. They include Tullu Demtu, the second-highest mountain in Ethiopia, and Mount Batu. The Weyib River, a tributary of the Jubba River, rises in these mountains east of Goba.

Located 400km southeast of Addis Ababa, Bale Mountains National Park contains a spectacularly diverse landscape. The high altitude, afro-montane Sanetti Plateau rises to over 4,000m and includes the highest peak in the southern Ethiopia highlands. This undulating plateau is marked by numerous glacial lakes and swamps and surrounded by higher volcanic ridges and peaks. The southern slopes are covered by the lush and largely unexplored Harenna Forest.


Bole International Airport (Google Map)

Please arrive at least 2 hours before the flight.

  • Airfare
  • 5 days cruise
  • Accommodations
  • Professional guide

  • Airfare
  • 5 days cruise


What to Expect

Bale Mountains National Park is the ultimate destination for hikers, wildlife watchers, culture and nature enthusiasts, bird watchers and more! Explore one of the highest parks in Africa by horseback, go fishing or experience an authentic community trying local coffee and honey! One of the best sites to spot the rare and endangered Ethiopian Wolf is on the spectacular Sanetti Plateau as the sun rises.

  • Ethiopian wolf
  • Mountain nyala
  • Giant molerat and Bale monkey
  • Stunning Afroalpine mountains
  • Sanetti plateau – a floating land.
  •  Rock pinnacles etched out of the lava flows
BMNP Trekking

Explore all habitats of the Bale Mountains National Park as you trek across the home of the Ethiopian wolf, mountain nyala, giant molerat and Bale monkey. Experience stunning Afroalpine mountains and natural scenery while heading deep into the heart of the Sanetti plateau – a floating land. Explore vast moorland and discover Afroalpine plants as you camp in the wilderness. Hike amongst rock pinnacles etched out of the lava flows by millions of years of ice and winds, and pass waterfalls and alpine lakes. Camping in the Harenna forest may reward you with a sighting of the elusive animals that live there. Wildlife that can be seen along the way includes the olive baboon, warthog, rock hyrax, Starck’s hare, klipspringer, grey duiker, African wild dog, giant forest hog, leopard, lion and birds of prey.


Bale Mountains National Park by car

2 night/3 day Self-Guided Drive of the Bale Mountains National Park

This itinerary takes you from the Bale Mountains National Park headquarters at Dinsho, through the Gaysay grasslands over the Sanetti plateau and into Harenna forest. 

Web Valley Drive: The road through the Web valley starts at the park headquarters. It is signposted near the base of the hill where the lodge is located. It is a rough dirt track, easily navigable with a 4WD vehicle during the dry season, but impassable after heavy rains (ask locally). The first 8km or so pass through farmland along the edge of the park. Local people are generally friendly. You then enter the park, and settlements and crops begin to thin out. From May through July, vast fields of red-hot pokers glow amongst the lush green background with their distinctive red and yellow flowers. 12km beyond the headquarters, the road travels parallel to the Web River, skirting an impressive gorge where rock hyraxes are often seen. Leopards, black eagles and giant eagle owls are occasionally seen along the edges of this gorge as well. At the top of the gorge the road crosses a stone bridge over the river, and then rises steeply. At the top of the rise, 200m further along, you will again cross the Web River. Here, the road enters the Afroalpine habitat, and it is here that the Bale landscape magnificently presents itself. This is also where one begins to look for Ethiopian wolves and hunting raptors. 50m after crossing the Web River again you will see the Finch Habera waterfall (“woman’s urine” in local language!) – an excellent place to stop for a picnic or camp overnight. The Web valley road continues across the open Afroalpine plain and ends 18km after leaving the headquarters.


 Gaysay Grasslands:

Turn left from the park headquarters and drive 7km to the Gaysay grasslands. You are likely to see warthogs and the endemic mountain nyala from the road, and a short walk through the waist-high grasses and wildflowers will give you a chance to spot the endemic Menelik’s bushbuck, grey duiker, bohor reedbuck, and many others. Back in the vehicle, take the dirt road on your right at the disused ticket station and continue for one kilometer, until you reach the guardhouses, just before crossing the Gaysay river, where you can park. It is possible to approach within a few meters of the mountain nyala (as well as many other mammals). Further exploration will take you to the woodlands where elusive animals such as the serval, spotted hyena and golden (common) jackal reside – the latter is commonly heard calling in early evening. Make sure to also listen for the finest songbird in Africa – the Abyssinian catbird. Before returning to your car, follow the trail to the Web River waterfall, easily reached by foot in under an hour from the main road. Finally, return to the headquarters or continue on to Goba or Robe.


