all travel ideas for your Ethiopian journey on the Coffee Trail and the west bank of the Omo river
Ethiopia’s largest national parc, spread across 4,060 km² at an altitude varying from 400 m to 770 m, is considered one of the richest territories of the country in regard to its wildlife. It constitutes the last refuge of some black rhinoceroses and shelters many Sudanese vegetation species. There, in this unique wetland ecosystem in Ethiopia, live the kobus kob and the kobus leche, as well as several species of antelopes, numerous elephants, giraffes, buffaloes and felines such as the lion or the leopard. More than 150 bird species have also been identified, including the peculiar shoebill - a big grey anthracite bird with its imposing beak, which you can best observe from sites alongside the Mekoy river and from the particularly fish bearing Tata lake’s shores. It is also this very region that is inhabited by the two Anuak and Nuer ethnies, whom you can visit in their villages. The first ones are skilled fishermen who wear ivory necklaces and bracelets and exhibit scarifications as symbols of bravery and beauty. The second ones, semi-nomadic shepherds, maintain very close ties with their livestock. As a rite of passage, young boys have to realise frontal scarifications from five to six horizontal lines cut as deep as the cranial bone to indelibly mark their appartenance to the clan.
The emblematic Kaffa region, being the historical cradle of coffee and a major region of its production, is actually where the name “coffee” or “kawa” stems from, although in Ethiopia coffee is known under the name “buna”. According to the legend, coffee has first been discovered by a shepherd who found his sheep particularly agitated after having eaten the plant’s red fruits. The shepherd figured he would fire-dry the fruits but then forgot about them and they got carbonised. He then grounded them and prepared an infusion. The first coffee is thus said to have been born from an accidental roasting. Today the arabica beans harvested on the Ethiopian highlands constitute the country’s leading export resource. The name “Arabica” probably comes from the fact that Arabic merchants have been the first to bring the plant into the Arabian Peninsula (currently Yemen) in the 13th century and then to popularise its consumption before exporting it further to Europe. Today, drinking coffee is an integral part of Ethiopian culture. The immutable ceremony of its preparation which symbolises hospitality and can last up to three hours is repeated many times a day, regardless of the time of day.
The whole region, including the biosphere reserve of Kaffa, is home to a wide variety of coffee - certain of which are still growing wild. The region encompasses large areas of mountain tropical rainforest and shelters a great variety of wildlife - especially birds, including 11 bird species endemic to Ethiopia. The town of Bonga, a pleasant forest town, constitutes the reserve’s main touristic center. It is the perfect spot for starting an excursion to discover the nearby biosphere and most of all - the coffee trees. Mizan Teferi is another town situated in the middle of coffee plantations. It has once been the capital of the Bench ethnie - an ethnie of cultivators and honey collectors whose fate was tragic: until the middle of the 20th century, the Bench people have been ruthlessly chased after in the thick forests of Kaffa to be sold as slaves to Arabic and European merchants by the local rulers. The Bench ethnie has seen its culture virtually annihilated. As regards to the former capital of the Kaffa region, Jimma - it has always been a very prosperous town thanks to the its rich natural environment and its position of a commercial crossroad. Jimma’s limitless wood supplies and its fertile soils have attracted the Italians who contributed to the city’s development. The architectural style of several buildings can testify of this recent expansion.
On its western bank, Omo shelters the Omo National Park which resembles the neighbouring Mago National Park. Covering over 4,000 km² , the park is covered by vast savannah plains, bristled with acacia trees and dense forests along the river. Because it is difficult to access, it constitutes a true sanctuary, rich in wildlife, and a haven for big mammals such as the buffaloes, elks, giraffes or elephants. You can also find zebras, sassabies, kudus and oryxes there, accompanied by their usual predators - lions, cheetahs and leopards. Moreover, the park is home to some 300 bird species. The region is also the territory of many fascinating tribes, such as the Dizi, the Surma (also called Suri), the Nyangatom (also pejoratively called Bumé) and the Daasanach. Far less visited than its opposite bank, this region remains one of the most far off and wild in the country. Organising an excursion on these lands is a real adventure, which you have to embrace with all its inconveniences.
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