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Lakes in Ethiopia

Lake Tana 

Lake Tana is the largest lake in Ethiopia with many beautiful Island MONASTERIES. /Churches. Whose numbers vary depending on the level of the lake; it has fallen about 6 feet (1.8 m) in the last 400 years According to Manoel de Almeida (a Portuguese missionary in the early 17th century),

Remains of ancient Ethiopian emperors and treasures of the Ethiopian Church are kept in the isolated island monasteries  such as ;  Kebran Gabriel, Ura Kidane Mehret, Narga Selassie, Daga Estifanos, Medhane Alem of Rema, Kota Maryam and Mertola Maryam). On the island of Tana Qirqos is a rock shown to Paul B. Henze, on which he was told the Virgin Mary had rested on her journey back from Egypt; he was also told that Frumentius, who introduced Christianity to Ethiopia, is "allegedly buried on Tana Cherqos."[3] The body of Yekuno Amlak is interred in the monastery of St. Stephen on Daga Island; other Emperors whose tombs are on Daga include Dawit I, Zara Yaqob, Za Dengel and Fasilides. Other important islands in Lake Tana include Dek, Mitraha, Gelila Zakarias, Halimun, and Briguida.

Lake Hawassa / Awassa

At about 275 km from Addis Ababa a gravel road on the right runs along the shore of Lake Awasa to the two or three resort hotels. The luxury Awasa Hotel, is the most comfortable. Simpler accommodation at the Bekele Mola Hotel, and the more interesting Belle Vue du Lac (also with swimming pool and a tennis court) is quite adequate. Fishing and boating are favourite pastimes on Lake Awasa, although again the bird watching, if not as spectacular as Abyata, has its own special attractions.

Chamo And Abaya Lakes

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.
Much 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 Guge range of mountains. Such is the outstanding beauty of this viewpoint 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 .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. But 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 tigerfish, giant Nile perch, barbel, catfish and tilapia offering fine sport -

Chamo 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 equilibrium; birdlife 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.

People Around the Lakes
The shores and islands of Abaya and Chamo are populated by farming peoples such as the Ganjule and the Guji, both of whom also have ancient traditions of hippo hunting. The Guji ply the waters of lake Abaya in high-prowled am batch boats similar to those depicted on the tombs of the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs.
South-west of the lakes in the direction of Jinka, the traveller comes to the homeland of the Konso who practice an intensive form of agriculture on intricately-terraced hillsides. The Konso have a rich indigenous culture that finds expression in haunting music and dance, and in the weaving of beautiful thick cotton blankets.

Another distinctive people of the region around Lakes Chamo and Abaya are the Dorze, once warriors, who have now turned to farming and weaving. They produce the colourful toga-like robes known as shammas which are worn throughout Ethiopia. Though there's a large Dorze population around Arba Minch itself, their traditional homeland is further to the north around Chencha, high up in the Guge mountain range overlooking the lakes and the Bridge of Heaven.

The brief, 26-kilometre drive from Arba Minch up to Chencha involves a remarkable transition – climbing from the lush, tropical forests of the lowland, through bamboo at around 2,500 metres, into stands of juniper laced with Spanish moss where cold fingers of cloud grasp the ancient limbs of the trees and the air is chill and bracing.

Dorze villages are classic example of simple architecture, unlike anything seen elsewhere in Ethiopia -towering beehive-shaped structures reaching up to 12 metres high, the interiors dark but spacious and airy with floors of pressed earth. The vaulted ceiling walls are covered with an elegant thatch of ensete (false banana) to form a smooth and unbroken convex dome. Each home stand in its own grounds surrounded by smaller but similar houses: guest house; cow-shed, kitchen and perhaps even a workshop for weaving or other work.

Northwards from Chencha, leaving Lake Abaya behind -and with it the wilderness -the traveller eventually comes to the bustling market town of Sodo, which stands on the border between the regions of Gamo Gofa, Sidamo and Kaffa. This is one of Ethiopia's premier coffee-growing areas and, quite possibly, the original home of the coffee plant –where, the first trees grew wild before being cultivated and then, in the

14th century, taken to Yemen and from there across the world.  