Sanetti Plateau to the Harenna Forest

Early the following morning, head to the Sanetti plateau. From the park headquarters, turn right and follow the main road through Goba and Robe to the plateau. As the sun rises, the most endangered canid in the world – the Ethiopian wolf – begins to hunt. The Sanetti plateau is the best place in Ethiopia to see this elegant animal, and the winding road atop the plateau, one of the highest all-weather roads in Africa, is an ideal spot for viewings. The plateau is crawling with rodents, the largest being the giant molerat, found only in the Bale Mountains. Explore the area on foot, marveling at the lichen-clad rocks, indicators of pure air. Look to the sky for soaring birds of prey: golden, tawny and Verreaux’s eagles as well as the bearded vulture (lammergeyer), lanner falcon, and augur buzzard. Continuing again by car, you will pass Tulu Dimtu or “the Red Mountain” just 4km off the main road. This is the second highest mountain in Ethiopia at 4,377m. The summit is reachable by car or by foot in under an hour. As you reach the end of the plateau, you enter the Harenna escarpment, plunging more than 2,000m towards a vast tropical forest in just 8km. Driving down switchback roads, you’ll be treated to magnificent views. After passing through stands of giant heather the road takes you to the small village of Rira. Stop for lunch and enjoy the local dish of ambesha and gomen (flatbread and steamed kale) at one of the two restaurants (see directory for more information). Found at the base of the Harenna escarpment, Rira is the center for a bamboo forest walk and short waterfall hike into the stunning Harenna forest. See  here for further details. Additionally, at the right time of year, you can help the locals harvest honey. Continue on the same road from Rira and drive towards Delo- Mena. You can camp at a designated camping ground or stay at the Bale Mountain Lodge (by far the nicest lodging in the Bale area). There is a gravel turnoff 7km from Rira that is clearly signposted on your left for the lodge. Otherwise, spend the evening at the Harenna Forest Hotel and Cultural Lodge in Rira. Alternatively, you can drive 50km south to Delo- Mena, which is known for its coffee and offers basic accommodation, or return to Goba, Robe or Dinsho for the night.


The Bale Mountains were formed prior to the formation of the Great Rift Valley, from lava outpourings which covered all underlying rock formations between 38 and 7 million years ago. The rocks of the volcanic outpourings are predominantly trachytes, but also include rhyolites, basalts, and associated agglomerates and tuffs. The main Bale highlands consist of the vast lava Sanetti Plateau, with at least six volcanic cones, each more than 4,200 meters high and considerably flattened by repeated glaciations. There have been at least two glacial periods in the history of the mountains and they were glaciated as little as 2,000 years ago. During the Last ice age, the Bale Mountains were one of the most extensively glaciated areas in present-day Ethiopia, with a total area of ice in Bale of approximately 180 km2. There was a 30 km2 ice cap around the peak of Tulu Dimtu (the second highest mountain in Ethiopia) on the Sanetti Plateau and individual glaciers of considerable thickness reached down to 3,200 meters. As a consequence, the landscape as we see it today is the lava outpourings much modified by over 20 million years of erosion by water, wind and ice. There are certain geological features that remain an enigma to geologists and glaciologists such as the striations that appear on shallow hillsides on the Sanetti Plateau. Boulder grooves (large stone sorted stripes two to four meters wide and eighty meters long), till ridges and numerous glacial valleys, such as the Togona Valley on the northeast facing slopes of the Sanetti Plateau, provide evidence of the ice-age effects on the landscape of BMNP. Until the beginning of deglaciation (13,000 to 14,000 years ago), the snowline was at 3,700 meters and the upper tree limit in the Bale Mountains was well below 3,000 meters. Fluctuations in climate over the last historical period, including the last 3,000 years, have dramatically affected the vegetation and other biodiversity in the highlands.

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