Semien NP, World Heritage National park In Ethiopia
The Simien Mountains (sometimes spelled Semien or Simen) are un doubtfully the most impressive mountain range in Ethiopia, The Park is one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, with sharp mountain peaks, deep valleys and jagged cliff. Its Mountain massif is a broad plateau, cut off to the north and west by a huge single crag over 60 kilometers long. To the south, the tableland slopes gently down to 2,200 meters, divided by gorges 1,000 meters deep which can take more than two days to cross. And it covers, 179 square kilometers of highland area at an average elevation of 3,300 meters.
The Semien mountain massif is one of the major highlands of Africa, rising to the highest point in Ethiopia, Ras Dejen which stands (4620m), the fourth highest peak in Africa and not too far from the equator, snow and ice appear on the highest points and night temperatures often fall below zero. The Semien escarpments, which are often compared to the Grand Canyon in the United States of America, have been adopted by Unesco as a World Heritage Site.
Things to Do in Semien National Park
Trekking here is fantastic, not only because of the scenery, gorges and streams, but also because you get a chance to see the unique endemic wildlife. Apart from its spectacular scenic magnificence, the Semien National park is home to some extremely rare animals such as the Gelada baboon, the Simien Fox, the Walia Ibex, wild Goat found nowhere else in the world, many species of plants and Over 50 species of birds.
The Semien Mountains in Ethiopia offer superb highland trekking, with far reaching views, rare wildlife and an incredible local culture.
Trekking and Climbing Routes to the Truly breathtaking
Debark: If you are going trekking in the Semien Mountains, then it is highly likely that you’ll be spending some time in Debark which is where the Semien National Park office is located. This town offers a few really cool things to do.
Sankaber : It is only 30km drive to Sankaber Camp. Walking this stretch is only 18km. First take the road through the market and out of town for 1km to a turn off. After 4km the Lamma Wenz stream is reached (poor campsites). This is followed by a long climb back to the main road which is followed for about 2km before another short cut. The main road is crossed once more to reach meadows and better camping (4h30). From here a gentle climb leads back to the main road; good viewpoint over Wazla Wenz Gorge. The road is followed to Sankaber Park Post, 3200m (6h from Debark, 5h in reverse). Campsites, very well viewpoints of Erica woodland.
Chennek:The road drops to a cool at 3100m then climbs eastward mainly across cultivated land to 3700m overlooking the village of Ambaras. It now deteriorates, becoming impassable to vehicles and traverses the upper slopes of the Beleges Wenz stream valley to Chennek Camp, Near Ambaras it crosses several good streams (15km from Sankaber, 5h30, 5h in reverse). Ruins of old park post, numerous fine campsites, and excellent water - a fine location offering spectacular views.
Sanakber to Geech
Depart Sankaber head right to the escarpment. You should see Gelada Baboons around this area. Hike with epic views until you reach a lookout point which has views of Jinbar Waterfall. This is a good place to spot some of Simien Park’s large birds like the Lammergeyer. You’ll cross the Jinbar River and then climb to Geech village. Here you can buy eggs, chickens, or even a goat to roast once you get to Geech Camp. Geech camp is on a rolling grassy knoll and can get very cold at night. There is a hut to hang out in and build a fire. There is also a small scouts’ hut that sometimes has been for sale.
Geech to Chenek
This day’s trek has some of the best views of the National Park. Most of the trek is along the escarpment and it is highly recommended to take a short side-track to the summit of Imet Gogo (3926m). This peak is probably the best lookout point in the entire park with views down onto lowland villages and to the Northeast towards several prominent mountains. From Imet Gogo, you’ll backtrack slightly and make your way across a gorge. You’ll have a short but difficult climb up the other side and enjoy an amazing cliffside lunch. You’ll hike along the escarpment and down into Chenek camp. There is one last viewpoint called Kurbet Metaya just before Chenek. It is a small gap in the cliff that reveals the impressive cliff faces and a small village below. Keep your eyes peeled for Walia Ibex as they are known to frequent these cliffs as well as Chenek camp.
Chenek to Ambiko
This is the longest trek. You have start early from Chenek and hike up to Bawhit Pass (4200m). This is a strenuous start to the day,but keep a lookout for Walia Ibex and Red Fox. On several occasions. The views from the pass look back to Imet Gogo and East towards the Ras Dejen range. Now you drop over the pass and descend into the Mesheha Valley. The temperature will noticeably increase as you make your way down all the way to the Mesheha River at (2800m). This river can be impassible during the rainy season (June-September). After such a long day, you still have to climb to Ambiko camp at (3100m).
Ambiko to Ras Dashen:
The most popular trek in the Simien National Park is climbing Ras Dashen. Spend 3 scenic days trekking along the escarpment which overlooks the Abyssinian abyss and the final 2 days dropping into the valley and ascending to Dashen at 4533m - the highest point in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. The views are less than spectacular, but the exhilaration of reaching the summit will be great to savor from Dejen. You follow the same path back to Ambiko, A tough hike back to Chenek camp where you can meet your vehicle and drive back to Debark or Gondar….
The Simien Mountains' unique features are not only the extraordinary scenery, but also unique flora and fauna. Three endemic Ethiopian mammal species can be seen in the Simiens:
- Gelada (Theropithecus gelada, sometimes called the Gelada Baboon)
- The Walia Ibex (Capra walie)
- The Ethiopian Wolf (Canis Simensis, also known as Abyssinian wolf, red jackal, red fox, Simien fox or Simien jackal).
The Gelada is a species of Old World monkey found only in the Ethiopian Highlands, mainly in the Simien Mountains. Geladas, like their close relatives the baboons, spend much of their time foraging in grasslands, as they are herbivorous.
While the Geladas can be spotted in large harems decorating the impressive landscape, the Walia Ibex is a critically endangered species of ibex. Only about 400 individuals survive in the mountains of Ethiopia. With some patience, they can be spotted around Chenek camp.
The Ethiopian Wolf is endangered as well, with only about seven populations remaining, totaling roughly 500 adults, mostly in Ethiopia's Bale Mountains. Smaller populations exist in the Simien Mountains, and with some luck, a wolf may be spotted north of Geech camp.
Like all over Ethiopia, bird life is impressive in the Simiens as well. Over 60 species of birds can be spotted, some of them endemic such as the thick-billed raven that will be happy to look for leftovers around your tent in the camp. Look up to see the majestic Lammergeyers above you.
One of the distinct plants decorating the Simiens is the Giant Lobelia (Lobelia rhynchopetalum). You'll find yourself walking in a forest of this impressive plant, sometimes towering above you to a height of more than 5 meters.
Time to Visit:
October to December is the best times for hiking and trekking
Annual rainfall in the Simiens averages is 1,550 millimeters. Rainy season is between June and mid September, with July-August the rainiest months. Occasional rains may occur between January and March. April and May are the hottest months, just before the rainy season. October is particularly recommended since the mountains turn green following the rainy season, and cattle dots the landscape. With every day passing, the green is gradually replaced by yellow and brown colors.