Omo Valley National Park – Self Drive Trips : Car Rental Ethiopia.
Omo National Park is one of the largest and biologically rich National Parks in Ethiopia which is found in Southern Nations and Nationalities of Ethiopia & located about 870 Km southwest of Addis Ababa. It is located on the west bank of the Omo River and was established as a national park in 1966. The park has approximately 2,527 square miles of vegetation and wildlife.
Although an airstrip was recently built near the park headquarters on the Mui River, this park is not easily reachable; the Lonely Planet guide to Ethiopia and describes Omo National Park as “Ethiopia’s most remote park.” The lower reaches of the Omo River were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, after the discovery (in the Omo Kibish Formation) of the earliest known fossil fragments of Homo sapiens, which have been dated circa 195,000 years old. Major land features include the Omo River on the east, the Maji Mountains and the Sharum and Sai plains in the north and west, and the Lilibai plains and Dirga Hills to the south.
Activities in Omo Valley National Park Ethiopia
Hiking in the Omo valley is done in the Nech sar National park that is located in the Omo valley. The word Nech sar is separated into two that is Nech means white whereas Sar means grass. The hike can be done in a few hours and it is done through the park where you get to see the different animals that habitat in the park and you can enjoy a picnic in the hills after the completion of your trek. A trained and licensed tour guide with a gun will be there to offer protection against the animals and other attacks and hikes can also be done on the Bales Mountain which is also located in the Omo valley.
The park conserves one of the largest diversities of mammalian species as compared to other parks and 63% of all mammal families in Ethiopia. The park offers excellent opportunity to view wildlife. It supports large herds of Buffalo, Burchell’s Zebra, Eland, Beisa Oryx, Tiang, Lelwel Hartebeest, and Grant’s gazelle. Other wildlife that is relatively easy to see includes Lion, Giraffe, Ostrich, Greater Kudu, Hyena and Warthog. Cheetah and Wild Dogs are also present but are rare nowadays. The riverine forests are home to primates including the Colobus Monkey and the rare de Brazza’s Monkey. Elephants are seen irregularly and only in certain seasons.
Birding here is also excellent with 312 recorded species. Highlights include the blue-breasted kingfisher, red-naped bush shrike, bare-eyed thrush, Boran cisticola, violet wood hoopoe and Donaldson Smith’s sparrow-weaver among others.
Explore the Jinka area
The Jinka area is commonly known for the large market which normally takes place on Saturdays and it is filled with a lot of traditional Ethiopian produce which you purchase as souvenirs. From the market you can also visit the museum where different things are put on display that show the different traditional practices of the different ethnic groups and from the museum you get to enjoy the sunset as you walk through the village.
Visit the Langano Lake
The Langano Lake is located in the Omo valley and it is one of the lakes that are found in the Great Rift Valley. You will enjoy your exploration of the Lake by carrying out some fishing, boat ride on the lake, birding due to the presence of different birds that can be seen and relaxing on the banks especially in the evenings.
Explore the Sanetti plateau
The Sanetti plateau is located a few minutes away from the Bales Mountain both of which are located in the Omo valley. It has a very good landscape that is good for all adrenaline addicts who want to trek while on a visit here. You will be able to sight see and get a close look at the rare Ethiopian wolf which is the only remaining wolf in Africa and also do some birding while in the area.
You can also try out nature walks within the plateau and get to meet the different ethnic groups, go for a horse-back ride and do some fishing in the numerous crater lakes that are located within the Great Rift Valley.
When is the best time to go to the Omo Valley?
The rainy season in the Omo Valley differs from much of the rest of Ethiopia. In most parts of the country, the heaviest rain occurs in April and then again in July and August. However, in the Omo Valley there is one longer rainy season from the end of March through to June, and then a shorter rainy season in October. At this time, the roads in the region can be seriously impacted, and completely blocked in some cases, which makes travel a lot more difficult.
Temperatures during the summer months of June, July and August can reach up to 40°C (although they are usually closer to 30°C). The best time to travel is therefore between November and March, to avoid the rainy season and benefit from the milder temperatures, but visiting between June and September also works well (although temperatures will be higher).
How to get to Omo Valley National Park
By flight to Arba Minch
Most visitors to the Omo Valley start their journey in Arba Minch, the largest city on Ethiopia’s southern circuit and the gateway town into the Omo. Arba Minch is surrounded by mountains, verdant valleys, and two of the largest lakes in the Rift Valley.
Thanks to Ethiopia’s well-connected domestic flight system, you can easily reach Arba Minch via a short flight from any other airport town in the country, although you will probably need to connect via Addis Ababa.
Most visitors spend a night or two in Arba Minch before heading further into the Omo. Paradise Lodge is the best accommodation option here with great views of the valleys and lakes from the restaurant and bar.
By flight to Jinka
Another option to get to the Omo Valley is to fly directly to Jinka, the regional capital of the Omo Valley and the only town with an airport (Arba Minch isn’t technically in the Omo Valley). From here, you’ll take to the road to explore the region over the course of a few days, before heading up to Arba Minch to continue your onward journey.
Flying into Jinka instead of Arba Minch means you avoid backtracking as Jinka is along the Omo Valley circuit whereas Arba Minch is some hours north of the Omo by car. Whether flying to Jinka or Arba Minch, the flights are reasonably priced and there is a significant discount (~60%) available to those who also fly internationally with Ethiopian Airlines.
If starting from Addis Ababa, it is possible to reach the Omo Valley by driving across the Rift Valley that runs south of Addis Ababa. A drive like this across the Rift Valley is an experience in itself, and there are a number of amazing wildlife spots, national parks, lakes and towns to explore along the way.
Accommodations in Omo Valley National Park
Being in the Omo Valley is not about luxury accommodation, it’s about exploring a fascinating, remote region with a rich history dating back millennia.
Eco Omo Lodge