Far south in Ethiopia’s Great Rift Valley lie two marvellous lakes ringed by savanna plains and smoke; mountain crests. By far the largest of Ethiopia’s Rift Valley lakes, the 551-square-kilometre waters of Chamo and the 1,160-square-kilometre surface of Abaya are considered by many to be also the most beautiful. Indeed, few places on earth can match the allure of their setting.
Ethiopia LakesMuch of this forms part of one of Ethiopia’s finest national parks, Nech Sar, established as a sanctuary for the rare Swayne’s hartebeest. From the town of Arba Minch on the ridge of land that divides Abaya and Chamo there are commanding views of the panorama all around including both lakes with Nech Sar on the eastern side and, to the west, the Huge range of mountains. Such is the outstanding beauty of this viewpoint that it has long been known as the Bridge of Heaven. Equally poetic, Arba Minch -meaning Forty Springs in Amharic -takes its name from the bubbling streams which spring up amid the undergrowth. No period of the luxuriant forest which clothes the steep slopes beneath the town.
This region, more than 500 kilometres south of Addis Ababa, is one of Ethiopia’s last great surviving wildernesses. An international hotel at Arba Minch with high-quality service and facilities ensures the visitor enjoys the splendours of nature in comfort.
This is an ideal base from which to explore the forested land between the lakes, and the plains of Nech Sar beyond where the surviving herds of Swayne’s hartebeest, once in abundance, and zebra and Grant’s gazelle roam the high savanna.
There’s an air of untamed grandeur about all this that lingers over the lakes and mountains. Alive with many species of fish -the fighting tiger fish, giant Nile perch, barbell, catfish and tilapia offering fine sport –
Volcanic Lakes EthiopiaChamo and Abaya are an angler’s paradise. In the reed-fringed bays of Chamo’s sparkling aquamarine waters hundreds of hippos emerge at night to graze on the grassy shores. Chamo is also sanctuary for several thousand Nile crocodile, some reaching lengths of up to seven metres from snout to tip of tail.
Here the balance between predator and prey remains in equilibriumb. Bird life flourishes in equal proportion: hordes of yellow weaver birds flit constantly through the trees, and vividly-coloured kingfishers skim the lakes where Great White pelicans, storks, ibises, hornbills and cormorants plumb the waters for food. With piercing echoing cries, black and white fish eagles swoop down from their tree perches to snatch up unwary fish in their talons.