Lake Chamo

Lake Chamo northern end lies in the Nechisar National Park. According to figures published by the Central Statistical Agency, it is 32 kilometers long and 13 wide, with a surface area of 317 square kilometers and a maximum depth of 14 meters with a catchment of about 18757 square kilometers in size.[1] [2] Other sources locate it on an elevation of 1,235 meters with a length of 26 km a widths of 22 km an area of 551 square kilometers a chatchment of 2220 square kilometers and a maximum depth of 10 meters. The lake is fringed with beds of Typha, as well as wetlands. It is fed by the Kulfo River and several small streams, as well as overflow from Lake Abaya brought to it by the Ualo River. Oscar Neumann, exploring the area in 1901, found a dry channel connecting Lake Chamo to the Sagan River, which led him to conclude the lake contributes to the Sagan in years of heavy rainfall.

Wildlife includes fish like the catfish Bagrus docmac and Nile perch, as well as hippopotamus and Nile crocodiles.

Lake Langano

At the Horacallo bridge it is possible to turn left along a track which leads to the lake. There are good camping spots here along the northern shore however, the main track to the lake is at about 210 and 215 kms leading left to the Wabe Shebele and Bekele Mola Hotels, beach and camping ground respectively:

 The soft brown waters of Langano are set against the blue backdrop of the Arsi Mountains soaring4,000 metreshigh. A few birds make Langano their home but this resort is less for the nature lover than sportsman and sunworshipper. Here you can waterski and sail, swim or bask in the blazing sun on the sloping sandy beach. European food is served in the hotel restaurant but the tilapia is good and cooking freshly caught fish over the camp fire has its own special attraction. The local Oromo women are often prepared to sell jewellery or utensils; copper bracelets or brass; bead necklaces and cowrie shell decorated milk pots.

Lake Abyata

Before reaching the turnoff to Langano lake, the road passes over the Bulbula river. Just before the bridge and the village, there is a track to the right (at the top of the slope) which leads to the lake edge. At certain times of the year the greatest congregation of birds is to be found here. However, before the next bridge, over the Horacallo river (connecting Lakes Langano and Abyata) a turning to the right leads to the more usual area of exceptional bird viewing.

Thousands of flamingos create pink carpets in the blue bays of the lake; great white pelicans soar in from Lake Shala to enjoy the fishing and execute their fantastic ballet; pied kingfishers hover and dive; fish eagles protect their territory with their eerie cry; cormorants and darters fill the dead acacia trees silhouetting strange and beautiful shapes against the sunset. Here are tall marabous, sacred ibis, dwell sometimes in the hundreds of thousands, snipe, stilt, avocet, and the black heron searching the shallow water in the shadow created by his black umbrella.

Lake  Ziway

is one of the freshwater Rift Valley lakes of Ethiopia. It is located about 60 miles south of Addis Ababa, on the border between the Regions (or kililoch) of Oromia and of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples; the woredas holding the lake's shoreline are Adami Tullu and Jido Kombolcha, Dugda Bora, and Ziway Dugda. The town of Ziway lies on the lake's western shore. The lake is fed primarily by two rivers, the Meki from the west and the Katar from the east, and is drained by the Bulbar which empties into Lake Abijatta. The lake's catchment has an area of 7025 square kilometers.[1]

Lake Zway is 31 kilometers long and 20 km wide, with a surface area of 440 square kilometers. It has a maximum depth of 9 meters and is at an elevation of 1,636 meters.[2] [3] According to the Statistical Abstract of Ethiopia for 1967/68, Lake Zway is 25 kilometers long and 20 km wide, with a surface area of 434 square kilometers. It has a maximum depth of 4 meters and is at an elevation of 1,846 meters.[4] It has five islands which include Debre Sina, Galila, Bird Island and, perhaps most notably, Tullu Gudo, home to a monastery said to have housed the Ark of the Covenant around the ninth century. The early 20th-century explorer, Herbert Weld Blundell, describes finding that "two distinct terraces of former shores rise some 80 feet above the present level, forming a ring round that nearest to the lake on the north, about 4 miles from the shore, marking a former basin." The northern shores were covered by papyrus. Weld Blundell includes in his account "a curious tradition, perhaps suggested by the apparent elevated shore," that the lake "was a kingdom 50 miles across, inhabited by seventy-eight chiefs" which disappeared in a single night.

The lake is known for its population of birds and hippopotamuses. Lake Zway supports a fishing industry; according to the Ethiopian Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2,454 tonnes of fish are landed each year, which the department estimates is 83% of its sustainable amount.[6]

The shores and islands of Lake Zway are the home of the Gurage people. Tradition states that when the Muslim Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi conquered Ethiopia, the Christians of the area took refuge on its islands. They were later isolated from the rest of Ethiopia by the Oromo people, who settled around the lake. At the time Menelik II conquered the lands around the lake, the lake-dwellers were rediscovered and found to have preserved both their Christian faith and a number of ancient manuscripts. From Wikipedia

Lake Zquala

A huge volcanic cone set isolated in the surrounding plain and rising 600m Zuquala’s crater is still perfectly preserved. Two kilometres across and sixty meters deep the crater is occupied by a shallow lake, well known as a holy lake. For many centuries the rim has been the site of a monastery. Mohammed Gragn destroyed one of the buildings but it was rebuilt and is still in use today. The inside rim of the crater is covered with juniper forest, the frequent swirling mists encourage a heavy growth of trailing lichens and the beautiful black and white colobus monkey can sometimes be seen, adding yet another dimension to this already picturesque place. To get to Zuquala, it is possible to turn off the Addis Ababa-Bishoftu road at Dukem 35 km. from the city, or to turn off near Bishoftu at Dirray. The latter is probably the more used track at the present time, it is about three hours walk or fifty minutes drive to Wember Mariam at the base of the mountain. It is possible to drive to the top, but check conditions before driving it as it can be a difficult road.

Lake Chew Bahir

Lake Chew Bahir (Amharic: č̣ew bāhir, "salty lake") or Lake Istifanos, also called Stefanie, Basso Naebor and Chuwaha, is a lake in southern Ethiopia, on the boundary between the Oromia and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples' Regions.


When the Lake Chew Bahir is filled, it stretches into northern Kenya. Lying at the center of the Stephanie  Wildlife Sanctuary, the lake measures some 40 miles (64 km) by 15 miles (24 km).

This lake is the southernmost and lowest (1,880 ft) of a series of lakes which lie in the north-easterly continuation of the Great Rift Valley; its watershed is separated from the watershed of Lake Turkana by the Humu Range and the hills south of it. The Kumbi Range rises on its eastern side. Chew Bahir is fed from the north by the Weito River, and its tributary the Galana Sagan. The Galana Sagan receives the overflow of Lake Chamo in some years, but no permanent connection exists.

Ethiopia Crater Lakes

Wanchi Crater Lake

Wanchi Crater Lake is 155 km west of Addis Ababa, between Ambo and Welliso.   An extinct volcano (the top of which is 3380 metres above sea level) the crater contains a large lake, hot mineral springs, waterfalls and beautiful valleys and farmland .There is an old monastery with a church is situated on one of the lake islands.  Our guide told us that about 4000 people live within the crater.

You can drive to Wenchi on either the Ambo road (105km from Addis to Ambo on tarmac, turn left onto gravel road for 25km to Wenchi)  or the Jima road (125km on tarmac to Welliso, turn right onto gravel road for 38km).    There are hotels in Ambo (Abebech Metaferia hotel); or stay at the Negash Lodge in Welliso.  There are three or four campsites within the crater itself. There and back in a day is too much Driving.

At the top of the rim, there is an ecotourism office, from where you hire a guide and pay your admission permit.  Drive with the guide a further kilometer to a parking spot at a cafe, or down into the crater (a difficult road even in the dry season – we parked at the top and walked).You can do a two hour walk to hot springs and back, or a four hour loop involving two short hops across the lake in boats – to the island with the monastry, and then on to the headland.   You can also do it all on horseback if you prefer. Bring a picnic to eat in the valley or on the lakeshore.

Crater lakes of Debre Zeit

In the area of Debre Zeit there are seven small crater lakes which are alkaline and are supplied with rainfall and underground waters. These lakes are the homes of various kinds of birds.
 Boat trips and a rest on the beach are highly recommended.

More in this category: « Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia